Greetings and Happy Friday. It is 11:58 AM as I start typing so I'm calling this "Friday Morning Rant" even though it'll be long after noon before I hit "publish". Oh well. :)
If you wish to skip the rant, here is the short version: I saw my spinal surgeon today, he agreed surgery was a valid option and is referring me on to the University of Washington because of their expertise. I am pleased to be moving FORWARD, though who knows how quickly things happen from here.
The long version. Why are doctors such idiots? Why do they take so long to come to the simplest of conclusions? Why don't they LISTEN to their patients?
For those not up to speed on what's up with my spine. In technical terms: I have bilateral pars fractures of the L5 vertebrae resulting in a free floating lamina, spondylolisthesis (about 50%), and severe disc degeneration between L5/S1. The spine is unstable at this level. In non-technical terms, my lower spine is busted up, worn out, and slops around like a slinky.
My issues with my spine are long term. I've known about the spondylolisthesis for ten years, and it has caused considerable pain and discomfort since then. Surgery was first mentioned as an option then, but only in the context of "if you weren't so heavy this could be fixed". As I lost weight the pain and discomfort got less and less and eventually I felt great and had little discomfort at all.
That's when I started DOING more. A lot more biking. A lot more walking. A lot more yoga. A lot more standing. And with all the increased activity came back pain and troubles. Turns out that weight loss helped a lot, but wasn't going to solve my back problems.
This was in December 2012. I called my doctor. He ordered a CT scan which, in his own words to me over the phone, "didn't look too bad" and suggested I give my back a month and see if it doesn't feel better. Is it even remotely possible he was looking at the same CT scan I later saw, which showed in great detail the extent of my problems? I waited the obligatory month before making another appointment, going in to see him, and having him refer me on to an orthopedic surgeon.
Finally! Someone who can help me! I schedule an appointment and when I see the surgeon he looks at my CT scan and proceeds to show me exactly what is wrong with my spine and boldly declares "I can fix that!" then proceeded to tell me all about Transpedicular Instrumented Spinal Fusion. This was a lot coming at me very quickly. I had hoped something could be done for my spine but hadn't actually thought about WHAT could be done. I have heard all the stories about spinal fusion surgery, and I must have had a look of horror on my face because the doctor then backed off and said "Why don't you go home, do your own research, think about it, and come back in three months and tell me what you decide".
I did. I read a lot. I eventually came to the conclusion that the risks were acceptable when weighed against the known issues I would live with for the rest of my life without surgery, as well as the likely further deterioration of my spine in the coming years. So when I returned in three months I was eager to proceed and said so. That is when I met Mr. Hyde. My surgeon was a new man! Just three months earlier he was eagerly telling me he could fix my back but now that I was ready to do it he was like "Whoah, let's back off this, we can't rush into surgery." Fine. What do we do next, I asked. He explained that before surgery I must first make an effort to exercise and build up my core strength to see if that helps stabilize my spine any. I reminded him that I already had a pretty good exercise routine in place and in fact, was about to celebrate one year of having started DDP Yoga. Not good enough. So I pressed him again, asking him what specific thing he wanted me to do. Finally he says he would send me to Physical Therapy where he'd be assured I was getting the exercises I needed to stabilize my spine.
So off to Physical Therapy I go, where the therapist determines before too many visits that I've already got the motivation and exercise program in place and that my spine isn't likely to stabilize with what little more he could offer me. He did teach me exercises to do (and some to avoid) for my specific condition, but basically was of the conclusion that my PT visits (of which I get only so many per year) would be far wiser used AFTER surgery to help me recover.
So today I return to the surgeon. We discuss the current state of my back. We discuss the physical therapists report. He says he wants to see just how unstable my spine is so sends me down the hall to get two xrays done. One with me bending forward, one with me bending backwards, so he could compare the two and see just how much movement there was.
Afterwards, we reviewed the xrays and he showed me just how unstable my spine is! (as if >I< didn't know)
--- <<sub_rant>> This brings up another sub-rant... I have asked doctors for ten years why they only take one xray/mri/ct scan of my back? I tell them they only see one snapshot that way and don't get to see just how much movement there is down there, and suggested taking multiple images just like was done today... this was always met with deaf ears... and although Dr. Brilliance had the intelligence to do so today, had he done so six months ago when I first told him my spine "slopped around like a slinky" could we have gotten to this point sooner than now and not wasted six months? Retards!! <</sub_rant>> ---
Bottom line: Given the degree of spondylolisthesis I have, the length of time I've had it, and the degree of instability of my spine, he thinks I should be seen by the folks up at the University of Washington. So... in my three visits to him we've gone from "I can fix that!" to "I'm not sure you actually need surgery" to "You need surgery but it's more than I can do."
Frustrating. Meanwhile, it's coming up on 10 months since I first called my doctor complaining about my back. I had hoped to start school this fall but that is on hold until the back surgery thing is dealt with. I feel like my entire life is on hold until this is resolved.
A big thank you to my friends who've pointed out the positive things that have occurred as a result of this delay, and for all those who keep me in their thoughts and prayers.
-Ray aka Norm