One Patient’s Experience with Open Spine Surgery (Part 1)

open spine surgery

One Patient’s Experience with Open Spine Surgery (Part 1)

Note: this is the first in a four part series written by a back pain sufferer who underwent open spine surgery.

I am an 8 year back pain suffer. Currently I’m in a very aggressive physical therapy program, and I’ve been mostly pain-free for 3 months. Before I got to this point in my life, I went through 8 years of trial and error looking for relief, and a return to full physical ability and stamina. I had loads of epidural shots and physical therapy. I could name just about every pain medication and muscle relaxer there is. What I eventually found out was that I was in a perpetual loop. The same efforts, the same advice, the same attempts, producing the same results. That’s when I made the extremely poor decision to opt for open spinal surgery – an ALIF, or Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion to be exact. To date, this procedure still serves as the most traumatic event of my life.  This is my open spinal surgery experience starting from when I woke up after surgery.

Waking Up After Surgery

I could hear my wife calling my name as the anesthetic began to wear off. Within a few minutes I felt my senses returning to me.

  • “What time is it?” I asked my wife.
  • My wife said “8.”
  • “8AM?” I asked.
  • “No,” she said. “8PM.”

Having gone into the operating room at 7AM that morning for a 4 hour surgery, I knew something was wrong. Within moments of my mental function returning to me due to the waning anesthetics in my body, the most inconceivable pain of my life began to set in. It felt as if my lower back had been beaten with a sledge hammer. Within 15 minutes of waking up, I was in the full throes of the aftermath of this incredibly painful open spinal surgical procedure. As I screamed in pain, the huge incision in my abdomen would increase in pain. If I tried to remain quiet to alleviate the deep abdominal incision pain, my back pain forced me to yell out again in inconsolable agony. I begged for pain medication, but I had already been administered my maximum dosage. I asked to be rendered unconscious and hooked up to a ventilator. That was denied. I was provided nothing, and only had the pain which I could not help but focus on.

The Aftermath

I was left with an 8 inch incision on my abdomen that went all the way down to my spine. My lower back had two 4 inch incisions that went down to my spine. I was in shock. I felt lied to by my surgeon. Never did I anticipate these effects. Looking back, how could I have expected not to suffer when I was to have muscle and ligaments cut and removed forever, and bone pieces sawed off of my spine. Lying in that OR bed in post-operative recovery, I was full of regret and fear. I was 31 years old. I had a young family. What was it that I had just brought upon them and myself? I swore and cursed some more. This time at the nurse who asked me to please be quiet because I was disturbing the other patients in recovery.

This was day one, and I had to stay in the hospital for 5 more days.

To be continued…

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