I recently had a back operation in February and only found articles that scared me half to death, so thought I’d write a little on my experience; hopefully to put you mind to rest.
What is an Alif ?
Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) is a back surgery that involves approaching the spine through an incision in the abdomen. A portion of the affected disc space is removed from the spine and replaced with an implant. Titanium or stainless steel screws and rods may be inserted into the back of the spine to supplement the stability of the entire construct.
Finding out i needed back surgery
After years of pain and lack of free movement , various x-rays and MRI’s the latest one showed my back had given up on its quest for stability. The surgeon did not pull any punches declaring “you need a back operation” followed up with “we will need to enter through the ffront”. Hold on, i thought, surely its easier through the back, but thinking he wanted a challenge and not wanting to argue i let him finish with “pick a Tuesday” . This got me the most as i then thought he was a) tired on a Monday or b) had not had the greatest success on other days of the week. But, it turned out through the front would allow me to recover quicker and he only performed surgery on Tuesdays, so all was well.
The operation – day 1
I got to the hospital at 7am and was spoken to by the Anesthetist, who had such a calming voice he could have not worried about the drugs. He went all through what would be happening and by 8am i was on the trolley to surgery. At this point i was pretty calm as everyone had been so nice and they had already explained i would be waking up in intensive care. The next thing i remember is waking up with an oxygen mask on and about 7 wires out of me. I of course at this point wiggled my toes and finding all was well closed my eyes for a nap. When i next woke up the nurse was checking the machine readings and offered to swab my mouth with water. Nothing in the world could have been better, it was like nectar and for the following 2 weeks i would drink nothing else (as it just tasted so good).
As i was in intensive care the nurse was with me all the time ( i had 3 over a 24 hour period and they were amazing). During this time they kept on asking about my pain on a scale of 1-4. I kept on telling them 1 (the lowest), which they seemed not to believe and would press my morphine drip every 5 mins; the morphine drip and oxygen are the great bonuses of an operation, i was sad to see them taken away on day 5.
Once out of intensive care, i just lay in bed, feeling just fine, with very low levels of pain (i had been in constant pain for about 7 years, so this felt much the same or better! also Morphine and vast amounts of Tramadol and Diclofenac must have helped). Over this period i has stupidly expected to be watching TV, listening to music, reading and basically chilling. What i actually did was look out the window at the top of a tree and think that the picture on the wall of a house with flowers growing up it was a monster donkey. I of course made friends with the monster donkey, thinking best to keep on his good side; morphine is a wonderful thing.
This was a wondrous day for 2 reasons, firstly i was walking, well going very slowly about 10 yards and secondly the cafetta was to be removed. The cafetta as a great help for day 1-4, but by day 5 i hated it with a passion and its the only thing i remember that caused me any real pain; it went wrong on day 4 and stored over a litre in my bladder rather than in the bag, this was not good at all!
Yippee off home at last. To be honest i had no desire to go home until day 6, I felt safe in hospital, but once i figured i could walk i wanted nothing more than to escape. The walk to the car was the longest i had walked and the car was not the most comfortable form of transport; i was not allowed in a car for 3 more weeks after this trip.
The next 2 weeks were spent in my PJ’s as they caused my scare the least irritation and the day consisted of:
- sit no more than 20 mins (build up to this over 2 weeks)
- walk around no more than 20 mins (build up to this over 2 weeks)
- lie down 45 minutes
- complete the exercises given
- repeat it all again
As you can imagine this is not that exciting and for the whole of week 2 i was so drugged up i did nothing else. The pain levels were just fine though and the strength was building.
Weeks 3-5 was much the same as 2-3, but building up stamina and able to function mentally as the drugs were much reduced by this point. Also at week 4 i was allowed in a vehicle and after 5 weeks feeling trapped it was a great feeling to get out
Don’t worry about the operation and do everything your told; the exercises feel impossible to begin with but get very easy, within weeks. My back is the best its been in years, it aches a little but after only 4 months i have great movement, endurance and have minimal aches and pains; apparently it takes 2 years to heal completely but i should be playing tennis again in 2 more months