Back Inaction!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hello blogosphere, I'm back in action!

My return is thanks to my back inaction.

After seven years of dealing with pain in my lower back ranging from "Owie!" to "AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!", I finally had surgery a couple of weeks ago. As I heal over the next several weeks I can't bend/twist/arch my back, drive a car, or work, which means I need to put my Chubby Checker celebrity impersonator career or hold. But it also means I have plenty of time to write.

My back pain was the result of a herniated disc at the L5/S1 vertebrae. The surgery I had was an intricate and expensive procedure called an ALIF, which stands for "Allowing the hospital to Loot my Investment Funds" - or something. The goal of an ALIF is to remove the collapsed disc then fuse the L5 and S1 vertebrae together, thus relieving the constant and horrible pressure on the spinal nerves.

I thought my doctor was going to fuse the two vertebrae using a hot glue gun or duct tape, but the procedure ended up being a little more involved than that and included titanium screws and bone graft material.

The bone graft material was taken from cadavers. Ew, gross, I know.

What worries me about this is I saw my spinal surgeon take the bone graft out of a cardboard box that had "Prison Morgue Donations" written on it. The bone graft is now having a bad influence on some of the surrounding bones, like my hips and coccyx. My now evil bones are in cahoots to rob a bank, and there is nothing I can do to stop them.   

With my ALIF, a vascular surgeon first, in his words, "cut me open near my belly button to move all of my organs and blood vessels out of the way so the spinal surgeon could access my back." So a vascular surgeon basically gave me a C-section. How did the Normal Mormon Wife give birth to three children, and I ended up with the C-section scar?

After the vascular surgeon played Peek-A-Boo with my bowels, my spinal surgeon removed the herniated, collapsed, and thoroughly EVIL disc. Though I was under full anesthesia at the time the, I bolted awake when the disc was removed and grabbed it from my surgeon's forceps and repeatedly punched that stupid disc in the face over and over again while screaming, "HOW DOES THAT FEEL, HUH? YOU LIKE THAT? HOW DOES THAT FEEL?"

The revenge beatdown continued until about twenty nurses and orderlies finally pulled me off the hernitated disc. The whole scene reminded me of Ralphie finally getting his revenge on Scott Farkas.

Speaking of the anesthesia...The last thing I remember before going nighty-night for my surgery was entering the operating room and the anesthesiologist asking me, "So tell me about your job." I think I responded by saying, "I work in Human Resources flibberty jibbet rock lobster."

Then I woke up. The surgery was over.

The nurses then transported me to my hospital room and barrel rolled me into my bed. Being 6'6", my feet hit the rail at the end of the bed. One of the nurses asked me, "How tall are you?"

Though the anesthesia had still not fully worn off and I was pumped full of more drugs than Toronto mayor Rob Ford, I still managed to say, "Taller than this bed." For a hazy moment, I felt like Buddy the Elf.

In the end we were able to have me squirm back a little further back in the bed, and I just barely fit. 

I stayed in the hospital from Thursday until Sunday. The doctors, nurses, and techs were all great. They took very good care of me. My incision didn't hurt, neither did my back. But there was one terribly painful part of the recovery I was totally unprepared for - the catheter!

Oh, the catheter!

Before surgery my doctor warned me of all the potential risks - increased pain, the fusion doesn't take, follow-up surgeries, organ damage, infection, death, yada yada yada. But he didn't tell me about having a catheter invading my privacy for two days after surgery. I won't go into detail, but it was awful. Every time I felt a sneeze or a cough coming on, I would helplessly whimper, "Oh, no! Oh, no! OH, PLEASE NO!" until that torturous tube of terror was finally untethered.

Now that I'm a couple of weeks out of surgery, I am so glad I went through with this. The nerve pain before surgery was like having a small knife constantly stabbing my lower back while my midsection felt like it was being perpetually electrocuted. That pain is now gone. While there is still a long road ahead, including making sure the fusion takes, I am thrilled with where I am right now.

I am incredibly grateful for the Normal Mormon Wife who has selflessly, patiently, and happily served me since I came home. My inability to bend my back and being so physically limited has led to some funny conversations between the two of us, like me asking, "Hon, can you please pull up my pants?" and the NMW once declaring, "I think I'll just bring your urinal downstairs and take my chances."

I couldn't ask to be stuck at home for six weeks with anybody more wonderful than the NMW.

I think I will do a follow-up post about this in order to do it justice, but I have also been very touched by the outpouring of love, faith, and service from my family, ward members, and co-workers. You guys are wonderful. Thank you.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a bank to go rob...


Rebekah said...

Love it. Glad you're back!

2:24 PM
Julie said...

Oh Anderoooon!!! I'm so sorry for all the pain you've been through but hurrah for modern medicine! Just having had screws put in my hip in June and months of recovery thereafter I can relate to what you're going through. The worst: You can't DRIVE. I hated that more than anything. I don't like being so dependent. But Tom was great. I called him my sweet and tender caregiver. Here's wishing you a great recovery and a new life free of pain - or at least the worst of it! Love, Your Aunt Julie

8:52 PM
baughman said...

It's a Christmas miracle! You're back from the dead! i hope you continue to make a once-every-4-years post to bring joy to my (and my wife's) soul.

Hope the recovery goes well.

8:24 AM
Richard said...

I'm going to have to start following your blogs. First time I've laughed at spinal surgery. Attached visuals were great.
Re catheters, after one of my surgeries the doctor told me to leave it in place for two days, then I could remove it. "No, no...that's your job, I'm just a lowly PhD...I don't....I can't...." I did, but it wasn't any fun.
Keep on improving and be sure to be nice to your day care provider.
(I will not attempt to prove I am not a robot.)

9:44 AM
Kara said...

Hope the healing has continued.
Love the description.

10:56 PM
Hayley Mathis said...


I wanted to give you a heads up that has named you as one of the year's "10 Best Blogs for Husbands." The rankings were published this morning, and we'll be promoting it on-site and through other social media channels over the coming days.

You can view your write-up here:

You have the bragging rights, so feel free to share the news on your blog and with your followers! Let me know if I can be of any help in promoting the news.

Can I send you a badge recognizing that you made the list?

Have a great day,

7:21 AM
K. Lou said...

Uncanny that this is your first post back. My husband has reached the point of back pain that chiropractic care not working. Thinking of surgery. I read him aloud your post but had to stop because laughing hurts too much. He is wondering how much the surgery cost?

11:49 AM
Aaron Grey said...

Hi, can I contact you through your email? I've something to share that might interest you.


2:59 PM