Wednesday, 28 August 2019

The Big Operation

Many people have asked me, "What exactly are you having done? What does the operation involve?"  so, I thought I would do my best to explain what I am actually having done and what we hope the outcome will be.

Before I get started please remember you can help make these operations possible for me by visiting our Go Fund Me Page

My warning today is this blog is fairly graphic, there is not really a way of getting around be warned! 

Firstly I have two different problems.  The first problem is that 3 discs in my lower back L3/4 L4/5 L5/S1 are kaput for want of a better word.  The second problem is that I have had an Sacro Iliac Joint bilateral joint fusion that I didn't need, plus it has been done incorrectly with one of the screws pressing on a nerve.  

Let's deal with the three level disc replacement first up.  I am one of those people who face things better when I know what is going to happen to me, so last week Craig and I got the popcorn in and sat down to watch multiple video real life surgeries of a three level disc replacement.  It is quite confronting but in equal parts amazing.  



For the disc replacement component of my surgery it will take around 3 to 4 hours under a general anesthetic.  They start by making an incision in my abdomen, (yes I know weird right? They go through the front!)  Then they carefully cut through the layers of fat (of which there are a few!) cauterising as they go to stop any bleeding.  They cut through the fascia and go around the rectus muscle and retract it without damaging it.  They create a 'window' to my spine by clamping everything out of the way including muscles, perinatal sack and blood vessels. Then they hammer hooks into the spine itself to create a stable environment to work in.

With the window created, my surgeon can now see my spine. He now starts to remove the crappy disc with what looks like a large pair of tweezers!  The disc itself looks a bit like a scallop or chicken meat.  It is important that all of the disc is removed and no bits are left.  A really clean surface is needed for the new disc to have the best chance of success. They now measure the space and decide which type of disc they are going to use. Next they basically jack up the space between the spine to make sure they have a good space for the new artificial disc,  I believe they are using ESP discs for me.  

They have told me I could gain up to 3cm of height!!  I might end up taller than my daughter Charlotte once more, now that would really annoy her! They then carry on and do the other two levels. They constantly use a CT/Xray to make sure they are placing the discs correctly. Then they to put it simply they un-clamp everything and sew me up.

For those who are not squeamish watch the video below.  This is one of many that Craig and I have sat through.  It is absolutely incredible and so interesting.  I think watching the videos will help me to understand how I am feeling after, understanding why I hurt or where I hurt in certain places.  I might be alone in this thinking however!! I think many people couldn't think of anything worse than actually seeing what they are going to do!


Next up will be the revision of the Sacro Iliac Fusion. At the current time of writing this I have a non-union which basically means it has not fused as it should have done, plus there is a screw pressing on a nerve.  

If this is still the case when I arrive in Zurich the surgeon will be able to do a revision surgery.  For this part of the operation they will turn me over onto my stomach (ouch) and the surgeon will need to make four incisions into my butt cheeks.  Under CT he will need to find the rialto screws and with what looks like Craig's electric screwdriver, undo the screws and take them out. 

At the moment I don't know whether they will have to replace the screws with another system, it depends how well the joint stands up to the procedure.  In many ways the revision surgery holds far more risks than the disc replacement.  This for me is the scarier of the two operations I think, because there is such an element of the unknown about it.  Not many surgeons will agree to doing this surgery and it does carry risks.  However the pain of that screw outweighs all the risks, it's like having a massive tooth abscess pain in my hip 24/7.

If it wasn't such a waste of my energy I would be angry about the SIJ revision as the original bilateral SIJ fusion operation should never have been done in the first place and that is something I have had a great deal of problems trying to come to terms with.  My biggest piece of advice to anyone going through any back or SIJ problems or indeed any medical problem, is do your own homework and don't be bullied into any kind of treatment and always, always get more than one opinion, in fact get two or three. 

The other thing that is really important is to exhaust absolutely every other option.  Do the physio, try pilates, go swimming, take your pain meds, try chiro, healing, try everything!  Because once you start on this road of surgery it's a big deal and isn't always a great outcome as I have found out.  Avoid surgery till you have no alternative left to you, it really is the very last resort.

I try to take comfort in the fact that the artificial discs I already have in my neck at C5/6 C6/7 were the best decision of my life.  All the pain went away and my life was restored to normal. I desperately hope I will have a similar outcome from this surgery and that life can finally get back to normal.  I miss be able to have fun with my kids, they Mum really is currently missing in action.

I am absolutely terrified of what's in front of me, I would be lying big time if I said I wasn't but I know it's the right decision for me.  My life has become so difficult and my reliance on others has become total.  Even the simplest tasks require me to ask for help.  I miss little things like driving, being able to pick my Mum up and go off for the day.  Don't get me wrong Craig is amazing and takes me everywhere and never ever complains, he is incredibly patient but I miss my independence.

At the end of the day I have reached that point where I don't see I have a choice.  It is time to be brave, take a breath and fix the problem and get on with my life.

I should be in hospital for a little over a week.  Then I move onto a rehabilitation program in Switzerland and then on to Dusseldorf in Germany to a specialist unit, but I will tell you all about that in the next blog!

Thanks for listening hopefully I didn't gross you out too much! 

Kate x

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