Living in Hawaii at the age of 21, Thaddeus attributes his back problems to a head on drunk driver traffic accident he was in after a day of surfing. He lived with chronic back pain for years and “managed” it by taken way too many pain pills, an addiction that took him in and out of rehab four times. Since 1999, he has had seven back surgeries with only his last, a lumbar fusion, finally bringing him the relief he had desperately sought for years. He is now free of pain medication and slowly getting back to work as marine electrician.
My name's Thaddeus. I'm 65 years old. I'll be 66 at the end of this month. I've had seven back surgeries since 1999. I'm a marine electrician, which means I work on boats - pleasure craft, private boats, yachts, runabouts, power sail, whatever. And I've been in the industry for about 40 years. That was hard on my back. Crawling around in bilges and engine rooms all my life, lifting batteries and engines and just the wear and tear.
I was around 21 when I first moved to Hawaii, and, uh, we were just living the life, you know, h-footloose and fancy free. No real responsibilities. No family. No kids. We worked in restaurants, yardwork, hauling whatever. Rock and gravel. And when the surf came up, we dropped everything and went surfing.
My back problems started in my early 20s when I was in a car accident, and I was in Maui at the time, and we were coming back from surfing and it was right around sunset time and we went around this turn and this drunk driver came and hit us right-it was a glancing blow, so it hit the left front part of the car. So, I went flying across. Hit my back. My back was badly bruised and contused. Black and blue. Really bad. And I healed from that really rapidly because of my young age, and I was a surfer. But when I got into my mid-30s, I started getting sciatica down my right side from a bulging disc in my low back that was probably caused from the trauma of the car accident. If you've never had it, it is very painful. You can't sit still because you get this pinch going down your leg. It's really annoying.
Sometimes, standing up is the only place that's really takes the pressure off the nerve, and it's very debilitating. It's chronic pain. It hurts. Takes your mind off of other things, you know, because you're just trying to deal with it, get comfortable. Sleeping at night is difficult with it, and so you start using pain pills and things of that nature to try to combat it. I went to chiropractic treatment for my sciatica, and through the treatments of this special traction table, they were managed to reduce the inflammation of the disc.
The bulge was tucked back in a little bit through the traction and I got a lot of relief from that, and I think for about 15 years-the chiropractic kept me out from surgery, but it finally got so bad because I have something also called degenerative disc disease which is just bad luck. It's just a breakdown of your discs, and I finally ended up going to a back surgeon and had a MRI done and found out that my lumbar spine was basically bone on bone.
There was no more disc. It was very, very thin and degenerative. So, that's when we made the decision to go and have this fusion and laminotomy, all those other less-invasive surgeries weren't an option for me. The pain was what brought me to the surgeon, because it was just more and more and more debilitating. Now it was not only on one side, it was on both sides, and shooting down the backs of my legs, and it was just excruciating at times, you know, really bad.
I couldn't work. I couldn't concentrate. The pain is debilitating, and it just doesn't go away. You can't find a place that your can get relief. I mean, it really makes you wonder what are you gonna do to get better, you know? I still got a lot of life left in me, and your quality of life is just terrible. It really goes downhill a lot, you know, and it's hard for the family. It's hard for your spouses, your parents and brothers and sisters and everybody seeing you in pain like it's really emotional. Well, I met this doctor through another doctor who had fixed my shoulders.
I really like the guy's g-great bedside manner. He was a great surgeon. We did all tests - CT scans, MRIs, X-rays, consultations with him over a couple month period and finally determined that my option was either leave it alone and just live in chronic pain, or get it fixed.