Let me tell you about me and my sciatica! As you may know, the sciatic nerve is the biggest, longest nerve in your body.  It was three years ago that sciatic pain down my right leg first began,  At first I just walked through it but as it grew worse sought the advice of the neurologist I had previously worked ftor, Dr. Jan Mashman.  He ordered an MRI, physical therapy, gave me medication, and emphasized NO back surgery.  The MRI showed L5 spondylolisthesis, and the meds I stopped after two days, they made me feel so weird.  The physical therapy for several weeks was lackluster so not very helpful.

Eventually I saw an orthopedist to see about the possibility of steroid injections for pain relief. The facilities and treatment were top-notch but after the ten days wait there was no improvement.  A couple of months later Dr. Southern was willing to try it again, with a couple of extra injections thrown in, but once again, no improvement.

Over this time I had been prescribed Lidocaine patches and had tried every over-the-counter pain med (Aleve, Tylenol. Blu-Emu, Aspercreme with Lidocaine, SalonPas, etc.) which helped minimally.  Also hot pads and cold packs for nighttime pain.  Fortunately nights were for the most part without pain after a half- hour or so in bed.

i had begun to reach the point where I figured I’d have sciatica for the rest of my life.  It was painful – quite – if I stood upright for over five minutes but I worked around that and did pretty much, everything I really wanted to do.  No walks down the street, no wandering in stores, but with a shopping cart a brief visit to shop for essentials was possible. I could go out for lunch or for a short drive.  I told myself it could be a lot worse.  I didn’t have plaque psoriasis, or cystic fibrosis, or hemorrhoids!

My sister, Dolly, told me her son, Ken, had back pain which was treated with radio frequency ablation which quelled the offending nerve for quite a time and why didn’t I look into that?  She offered to go with me to see my doctor when she came to Connecticut for her class reunion and I made an appointment to do that.. Dr. Hermantin didn’t think much of the idea for the sciatic nerve, saying I wouldn’t be able to raise my foot.  But he did bring up the thought of minimally invasive spinal surgery, a one day procedure, to remove whatever it was that was annoying my sciatic nerve.  It would require general anesthesia and approval by my internist and by my medical coverage.  A date was given for October 31, but as his secretary said, it’s not “set in stone.” “Why spend the rest of your life in pain? Sis said. At 93, how much rest of life are we talking about?

After an EKG and blood work, I was cleared for surgery!  And ConnectiCare agreed on insurance coverage!  Surprise!  Sister Dolly was left with the worry that if I died or it made me somehow worse it would be on her.  I asked our priest for prayers for the seriously ill, just in case.  Daughters Mary, a nurse, and Terry, quite medically savvy, would take me to the hospital.  It all went as planned.  I do not recall the anesthesia taking effect.  I do not recall being in recovery. I later learned that Mary had dressed the top of me, and Terry the bottom,  Mary got on Facebook posting “Mom’s out of surgery and in recovery” , “Mom’s going home,” and then “Mom’s home.”

God bless Mary who planned to stay the night with me.  I had pain medication (Tramadol 50 mg) to take and instructions as to what I could and could not do.

My post-surgery instructions read:  Unlimited walking and stair climbing.  Limit sitting to 20-30 minute intervals, usually before and during meals.  Limit car-riding, short distances with brace or corset on. Have someone check your incision for signs of infection.  Wear support stockings until first post-op visit in two weeks.

DON’T – bend or twist at the waist.  DON’T  Lift any item more than 10-15 pounds over your head.   Don’t druve a car.      Call physician for pain, redness, drainage, temperature greater than 101.5 in one day.

Spent the first night coughing, with sore throat as the result of intubation.  And burping.  Apparently the anesthesia annoyed my GI tract and things were not digesting well.  I had to sit up each time I burped – which was often. I could get up to go to the bathroom and to get something to eat.  My incision, only about two inches long, had been glued together and covered with steristrips.  Mary told me the incision was healing and I was doing well.  I did not feel well.  After three days I was able to  stop the pain meds.  Took a shower on the third day which wiped me out.  Had a bowel movement the fourth day!  Mary wanted to go home to her bed.  I did not want to be left alone.  Terry came for two nights  and then I was home alone.  Thank God son Dan and his family live right next door and were a continuing source of comfort and support.  I am so blessed to have these people in my life!

I couldn’t put  on my own socks or pick up anything dropped on the floor.  I would sweep the floor and leave the pile of dirt for someone else to pick up.  I couldn’t bend to get things from the freezer.  Eventually I found I could put on my shoes if I lay on my back with my feet in the air!  Finally we went for my two week follow-up.  I told the PA that I was still old, I was still slow, but something was missing.  THE PAIN!  I was almost afraid to say it!  The pain was gone!  After three years!

Now I had to try to get back some strength and stamina.  These things don’t automatically reappear when pain disappears, especially after three years.  The first set-back was a tooth extraction for a lower tooth that had been loosening for months.   Who needs this kind of stress?  Unfortunately the rest of my lower teeth are progressively loosening and will have to be removed soon.  I had been thinking I might die before it came to this.  But here we are.

My two-month post-surgery check up with Dr, Hermantin, the doer of the deed, is scheduled for the end of December. In the meantime I have discovered that YouTube contains many videos on spine surgery, physical and occupational therapy after spine surgery, and first hand reports of those who have undergone spine surgery.  It would have been helpful to have seen some of these before I was operated on.  For instance, I would have purchased a “grabber” and made better plans for aftercare.

I finally saw my surgeon on January 4th.  He was happy to hear me report that since the operation I’ve had no hint of sciatica, not in the butt, not in the calf, not in the foot!  At its worst the pain went down the whole leg with little darts of fiery pain in the foot.  NO MORE,

Unfortunately, my minimally invasive spine surgery (partial removal of middle spine bone) cured the sciatica but did not make me younger.  Still I have much to be grateful for – a good surgeon and and family that could not have been more helpful!  It is time to give thanks!