Share Your Story: Amy Branton
I’ve dealt with severe back pain since the birth of my son when I was 24. During childbirth my doctor was inexperienced with high risk patients (obese) and he instructed me to push incorrectly. I herniated 2 discs in my back and a few months later, I started my journey of dealing well and not so well, with a severe back injury.
I gave birth in Sept. of 1994 and began to deal with pain as I was trying to enjoy being a new mother. It was hard but I had a very helpful and understanding family.i had my first LUMBAR back surgery to relieve the herniation in 2001. The surgery went well but I left the hospital with a new pain -sciatica. In 2002 I had a weight loss surgery to try and help myself by dropping pounds to ease the back pain that was returning. The band used in my surgery failed so it was considered a Failed Procedure (I have yet to repair that). I had another back surgery in 2003 and I couldn’t feel pain again for a good 8 months. I thought everything was turning around for me. All this while, I have been being prescribed Hydrocodone for the pain.
In Jan. 2011, my back seized up on me while I was babysitting my friends children. After they left, I called my surgeon…a new one this time since my other had retired. He did an MRI and said I need surgery fast because my herniation were bulging into my nerves. I had the surgery 2 days later. One week later, I had such a serious attack of pain in my lower back that I almost passed out. He wanted me back in. I went and was in surgery the following week. What I later found out was that he only removed the left side herniation and left the right one in place. The 2nd surgery in Jan. was to take out the right side herniation that should have already been done with the other one. I’m still on Hydrocodone for pain and my tablets are increasing because my pain is increasing. I started seeing an orthopedic/pain management doctor and with him, I tried just about every pain med, narcotic or not, and I still had to use Hydrocodone. It was and is the only pain med that seems to drop off enough pain to let me function (grocery shop in a cart, go outside and watch my kids play, go out to dinner with family, etc).
On Nov. 6, 2012 that uncontrollable pain from the year before came back with a vengeance. As I sat on my bed, I felt my legs start cramping and having electrical shocks run through them. Every time I moved, I screamed. My parents were with me, thank goodness. I tried to walk to the car to go to the ER but on the way. I lost feeling in one leg slowly and then the next. I was becoming paralyzed. I was unable to hold urination by the time the ambulance picked me up. I was taken to my preferred hospital only to get there and be told I could better be cared for at the main hospital in downtown Austin.
I don’t remember getting there at all. I’m still not sure to this day if I was given something to relax or I simply passed out from the pain. I was taken for a myelogram because i was unable to get into the MRI machine they had on site. From that I went I to emergency surgery. The same surgeon that did my 2 surgeries in January 2011 was called for me at this hospital also. I knew none of this until afterwards. When surgery was finished, he said everything went well. I was getting feeling back from my waist down slowly but my right foot had less feeling than before and my left one wouldn’t move at all. He said very quickly that he had to cut bone from my spine to relieve pressure. I have severe spinal stenosis. Unfortunately, he also said he didn’t get it all. I thought “oh no, again?!” The surgeon kept avoiding my questions and said he would be back the next day. He never showed again.
Before I left for Rehab, I was told I have Foot Drop in my left foot. I also have slight diminished feeling in my right foot. The doctor who was reading the surgery notes to me then said I have Cauda Equina Syndrome and Arachnoiditis. Weeks later I found out that my surgeon had cut through a part of my interior spinal cord and he is the reason I am left with a severe disability that keeps me in pain no matter what I do. There is no cure for Arachnoiditis. When I finished Rehab, I confronted a nervous surgeon who would not admit that he did anything wrong. What can I do? Absolutely nothing…and he knew it. So he just kept avoiding me until I released him as my surgeon.
Since all of this has taken place, I have had good doctors and not so good ones. I’m grateful I was kept on the pain med that worked best for me. As time went by, and still does today, I think about how less-foggy my life could be if I improved so much that I wouldn’t need them. I’m worried that’s an out of reach dream for me. I’m in the process of losing weight again, for my health and especially my back pain. It is definitely constant, chronic back pain because I’m never completely out of pain or discomfort.
I have other issues since the temporary paralyzation that are neurological and I am getting help with those also. Time seems to be moving so slow for me on improving those issues. I honestly don’t think I will ever get them back 100% but I’m trying. I’ve tried epidural block, steroid injections multiple times with no help. I’ve done physical therapy but my back is in such bad shape, my doctor says he will tell me when I can start strengthening it again. It’s just a waiting game with everything and while waiting, my quality of life is going away. I’m 45 yrs old now with two children (20) and (10) and they both desperately want their momma back. I need to be focused on them without worrying about myself and appointments and meds and procedures all the time. During all of this, my family lost our house so the kids and I are living with my parents, who are able to help so much…but it’s MY job. Also, my husband recently left me because there’s just too much stress involved with my problems plus he has his own to deal with. Nov. 9th of last year we were married for 23 years.
As you’ve read, I’ve been through the ringer, repeatedly. I’m in terrible pain as I type this. My life being in shambles, feels like it’s falling apart piece by piece. I am on depression medication because I have a lot to be depressed about. I try to stay upbeat and positive, but I can only pretend for so long and then it’s obvious on my face that I’m in excruciating pain again. I’ve been blessed that I don’t have an addictive personality because of all the meds I’ve tried and been on. I don’t think I could add a problem as big as addiction and come out on a good side of this.
I tried a Spinal Cord Simulator (SCS) trial and it seemed successful. My pain diminished by about 50-60% which is considered successful. On April 1 I will get the permanent one placed in my spine by my neurologist. I have hope for the first time in a long time. wish me luck 🙂
Thank you so very much in advance for your time in reading my story. – Amy