February 8, 2012, while en-route to the gym to swim my laps before work, my vehicle was rear-ended by another, while I was completely stopped, a few cars back, waiting for a school bus. Come on now, really? Shock, of course, which gave way to my lower back hurting a little, my upper back and neck hurting a lot. That same day, I was able to get into my primary care Dr.’s office for the initial screening and get a referral to get into Physical Therapy as soon as possible. The focus was on my upper back and neck as that’s where I felt the immediate tightening up of muscles, my lower back was not without complaint, but I felt it was much more manageable on my own. After the first couple of PT visits over the next week, my lower back started hurting more, then, one evening at work, when standing up from my chair, it gave out completely, in blinding pain.
At this point in time, I was using a single cane to assist with walking, which wasn’t enough this night, but somehow, I managed to get up the stairs at work, and one slow, painful step at a time, made it to my car 30 minutes later. I’ve had some long drives home from work, stuck in traffic, but this was by far, the worst. Upon arriving home, I applied the ice, cancelled my PT appointment for the next day, and informed my boss I wouldn’t be in. At the beginning of the next week, I made it into PT and shared the new lower-back issue, but, unfortunately, in Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) injury claims and treatments, you can only be treated at PT for that which was referred by the Dr., and my lower back, being the more minor of concerns at the time, didn’t make it on the referral write-up. It was another week (appointments sometimes have to be booked a ways out) before I was able to get into my Dr.’s office to obtain the new referral for PT to work on my lower back.
And we did work on my lower back, or at least we tried, massage, PT, everything, it wasn’t working. Not wanting to give in to the prospects of a more involved back surgery and recovery, I kept at the stretching, ice, PT, and exercises, hope dwindling with each giving less and less relief. Finally, I went back to my primary care and requested we get some imaging done to find out what the malfunction really was. The x-ray taken that day warranted enough concern to get me into an mri as soon as possible, then referral to a surgeon for consult and options. Previously, I had some low back issues (this was approximately five years earlier), but was able to fully recover and maintain after a series of PT, and adjusting my exercise and life routines. At that time, through imaging, it was discovered that I had a very low grade Spondylolisthesis (where one vertebrae slips forward over the one below). Again, this was a very low grade issue at the time, and the pain was completely resolved through lifestyle adjustment and exercise, non-dependent on pain medication. The imaging and consult returned that my Spondylolisthesis had progressed from a very low-grade, manageable issue, to a higher, going to need surgery report.
After sharing, comparing historical imaging, and reviewing my history, the surgeon agreed that this was directly related to the MVA that occurred in February. With PT and other less extreme options not providing me any relief, we proceeded down the L4-L5 lumbar fusion route. More imaging was done, then I had to wait an unfortunately long amount of time (over a month) before I could even get the surgery time booked. During this waiting period, I still had a lot of life going, forefront in focus, Greta and I had gotten engaged, and we needed to book a time to get our engagement photos done. So, a week before the surgery, I sucked it up, managed a flight down to California, and aided by ice and a hefty amount of pain medication (so close to surgery, regular NSAIDS were not allowed), kept my smile on for this new, exciting adventure in life.
Would you ever guess that I was barely keeping it together in this picture?
Surgery came, and the recovery started. All through this processes, I was reassured by the other party’s insurance company that this was being completely covered.
The summer of 2012 found me shuffling down my neighborhood street in my pajama pants, pushing a walker. I started up PT again afterwards as soon as I was cleared to do so, and began the journey of trying to get off the walker and back to using a single cane to get around. Work, and more work, it just wasn’t happening. I could walk with a single cane, but along with that came increased back pain, soon I requested and started using forearm crutches, which, while still pretty un-cool in my books, helped me get around without the back pain. After using the standard medical supply forearm crutches for a couple months, I came across SideStix and ordered myself a pair of their forearm crutches, helping out the cool factor in my mind, but more importantly helping the strain on my arms, shoulders, and wrists over using the standard equipment insurance provides. Still, I was determined to walk down the aisle that winter, with my single cane, in marriage with Greta. And I did it, although, those of you who were there, can probably attest to me barely making it down the aisle, especially with those slippery petals underfoot!
To be continued in: