Fireman Back Pain

I was injured in the line of duty as a volunteer fireman at a fully involved house fire 3 years ago this June. A fellow fireman who was on a ladder +/-14 feet above my head, lost his footing and fell headfirst / backwards off the ladder towards a concrete surface and I jumped under him to break his fall as I was footing the ladder for him. There is a lot more to that story, but I will spare you those details.

As courageous as that may seem and a hero I may be to some (although not recognized by the Fire Department as it was not considered rescuing someone from inside the fire building and they typically call that a "Grab," no pun intended); I would have expected any one of my fellow brothers to do the same for me as that is a fireman's code.

Unfortunately, not only have I been on Medical leave since the incident, but I feel as though my Fire department, both friends and the Chiefs office have simply forgotten about me altogether. Although I do attend some Dept. meetings from time to time, I never, ever get any calls or emails just to see how I am doing. Oh and by the way, since it is W/C, the Chiefs office and Commissioner's get monthly reports from W/C, so they do know that I continue to have procedures.... back to my story.

Although he walked away from the fall without injury (thank God); I sustained multiple injuries to my back, neck and left arm. As I was donning all my protective gear and wearing my SCBA (air bottle) when he landed on top of me, the impact caused my neck to snap back, herniating my C5-C6 (have significant spondylo), herniating the L2-L3, L3-L4 and crushed my ulna nerve so badly that it has required 3 surgeries (but i will touch base on that later). Needless to say, my life has changed and not for the better.

I must mention the fact that as a boy, age 11, I had Spondylolisthesis and was fused from the L4 down to the S1 using bone grafting only. I recovered very well, very fast and have never had any issues with my back prior to this injury. I have played football in High School, enjoyed skiing (even raced downhill and GS in College), hiking, working in the field as a Landscaper, which happens to be a very physical job. Needless to say, I have been in great physical shape from my teens to my late 30's. But now, I could not put a hand trowel in the ground unless of course it was sand at the beach.

Last summer, after 2 years of "conservative" treatments to my back and neck (Injections (Botox, SI, discs, occipital) Physical Therapy, meds., etc.) with no success whatsoever and my pain only worsening due to compression of the nerves: I had a discography which indicated the worst of my herniated discs was at L3-L4 level and underwent a post lateral fusion with pedicle screws and rods.

Since this surgery, my chronic pain in the general area of the surgery has diminished by 50% however since then I have had significant other issues causing me further pain and suffering limiting my sleep, walking, sitting, standing, even the simple act of picking up my 6 year old daughter to hold and hug. I firmly believe there is cause and effect.

I now have moderate to severe arthritis in my hip joints (not one person in my family has ever had arthritis to this degree), PSIS and SI Joint Pain, so severe at times, I take Dilaudid, up to 6 mg x 2/day just to make it through my morning and afternoon, including a regiment of other meds to either help me sleep (of which I get about 3 to 4 hours a night if that), alleviate muscle spasms, abdominal and bladder issues (which have gotten worse since the surgery) and to reduce anxiety that has ailed me since my injury.

I have had SI injections over 10 times, which failed miserably and my Pain Management Dr. indicated that it was possible for the pain to be reduced using RF Cauterization. Since my right side was the severe side he did that first (this is now 9 months since my spinal surgery) and have only received about 20% improvement after 4 weeks. But I will take it as I can now bend forward slightly more than I was able before and am going in next week to have the left side done. I am hopeful that this will improve my physical therapy, since that has been slow going with minimal improvements in flexibility, the introduction of weights and cardio and most importantly minimize my pain meds that which I have been taking for over 2 1/2 years.

As for my Ulna Nerve Transposition, it required 3 surgeries and unfortunately I have lost the mobility to fully use my 4th and 5th digit as the nerve was damaged severely due to the impact. I have resigned myself to the fact that this will not get any better than it has already and have been in Occupational Therapy since the first surgery for about 16 months now. I have some better days than others, but I can forget about making a fist or gripping a ski pole ever again. I continue to wear a brace to prevent "hooking" otherwise known as Wartenberg syndrome and have moderate atrophy in my hand and forearm muscles.

For someone who was in great physical condition, my body feels like that of a 75 year old man and I am assuming that there are 75 year old men who probably feel better than me and are more active than me.

I am so limited in what I do on a daily basis like climbing a flight of simple stairs to my front door requiring me to use the ramp instead, getting in and out of my car, driving more than 15 miles, (although I do it anyway since I have to earn a living for my kids), going to the bathroom, walking more than a block, any physical activity in which my children beg me to play with them and simply cannot and most importantly, gardening (which I made my life work.

I am sure many of you have stories that can relate, but I that my mind can not sit still as I feel inadequate as a man, although I have the greatest and most supporting woman, kids and family in my life. It truly is the only thing that keeps me from doing myself in. - Marc

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