Thursday, March 30, 2006

What I have learned in living with back pain

I have learned that you MUST educate yourself on your condition and be your own advocate. I am fortunate that I have an amazing group of Doctor's... other than my current pain management doctor but he is on his way out. If you don't know what is best for you then who does? There will be times when you have to fight tooth and nail with the insurance company and your physicians so you have to know what you are talking about.

This pea brain pain management guy I am seeing right now has messed me up big time but it assume some of the responsibility for it. He decided that I needed physical therapy to "strengthen my core" now knowing that I have 2 bulging discs and the horrors I experienced with PT in the past I know that this was not the best idea. But I went ahead and played along. 2 days after my first appt. I could not get out of bed... this was on March 7th. I am still in a great deal of pain, more pain than I have been in in quite sometime.

I had an MRI on Monday, I have now herniated both disc, have an annular tear and there is inflammation in the disc (I'm not sure what this means). Of course he can't get me in to be seen until the end of next month so I have contacted the administrator of the corporation for this doctor's group and complained about him not allowing appointment slots for follow-up visits but I will be going to my orthopaedic surgeon. Not that I will have surgery but because I need to have some pain relief and quick. My patch and the Lorcet aren't cutting it.

PT works great in most cases but has not proven to be the best thing for me.

My Back Pain - How it came to be

I have always had some level of back pain due to a common birth defect, a spondylolethesis. Most folks have spondys and have no symptoms, my pain started with my second pregnancy. But since I had to work, well, I continued to work through the pain.

After the birth of my daughter the pain eased up some and I managed it with exercise and physical therapy as needed. But, in Oct. 1995 all hell broke loose. I was an x-ray tech working for an orthopaedic surgeon, ironic isn't it. I was lifting a patient with the help of his nephew and the nephew let go, I bent double and wham, I was racked with the worst pain I had ever felt. I went ahead and x-rayed the patient, threw him back in his wheelchair and crawled into one of the exam rooms to rest. I talked the secretary through x-raying my back but of course we needed an MRI. I managed to work a couple of more days but have not worked since.

I ended up going in for the first of many surgeries in late October. I had rods and screws inserted in my lumbar spine to stabalize it and as fusion was done. The fusion did not take so 3 months later a second fusion was attempted.... I got infected with staph during surgery.

The surgeon aka asshole (not my former boss) did not think that the green stuff oozing from my wound was cause for concern, nor the intractable pain, nor the temp of 102. So I wandered this earth with a raging infection for 6 weeks. Finally, one morning I was so ill and in such pain I could not breath so I went to my former boss, raised my pajama top and showed him the incision, he closed his office and took me to the hospital. At that point he became my treating physician. I was toxic, the staph was in my blood and I was about a week away from death. I was placed on IV antibiotics which I ended up being on for almost 5 years.

The next 6 years were filled with surgeries to debride infectious material, remove hardware, try to stabalize my spine, redo fusions, all to no avail because the infection was still so rampant and strong. In total I had 8 back surgeries. We could not knock down the infection because whenever I would get to a therapeutic dose of Vancomycin I would have an allergic reaction, they tried desensitization but that didn't work either. I eventually lost 40% of the hearing in one ear to otic toxicity from the Vanco. Finally a new antibiotic Synercid was put on the market and that very day I was put on it, within 6 weeks the infection was tamped down.

I now have chronic osteomyelitis and have reoccurances of the infection from time to time but we know what works and I know what to look for. I get infected by anything and catch every germ there is so I have to avoid crowds, salad bars and be vigilant about washing my hands and what I touch. I cannot have more back surgery because of my infection risk.

I am 45 years young. On the pain scale I am at a 5 everyday. I am on the Durgesic patch (I love it) and Lorcet as well as a couple of pills for nerve pain in my legs that I take at night. I garden, sell antiques... which means I have to shop for them too, I cook for my husband, have sex, I do not do floors or bathrooms I pay someone $50 twice a month to do this for me but I do the rest of the housecleaning. My husband goes to the grocery store and does the laundry (he did that from the git go.) My life is good, yes, it has changed drastically but it is good.