Square One

That surgery I’m so freaked out about? Not happening. The plan was derailed put on hold.

In July, The Spine surgeon had referred me to a General surgeon (his job would be to go through my ribs and remove scar tissue/move lung over so Spine guy can then get to work on my vertebrae). General surgeon said although difficult and risky, he would be able to assist. Okay, one step closer.

Next, I had an Echocardiogram  (like an ultrasound, but aimed at the heart) to evaluate my heart health. The results were good: everything seemed within normal to above-average range and although my pulse is fast, the heart seems to work well. Okay, another step closer to surgery.

Then I met back with Spine surgeon to review those referrals. He seemed positive that the General surgeon was on board but also reminded me of the complexity of the situation, and wanted to know where I stood as well. I told him, I’m ready. Flat out, I need to feel better. I need to gain weight. If there is even a slim chance of my stomach moving faster with a straight posture, then I want to do it. He then referred me to one more specialist: Plastic surgery.

The Plastic surgery appointment was yesterday. The purpose was to see how he could help in closing the eventual long incision I’d have going down my back. He was a really nice guy, and thorough. He checked out my back, but most of the appointment was him explaining the situation and us reviewing options. First, he reviewed the problem: “If we were to simply close you up, imagine a piece of metal just under your skin. Of course, it makes sense that in a small amount of time it could pierce through without fat or extra skin.” Right. That’s what happened after my first spinal fusion in 1993. The rods eventually broke through.

“Ideally,” he continued, “we would take skin from your flanks (sides) and use them as patches to lay over the wound. But since you have had prior surgeries, you have scars where I would normally take skin. And the other obvious concern is that where I would normally NOT take skin, you don’t have any to spare because of your weight loss.”

I ask, “What about tissue expansion, putting balloons under my skin?”

“Yes, I could do that, but did you know that any tissue that is gained from becoming inflated is half as thin as normal skin? So, unfortunately, it does not make sense to use that to cover a large incision. It would be like replacing the thin skin you have now with something even thinner.” Damn.

I said, “My sister asked me to ask this: can she or a family member–”

“Donate skin?” he interrupted. I nodded. “Is she your identical twin?” Nope. “Do you have an identical twin brother?” Nope. “Then, unfortunately, although family has the best intentions, you will reject any tissue that is not your own.”

“So I guess that rules out cadaver skin, too?” I ask. He agreed, and said cadaver skin is not used for that reason. Damn.

I ask, “How about synthetics? Is there some kind of lab-made fiber or sponge-like material that can be used as a skin replacement or padding?” He explained there ARE materials out there to add padding. But just about 1/8 inch or less. He said these materials are used for smaller wounds, in places that are not touched often, such as the back of the foot/calf. If he used synthetic material to cover a wound on my back, with hardware underneath, it would break down.

At the end he said, “I am sorry, Mr. Rodriguez, but as it is, I will have to advise your Spine surgeon that we delay the procedure. If you had another 20-30 pounds on you I could have more padding to work with and then I would be more confident in your healing after an event like surgery.”

“That’s exactly my problem. Gaining.” He only repeated his apology and said he understood. What more could he do?

Spinal fusion, option: GONE. And my gut instinct that my kyphosis was responsible for the slow stomach: irrelevant now.

So now my next option is to meet with the Gastro (digestion) surgeons/specialists and see what procedures they might have for me. And if they have nothing… then what? Time will tell.

I’ve got some fear, I’ve got some anger, but I ain’t got quit.


  1. Catherine Rodriguez says:

    I understand your frustration and like you say you have to hang in there.  My situation is oposit the meds made me gain weight and I need to get rid of it to make things go alot  faster, they can take the excess off but of course we have to meet and go over options.  You are not a quiter nor will you give up just as I wont.  The words of anger, frustration and delay seem to be in our book but we need to exercise patients and its hard I know .  One day at a time and you will reach that point I have faith in you!!

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