Operation to bring back my back will require some recovery time
by David Lazenby
Jun 17, 2011 | 489 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If you are reading this column in the morning, chances are I am currently lying face down on an operating table while surgeons at St. Vincent’s Health Care System do their best to fix my back.

Last week, I learned I have a ruptured disc after I had magnetic resonance imaging done. Actually, I guess I should say it was confirmed that I had a ruptured disc since I already suspected something wasn’t right because of the pain in my lower back and right leg.

Today, I am having a microdiscectomy, a procedure in which a small portion of the bone over or under the nerve root is removed to relieve neural impingement and provide more room for the nerve to heal. I’m also having a hemi-laminectomy, an operation in which the surgeons will remove a vertebral lamina on my right side.

I knew something was wrong for several months, but I figured it was something that might fix itself with time. Finally, when the pain in my back and right leg became so severe that it made me miss work on April 26, I decided it was time to get my problem checked out.

Images created by an MRI confirmed my suspicion — an inkling that my backbone is broken. It also made the scanner strip on my credit cards and gift cards useless after I neglected to remove my wallet from my pocket before entering the machine.

After explaining what was wrong with me on the inside, my doctor, Carter Harsh, described the procedure I needed to get in order to feel better. He also explained there was no exercise, medicine or dietary supplement that was going to fix the problem.

Dr. Harsh began his description with the phrase “small incision.” If he was attempting to ease my apprehensions about the procedure it worked until I realized that being stabbed in the back with a switchblade knife also would only make a small incision.

I also was relieved after posting information about my surgery on Facebook that several of my friends have had similar back surgeries.

I imagine having a surgery is sort of like flying — the first time is always the scariest. Since this will be my first — and hopefully my last — surgery, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have my concerns.

I’m not afraid of having the surgery, in fact I’m looking forward to it, but any medical procedure involving anesthesia has its risks. This uncertainty has made me ponder death more than usual lately.

While listening to music on my iPod this week, it seemed to me the lyrics of several songs were about death, whereas before I’d taken the words to have a less metaphorical meaning. For example, on Thursday I heard a Foo Fighter song in which lead singer Dave Grohl sings “When the wheels come down ...” that I was certain was an allegory about dying. It didn’t help that the song “Wheels” also contains this lyric:

“And everyone I've loved before

Flashed before my eyes

And nothin’ mattered anymore

I looked into the sky ...”

Remind me to turn to another radio station if the D.J. decides to play “Seasons in the Sun” “American Pie” or “Patches.”

While I’m looking forward to getting on the road to recovery, I’m not too excited about the first week after surgery. During the first seven days, I’m under the doctor’s instructions to not drive or lift anything that weighs more than four pounds. That means everyday tasks I take for granted, like picking up my cat, my laptop computer or even a tea pitcher, will be forbidden.

Not being able to do these things will surely be a pain in the neck, but hopefully it will be better than the pain which I’m now experiencing.

David Lazenby is the news editor of The Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at 221-2830 or via email at david.lazenby@mountaineagle.com.