Coccyx finally removed 38 years after being broken

Lynn - goodas18ktgold@yahoo.com

Posted 2010-02-21

Let me start by saying that I am fifty-eight and first fractured my coccyx at the age of twenty. I was six months pregnant and on a teeter-totter with a child. The child jumped off when I was up in the air. My coccyx was barely healing when I delivered and was re-broken with my delivery and each subsequent delivery of my children. I had suffered for thirty-eight years with difficulty sitting and pain. Five years ago I had weight loss surgery and dropped a lot of weight. Two years ago I took a desk job. I am a registered nurse and had been on my feet for over thirty years. Walking didn't bother me and nurses don't sit much. The combination of the weight loss and the desk job greatly increased the pain from my old injury. I was regularly getting pressure ulcers from my coccyx and the odd way it stuck out. Over the years I had sought different doctors and none helped so I had resigned myself to "just living with it".

In December of 2009 I had finally taken all I could and found a doctor who might possibly do a coccygectomy. He was amazed that I had endured my broken coccyx for as long as I had. The x-ray plainly showed that it had never healed. My coccyx was at a ninety degree angle to where it should have been. My body had layed in layer upon layer of extra calcification in the lower part of my sacrum in it's attempt to stabilize things. He said that I was a candidate for a coccygectomy but was very clear that it was not an easy surgery or recovery. He told me that the chance of post-operative infection was very high. I decided to go ahead with it.

I was operated on Tuesday, December 15, 2009. It was not a fun time. I have no memory of the recovery room. My doctor believes in pain control and I was on a narcotic pain pump so all I had to do was push a button. I was pretty much incapacitated. The pain was pretty intense. I think that it might have been more so in my case because he had to shave, burr, and rasp all the extra calcification from my sacrum in addition to removing the entire coccyx. I was only allowed to lie on my sides and no sitting was allowed (not that I could have anyway). I went home on oral pain medication muscle relaxants and antibiotics on the third day post-op with the "no sitting allowed" instructions.

My first month of recovery was painful but doable. I was astonished by how painful the incision was. I had my most pain internally in the half hour before a bowel movement in the time when the bowel was filling. If I was on my feet too much, I had a "bottom falling out" sensation. At three weeks post-op my stitches were removed. Two days later my incision started to open up a little. The doctor felt that it might be infected, did lab tests, and put me back on antibiotics. One week later the entire incision blew open all the way to the fascia (which is the lining on the muscle). The doctor had to explore the incision and found that it was NOT infected but that my body was allergic to the Vicryl suture used to close the fascia and was rejecting it and pushing it to the surface. It had turned my seemingly healed incision into a perforated line. Vicryl is a very common suture. It's one that dissolves in the body. Not so in my body. Dr. Chung dug out all of the vicryl suture that he could see and attempted to close the incision with staples. The staples wouldn't hold the way he needed them to so they were removed and he had to suture it shut again. This time he used Monocryl suture which is also a dissolvable suture but is much less likely to cause a reaction like the vicryl. He then over-sewed the entire thing with a heavy gauge nylon suture to take the tension off of the Monocryl in the incision. This was all done under a local anesthetic but it was still very painful. The pain afterward was also impressive.

The second month of my recovery was also painful. The internal pain was getting better but the pain from the incision was still pretty intense. I was given plenty of pain prescriptions. During the second month I was seeing the doctor one or two times a week. The incision never got infected but it stayed red and painful. At four weeks I went in to have the stitches removed again. The entire incision and a half an inch all the way around was red, swollen and exquisitely painful. I had developed an allergy to the Monocryl suture also. Just my luck! The doctor removed all the Monocryl suture but decided to leave the Nylon suture in to attempt to keep the incision from blowing open again. I was still not to be sitting.

I am now one week after having the Monocryl removed. Just in the last day or so, the redness around the incision is subsiding. The pain is greatly diminished also. I feel almost human. I am still off work. Luckily, I have short-term disability so I'm okay financially. I can't go back to work until I'm allowed to sit. I can actually see light at the end of the tunnel now. I still have a heavy ache internally but the pain from the incision is 90% better. I have a weird, phantom pain where my tailbone used to stick out.

My story is not typical but I wanted to tell it to show that it's not all roses with a coccygectomy. All that being said, I would still have done the surgery. Now that the incision is finally healing and not painful, I can tell that it's going to be much better than what I had been living with for the last thirty-eight years.

I was happy with my doctor, Woosik Chung (see Doctors and specialists in the USA, Colorado) even though I had complication (no fault of his).

Lynn

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