Tim talks about the how the post-surgical recovery from lumbar fusion surgery stretched his patience. He was out of work longer than he hoped but was able to get into physical therapy a month ahead of schedule. After seven months of recovery he was finally able to hit tennis balls and used ball machine so he would not make any sudden moves his back was not ready for.
And we made a decision before we even went to the hospital the first time was to look into getting a hospital bed into our house, which I think was critical. That did two things. It gave me a bed that I could kinda move around in. It sort of leans up and you could get yourself more comfortable in the bed. It also allowed my wife to get back into her bed [LAUGH] which she appreciated.
Getting up and going to the bathroom is a huge deal, and you need to have somebody else there. Every one of those little things that we all take for granted, you're relying on somebody else, and that part of the recovery was difficult. The other part of the recovery that was difficult, at least in my situation, was that being told that it was going to be several months before I could even start physical therapy.
All I could do was walk around the block. It was several days before I could really kind of do the walk around the block. That part of it was difficult because while I keep coming back to the fact that that pain was gone. I still didn't have any confirmation that all the other things that mighta gone wrong weren't going wrong, because I wasn't able to, you know, sort of test everything out. One of the things that's really awful about surgery like that is the first time you have a bowel movement, and they're kinda telling you that they're not gonna let you do certain things until you have a bowel movement, and it was several days, and that was not a pleasant experience. And that's kind of a scary thing because you don't know whether it was sort of a regular part of the surgery or whether something was wrong, and so you're kind of wrestling with the feelings that come across from that.
We met with the doctor on a couple of occasions after that, post-operative meetings, and he was taking pictures and sort of seeing how I was moving and all that, and the good news was that I was progressing well. It all seemed to have gone well. My recovery thus far had gone as planned and probably was maybe a little bit ahead of schedule, and I remember seeing him in early December, which was four months later, giving me the go-ahead to start the physical therapy. And this doctor had developed his own physical therapy regimen that he had trained a handful of physical therapists to do, and fortunately one of them was near where we lived.
The first thing we learned about back problems is that your back problem is not in your back. It's in your core. So, it's all exercises that have to do with strengthening your core, strengthening your legs, and things like that. It's amazing how tired you are for almost a couple of months after the surgery and how quickly you get tired, but I would go through the physical therapy sessions and as I'm doing them, I'm sort of thinking, "Well, I could do this." And you're about halfway through it and you realize that you are drenched in sweat and you are, you know, dead tired. But then, as you kind of go through it, you realize that he's helping to build you up and helping your ability to do the exercises more easily, take it to kind of that next level if you're on a scale of 1 to 10.
TIM: If you're doing an exercise at kind of the 2 or 3 level, he's kind of working you up into the 7, 8, 9, maybe 10 level, and you realize you're making progress, which makes you feel good, and one of my targets was to be able to go out and play tennis again. I remember it being in March of that year, so really kinda four months after I started physical therapy that the physical therapist said, "You can go out and play tennis." But he was only gonna allow me to hit off of a machine, because that way I knew where the ball was coming and I wasn't making any herky-jerky movements.
I was eventually able to kind of work my way back to playing tennis and doing other things. The doctor tells you all these things you're not supposed to do, and there's some really good ones on the list. Like, you're not supposed to sweep. It's kind of a weird motion that's not good for your back. So, that's a nice thing not to have to do. [LAUGH] Um, you're not supposed to lift things. But eventually, after I found myself confident enough and felt strong enough that I can do those sorts of things.
I've got three grandchildren now and I feel no problem whatsoever in lifting any of those grandkids. One of 'ems two and a half years old, and he spends a lot of time on my shoulders carrying him around.