A chronicle of my first 2 back surgeries…

As a patient I was initially admitted for two days’ observation to ensure that I was in good general health. Which I was~ for the exception of a severe case of backne (back acne, I had acne on my face (facene) too but they weren’t messing with my face). On the third day, they proceeded with the operation, under full anesthesia. The (Harrington Rod) rod was fixed in position for the degree and place of the two curvatures along my spine, (caused by scoliosis) and fixed securely using a pair of hooks that linked it to the spine. The rod had ratchet ends that fitted through holes in the hooks, and the compression of the spine kept the whole thing in place. Those hooks looked pretty much like the presser foot of my sewing machine…..

Under anesthesia, I was stretched to straighten my spine, giving me an additional 3 inches of growth and the ratchet system held everything in its new position. The design of the rod also allowed for additional growth, because as the spine got longer, the ratchet allowed the rod to move in only one direction. Rods came in a variety of lengths, mine was 18 cm (if I recall correctly)….

The first stage of treatment took place in a specialized unit because I needed to be kept as immobile as possible. I spent weeks on a bed that allowed me to be either flat on my back, or flat on my front. Lying on a side was not allowed, nor was turning from front to back. The bed was designed to allow the nurses to roll me every four hours to prevent bed sores…..

At the end of those seemingly never ending weeks  my Dr. felt it was necessary, to put me into a plaster cast, covering the length of the spine, and up to my neck and down halfway over my butt. After the cast set, I was allowed to go home where I spent a further number of weeks on full bed rest, and told to operate “log roll” conditions. That meant being horizontal at all times — no sitting or standing, no more than one pillow, and only bending one leg at once, when lying on my back. At the end of the at home recovery, I was returned to the hospital to spend the next 10 days to 2 weeks learning to walk again. After I spent more time than anyone should ever have to in bed, I was weak from the weight of the plaster …my spine was a very different shape from before the operation, so balance was difficult. I felt that I was frequently falling over because I had spent years, leaning sideways before the operation. ….

After learning to walk again, I was fitted with a brace that had steel -reinforcing rods down the back. This had to be worn for 23 hours a day, and could be removed only for bathing. I wore this specific type of brace for less than a month and then transitioned to a newer more modern hard plastic like brace with Velcro strips to tighten it for added compression of the spine.  Termination of the brace wearing began with removal during sleep for a few months, but due to my stubborn nature and vehement statements of full recovery I soon abandoned it altogether…..

During the treatment, and up to losing the brace, I was forbidden to undergo any form of physical exercise, including swimming, not that it bothered me, I wasn’t a water baby nor interested in any type of exercise…soon my doctors realized that the treatment was quite a success, the restrictions began to be lifted, and the timescale for the whole process reduced. ….

I went on to lead a fairly active and carefree life up until the mid 90’s when I underwent a second round of surgery….this process was “less invasive” and with the untold advances in medical science I was assured a less restrictive recovery…the rod that gave me my “perfect posture” was to be removed as I had somewhat managed to break this stainless steel piece. Yay. Surgery was a success; recovery was extremely painful and difficult as I learned I was carrying my precious baby (A). I was terrified of the consequences despite the assurance of the doctor that I could safely take X amount of narcotics. I just couldn’t do it. I toughed it out med free with the only comfort being that once I had him I would feel relief from pain as I was determined to take any and all previously offered narcotics that would relieve me of pain. Which I did and of course the sad consequence of that was I have no recollection of caring for my baby for his first few days of life……..

6 thoughts on “A chronicle of my first 2 back surgeries…

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  1. hi,
    I would like to chat more about your surgery and what you experience now.
    I had a Harrington rod inserted when I was 17 years old in 1985. The surgery was a success???
    But what is ‘normal’ supposed to be now?
    Just looking to compare stories now and then…

  2. hi
    thanks for the reply…

    so I was just snooping throught you blog and saw the photos and read through your story about you surgery then how the rod broke and then the next surgery

    do you know how the rod broke? could you feel it immediately?

    how do you feel now? do you have constant pain/discomofort? what do you do (besides med and heating pad) for some relief?
    tell me your scoliosis story…when did you notice it? how old were you?
    do you think it affects any other parts of your body?

    ok- will stop and let you respond…feel free to ask me too


  3. Hi Kerry, the doctors were unable to determine the cause of the Harrington rod breaking, but I’ve since learned that it is quite common for the rods to break. I don’t know if the pain was immediate because I don’t know how long it had been broken.

    As for now, I am still in pain, seems a constant, some days are better than others, but life is not back to normal…ot this may be my new normal, if it is it sucks. 🙂

    As for pain relief, yes meds, heating pads and a healthy dose of pretending I am imagining the pain (that one doesn’t quite work).

    I was diagnosed at 12 at school and the curvatures progressed fairly rapidly, tried the bracing but that didn’t quite work too well for me. It has affected much of my life, more so now as my mobility has been compromised. I am no longer able to bend at the waist making it difficult to manuever.

    Tell me your story.


  4. well my finding out about having scoliosis was kind of like this:
    I was at the dr for a cold/flu or ? and asked him very casually why my jeans were fitting so oddly i.e one hip seeemd higher than the other this was when I was about 14 or so
    he had me bend over to touch my toes and could see the hump that was developing on my back
    from then on I went to have tests, see doctors and soon had a brace made to fit me (woohoo) how exciting for a teenaged girl!

    I had surgery done when I graduated high school
    it seemed to work cuz I really didn’t think I was affected as far as my lifestyle went that could be in part due to the invincibility we have(or think we have) as teenagers/early 20’s humans

    today it seems I have some level of discomfort almost daily… I don’t say too much about it cuz it is so frequent that what more can I say about it…when it is really bad I take painkillers and sit with a heating pad visit the chiro more often
    but my usual self has a massage about every 3-4 weeks and tries dot go the chiro once every week or two
    I don’t shovel snow or rake…I think about how I lift almost anything I also find myself choosing where to sit and how to sit or position myself such as thinking about twisiting my body to talk to soemone etc.
    of course being involved in most sports is avoided although I have never really been sporty spice I do like to be active so again I am choosey
    the last few weeks I have been getting a really unbearable pain in my hips sort of where the leg join to the hip area joint
    the chiro and massage therapist are puzzled why I would be aching on both sides
    it is funny well not funny haha but….it is odd that we both sort of identify as this being a part of our lives and that we don’t really remember life before scoliosis who knows how tall we would have been who knows what it might be like to jump up from a sitting position or from bed doing somersaults and cartwheeels

    I guess I think why complain things could be worse….but most people have no idea what it is like to have a sore back read: think about how common of a complaint that is with most people

    I used to wonder if it affected my bowel function…never really got a straight answer from a dr.
    I also feel very ’round’ torsoed does that sound familiar to you?

    I am 43 and had to babes when I was quite young. I had no problems carrying them gaining 25-30 lbs and delivering was simple as well…thank goodness.

    how about you? children?

    personally, I was married young and started having kids right away…. I worked at home providing daycare fro a good part of this time and aslo as a teacher asst for 2 years. As the kids got older I started working in a public health program ‘mentoring’ young families. During this time my marriage broke up (my initiation) and at 37 found myself with lots of ‘freedom’ My kids were living with their dad (school choice) and I was really faced with lots of choices….fortunate yes but sort of overwhelming too. Being a wife mother for many years and from such a young age…I really didn’t know who I was beyond the roles that my life had cast me in.
    A few years after I met a man, whom I am now living common-law with. It meant a move and other firsts for me…but I am really loving my life now.
    I am back at university part time and wow it is great!

    so that is a bit well quite a bit more about me
    feel free to share more about you


  5. Wow…your story sounds so much like mine. I had my first of 3 boys my senior year in high school.

    Currently I’m in all kinds of pain, hip, back and legs…some days life just sucks. 🙂

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