Spine Surgery 2023


June 22, 2022 

After 23 minutes with a PA in neurosurgery, the PA left to consult with a neurosurgeon. Eventually she returned with a neurosurgeon and the conversation focused on "expectations". You see, the MRI images clearly show the need of surgery, but my symptoms do not mesh with the pictures! The result is that the surgery will happen, but my expectations may not be met. I can't continue with the way I am! I requested the surgery be performed in early April, 2023.

April 11, 2023

Reported to Pre-Op Lobby and signed in. An hour later I was taken to Pre-Op and prepared to go to the OR. At about 6:30AM I was taken to the OR and a mask was placed over my face. I was told to inhale deeply to get oxygen deep into my lungs. I took several deep breaths. Eight and a half hours later surgery was complete. I was taken to recovery where I woke up around 4:00PM. Next, I was taken to my room that had the nicest view of the area north of the hospital. The rest of the day is a jumble.

April 12, 2023

76 years old, 1 day out from 2 decompressions, L3-L4 and L4-L5, Coflex at L3-L4. No fusion.

The day was spent on various tests to determine if I was able to go home. I passed them all and was discharged, around 6:00PM, with pain meds oxycodone 5mg and Tylenol. Kathy drove me home and I was able to get into the house using a walker. My pain seemed well controlled. I was able to use the toilet, being accompanied with a stinging, scratchy pain, a gift of the catheter I had during surgery. Kathy had installed the toilet rails that were provided by the hospital. I had supper and basically went to bed.

A Clergy visit occurred, during which I informed the man that I didn’t follow any faith. This triggered a discussion about what I do believe in. It turns out that he was most concerned with which box to check off on his worksheet.

April 13, 2023

76 years old, 2 days out from 2 decompressions, L3-L4 and L4-L5, Coflex at L3-L4. No fusion.

I got a good night’s sleep but as the day progressed my pain, from the waist down, became less controlled. Google says it is normal. I am taking acetaminophen, muscle relaxant and 5mg of oxycodone. I could hardly move without spasms of pain in my legs. I had no appetite. I was still able to get to the bathroom, using the walker, with great amounts of pain. I spent the day in bed.

I gave up on the pain and called an ambulance around midnight. They took me to the VA hospital's ER. I was poked, prodded, and asked the same questions over and over. Another 2 hours and I got a room.

I'm somewhere on the 7th floor with a doctor and a different pain med. Hoping it kicks in soon or else they will drain me. Pain med is an IV form of ibuprofen. X-ray did not show a need for the OR now.

Managed to pee still with great pain. I'm not allowed water or food till 8am. Might be here a couple days.


April 14,  2023

76 yeagement plan.

I can sit up on edge of bed and have a marine bath by Kathy and get a change of clothes. This is a first. The new meds help survive level 10 pains from nerves that must be retrained. Ice is a big help in the retraining of nerves that had to operate within substantial stenosis.

Today's PT session got me to sit on the edge of the bed and then stand up. These activities are still hard to do. But still, I did it. And being able to lay on my back is improvement. All possible because of the correct use of non-opioid medicines.

I am looking for more success tomorrow. I wish to thank all those people caring for me. I wish to thank all my friends who have sent good wishes for my recovery.

April 15, 2023

76 years old, 4 days out from 2 decompressions, L3-L4 and L4-L5, Coflex at L3-L4. No fusion.

Up at 330. It's going to be a painful day. Changing from side to back takes an hour to recover from pain level 9. Annoying but I am working with it. Woke up shivering which really activated the pain. After asking for a warm blanket all was good. An hour later I was too warm, I think the room heat had come on. They must be running cooler at night. Anyway, I have a blanket now.

I'm looking forward to a great day.

PS ice rules!!!


April 16, 2023

76 years old, 5 days out from 2 decompressions, L3-L4 and L4-L5, Coflex at L3-L4. No fusion.

Day 5 wrap-up. PT arrived and hauled me to PT. Got up on the walker and the pain tens flashed my legs. Taking my time, I made 35 feet and did one stair. Then asked to try a machine. I got on, pain, put my feet into the pedals, pain, and pedaled 2 minutes, pain. I made it back to the starting point and got onto a wheelchair for a ride back to my room. I was exhausted! The rest of the day I slept during all the interruptions. Never more than an hour or so of sleep. Kathy came in and lovingly washed her husband and helped him change clothes, pain. Kathy eventually left and I returned to the grind.

In general, today had several firsts. Healing is moving forward. My only complaint is that I can't lift my butt to move my bottom.

Good night.

April 18, 2023

76 years old, 7 days out from 2 decompressions, L3-L4 and L4-L5, Coflex at L3-L4. No fusion.

Woke up 5:10am.  Kinda stiff so I did some moving around best as I could with my stubbornly painful butt. Still hurts a lot to lift it so it can be moved. haven't seen a soul and it's 5:44pm. Soon I'll go to the bathroom.

That went well, of course the buttocks went ballistic setting off the left leg for a 10 and slowly down the numbers over the next hour. The parade of professionals presented themselves. Nurses, CNAs, Doctors, and room services. Waiting for PT now and my wife after to clean up her husband.

PT arrived and had me walk around and get into bed with no side rails to simulate my bed at home. I was then cleared for discharge. A veteran friend visited while and got to see me go thru the paces at pain levels 7 to 9. She then stayed until my wife arrived.

Kathy arrived and we got me all cleaned up. I sat up thru all of it, something I couldn't do yesterday. Kathy left and I went to bed.

Kathy came back for an hour. I brushed my teeth, and we chatted about the current shootings in New York and Missouri. After she left a round of meds and vitals. It was a good day. Each day has a new step forward. Todays was sitting on the edge of the bed sans pain.


April 20, 2023

76 years old, 9 days out from spine surgery. 2 decompressions, L3-L4 and L4-L5, Coflex at L3-L4. No fusion. I'm home! 9 days to perfect a non-opioid pain control plan. More later.


April 23, 2023

76 years old, 12 days out from spine surgery. 2 decompressions, L3-L4 and L4-L5, Coflex at L3-L4. No fusion.

Lots has happened, discharge from a successful pain control program at the Milwaukee VA hospital. Recovery is going well at home and pain continues to make itself known at every transition. My wife is doing everything she can to ease my discomforts. The meds make me very drowsy. My drive to do anything is reduced substantially.

So far, I am spending time in just three places, our island in the kitchen where I eat, an upholstered chair in the family room to watch TV, and our bed which has one of those bases that provides different mattress positions, like at the hospital. When I go to each place, I take the longest route through our home to get there.

Each day brings new capabilities. Each day has at least one small step forward. Each day still has pain.


April 28, 2023

76 years old, 17 days out of surgery and the walker has been parked for 3 days. I have virtually no pain but haven't gone outside and walked with the rollater.

The following is the official med speak for what happened during my eight-and-a-half-hour surgery. I dug this out of my chart doctors’ notes.

Bilateral L4-L5 laminotomies stabilizing device implantation 8 mm Coflex device with associated decompression (bilateral laminotomies including mesial facetectomies and foraminotomies).

I am feeling great and love being able to contribute to my care. I have all the usual restrictions until my meeting with my surgeon in about 4 weeks. I am to continue with my non-opiate pain management program. So, I guess I will remain fuzzy headed until then. I don't mind as I still remember the awful pain that filled those first days after surgery.


April 30, 2023

76 years old, 19 days out from 2 decompressions, L3-L4 and L4-L5, Coflex at L3-L4. No fusion.

I went to Menards today. Of course, I had a driver.


May 2, 2023

76 years old, 21 days out from decompressions at L3-L4 and L4-L5, Coflex at L3-L4. No fusion. I feel great and can easily transition between my three sleeping positions without the crippling pain. All assistive devices have been retired. I have been walking laps around the inside of our home. The weather here has been cold and rainy. I can't wait till I can try the rollater outside. At least for my first walk.

I have a big meeting with my surgeon in about 4 weeks.


May 3, 2023

76 years old, 22 days out from 2 decompressions, L3-L4 and L4-L5, Coflex at L3-L4. No fusion. My first walk outdoors with my rollater which the VA gave to me.

We live in the middle of the block and my goal today was to walk to one corner and back home. I made it without any breaks. It was a good walk. I hope I can walk to both corners tomorrow.


May 4, 2023

76 years old, 23 days out from 2 decompressions, L3-L4 and L4-L5, Coflex at L3-L4. No fusion.

I had my first shower, mostly standing up, this morning. I am pumped!


May 5, 2023

76 years old, 24 days out from 2 decompressions, L3-L4 and L4-L5, Coflex at L3-L4. No fusion.

Over the last couple of days, I have been on my feet walking and standing, longer. After 5 minutes I started getting a tight feeling in my lower back. After a few minutes longer it gets very uncomfortable, and I must sit down. The tight feeling goes away in a few minutes. Is this just part of my recovery?


May 6, 2023

76 years old, 25 days out from 2 decompressions, L3-L4 and L4-L5, Coflex at L3-L4. No fusion.

Today's chore was pounding in 9 Jobe's fertilizer spikes for our newer plantings in the back yard. I couldn't believe how much determination it required. Once finished I placed myself into my recliner to watch a movie while my body mends. Am I a woosie or what?


May 7, 2023

UPDATE chore completed!

76 years old, 26 days out from 2 decompressions, L3-L4 and L4-L5, Coflex at L3-L4. No fusion.

Last night I had to put ice on my right leg as the pain was getting uncomfortable. I'm sure it was caused by my getting up from each Jobe's fertilizer spike installation. Only my right leg has the strength to accomplish the task of raising my butt into a walking position.

Once the ice was deployed sleep came quickly. A couple hours later, at midnight, my phone annoyingly reminded me that it was time to take pain meds. Kathy also collected the spent ice packs to get them back into the freezer. I did not need them again.

Today's big project is installing a couple of siphon breakers on a couple of outdoor faucets that don't have them built in. The task will require disconnecting each hose, attaching the anti-siphon device, and reconnecting each hose. Easy, peazy, right?

I also hope to visit all my special plants around the yard. And it would be super to take the rollater out for a spin. I have not been able to get out with it since my first trip a few days ago. Not because of the weather, just me.
















May 8, 2023

76 years old, 27 days out from 2 decompressions, L3-L4 and L4-L5, Coflex at L3-L4. No fusion.

Today Kathy took me for a long ride in the country. We drove to the spot where I wanted half of my ashes spread. The place is a fen, in the Southern Kettle Moraine, where the tiny White Lady's Slippers grow in perfusion. It was comfortable to be where I will spend eternity. Then on to Culver's for supper.



May 10, 2023

76 years old, 29 days out from 2 decompressions, L3-L4 and L4-L5, Coflex at L3-L4. No fusion.

What did I do to prepare for my surgery? In February 2022, I started to design a very special cabinet. It would be made from rough sawn boards of Black Cherry lumber. I worked on the cabinet, in my furniture studio, every chance I could get. I managed to get it completed just before Christmas, and, of course before my surgery.

















May 21, 2023

76 years old, 29 days out from 2 decompressions, L3-L4 and L4-L5, Coflex at L3-L4. No fusion.

The last week and a half have been busy getting better. I still am having a problem with being on my feet for very long before my lower back gets stiff and sore. It is not like the burning pain I had before surgery. But the time limit is the same. Strangely, I can walk our block, end to end, twice, using a rollator, without getting tightness and pain. The limiting factor, on that walk, is my legs. They are so out of shape.

I still manage to get computer work done and to get any chores accomplished that stay within my restrictions. I have been tapering off the pain meds with no noticeable increase in pain. This is being done in collaboration with my PA. Each change is tried for a week before the next change is made.

I have my six-week meeting with my neurosurgeon in less than two weeks. I an hoping to have my lifting restriction changed from 10 pounds to something high enough so that I can do some actual work around the house. I will meet with PT afterwards. I can’t wait to see what exercise they have for the pain from being on my feet too long.



Just a note to let you know your hand crafted work has always been a inspiration to me. As a clay artist myself I understand the great difficulty in making functional art and marketing it successfully! I first came across your work in a small shop in Newport RI. I found a small wooden box that I was drawn to. It was Beautiful and functional and recall saying to my self I would like to make something impactful. I opened the lid and across the top was BRUCE ERDMAN carved perfectly . All the blood drained from my face and I stood there stunned by the irony. Sadly I was too young and too broke to buy that simple box but the thought of making beautiful functional object has stayed with me all these years. Thank you for your hard work and you inspiration. I hope you have a speedy recovery and much joy .
Bruce Erdman


I never made a box with a lid that had BRUCE ERDMAN carved perfectly anywhere.

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