Saturday, August 4, 2018

Posterior Lumbar Fusion (October 18, 2017)

It's Surgery Day!!!
October 18th, 2017

Hey all! First, let me thank every one of you for your prayers, love and support. You are all amazing, and I'm blessed to have you in my life. Now, about the surgery - God blessed us with a gifted surgeon with gifted eyes and hands especially. He had planned on going in and needing to do a fusion of the spine at levels L4, L5, S1. This would involve going in (via open surgery) and replacing the displaced and damaged discs at these levels. He also planned on reinforcing the bone-harvested discs with screws and rods. He did NOT have to use the screws and roads, and said that things were cleaner (on the spine) than what appeared on the MRI, and they did NOT NEED TO USE HARDWARE! (Talk about little miracles from our Creator Above!):D :D :D They did, however, do a lot of bone-work as they "cleaned" (drilled at and through the bone) the area of the growths from the stenosis, arthritis, and bone spurs. They did perform a complete spinal fusion at L4, L5, and S1 using discs that are harvested and then impregnated with bony growth tissue from the damaged bony tissue that was removed due to the stenosis, arthritis, spondylosis,etc. (they had to create spacing for those discs). That will eventually turn into solid bone from the L4 down to the S1. My pain is less than it would be on a really rough day (which is a lot, granted, but amazingly good for just having had a spinal fusion procedure). We are praising God for His over-abundant blessings, and praying our way through today and tonight especially! My God be praised!


Update on Recovery from Posterior Spinal Fusion
October 30th, 2017

Hello sweet friends! Thank you SOOO much for your prayers! God has performed a miracle through this surgery, and not to mention my recovery has been smooth-sailing for the most-part (I will go into details later). I don't feel at all like I had surgery, and I'm getting around better than before surgery. The difference is that I have to be careful to not bend, twist, etc. for the next 3 months (time frame for the new fusion to form completely). We've also had an amazing support system through our family, friends, church and a few ministries, who have generously prayed over us (whether in secret or known), given financially, taken care of childcare (spoiled my kids...hehe), building a ramp for our house, stocking up on freezer meals, AND bringing us hot meals for dinner for these past 7 days. I've been doing so well that I told our friend in charge of hot meals that since we are actually doing fantastic and better than expected, we feel we no longer need the hot meals provided, although it blessed my stomach (and my heart). ;) We can't say thank you enough to all that have shown your love for us! God has genuinely blessed us through your willingness to joyfully serve Him by serving others. Thank you!! All Glory to God for all that He has done!

PS - As you read, keep in mind that we went into surgery expecting a certain method/procedure, unless we were the minority of cases where he would amend the plan after opening me up on the table and exploring the spine. They changed our plan of surgery completely (which I was ok with, I trust my surgeon completely, and moreso, I trust the ultimate Surgeon and Physican - our Healer; God had a plan for all of this, and I was at complete peace that I was in His sovereign hands). Well, we were one of those minority of cases where the plan of surgery was amended in the OR. So when I woke up from surgery and saw the hubby, I got the first report about the surgery. Because the plan was amended, I didn't know the details of the procedure, and was left filling in the blanks. If you know anything about me, you probably know that I love to know details about health issues (each step of the process). So my post on Oct. 18th (below) was what I understood simply from my husband's 2nd hand report from talking with the surgeon (my husband also isn't as curious as to the details of things like a surgery - not a bad thing - just different from my personality, so I assumed a lot of what he didn't say was simply part of the originally-planned procedure). SO, I now have the correct details on my surgery. ;)

PPS - I like to go into details, as there are many that follow my page that go through similar circumstances and benefit from learning different methods of treatment for pain management. I tried to explain as best as possible. Please feel free to contact me further and ask questions if you need more details on the procedure.

I had a three-level lumbar spinal fusion performed, but it was achieved with a completely different method than our original plan (original plan - a posterior lumbar INTERBODY fusion / PLIF). I AM fused at the L4, L5, SI levels via a posterolateral / posterior lumbar spinal fusion (PLF; no INTERBODY / hardware was used; also known as a Fusio facet joint spinal fusion & Nufix facet joint spinal fusion). The PLIF (originally-planned) surgery focuses on fusing the vertebrae and reinforcing the spine with hardware at the site of the fusion. The amended fusion (PLF - no INTERBODY) focuses on the fusion of the posterior spine along the facet joints. The benefits with the amended surgery is a slightly shorter recovery time, all with the same (overall) result as the PLIF, in that both would achieve a full fusion of the desired joints. The recovery time for a PLIF is 3 years, and the recovery time for a PLF (amended surgery) is approx. 2 years. And for me, I was thrilled when I heard that they didn't have to use hardware! Medical science and technology amaze me.

For the facet joint spinal fusion (PLF; the amended surgery), the Dr. first performed a laminectomy (trimming excess / bulging / herniated discs, which I had at all three levels). This procedure was performed on the front side of the spine (spinal cord had to be pushed to the side in order to access the area). He then moved to the posterior side (back) of the spine, which is easiest to access, and began the fusion procedure. He cut back (a great deal) my facet joints (posterior spinal bone) at all three levels in order to give the nerves more room, and therefore better pain relief. The trimmed bony tissue was collected and harvested to be used in the fusion procedure, which was mixed with an agent to encourage quick bone-growth. Trimming down the posterior spinal bone (facets) also remedied several issues I had developed, including severe spinal and foraminal stenosis, severe spondylosis (abnormal bone growth and bone spurs - the Dr. said I had countless bone spurs, which he took care of), and arthritis of the spine (which also caused several nerves to be compressed {pinched}, as I mentioned previously).

I have to be extremely careful to avoid bending, twisting, and lifting in order to allow the bone growth to strengthen and become complete. This takes approximately 3 months on average. My back brace must be worn at all times during this 3 month period (except for resting in bed), which helps avoid any strain, bending, or twisting.

So how is my recovery progressing thus far? I have been doing MIRACULOUSLY-well! All glory goes to our Lord and Savior and ultimate Healer and Physician!! I praise God for leading us to this surgeon and for giving us the gentleness to yield without frustration to the changes made in surgery. As of day 1 of recovery, I was walking normally, without change in my "normal" gait (I do limp slightly). The pain associated with this surgery has been the least amount of pain I've felt with any surgery I've had (including my spinal cord stimulator implant - the worst pain I've had, and the bilateral sacroiliac (SI) joint fusions - the longest recovery I've had). I likened the pain with this surgery to a rough day with my pain levels. For a spinal fusion, that kind of pain is nothing compared to what most people experience. I've never heard of anyone with anything less than miserable or intolerable pain levels with a spinal fusion within the first few days of recovery to the first week. In my view, that is simply a miracle of GOD!!! "Taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him" (Psalm 34:8).

We had a slight complication from surgery, which is a subdermal hematoma (also called a seroma) that developed at the sight of surgery (underneath the incision). It is continuing to drain, which is actually beneficial, and we are praying that it will heal on it's own and not require surgical intervention (if it does, it is not a big deal at all, and is actually quite a common complication of surgery). Since it is draining, the signs are that it will heal with time, praise God!! The Dr. is monitoring it closely for change, and feels that the odds are it will heal naturally.

For the best results of the fusion, I am encouraged to walk as much as my body can handle without pushing myself too far. I have been walking daily (without assistance from adaptive equipment, thus far), and have had minimal pain from this simple exercise. Pressure and weight on the bones encourages bone growth. There have been a couple of days (only) that I have had rough pain levels and unable to do my walking exercise. I still need my crutch for long distances, and if I stand for an extended amount of time, I am still bringing my wheelchair with me and either pushing it (using it as support and walking) or sitting and rolling in it (I usually alternate evenly between using it normally or sitting and pushing the chair while using it as a support while walking).

I am praying that with time, I will be able to gain enough strength and pain relief to walk unassisted all-together. I know I am in God's precious hands, and that healing can sometimes take time. My Dr. has said time and time again "don't over-do" when I tell him how well I am doing. I have to remind myself of that. My body has been through much trauma following surgery, and time will bring healing. Many don't understand that. They think that one surgery should heal it all - get rid of the wheelchair, the crutch - when healing doesn't come quite that quickly, nor does one surgery necessarily heal all (I have over 40 diagnoses of my spine and lower extremities, including autoimmune and chronic pain disorders), although I pray and believe in the possibility that God can heal me if He wills, and I certainly pray that is the case this time around, yet I yield to His perfect and mysterious and unknown will.

I have been so uplifted by the miraculous results I am seeing during my recovery! PLEASE CONTINUE TO PRAY:

1. ...that my body will respond well to the fusion and that the fusion will "set" in the best position possible for my pain relief and the fusion complete itself over these next 3 months.

2. ...that I will be able to come off one, if not several doses or completely off several of my medications.

3. ...that the seroma / hematoma would heal naturally and not require surgical intervention.

4. ...that this is the miracle we've been praying for, although I trust my Lord in His precious will and sovereignty for whatever He has planned.

5. ...that my recovery will continue to move forward (current home therapy, which is walking daily for next 3 months; future physical therapy, which will begin in 3 months; complete fusion, which should "set" {be completely fused} in 3 months).

6. ...that I will continue to have the positive energy to homeschool the boys during my recovery (we took several weeks off for surgery, which is the beautiful thing about homeschool, as we homeschooled through the summer, and we are starting back this Wednesday; pray I will have the positive energy and motivation to plan lessons and activities, etc.).

In closing, we once again want to THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH for your prayers, love, support, and servitude. Rence and I have been touched by the outpouring of support we've received during this time. For all that have had a part in positively effecting our lives during this time (including our prayer warriors), we can't thank you enough! We pray God's blessings upon you, and praise God for His touch on our lives through you. Thank you & may God's blessings be overflowing for you and yours!!

With love in Christ,
Beth Anne (& Rence) Cochran


Recovery Update & A Happy Thanksgiving!
November 23rd, 2017
Happy Thanksgiving, sweet friends and family! There is always so much to be thankful for, without doubt in overabundance. We give God all the glory for working in our lives in such an incredible way. I remember this time every year, looking back at where God has brought us in that year's journey. No doubt, Rence and I have been tremendously blessed with the people we've interracted with - our church family (past and present), discipleship groups, chronic illness ministry and those who helped us get there, the preschool ministry at our church, and even my sweet friends I've met through prayer groups. We are especially grateful for our families. In some way or another, every one of these precious people have helped us meet our needs by acting on God's calling to serve, when he leads you to do so. Because of God's faithfulness to place such wonderful people in our lives, He has always, always provided for us - even when we had the greatest needs, whether they be spiritual or physical needs. We know these friendships are a treasure, and we truly pray God blesses you in accordance to the measure you have blessed us.

We are especially grateful for God's healing hand. My progress following surgery has been incredible, which we attribute to nothing less than a divine intervention from God alone - my Jehovah Rapha! We are continuing to pray and believe that my precious Physician Above has a perfect plan for my health both in the near and distant future, and we are relying on Him to continue guiding us on medical decisions in the near future if they come. We praise Him for the amazing work of healing we are seeing in this fragile and temporary body.

An update on how I am feeling physically:
My updated progress from laminectomy, facet reductions, and posterior facet spinal fusion via pre-grafted bone screws (screws comprised of bone - no metal hardware!), L4, L5, S1 as of 2 months post-op (has it really been 2 months already?). My most recent post-op appointment was at 6 weeks post-op. I had staples removed, had the seroma checked, and had x-rays to check on my progress. The x-rays looked great and showed that the 6 facet joints that are reinforced with the pre-grafted bone screws (screws comprised of bone) are holding strongly in place. Within the next month (3 months post-op), the fusion of these joints should become solid (although fragile). I also thought that I would be back-brace free at 3 months post-op, but my surgeon wants me to wear my brace consistently for at least a year. I've had more pain lately than normal, but pain-wise, I'm still managing fairly well overall in my recovery. We are praying that I will be able to continue coming off my medications, one by one. This is a lengthy and difficult process, as I've been on most of these medications for at least 10 years (onset of my issues was at 15 years old - 15 years ago); even so, I've had success with coming off 1/4th of my medications already, which again shows God's mighty hand in the midst of our situation. There is a way to go yet, but we are very hopeful in the entire situation and feeling confident in what our Lord deems fit for this and the next steps in our journey in this great mission of life. In the good times, in the rough times, may our God and Savior continue to be praised for all He is and all He has done and will continue to do! Hallelujah!


2 Month Post-Op Visit
December 21st, 2017

Today was my 2 1/2 month post-op with the spinal surgeon, and everything looks beautifully on-target as far as healing and bone growth. The placements of the bone-comprised screws (grafts) show basic and solid bone growth (in the beginning stages - it will continue to grow and strengthen greatly in the next 9 months). In other words, my facet joints are now interlocked bilaterally (on both sides of the spine) and are now one solid joint from the L4 to the base of the spine. Also, Dr. Jones performed a partial (L4/5) and a complete (L5/S1) laminectomy (removal of the protruding and/or affected disc) - the partial laminectomy has relieved a lot of numbness and tingling in my feet and legs (amazing!) and the complete laminectomy has allowed for the two vertebrae - the L5 and the S1 to complete the process of auto-fusing (a natural fusion process, helped along by Dr. Jones removing the affected L5/S1 disc). The trimmed-back facet joints have also made a massive positive impact on my pain levels! I'm still recovering, still on restrictions, still required to stay in the brace 24/7, still needing rest, still taking it slow, still having pain (as expected, but nothing in comparison to the pain I was in before surgery), but most importantly still 100% blessed to be on the road to recovery. God uses every situation, every ounce of pain, every teardrop, every laugh, every shout of joy....but only if we allow Him. Nothing is wasted in God's Kingdom. <3 May glory "rain" down on you this Christmas!


6 Month Post-Op
March 13th, 2018

Today was my 6-month post-op visit with my surgeon. He took the standard post-op x-rays and everything looks fantastic! I was quite relieved to be honest, as I've had a lot more pain in my lumbar (to a worrying extent), and I wondered if I had dislodged on of the "wedges" of bone graft that is placed into my facet joints. He advised me to continue taking care in how I'm doing things to avoid damage to my back as it continues to strengthen, and asked to see me in 6 months. Praise to God for great progress!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Mental Illness and the Church

This is a FANTASTIC read for ALL Christ-followers. We are all still learning, but I think the area of mental illness & the church is something that needs much attention, education & awareness, as well as biblical teaching on the issue. Our goal as Christ-followers should be to "bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners" (Isaiah 61:1). Lord, move our hearts to minister to this area of need within the church. May we always seek to love like Christ loves. Amen.

Click HERE or click the link below:
2.9 depressed

BELOW: "What you're looking at is a myosin protein dragging an endorphin along a filament to the inner part of the brain's parietal cortex, which creates happiness. You're looking at happiness." - Satya Robyn

Click HERE or click the link below:

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Back Surgery #2 - Coming Soon!

Medtronic is the brand device that will be used for my
Spinal Cord Stimulator Surgery Implant. The picture
above is of the battery that is implanted under the skin and
muscle, but can serviced every few years if needed without
too much trouble.
Hello sweet friends! My doctor's appointment from last Thursday went really well, in which we discussed the surgery my specialist from Birmingham (whom I see monthly) recommended because we are basically out of options as far as conservative treatment is concerned. This new physician from Huntsville discussed with me all the pros and cons to surgically implanting a Spinal Cord Stimulator (SCS) Unit.

Some of you may be wondering what a spinal cord stimulator (also called a dorsal column stimulator) does. Spine Health defines spinal cord stimulation as "an aggressive pain management technique that involves surgical implantation of an electrotherapeutic device onto the spinal cord. In the procedure, a device is implanted that produces low levels of electrical current to the dorsal portion of the spinal cord to block the sensation of pain. Spinal cord stimulators may be a fully implanted system or a system with an external power source. Spinal cord stimulation is often used to treat neuropathy (neuropathic pain, or nerve pain) from failed back surgery syndrome or radiculopathy. Spinal cord stimulation has shown to be an effective long-term treatment for back pain."

The complete process of this surgery involves:
1. Prior-authorization from insurance (which takes roughly 35-40 days to receive)
2. A trial placement and time period (of just 2 electrodes - outpatient surgery vs. the roughly 16 they will be implanting with the actual surgery)
3. The final surgery with the permanent SCS Unit being implanted if the trial goes well.

As far as the final surgery is concerned, it is known to be pretty rough because it is an open surgery with several incisions, at least two being quite large, where they cut down to the epidural space (past the spine) in several areas to get prime placement, and they also thread each electrode through the soft tissue of the back to connect underneath the muscle tissue.

Despite the difficulty with the final surgery regarding recovery, the success rate with this surgery is fairly high (especially since you get to experience a trial prior to having the permanent SCS implanted). I also know several friends with these medical devices and they love them. The SCS is NOT designed to take away all of my pain, nor to allow me to discontinue all medications. However, the goal from this surgery is for me to be able to cope with my daily pain in a dramatically better way (allow me to function better).

The surgery will take place at Huntsville Hospital and I will stay at least one night in hospital following surgery. It's a bit of a drive from our home, but it's worth the quality healthcare. And the visit was worth the drive, because I got to ride the tram.... :o

Both Rence and myself are excited about this opportunity. We would greatly appreciate your prayers in the process, as we seek prior-authorization from insurance - that it would be approved - and that God would continue to give us wisdom in our finances as we save up for the up-front costs of the surgery. Please also pray that God would provide willing servants of Christ to help us through this process via childcare and meals for a few days when that time comes. Thank you so much, dear friends! It means the world to us!

PS - For anyone interested on more about the procedure, here is a link to what a Spinal Cord Stimulator is all about (click the "here" button above OR copy and paste the address below).

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Updated Diagnoses of Spine, Lower Extremities & Chronic Pain Disorders

I hope that this blog post finds everybody well and off to a great New Year!

Some may remember that I had a procedure done in the middle of December that was outpatient. This was a CT Myelogram. The myelogram itself is a procedure in which they inject a contrast dye directly into the spinal canal (much like an epidural, except more fluid), then manipulate the body (and actually tip you on a table) to let the dye flow into the desired areas of the spinal canal and nerves surrounding it. The technicians then take pictures while the patient is in each position, all under radiofrequency equipment, to see what areas of the spine are damaged. After the myelogram is complete, the patient is then sent to the CT scanner while the contrast fluid is still in the spinal canal, allowing for better visibility of possible abnormalities. The myelogram itself is a painful process simply because of the positions they put you in after the dye hits the damaged nerves (which hurts terribly - multiplies your pain by 10x at least). But in the end, the clear picture of damage is much better than any MRI or CT (by itself).

This year, they found more damage in the cervical spine (neck). I have 4 bulging discs in the neck that we were not originally aware of. That makes for 7 bulging discs in the spine total. They also were able to see (miraculously) the impingement of the L4 nerve. To actually SEE evidence of an impingement is pretty note-worthy. I have EMG studies that have found nerve damage from the age of 24, but they could never see it on a study. They also found that my discs are beginning to collapse on one another at the L4 & L5 levels.

Much of the other findings were things we were already aware of, such as the progressive degenerative disc disease, spinal canal & foraminal stenosis, bulging discs & bilateral foraminal narrowing, etc.

Spinal & Chronic Pain Conditions:
* Hypertrophic facet disease
* Facet Arthopathy
* Progressive degenerative disc disease (cervical and lumbar)
* 2 collapsed discs in lumbar (L4, L5)
* 8 bulging discs in lumbar & cervical spine (C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1)
* 2 torn discs (L4/5, L5/S1)

* Thecal sac compression (L3 & L4)
* [Visible] nerve root impingement (L4)
* Gross spinal instability (lumbar)
* Spinal canal & foraminal stenosis

* Bilateral foraminal narrowing (L3/4, L4/5)
* Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy (not connected with Hypertrophic Facet Disease)
* Bilateral sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction syndrome
(SI joints aligned and 85% relief from surgery -   SI joint bilateral fixation with screws)

* Piriformis Syndrome (80% relieved due to surgery - Piriformis Release)
* Mild Scoliosis
* Peripheral neuropathy in both legs and feet
* Bone tumors in cervical spine (neck)

* Chronic Pain Syndrome (CPS)
* Fibromyalgia

* Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS)

The following diagnoses are impacted by the spinal & chronic pain conditions:
* Insomnia
* Adrenal Fatigue, Stage III (out of IV)
* Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
* Chronic Migraines (with ocular changes)
* Vertigo

That's a total of 40 diagnoses (if you count each damaged disc as a diagnosis, as they do in the medical field). 33 of those diagnoses are oriented of the spine. The remaining 7 diagnoses are usually linked to my chronic pain in some way, yet separate from the actual disorders of the nerves and spine.

Although the diagnoses keep adding up, so do my blessings. I'm alive. I have great access to healthcare. Yes, I struggle with bad days just like anyone else does, but I also have great days. God gave us emotions for a great reason. But I also need to trust God, and not my heart, not my emotions. And let me tell you - with that trust, God brings us a great hope for today and tomorrow!

2 Corinthians 4:15-16 (NIV)

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Review of Sacroiliac Joint Surgeon, Physical Therapist & Hospital

Well, it's been 9 months since my last update on my blog. I never intended to lag behind so badly, but with the recovery of major back surgery from March 2015, attempting to homeschool two 4-year old boys [using my own curriculum], and so much more, I simply put blog updates on the back-burner. But I'm back, and although this blog is by far not my priority (but rather a hobby), I hopefully can update every month or so with a blog post.

So I wanted to briefly touch on my surgery experience following the Bilateral Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Stabilization Surgery and Bilateral Piriformis Release performed by Dr. David Weiss in Gainesville, GA. First off, I do not get any sort of benefit from promoting Dr. Weiss or his business. I say all of this simply to share information for those who might be in the situation I was in, and with limited options as I was faced with.

As with any health organization, there are pros and cons. I'll start off with the only complaint I had, which in hind sight is very small in comparison with the great results of the surgery and the excellent staff that worked with me. When going the route of using Dr. Weiss' office, they have to facilitate the use of a Physical Therapy office that at the time [the office] struggled to communicate the charges (outside of insurance - not a copay) that would come up during the time I was under their care (application charges, initial appointments, pre-op appointments, surgery day OR charges, and post-op visitation charges). If you need this surgery and are interested in using Dr. Weiss, you have to go through the physical therapy office they use, as the therapist assists him in surgery. My personal recommendation is to sit down (or call) the office manager (not the financial manager - she did not give accurate quotes) and have them explain each and every charge that will come up - from the initial visit to post-op visits. If you can, record the conversation so that there is some accountability, and make sure you take the person's name whom you are speaking with, the date and the time.

Myself with Vikki Sims, Physical Therapist
Having said all that, let me say once again that this was the only complaint I had the entire time I was going through this process for spinal surgery. The physical therapy office space itself was excellent - it was extremely spacious, was very clean, had great waiting rooms, restrooms, exercise space, individual patient rooms, private meeting rooms, etc. The staff was very professional. The actual Physical Therapist, Vikki, was absolutely AMAZING. She is known cross-country for her expertise of the Sacroiliac Joint and Spine. She had a fantastic bedside manner and was extremely knowledgeable. Vikki and Dr. Weiss work as a team in the Operating Room. Vikki meets with the patient prior to surgery to teach the patient and spouse, if applicable, how to set the Sacroiliac joints back into the groove of the joint, and has you watch a video about the surgery & gives you material to read. This better prepares the joint and anatomy surrounding the area for surgery. When surgery day does come, Vikki sets the SI joints into place in pre-op and after they move you onto the table. She double checks everything before they screw the joints in place. They also use radiofrequency guidance. I can't say enough to ensure you how excellent of a job Vikki does, all around.

Dr. Weiss was absolutely fantastic as well. His office was a clean facility, and his nurse was very personable and gave quick call-backs if I had questions. My initial exam with Dr. Weiss was to see if I was a candidate for surgery. The exam was extremely thorough, including an X-ray done in his office and by his staff (at the angles he wanted to see), and his nurse dictated notes throughout the exam. The initial visit lasted approximately 2 hours, and Dr. Weiss spent 45 minutes to 1 hour with us in the exam room. He went through every single option with us and answered any questions we had. He did not seem to be in a hurry, and I left feeling relieved that the option of surgery was finally on the table.

The hospital in which surgery took place was Northeast Regional Medical Center (NRMC) in Gainesville, GA, and it was a fantastic facility. Coming from a family of nurses, I have pretty high standards for healthcare. I've had plenty of experience with hospitals, and the only other hospital before my experience with NRMC to meet my high standards for healthcare was UABH (University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital). I stayed for two nights at NRMC following my surgery and felt more than cared for, had my pain fairly well controlled, and knew I was in good hands, even when the doctor wasn't around. I was listed as a "spinal patient" with "spinal precautions" and couldn't get out of the bed alone, but nurses or techs would gladly come to my aid within 2-4 minutes of my request to get out of bed. The friendliness of the staff was absolutely fantastic. I never felt like an inconvenience, no matter the request. I rank this hospital stay as #1 in my experience.

I will soon post a blog about my 9-month post-op progress, which has been great compared to where I was prior to surgery. As always, please feel free to ask questions! My hopes are that this "review" helps those who are looking into this surgery know a little more about this option.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Spinal Surgery Follow-Up Visit

So today (Monday) was the day of my first surgery follow-up with my doctor & surgeon in Gainesville, GA - Dr. David Weiss with Specialty Orthopedics of North Georgia. I was ready to hear what Dr. Weiss thought regarding my progress (which I feel has been extraordinary) and ready to move forward with new things after being cleared to do a few simple things, like drive.

Dr. David Weiss with patient, Beth Anne Cochran
Day 11 Post-Op, 4.6.2015
The other goals for today's visit were:
To check the wounds
Remove stitches
Check ROM (range of motion)
Check pain originators in comparison with original complaints & findings in SI joint (did surgery help?)
Make sure patient is on-track to start physical therapy

As soon as he walked in and asked, "well, how have you been doing following surgery?", I gave Dr. Weiss a resoundingly clear answer that I had been feeling amazingly well, and having only the expected post-operative pain following surgery & just a little sciatica, as well as the normal pain from the stenosis, DDD (degenerative disc disease), bulging & torn discs, and scoliosis, which was not operated on - I have had little to none of the most severe sacroiliac joint pain (we are continuing to pray & believe that it does not return like before)!

I told him how I was walking daily with the walker. My next question was then "when can I ditch the walker?" He hesitated for a moment and looked at how many days post-op I was. As of today, I am only 11 Days Post-Op, so he seemed a little surprised that I was asking so soon. He made sure to tell me to not over-do and to listen to my body - when I am in pain, then I need to discontinue whatever activity I am doing (including physical therapy exercises that induce pain). He then told me I could phase out of using the walker as slowly as needed, but there is no rush. I was, of course, excited to hear this.

For those who are worried about me pushing too hard too quickly, I think your concerns are legit. And honestly, I might have pushed the envelope a little too far here and there through my recovery in small ways. But I also tend to catch myself fairly early on in those situations and realize what I am doing and to slow down.

For those reading my blog due to interest in the surgery, here is a list of just a few things I should NOT do following surgery unless in physical therapy protocol:

1. No sitting for longer than one hour without a standing break
2. No driving or car riding for more than one hour
3. No standing or walking for longer than 15 minutes
4. No bending or twisting at waist
5. Sleep with a pillow between knees
6. Sit straight with a pillow to the small of the back
7. No lifting anything over 10 lbs.
8. Avoid stair climbing. If you stair climb, lead with the stronger leg and take one step at a time
9. No single leg standing
10. Do not develop a walking program until at least 8 weeks post-op, and then only the directions of your physical therapist

Lifetime Restrictions:

1. No bungee jumping
2. No parachuting
3. No rock climbing
4. No step aerobics
5. No stairmaster
6. No chiropractic manipulation of the low back

As far as progress from the walker to unassisted walking, I know it will take time and a gradual process of working up my strength (18 months for a full recovery). And I am so excited to know that God's story of healing in my body is not yet complete....may God continue to restore me, from the inside out.

Isaiah 40:29 
He gives strength to the weary and increases power to the weak.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Spinal Surgery Recovery

Day 4 Post-Op (3.30.2015)
I know many of you are really curious to know how I have been doing regarding recovery from spinal surgery. I just want to share with you how well my recovery has been going. Every step of recovery has been on track with the average timeline of recovery for this particular surgery, if not better, and my pain has been purely post-op pain thus far (which has been well-managed for the most part).

I do not feel the old sacroiliac joint pain that I used to feel so
Cuddle-time with Brayden
Day 6 Post-Op
severely (the most severe pain I experienced, by far)! I can't describe the joy and gratitude to my Romancer, my Savior, my Healer, for the healing being brought upon my body - one day at a time.

Post-Op Day 5 (3.30.15)
I'm still taking it slow, and full rehabilitation will take at least 18 months just from this surgery. I am still using my walker for one more week via mandatory instructions from my surgeon/doctor, but am SO ready to walk unassisted in a few months, if not sooner. But simple things like pain relief in the SI (sacroiliac) joint of the spine are improving my quality of life in such an incredible way.

With the help of my generous daily volunteers, the boys and I have been able to go out a few times this week for fairly short outings, and it gives me a great opportunity to gain some strength in my legs and back by walking for short periods of time with the assistance of my walker. My doctor/surgeon wants me
Post-Op Day 7 (4.3.2015)
walking up to 15 minutes at a time with my walker once or twice daily. At this stage of recovery, the more I stay mobile, the more quickly I will heal. My first outing was on Wednesday, April 1st (Day 6 post-op), and I was definitely not afraid to be the slow-poke of the group.

I have my first physical therapy appointment on Friday, April 10th at Clinton Ray Ortho. & Sports Med. My follow-up with my surgeon/doctor is on Monday, April 6th at 11 to check on everything.

I can't wait to see what God is going to continue to do through this amazing opportunity!

Psalm 30:1-12
(Emphasis Mine)

I will exalt you, LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.
You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.

Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

When I felt secure, I said, "I will never be shaken."
Lord, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face I was dismayed.

To you, LORD, I called; to the LORD I cried for mercy:
"What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; LORD, be my help."

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
LORD my God, I will praise you forever.