We go to work, take care our husbands, children, families, parents, tend to whatever needs to be done not thinking of much else.
We go along day to day not thinking much of what might or could happen. Most of us do not think of facing our own mortality. In the winter of 2015, I did just that...
“And the cops roll out the radar
And shoot devious grins
Another day begins”
I had started having trouble with my back in 2013. In the winter of 2014 I had successful spinal surgery to remove a herniated disc in my back and to fuse the vertebrae in my spine. The surgery was a success and I was pain free and able to get back to my normal activities. In late 2014, the pain returned. I saw the orthopedic spine surgeon. Another disc, above where I had my previous surgery, had slipped out of place and was pressing on some nerves coming out of my spinal cord. This was what was causing the pain in my left leg. He recommended a less invasive surgery and told me the recovery time would only be a couple of weeks and I would be back to my normal activities. The soonest the surgery could be scheduled was in two weeks.
“And the world darkens around me”
I remember the day vividly. It was about 3 days after my appointment with the surgeon. I was getting ready for work like any other week day. I reached down to pick up my towel and could not get back up. I had the most excruciating pain that I have ever had. Luckily my husband had not yet left for work. We were able to get me to a chair but I could not sit down nor stand up. I was unable to walk. With no way to get me to the hospital my husband called an ambulance. The paramedics were able to give me something to help the pain enough to get on the stretcher and to the hospital.
Once at the hospital the MRI confirmed that the disc had completely dislodged, was in pieces, and was compressing several nerves that went to my left leg and foot. That was the reason for the severe pain. The following day I was taken to the operating room to remove the dislodged disc from my back. What was supposed to be a routine procedure was not so routine after all. When I woke up from the surgery I still had the most excruciating pain in my left leg. I did not know what had happened. I was supposed to have this operation and wake up with no pain. My surgeon explained to me that the disc had broken into so many pieces that one of those pieces had wrapped around the sacral nerve. When he went to try and remove the piece the nerve was damaged. This damage resulted in loss of sensation to my left leg and decreased ability to stand on my tip toes or walk normally on my left foot. I was discharged from the hospital two days later. I started physical therapy to hopefully gain back the strength in my left leg and foot, and to be able to walk as normally as possible.
Once I was discharged, I was doing well at home. I had progressed with physical therapy and they thought that I was ready to go back to work and back to my normal activities. The day before I was scheduled to go back to work I work up with new back pain. I had been doing alot of exercises and had increased my activity so I was thinking that this must be the cause of the pain. I would decrease the activity and give my back a rest. Later that day I started to feel like I had the flu. I started feeling dizzy, lightheaded and aching. Oh great, I thought not the best time to come down with the flu. That night I woke up with shaking chills and a very high fever. The next morning I made a call to my surgeons office. He admitted me directly to the hospital. My lab work indicated that I had some type of infection. My surgical incision did not show any signs of infection. They were not sure what was causing my symptoms, but I was very sick.
“And the world darkens around me
Strange friends all surround me”
The only option was to go to surgery to open the incision to see if there was an infection present. I was taken to the operating room. The surgeon found that I did have an infection. They removed what they thought was the source of the infection. I was then started on antibiotics through my vein. I had to have an IV catheter placed in my arm for the 6 weeks that I would need to be on the antibiotics.
Everything seemed to be progressing as it should. I was feeling slightly better and the symptoms of the infection had gotten better. But about two weeks after the surgery I again began to have excruciating pain. I was again admitted to the hospital. I had no outward signs of infection, my lab work looked good and showed there was nothing out of the ordinary. There was no explanation for why my pain had returned. The doctors thought that the antibiotics were not working like they should. The antibiotics were changed to stronger ones and I was again sent home.
The pain was unrelenting. I was admitted to the hospital a total of 2 more times. I continued to have the pain and signs that the infection was not improving. In fact it was getting worse. Repeat MRI’s showed that there was increasing fluid accumulation in the area where my original surgery was performed. This indicated that there was an infection present. Numerous specialists could not figure out why I was not getting better. I was on the strongest antibiotics that I could be on and nothing was working. If they could not find the source of this infection or get the antibiotics to work I could die from this infection.
“Strange friends all surround me
New ideas in my head start to burn
Trust no one is the one thing that I learned”
My husband did not know what to do. He is also in the medical profession. We are both nurses so we knew what could happen if the physicians could not find a way to treat this infection. He felt helpless in this situation. In our jobs we are the ones that provide comfort and reassurance. Throughout all of this I was slipping into a very deep depression. I felt that I had no control over what was happening to me. No one, it seemed, was able to provide me with answers as to what was going on. One thing that was becoming clear is that I could not continue to live with this situation or this pain that I was experiencing. This was the first time ever that I thought that maybe suicide would be the best option, but the thought of my husband and children made me continue to fight on. I knew that I could not leave them alone, they meant too much to me.
“Maybe tell me who I am
Cause I've faced down my demons
And cried out to a God
A God I've never seen”
I knew the situation was not good. My husband put up a good front but it became harder each day when I was not showing improvement. One morning he woke up, he was trying to hide his emotions from me but could not. I noticed that he had tears streaming down his face. I knew this was taking a toll on him and it was becoming a burden to continue to care for me in the way he did. I kept apologizing to him. He told me that I did not need to apologize but that he was so afraid that I was going to die. That day I was again admitted to the hospital after another MRI showed that the infection was still not under control.
My surgeon decided that I needed to go back to surgery to see if the source of the infection could be found. There were many risks with surgery but the alternative was dying. He decided the the infection could be on the screws and spacers that were used for the first surgery back in 2014. He was going to remove all of the old hardware and replace everything. He was also going to do a spinal fusion of the area where he removed the disc, thinking that the infection might be being caused by a small piece of the disc material that might have been missed. The surgery revealed that a piece of the old disc material was lodged between two of the vertebrae in my spine. This was believed to be what was causing the ongoing infection. The antibiotics were unable to get to the infected area and now the infection has spread to the bone in my spine. Immediately after surgery I felt better. The antibiotics were able to start working to clear the infection. Finally a light at the end of this long 3 month ordeal! I was discharged from the hospital five days after surgery. I had such a long way to go, this fight was still not over.
I was so weak I could barely walk across a room with help or even go up the steps in our home without the assistance of two people. I continued on the IV antibiotics for another six weeks. At first I could only stay up about 30 minutes and then I would have to go rest. I was so discouraged by my lack of strength and ability to be able to do things. It was during this time that I constantly listened to music. It was a way that I could escape and find some peace and comfort. Third Eye Blind was a big part of this recovery and getting me back to where I wanted to be. I endured endless hours of physical therapy to regain my strength. With the help of my family and friends I was able to regain a somewhat normal life. Seven weeks after the last surgery and four months after the beginning of this nightmare I was able to return to work.
“Bring me the sun, cause I slide off the moon
Bring me the sun”
I take medications daily to hopefully prevent the infection from returning. The depression is still there but mostly under control. There are still days that something will happen that will trigger a memory and I have flashbacks to that terrible time. I try not to let my physical limitations define me. There are many things that I cannot do that were once part of my life. There have been other opportunities that have opened up to me because of this experience. I do not take anything for granted and try to live each day to the fullest. I take one day at a time. I have become a more patient person and have more empathy for the people around me. This experience happened to me for a reason and only God knows why. Becoming part of 3EBLifestyle has been cathartic for me. I have been able to finally get some closure. Everyone in this group has their own story to tell. I feel that I am not alone. It is because of the healing power of Third Eye Blind and especially Stephan Jenkins' lyrics that I have been able to feel better about myself and what has happened to me. Thank you, for saving my life!