Spine Journey: Post Spinal Fusion

Time has passed so fast! Reminiscing several months ago, I was packing my luggage in preparation for my scoliosis surgery. Myself at that time, could not form a mental image of how my life would be after the surgery. Now here I am… currently in my 7th month living with titanium implanted on my spine. To be honest, I have never felt an amazing back before, as amazing as I feel right now.

Finally after long hiatus, I’ve got a chance to share my condition and adaptation update with you guys. The past months were filled with doctor visits, physiotherapy and my adjustment in living apart from my parents with this condition. So, I must say it was quite time consuming.

Recently in March 2017, my third month after scoliosis surgery, I had my quarter visit to Dr. Luthfi Gatam. I conducted a Long-Length Imaging for my spine. The result was astonishing, it was an orderly 21 degrees S-curve scoliosis. Nothing changed, no implant was shifted from its original position. Given the result, Dr. Luthfi allowed me to reduce my daily usage of brace, from 24 hours to 12 hours a day. I was beaming. Although the brace support my weak posture, it was so uncomfortable and complicates me in dressing up. The brace covered my upper body from the thoracic to lumbar. It looked like this.

In my third month, my lower thoracic was still swollen and numb. I felt stiff around my neck, although the pain was significantly decreasing. Therefore, I still underwent the physiotherapy treatment with dr. Laura Djuriantina at Rumah Sakit Pondok Indah (“RSPI”). Meanwhile, I adjusted with the way my whole body works.

During the third month visit, I was suggested to swim at least once a week to relieve the muscle stiffness. In fact, it is not exactly swimming. It is more like moving my hands, feet and neck inside the water because the water flow makes the muscle easier to get working. The doctor also allowed my body to bend for maximum 30 degrees. Strictly only for 30 degrees, not more. By being fused from T2 to L4, I have limited motion on my middle body, means I cannot arch, hunch or twist.

However, I was not allowed to reach things that are positioned too high or too low by my hand. It could cause stress on my spine. How if I have to pick up the stuffs which I dropped? I had to squat every time I picked up things or I just used a stick that looked like this.

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Post scoliosis surgery patients surely not allowed to lift heavy stuffs. I could only carry maximum a clutch bag and a thin laptop. Otherwise, my back would cramp and numb in 10 minutes. How about the bags? I am not allowed to use backpack because it put the stress on my spine. The doctor also recommended to balance the weight of my bags in both of my hands. It translated to ‘I could not wear tote bags’, just for awhile. Therefore, I ditched all of my heavy tote bags. I started to buy clutch bags. So, I looked like this when I had to carry the stuffs.

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I also had to postpone my habit in shopping for heels, pumps and wedges. I put all of these stuffs away in my back closet because I won’t use them this year. Then, I started to collect flat shoes and sandals.

As I am a Muslim, I must pray five times a day with several movement like bend and prostrate. I could not do that, so I sat on the chair as I prayed. I also bought a new bed with a solid surface. It was recommended to maintain the spine shape. In addition, I was not able to sit on the floor until the fifth month.

Overall, I noticed the progress in all my body parts except my right foot during the fourth month. My right foot was easily tighten and hurt after several minutes of walking, 30 degrees bending or standing. It even still painful in the lumbar after I sat or lay down to ease the pain. Therefore, I visited the doctor to examine the condition. I was asked to got CT scanned for a whole spine. Later, it was discovered that the source was a screw that is too close to the nerve. It did not touching the nerve when I was on a still position. It only touched a bit, very close to the nerve when I moved. I have to undergo the screw removal surgery for the right L3 and L4, in order to eliminate the pain. It will be conducted in my 8th month post scoliosis surgery. It cannot be removed immediately because my spine was not firm yet.

My job required me to travel, lift laptop for client meetings and overtime works. In the status quo, I only could survive no more than 6-7 hours working before I started taking pregabalin medication to calm the nerves. By taking the medicine, I felt a bit dizzy so it was hard for me to concentrate. This is a major physical setback that I even chose to rest from my long hour job for awhile.

Accustomed by busy days, I found it hard to rest and do nothing at home. I was incoherent and I wanted to weep during the first couple of weeks. I forced myself to not lamenting at this hardship. Alternatively, I found activities that are not consuming too much physical movement. I studied for my further education, be a volunteer on social organizations by teaching children, learned to cook and played the piano that I have abandoned for 4 years.

Sometimes I got a glitch in my mind, by the moment I realize I cannot do sports that I love anymore. It was every time when my friends stop asking me to do barre, boxing, TRX or pilates. We used to work out together. Now, I even have to give up my Guavapass membership. I used to love spending time in a driving range, which I obviously prohibited now. I hope as the time goes by, I will find a different way to move and bend. I really want to see myself not limited by those screws and rods.

I know it is not my place to whine. In fact, as a human being it is normal to feel deprivation by losing the accustomed activities that one used to do. I only intend to contrast the pros and the cons by committing to surgery. In fact, putting implant in my spine is the best decision I have ever made. I know at the moment I decided, I am on my way to a better quality of life. It was a grueling and lengthy recovery, with chronic pain and muscle spasm, but now I feel minimum pain in my sixth month. Besides, I have parents who always provide mental support, siblings who always pick up things that I drop and friends who always carry my bags whenever we go shopping.

We have our own adversity in life, a tough or an undemanding ones. Let’s teach ourself to not let them be our excuses.

Now I can’t wait for my next surgery appointment. I can’t wait to have an absolutely pain-free back. I can’t wait to be back at my full time job, do sports, travel and pursue my higher education. I will let you guys updated after my screw removal surgery in August 29th, 2017.

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