For a pain in the ass, back surgery giveth and taketh away

Jason Falls
6 min readJun 6, 2022
(Not my actual doctors.)

“You’ll need to bring in your medical power of attorney document, just in case.”

Not the words I was expecting to hear from the pre-op nurse just minutes after the neurosurgeon recommended a discectomy for my 17-year-old aching back. My brain went from “Oh shit! I have to have surgery!” to “Oh shit! I’m going to die?”

While she yammered on about antibiotic soap and not lifting gallons of milk, I was refereeing an existential boxing match.

“You chose DNR because the thought of living on a machine at unreasonable costs to your family gives you the shameful heebie jeebies. The sheebie jeebies.”

“But if there’s a chance I could come out of it, I should take it. There are two more episodes of ‘Stranger Things.’ And I’m not ready to die. Sheebie Jeebies be damned.”

The conversation dove into my subconscious as the nurse told me the date of my operation. I should put that on my calendar in case I forget and double book myself for something of similar import. Like rearranging the utility closet.

I was given two weeks to ready myself, tie up loose ends at work, and figure out who would take and pick me up from the procedure. Hopefully, I could also convince myself there was no need to pick out a headstone.

Unnerved is probably the best word to describe the days leading up. I wasn’t scared. My back pain had gotten beyond tolerable. I wasn’t anxious. At least not in the excited, “Let’s get it over with,” way. But I was jumpy.

Is there a such thing as pre-traumatic stress disorder? If so, that’s what I had.

Things were not helped by the logistical challenges that meant my mother, whom I love, would be my post-op caregiver. While unquestionably well-intended, mother, whom I love, does inexplicable things that either test my patience, or make me wish I also loved guns.

This is the woman who once gave a cat ear mite medicine orally. For weeks.

My discomfort was also boosted by the memory of my only other time coming out of anesthesia. Mom (whom I love) drove me around town, showing off my drunken haze to her friends after having my wisdom teeth extracted. My first memory waking up was…



Jason Falls

Writer & published author. Marketing strategist & podcaster. Dad. I think I’m funny, too.