Part Three: That Time I Had Emergency Back Surgery

The last installment of the story! I thought it would be perfect to share while I’m busy busy in Charlotte, NC. I’ve gotten to see a few awesome bloggers for dinner the past few nights to keep me entertained on this work trip, and promise to update you guys on everything next week! But for now, check out:

I was equally shocked and scared at the news. How could I, at age 22, be needing back surgery.. today? I held back tears and tried to put a brave face on, but deep down I was terrified. Luckily my father was there by my side, and everything happened so quickly from that point on that it’s all a blur.

I was prepped for surgery and believe the whole procedure took about 4 hours. They went in through a small incision on my lower back, removed the inflamed part of the sciatic nerve and also part of the bone cutting into the nerve, and then sealed me back up with dissolving stitches. I was obviously completely knocked out during the surgery so don’t remember anything until I started to come out of the anesthesia.

What I do remember is screaming obscenities while I was coming back to the real world and my dad embarrassingly telling me to quit swearing while in recovery. I obviously didn’t have control of it, but I think it’s slightly amusing that my first words post surgery were profanity.

I was completely loopy on pain meds and drifted off for several hours, but then when I woke up, the pain was no longer debilitating. The site of the incision was quite sore, but it was no longer radiating down my leg and making me unable to move. It was a miracle.

The Aftermath

Once I was awake and a bit more aware from the anesthesia wearing off, a nurse came in and led me to walk down the hall of the hospital, up and down a small flight of stairs, and then back to my room. It was the first time I was able to walk without excruciating pain in almost 2 weeks.

I was put on some physical restraints for six weeks including no twisting, no bending at the waist, and no lifting anything over 15 lbs. I also had a bandage over the site of the surgery for several days, and was on pain killers to help with the pain, but less than pre-surgery, and I quickly weaned myself off of them because at that point I was just sick of taking them!

Luckily, this story has a happy ending. Within a few days, I was feeling a million times better than I was just a few short weeks before. The surgery worked wonders, and I’ve only had two flair ups of the pain since the surgery five years ago, and both were during times of extreme stress. The first was a few months later when my grandfather passed away, and I went back to a chiropractor to have the electric stimulation on my lower back and that helped a lot. The second flair up, ironically, was last week as soon as I was done moving. I think it was a combination of the heavy lifting during the move and the stress concerning my changing living situation. I just took it easy for several days after the movie and the pain subsided on its own.

Today, the only traces of that time in my life, besides the memories, are a faint scar about 1 inch tall and only a few millimeters thick on my lower back, plus the occasional flair up of back pain, but its been no where near what it was in September 2006. I try to avoid heavy lifting and also shy away from wearing heels, because both put a lot of strain on my back. For those very few limitations, I consider myself extremely lucky and am grateful that the surgery was such a success.

Have you ever been under anesthesia? What were the circumstances?

24 Comments on Part Three: That Time I Had Emergency Back Surgery

  1. Theresa @ActiveEggplant
    September 16, 2011 at 8:53 am (9 years ago)

    Wow – amazing that you could tell the surgery was a success that soon! I can’t imagine being in the kind of pain you were in before you had the procedure done.

    I’ve been under anesthesia twice – once for wisdom teeth and once for a girly parts surgery. I don’t have any fun (or any awful) stories about coming out of it though. No nausea, no real confusion, and no profanity (hehe). I think what i say while I’m sleep talking is more amusing than anything I said coming out from surgery!

  2. Holly @ The Runny Egg
    September 16, 2011 at 9:03 am (9 years ago)

    Beth the only things I have heard about back surgery is that they consider that only for extreme cases — I’m so glad that it worked out and that there was no lasting pain. I’m so glad your Dad was there — I know I’d want my parents there too!

    I’ve never been completely knocked out — the worst injury I’ve had is stitches in a few fingers.

  3. Phoebe
    September 16, 2011 at 9:03 am (9 years ago)

    Hi, just curious if they actually removed part of the sciatic nerve, as you said, or if they removed part of the disc that was pressing on the nerve? I’ve just never heard of back surgery involving the nerve being removed. Glad you have mended well!

    • Beth
      September 16, 2011 at 9:07 am (9 years ago)

      Hi Phoebe! I was told they removed a small part of the nerve that was inflammed in addition to a small part of the disc. I’m 95% sure that’s right!

      • Phoebe
        September 16, 2011 at 9:14 am (9 years ago)

        Thanks for the quick response. 🙂 It blows my mind the things the body can go through and bounce back from!

  4. emily
    September 16, 2011 at 9:05 am (9 years ago)

    I had a breast reduction surgery when I was 18 and had to have a catheter for the surgery. When I woke up I was completely delirious, and because of type of surgery they only had bandages around my breast and I was not wearing a gown. So when I woke up I was screaming about having to pee (still had the catheter in) and being extremely hot and would just not keep my sheet on. So apparently I was showing everything I had to the entire recovery room. Nice…

  5. Jennifer
    September 16, 2011 at 9:19 am (9 years ago)

    That whole story is crazy, but I’m so glad it had a happy ending. It seems so many people suffer from back pains and even surgery doesn’t completely fix the problem. I’m glad your’s was so successful. And I’m sorry, but I had to laugh about the profanities part LOL. I think I’ve heard that that’s somewhat common?

    I’ve been under anethesia 4 times. I hate it because I feel sick and awful for a long time afterwards. I told the anesthesiologist this the before the last surgery (gall bladder came out) and he told me he guaranteed I would not feel that way after this surgery. I kind of laughed at him, but whatever he did worked. Plus, he was hot, like McDreamy hot! 😉

    Have a great weekend!!

  6. Karen
    September 16, 2011 at 9:21 am (9 years ago)

    I had to have emergency surgery to have my gall bladder removed also in 2006. I woke up to my dad telling me that while they were in there they took my appendix too. I was none too happy, but just passed out for a few more hours. Everything went well, but to this day I can no longer watch shows like ER. Knowing there were people inside me who I did not make just skeeves me out to no end! Blech!

  7. Ash @ Good Taste Healthy Me
    September 16, 2011 at 9:32 am (9 years ago)

    I have had it – it was trippy. I disliked feeling so out of it when it was over. I don’t know how people do drugs. I would hate feeling so out of control!

  8. Shady
    September 16, 2011 at 9:37 am (9 years ago)

    What a horrifying story, with an awesome ending. I’ve had chronic back pain for oh 15 years or so now (I’m currently 28). I’ve always worried/been a tiny bit guitily hopeful that it would be worse so something definite could be done and it could be fixed. So far, that hasn’t been my lot so I’ve learned to listen to my body and respect the signals that it sends me that it needs a break.

  9. Jolene (Homespun Heritage)
    September 16, 2011 at 11:45 am (9 years ago)

    I’ve had 2 c/sections and 1 other surgery to fix some plumbing issues. The “other plumbing” surgery was a light anesthesia but I don’t remember any of it and I was out cold! The pain level was intense but I could do nothing more than moan…I couldn’t talk or move. Scary stuff! My c/sections were complete opposites…one was spectacular with me bouncing back in just 2 weeks and the 2nd one (8 yrs later) was horrible and I clotted up under the incision and it never closed fully so we had to pack it daily with gauze (for 6 weeks) and I fought infection for the whole 6 weeks.
    I sure am hoping for no more surgeries in the future…

  10. Jenny
    September 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm (9 years ago)

    You are not alone! I’ve had surgery in double digits on my ankles plus a few others and more often than not I wake up swearing or crying or both. For me it’s always the shock of the pain on my “what’s going on?” brain.

  11. Jenny
    September 16, 2011 at 1:23 pm (9 years ago)

    wow! What a scary ordeal that must have been!

    I’ve been under anesthesia twice. Both in my early twenties. One was while I was having my wisdom teeth out – they pulled the top two and had to cut out the bottom two because they were impacted. And they did them all at once so they put me under for that.
    The second one was to have my tonsils out. I was ALWAYS sick with strep throat growing up. The Dr would always say they would tak them out if I got sick again in a certain amount of time and I would go past that by a couple of weeks so they just kept putting it off. Finally at 20, my new Dr asked me straight out if I wanted the surgery. I of course wanted it! So they took them out and concluded that I had a constant infection that never went away and the antibiotics would only subside it for a while. I RARELY get sick anymore, it’s been an absolute miracle for me.

  12. Amanda @ Running On Waffles
    September 16, 2011 at 2:26 pm (9 years ago)

    Wow! I’m REALLY glad they were able to help you so much with surgery! In college, I had to have reconstructive ankle surgery after tearing all of the ligaments from several ankle sprains. As much as it sucked being on crutches for 6 weeks, I’m really glad I had the surgery because I wouldn’t be able to run if I hadn’t. Before, running was incredibly painful and I never did it…I would have to tape, wear a brace, and ice immediately after. Now, I don’t have to do anything…it’s actually more stable than the other ankle.

  13. Andie
    September 16, 2011 at 6:26 pm (9 years ago)

    When I came out from under anesthesia after surgery, I had on an oxygen mask and a nurse was asking me if I wanted ice chips. I assured her, rather loudly, I’m told, that no, I’d much rather have a frozen chianti from a well-known local restaurant. I then went on and on about how good they were and how much I liked red wine. Not quite swearing, but I certainly revealed more about myself than others in recover who just said yes please to ice.

  14. Cynthia (It All Changes)
    September 16, 2011 at 8:40 pm (9 years ago)

    I had back surgery too and when I came out of anesthesia I was yelling at the nurse. I was in surgery for 7 hours and they did some major work leaving me in major pain. I cried and yelled at the recovery room nurse to give me more drugs. She was patient but told me I had to wait and calm down. Finally as I was awake enough and in less pain I told her I was sorry for yelling. She said she hears it all the time and I was fairly mild. I’d hate to hear what others say to her.

  15. Kerilyn
    September 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm (9 years ago)

    Hey. I have a similar story. My senior year of high school, I had a Pilonidal Cyst near my tailbone. (Don’t look it up, it’s gross) Oh my gosh I was in so much pain. I remember I had to call my neighbor to help me get off the ground. I could NOT get up either. I tell people that after going thru that pain, I could handle labor. Had outpatient surgery and was FINE afterward,

  16. Anna
    September 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm (9 years ago)

    Wow, I can’t even imagine that kind of pain! I’ve been under anesthesia three times. Twice for some female stuff (I woke bore you), and the third time was two years ago. I tore my minicus playing raquetball. Ironically, I woke in recovery, screamed at the pain, and grabbed at my knee ( no profanity though). I was immediately knocked out again. Unfortunately, that surgery didn’t have the same happy ending as your. My knee has never been the same and to this day if I overdo things, I have intense pain and end up hobbling for a couple of days.

    Pretty tame stuff compared to your. I’m really glad it worked out well for you.

  17. Ang
    September 20, 2011 at 2:44 pm (9 years ago)

    I have been under anesthesia four times, wisdom teeth, gallbladder, tonsils, and EGD. It seems the only time I’ve said anything strange was after the tonsilectomy. My husband swears when I woke up I asked him if I was still alive and when he said yes I gave him a high five. I still get laughed at for that. Tomorrow I am having a minor surgery so here is hoping I don’t say anything ridiculous! lol

  18. Alicia @ LiveAliciaLive
    October 14, 2011 at 9:32 pm (9 years ago)

    I’ve had so many surgeries for things that were just ridiculous (4 on my right arm that wasn’t set right when I broke it at 11, one to have my gallbladder removed, a full out surgery for my wisdom teeth…) that when I hurt my back a few months ago at work I was terrified. My family has a history of back problems that require surgery, and I was so scared I was one of them, especially when the pain started shooting down my legs.

    Luckily, the doctor told me to stop being stupid and moving and just take the time to lay and let the injury heal, and over time it did. Then he told me to stop laying around and move my butt to stretch out the muscles which had spasmed and needed to be worked out. It’s a contradictive process sometimes. I’m glad you’re feeling better, though!

  19. Jill
    October 18, 2011 at 10:20 am (9 years ago)

    Amazing story about your back – thanks for sharing it with us. Congratulations on your beautiful new place and how well you are handling your new relationship status !! 🙂

  20. Holly Johnson
    March 26, 2012 at 10:22 pm (9 years ago)

    Hi Beth! I just found your blog and love it. I also had back surgery 7 years ago. A discectomy @ L5 and S1. My situation was so similar to yours, it was a crazy painful 2 weeks.
    Do you ever experience flare ups after running? Do you notice tight hamstrings or other problems due from your back? I’ve been running for awhile now and want to run a half marathon in October, Im hoping my body cooperates.

    • Beth
      March 26, 2012 at 10:41 pm (9 years ago)

      Hi Holly! So glad you found me and are digging the blog so far. 🙂 I don’t want to jinx myself so maybe I shouldn’t say it, but I have been pretty much pain free ever since the surgery! I did have one flare up 3 months after the surgery when my grandfather passed away – I think largely due to stress – but besides that, i’ve felt like a normal person! Sometimes I do get a dull pain in my lower back, but nothing even close to what it was like pre-surgery, and I feel like that’s pretty normal. I do have very tight hamstrings and calves, so I try to foam roll and stretch a lot, but it hasn’t caused me any trouble with running. How exciting that you want to run a half in October! I’d say just take it slow, listen to your body, and see a doctor if something doesn’t feel right. You know yourself best!


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