Friday, January 25, 2013

Interesting Times

My son-in-law has a bad back. Some years ago, he had surgery for it, later a second date with the scalpel, mostly to deal with complications from the first, including some scarring. It seemed to stabilize, but then started getting worse.

Recently, an MRI confirmed what he already knew: Another disk had collapsed–L5/S1. It wasn't getting better, but it was a year before they would consider the knife. Current practice seems to be to wait and see if it gets better, and however much the patient suffers from failed PT or drugs, well, that's too bad. About half the time, people get better.

50-50. Not the best odds.

Anyway, to shorten the story, day before yesterday, he had a spinal fusion procedure. 

This now involves a process unlike those I recall from my days as a PA. They went in from the front, twixt belly and bowel, took out the ruptured disk, squirted some goop that promotes bone growth into the space, stabilized it with screws, and glued him shut. All going well, in 3-6 months, that gap will be solid bone. That low, it won't restrict his mobility much, but should stabilize his spine so that he will be much better off.

He needs to diet, exercise gently, avoid smoking or other things that slow healing, but the prognosis is generally good. 

We expected a few days in the hospital, but we took him home yesterday. Already, he says, the discomfort from the surgery notwithstanding, he feels better than he did.

Last few days, my wife and I have shuttled back and forth between watching my grandsons and the hospital, and will continue to do so as needed after my daughter goes back to work.

The morning of the surgery, we got a call from an old friend. Her daughter, terminally ill with brain cancer, had passed away. My wife had gone to see our friend and daughter the night before she died, and it was not unexpected, she was a year past when they thought she'd make it. A woman younger than my children. 

It gives you pause, how can it not?

It is the nature of life that injury and death are all around us, and those are likely (and certainly) going to visit us, not a matter of "if," but "when." It makes you realize that we all walk on sand at the shoreline, and that our footing is never less than precarious as the tide comes and goes.

Enjoy your life as best you can. It is the most precious thing you have. 

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