The Challenge of Healing
The second surgery on my lower back occurred on January 2nd of this year at the Eastern Niagara Hospital in Lockport by Dr. Cappuccino, the same Doctor which performed the first surgery on me in 2015. As the first surgery, the second one was a tough one too. This time the surgeons found bone fluid seeping out on two spots and all four screws from the former surgery were loose. They stitched the two spots up, put four new thicker screws in (the diameter size of a men's pinkie – the thickest which can get used!) and did more bone grafting between the transverse processes of L5 and the sacrum, with additional BMPs - Bone Morphogenetic Proteins.
Twelve days following the surgery, I hadn't had any memory of this period whatsoever. Ananta and my son Ben told me, what a rocky, distressing time it was for all caregivers and doctors involved in my recovery:
After I 'woke up' from the surgery - I could open my eyes, moving the body and answering to simple questions – but there wasn't any way of being REASONABLE at all. That meant, I couldn't understand why I needed to stay in bed, shouldn't bend or twist my upper body or eat and drink when I was in extreme after- surgery-pain. With the later I lost a lot of weight and got down to as much I weighed as 14 year old boy... To keep me under control and to prevent harming myself unintentional, I got strapped down to the bed. The first four days in the hospital, I got told, weren't this bad as during the second week, as you will hear soon... I could somehow interact and be somewhat 'normal' but so out of space and time what reduced Ananta to despair. Interestingly enough, nobody really realized the kind of bardo-state I was in, when one's consciousness is not connected with the physical body. The hospital tried to discharge me after three days. Ananta heavily persisted to NOT get discharged, until a rehab place was found in Rochester. After a very concentrated and effective period of three hours, with a lot of good luck and incredible good cooperation with the hospital social worker, a rehab place got found. Though they didn't except new patients over the weekend and everything got set up for the coming Monday.
The good luck did not last long: My condition got worse. Additionally to the confusion and pain, heart problems started. I had Atrial Fibrillation and my pulse spiked up to 160, even though I was laying in bed. The doctors put me on a heart monitor and experimented with different heart medications. This drugs messed my chemical balance in the brain totally up and bed straps didn't hold me in bed... Nobody knows how, but I managed to get out of the straps, climb over the bed railing and nurses found me in the weirdest places at the hospital floor, like in the laundry storage area or collapsed on the floor in my hospital room. The doctor ordered heavy sedatives for me. During night I sat in a reclining chair out in the hallway close to the nurse station, so that they could have an eye on me all the time. Luckily I did not harm my surgery side during this wild, unconscious times. Otherwise I would have been back in extreme pain, like after my first surgery were the bones didn't fuse because of over-activity.
In the middle of the second week I was back in the ICU to get one of the heart medications administered as pill and over IV because it still was not under control. Throughout the two days I was constantly on sedatives. My son Ben arrived all the way from Texas and was a big help. He stayed with relatives in Buffalo and Ananta didn't needed to come all the way from Rochester into the hospital. During this week I wasn't even able to make weird phone calls to Ananta, demanding to get picked up from her and angrily hanging up, when she tried to explain, where I am and what is going on.
As the pulse finally went down, I was back in a normal hospital room and the climbing out of the straps and the bed began again... This time a bit more under control with the sedatives. At the beginning of the third week I got shipped over to the GVI (Gates Vascular Institute) at the Buffalo General Hospital to make sure there aren't any underlaying serious issues on my heart or vascular system. An ablation was ordered from the hospital in Lockport, but it wasn't necessary anymore as I arrived in Buffalo, because the heart beat stayed fortunately normal. The first day over there, was also the very first day I still can remember from the whole hospital ordeal. Particularly as Ben asked me to sign the papers to give him Power of Attorney. A very wise and necessary decision of him, considering the state of health I was in and unknown to everybody which direction it will take. Fortunately from now on I gradually got better and all the tests performed on my heart and blood system stayed negative. I was in the GVI for four days, mainly to monitor my heart a bit longer and to absolutely make sure it is safe to get discharged. The second time the challenge came, to find a rehab place in Rochester. Usually it is the primary responsibility of the social workers at the hospital, but they had known mainly places in Buffalo and in surrounding counties but not so many in Rochester. This time Ben offered to make sure a rehabilitation place will get found. The former rehab facility declined me, because of my difficult hospital history and all the medications I've been still on. Ben continued to work on finding a rehab place over computer and phone, even after returning to Texas.
Suddenly a place agreed to take me in. It was the place Ananta had an eye on from the very beginning, the Wegmans Transitional Care Center at St. Ann's on Portland Ave. opposite to the Rochester General Hospital, just about 15 minutes away for a visit... What a relief!!! And additionally, my sister in law, Marian, paid for a transportation over to St. Ann's. We all hoped it would be more comfortable and appropriate, than Ananta picking me up in my little car. But as it turned out it was quite the opposite – virtually no heat in the car and I got squished into a small seat with no wiggle room. Fortunately I was drugged up and arrived pain free and safely after two hours in my room in St. Ann's, were Ananta was waiting for me already.
This rehab place was a wonderful experience for me. A beautiful, new house with a nice single room, really caring nurses and aids and, not to forget to mention, good food. Though I still wasn't able to eat because of the pain. My idea was to just take oxycodone again, the main pain relief for me since my first surgery in 2015. It was easy for me to tell myself, the pills are the only one which just relieved the pain. I'm just taking them when necessary. Though the doctors did not prescribe it to me. Either in the hospital after twelve days, nor now. It took me a while to realize, that I was addicted to it. It came to me as Ananta refused again and again to bring me some from my home. At first I felt a raw anger. It took time and incredible patience on Anantas part, but eventually I got glimpses of the possibility that I was lying to myself and the world. It is great to see now, I do not need this strong pain medication anymore. More and more it's obvious, the surgery was a success and the healing started. Prior to the operation, if there was any pressure on the fifth lumbar – the largest vertebrate in the lower back – the pain was very sharp, as if a nail were being pounded into the spine. This pain is now gone. I am also addressing this here at St. Ann's with success with physical and occupational therapy. ( I was able to sit down on a table for dinner last night, 23 days after the surgery!) Additionally I'm getting here speech therapy. A way of consciously and actively improving the brain function for better memory and attention. Though there is still a long way to go with all kind of therapies.
Since Saturday, January 27th I'm back at home. The second really big relief! Because of my stay in a rehab place, I'm automatically getting home care now in form of a nurse checking on me regularly, and with all three kinds of therapies which I mentioned before. It has been starting slowly, but there is no rush – still a big one as I wrote at the beginning - not to overdo, to take time in moving around and rest a lot. I'm still not allowed to lift anything, nor to bend and to twist and to sit in a certain position without putting strain onto the spine.
Ananta is basically doing everything here, from running the household, going shopping, getting food onto the table, taking care of the animals etc.. And we deeply appreciate all the help we get here from friends and the Zen Center. Nevertheless, bills need to get paid for about the following three or more month. The amount of time as roughly estimated by doctors and caregivers - with all the complexity in mind what went on - until my full recovery. Not to forget, there is no way of fixing the back a third time!
Therefore again, if you can donate any further money to me, please help!
My story before the surgery:
My name is John Botsford and I have lived in Rochester, NY for 48 years. My two sons, now young men, are doing well. One lives in Denver, Colorado and one in Austin, Texas. They are both in their early twenties. I work at home doing a form of massage therapy called Rolfing. My fiance Ananta, whom I would like to marry after the surgery, was a great help this last year.
In December 2015, I had lower back surgery from Dr. Cappuccino, a well known surgeon in Lockport, NY. This surgery was to correct a condition called spondolisthesis. What happens for me in this condition are two fractures of the fifth lumbar vertebrae and damage to the posterior ligament which runs down and stabilizes the spine. The danger with this is the fifth lumbar vertebrae can slip forward. If the vertebrae moves too far paralysis of the legs occurs. My vertebrae was now slipping forward.
When we talked after the fusion (bony and metal) Dr. Cappuccino told me it had gone well, though they had had a surprise when they opened my back. The spinous process (the big bump on the back of the vertebrae) of L-5 had brocken off. No x-ray, MRI or cat-scan had showed this fracture. He said it was OK, they used this broken off bone in the fusion. I was told I'd have to to take it easy for the next three months.
Six month later I called Dr. Cappuccino, and told of the pain that just wouldn't go away. He ordered a cat-scan and a bone density test for me. A few weeks later he told me the bone had not fused. Which left me with two options: continue as I am with all the pain or have another surgery. It was not a hard decision.
I have now reduced my income by half, because I see fewer clients. And I'm unable to do repairs in my home, because of the pain and not being able to lift more than twenty pounds. Additionally I cannot sit for more than 1/2 hour, which has limited my social life. And I need way too much pain medication. Surgery is scheduled in December.
My primary difficulty now is to prepare financially for the three month after the surgery. I will have essentially no income. Because I should not work; the danger to the back is too great.
I would love to live an active life again! If you can donate any money to me, please help.