February 15, 2010 was exactly one month after my surgery and my surgeon follow up appointment. I had been feeling better but knew I wasn't necessarily ready to go back to work. Moving alot always brought about pain. So, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect when going to my follow up appointment. Dr. B. never really mentioned at my consult what the "post surgery schedule" would be like. My doctor that sent me to her, Dr. D., said once that some surgeons are physical therapy advocates and others just do the surgery and send you back to the world as is. So, off to see Dr. B. I went. Weather was getting bad so the office was crazy, as they were trying to get everyone in and out quickly before it got any worse. It took less than 2 hours for my turn. Dr. B. asked me how I was feeling...said pain was normal even at 4 weeks post op. It wouldn't be until after week 6 that I should start feeling noticably better. She asked if I wanted to do physical therapy and I said "ABSOLUTELY!" That much of my recovery I knew I wanted to do. She was happy with my response and said she would see me back in 4-6 weeks and we headed to the appointment desk. I quickly asked if I had to go back to work and she shook her head no, like I was crazy for thinking I would be going back to work so soon.
My 'script for PT was written...3x a week for 4 weeks...and my appointment was made for March 29! Holy cow!!! The nurse said it was 5 weeks...but something didn't seem right - it wasn't until today...five days later...that I realized my appointment was actually 6 weeks later making it 10 weeks being off. If I'm cleared to go back to work the day after my appointment, I'll have been off work for 10w4d! I'm in shock! I never dreamed I would be off this long, though because I didn't ask the questions at my surgeon consult, I guess I wouldn't know what to expect!
I tend to forget the questions I have in my head when I go see Dr. B. ...like am i cleared to drive??? Minor detail! I knew I wouldn't survive another 6 weeks off without being able to drive. So, I called the nurse from the parking lot to leave her a message about it. She called a couple days later and said I was allowed to drive if not taking pain meds...WOOOHOOOOO I'M FREEEEEEE! Having been homebound for 4 weeks, it felt amazing just knowing that I could drive - even if I didn't go anywhere!
While still in the parking lot, I scheduled my first two PT sessions w/ the same office I had done PT before. . .also the office where Dr. D. is. I was to go in the following day for my PT evaluation, as there was a cancellation, and then two days after for my first true session.
February 16: PT evaluation w/ Alice (who I had for my first PT round in the fall). She did some measurements on my range of motion, which is VERY limited. I wasn't too shocked when I couldn't bend to any of the 4 sides very far and couldn't twist. Back muscles are very tight and they just don't give w/out pain. There was no PT that day but I did get the benefit of electric stimulation w/ ice. . .ahhhh! Heaven! My goal for the short term is moving w/out pain...longer term is none other than softball! Get me back on that field!!! A's short term goal for me was not to increase my pain thru therapy. Music to my ears! The stim was to decrease the pain and it definitely did! 15 minutes of heaven! ...Pain hit me at night, though I think it might have been more from driving for the first time than from any of the tests/measurements...not sure.
February 18: PT really gets started. The goal right now is to increase the strength in my trunk in order to use those muscles when I move. I learned 3 exercises and their value to me and did them. 1 set of 10 for each.... then, my 15 minutes of heaven again to end my sesssion!!! Homework: do the 3 exercises 2x a day, and increase gradually until I can do 3 sets of 10 of each exercise. Whew, that's rough! I expected increased pain after PT...and it happened. The pain hit around 7p and brought tears a'flowin'!!! I was trying to hold off on the pain medicine until closer to bedtime so I tried ice and a hot bath. . . .then finally couldn't take it any longer after round 2 of tears...medicine and sleep.
So, with the first two sessions in the books...I'm still getting better each day. I have PT two times a week for the next 3 weeks, then 1 week of 3x, and then the last session a week before I go back to the doctor. I just might call and try to reschedule for earlier since I'll be done w/ PT...we'll see. As much as I don't want to go back to work, I need to for my sanity and $$!
Healing takes time. . . .
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Well, as of today, it's easy to see that December 17 has come and gone. It was a great relief to hear the surgeon say that day that surgery was definitely a possibility, and one that would be successful. Since I tried all of the other less invasive methods to ease the pain, this was the last stop. Dr. B. said that should could go in thru an incision in my back and drill down some of the bones around the area of pain to relieve the pressure on my nerves, thus relieving the pain. She clearly stated it wasn't the discs that were compressing the nerves but the bones. Because I appear to have a smaller spinal cavity than normal, there is less room inside than there should be, causing even more issues when there are bulging discs. I was allllll for it! I wanted relief and I was willing to do anything I could at that point to find relief. Never once did any thought what I would go thru after surgery cross my mind. I was elated and could barely stand the wait.
Near the end of December, I got the call! Surgery was scheduled for January 15th!! I wrote it on the calendar and started counting down the days immediately. The pain became, in a weird way, bearable at that point...just knowing there was an end in sight helped so much! The days actually passed quite quickly. The term "slice&dice" was coined by a friend early on in the countdown so that's what it was called. I finally had a named event to look forward to! I got everything squared away with work and short term disability and pre-op testing. I lined up post-op help and a plan that was going to be key to my recovery. I worried about the steps in my condo the most. . .having the bathrooms on the top and bottom floor but the kitchen in the middle. That was quickly a memory when it was offered that I stay with some great friends, where everything was on one level. Perfect! Planning complete! Let's get this show on the road!!
My wonderful parents arrived the evening before surgery and we had a wonderful dinner and relaxed until it was time to sleep...One more sleep until "slice&dice." FINALLLLY!!!
..and then it was here..."slice&dice" was here! I was in a great mood the morning of surgery. I still was not nervous or scared...I left that to all my friends and family. I was ready! I skipped down the hall of the hospital to the surgery check in. I was chipper and excited (even at that early hour)!! I was taken upstairs to get dressed in the styling gowns and get my IV. Dr. B. came in before her first surgery of the day and marked my back with a marker. . .then noticing my tattoo that was sure to be cut during surgery. I didn't care. She told the story how they enjoyed the challenge of putting tattoos back together after surgery and who could do the best job! Hahahaha!! Loved hearing the 'behind the scenes of surgery'. Then I waited and mom and I chatted until it was time!!! Alex came to take me to O.R. 26! Kissed mom and off I went!
It was a long ride to the OR..as it was the last one in the hallway. I waited at the doors of the OR and nurse Nancy asked me to tell her what I was having done...on the left: L3, L4, L5 decompression and on the right: L5, S1 diskectomy. In english - she was drilling down the bones to decompress the nerves, as well as removing the bulging parts of the discs in the lower area. Showtime - and thru the doors we went! I took what little time I had to look around and observe what was going on around me. Dr. B. came in and they were trying to get something to print, my MRI pictures were on the screens, the operating table was to my right and I wasn't sure how on earth they were going to get me up there and flipped over when I was asleep. I'm trying to figure out how to explain the table that had 'things' on it to prop me up in the right position, is the best I can do. Never seen such a thing. As I'm looking around, my hand is BURNING!!!! Apparently the anesthesiologist has no bedside manners and did not warn me that he was beginning the medicine...tears rolled down my cheeks. JERK! I could instantly feel it taking over my body and I didn't like the feeling - tho thankfully I was out in probably less than a minute. The rest of the morning is gone from my memory but the magic was being done.
I woke up in recovery and the first thing I did was wiggled my toes - I had to make sure I was still able to move! I ached a lot and it still boggles my mind that I was laying on my back. Seems absurd but it was tolerable. What wasn't tolerable was the fact that I had to lay in recovery for much longer than I should because the room wasn't ready. I was given ice chips here and there and then come the stockings...to keep the ol' blood flowing in my legs. The nurse who began to put them on was very gentle. Then mean nurse came over and decided to help with the right leg...this was NOT pleasant as she was very rammy and rough and I cried. Do you realize I just had my back sliced open?? Good grief! And if that wasn't enough, she ran into my bed twice while getting to the bed next to me. More tears! Thankfully she got smart and moved my bed a bit but still ran into it again. GET ME OUTTA HEREEE!!! After what felt like an eternity to me in recovery, I was heading to my room. The bumps in the doorways hurt but finally, I made it! I was never so happy to see my Mom as I was then!!
I was still a bit groggy but seemed to be more awake than I thought that I would. My nurse came in and was very nice. . .even if she, too, made me cry. She had to test my strength to make sure everything was 'normal'. I had to do the ever-dreaded-tests...push/pull on her hands w/ my feet which as you can imagine was very painful immediately after surgery. Then I had to do the same with my arms in different positions. My mom is yelling at her to stop because she's making me cry...she said she could come back and do it later..Mom said yes...I said no...she was already halfway done, I was already crying...just finish it! So it was all over and I was left to rest. My poor momma doesn't like to see me in pain and I felt bad for her. I don't like seeing her cry anymore than she likes seeing me cry. The rest of the afternoon was full of resting, parents, friends, minister, nurses...that's about it.
The first trip to the bathroom was not pleasant. I didn't care that my naked bum was hanging out for all to see. I was focused on learning to manuver myself in and out of bed and making the short trip to the bathroom....which ended up with me hovering over a bucket. I wanted to avoid getting sick at all costs....can you imagine getting sick after back surgery? Whew, please don't let it happppppen! Thankfully, the belly calmed down and I think I might have even gotten some medicine to help. I got better each time I got up and down, but it was not a pleasant experience.
I made it through the night with broken up sleep...and was up for the day at 4am. I decided to sit in the chair because it hurt too much to lay on either side. The chair was wonderful. The physical therapist came in later and I had to walk around the halls and even go up and down a few steps. I was surprised how "easy" it was to walk the steps. I never dreamed that it would be almost easier than walking. I made a loop around the floor and back to my room where I found my parentals and a breakfast that I wouldn't eat...ewww. One of Dr. B's partners was on call that morning so she came in, said "So, what do you want to do?" I said, "Go home." and that was it. I was discharged. I had to eat first and the nurse had to change my dressing and take out my drain tube and then was free to go. Absurd, looking back. Was I really ready? Should I have been the one making that decision? But I did and I was leaving.
The nurse came in and took out my drain tube - which was not a pleasant feeling but was over in a second. To date, that has been the only "stitch" I've ever had...there was one suture holding the tube in my back. The dressing was redone and I was free to get dressed...which I needed help! I got some papers and my instructions - walk as much as I could, no driving, rest and heal! That was about it.. oh, and no lifing more than 10 lbs. There were no volunteers on the floor when it was time to go so I walked on outta that hospital, "pain free." The pain that sent me to the OR was gone already - it was time to handle the 'healing' pain.
Coming home was bitter sweet. I was happy to be home but I could not find anything I could sit on that was comfortable. The chaise was too soft and low and the chair was too soft and deep. I sat in a card table chair and got to the point where I could only cry. This wasn't going to work. Mom was ready to take me back to the hospital. Finally, a friend brought me a small recliner that was going to work. I was still in serious pain...then realized...I hadn't taken pain medine in hours and was long past the time I should have taken them. Yep, there's the problem!!! After that realization, I set 3 alarms on my cell and just kept switching them from am to pm and slept with it in my hand so I wouldn't miss a dose. Crucial to healing! Definitely surviving the first night at home is the worst. But we muddled thru!
Post surgery day 2...the parentals packed me up and sent me home with Trina as they headed home. I spent 9 days at Trina's, having help when I needed it. I had planned to go home after about 5 days...hahaha. My back had a different plan! But, I listened and just kept healing. I had a lot of pain and ended up needing steroids in order to kill a 'hip-catching pain' that developed. Dr. B. had figured it was from inflammation and the steroids took care of it. Then it was time to battle the healing incision and the bright red, itchy, welted back from the steri-strips that were used to hold everything together. I then had to add Benadryl to my cocktail of medicine. (I hate taking any medicines so this was rather hard for me to deal with to take so many so often.) Finally the itch started to subside from the strips and from the healing incision. I came to look forward to my nightly glimpse of the healing would. There were pictures taken often, to share and also it was really the only good way I could see what was happening back there.
The strips started coming off on post surgery day 9...and I was allowed to take the remaining ones off on day 10. Welll, I couldn't wait another 12 hours so they all came off on day 9. I finally got to see how my tattoo looked. Although it was cut completely in half during surgery, it was put back together PERFECTLY!!! Every single line was matched up like it had never been touched. Truly amazing! Makes me think they spent as much time putting the tattoo together as they did fixing my back..hahaha!
The first two weeks were definitely the most difficult and not something I would ever want to repeat. The feeling that all my muscles in my back had been sliced in half was not pleasant. Healing is not for sissies, to say the least! Hindsight says I should have maybe spent some time thinking about how i would feel after surgery because it hit me like a ton of bricks. Or, maybe it was good that i didn't think about it because then I would have been more anxious/nervous. Oh well, I survived the first 2 weeks.
The 2nd 2 weeks were better...that's when the emotional side hit me. Feeling better but unable to get in the car and go anywhere was very difficult. I am not one to rely on others to do things and I didn't have a choice. I fought a lot of tears and then, a glimmer of light! My bff in Indy came to see me on a Saturday and I found a way to get to my IN home and back. So, I packed up what I needed for a week and spent week 3 back home w/ the parentals! It was much needed TLC and rest! I had a great visit with my bff and she had company on her trip back. At home, I was able to read a book, play online, get QT w/ the parents, and had an evening with Leah and then one w/ Jenna...it makes an Aunt feel wonderful when the girls each want their own time with me!!! That really made my week! Week 4 was spent back home just resting, catching up on dvr'd shows, playing online, and watching the snow fall. That's when I was happy to not be out driving to work in it!!!
4 weeks post surgery...I went to dinner and grocering w/ my roomie. We had a great dinner and a quick trip to get a few items. Upon arriving home, I watched some tv and when I started to do something else, I had a horrrrrrrrrrrrible pain in my left hip. It got progressively worse throughout the evening until I could barely walk. I got up to bed and it was all I could do not to cry. What on earth is going on??? Pain meds and bed - rest and sleep. My mind wandered - did I move wrong? Was it from all the walking? If it was just from the walking, there is no way i can go back to work next week. Still, I'm puzzled! What a way to end the 4th week of healing..in more pain than I'd had for weeks! FRUSTRATING to say the least!!!
Today starts week 5 of healing. I'm still hurting from last night's pain. It's better but the more I was up moving around, the more it hurt. I will be venturing out again tonight and am going to be watching every move I make, to see if it's me doing something wrong or just the act of moving around more than I'm used to. I want to have as much info as I can before my appointment w/ Dr. B. on Monday for my followup! It's at that appointment where I am hoping to be cleared to drive...and hoping for a script for physical therapy. I'll know then if I'm heading back to work on Tuesday or more time off. My wish: at least 2 more weeks off and some heavy PT. Time will tell. I'm looking forward to the appointment.
So there it is...the last 6 weeks in the life of me! I'm thankful that the pain is gone on the right side, which is where it was before surgery....now, I just have to get thru these healing pains, oh, and the numbness as well, that I forgot to mention that troubled me in week 3 and beyond.
...and for the progression of the booboo...
I am forever grateful to all that helped me get this far in my recovery...thru the pain and the tears...I see the light at the other end!!! I never thought I'd see it. I know there is much more healing to come...but I'm making great strides!