Tag Archive | surgery

Good day dear cane

I have officially put my cane into the back of my closet. Woot! Woot! I am walking steadily and with more strength each day. I don’t feel like I am limping.

I am incredibly slow, yet each step is solid. My stride is wider and more natural now. I am spending more time on the weak leg so it is more step-step and less stepppp-hop. 

It has been five months since my back surgery. The strength and balance gains in my weak leg are nothing short of phenomenal. After 27 years of feeling it grow weaker, this simply doesn’t seem possible, like it isn’t my leg. I have advanced weights and color levels in physical therapy. I am rebuilding muscle and nerve pathways.

I have cried a few times at PT, out of surprise and joy from my new strength and control. The therapists beam with delight and cheer me on, all knowing my story, well, my scoliosis story. I feel real and accepted there and cared for.

I still have a long way to go. My success is relative. My walking distance before my leg fatigues is 540 feet, but used to be 100. I have worked up to using 2 pound weights with my arms. I still have negative range of motion in my ankle, unable to bend it up to a right angle, but I am only 1 degree away now, started at 5. 

I have many other metrics and measurements we are tracking. Some seem so pathetic as I regain core body strength from this surgery. Using my arms is still very painful. Pain wraps arounds my ribs and lasts for days for attempting something simple, like lifting a canteloupe.

Every day I do a bit more and try to be patient with the slow pace. The surgeon told me it would take a year to recover, but hearing those words and living those words are two different things entirely.

I want to walk my dog. She is about 50 pounds. I can’t do it yet. I can however, just this week push and turn a grocery cart without assistance, if it doesn’t have much in it. That was a major triumph to buy some (light) groceries by myself, without kids or hubby – or a cane – to help. I was tired and hurting a bit, but mostly just grinning like a fool at my accomplishment.

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Surgery story, part 7, going home

On Monday about 8 am, the Dr told me I was going home that day! I was shocked. It was only day 5 and we had originally planned 7 days in the hospital.

I called hubby at work and asked if he could get off work and how soon. I wanted him there with me for the final discharge instructions and physical therapy so he knew how to help me get home. I was suddenly feeling afraid and overwhelmed, not ready to leave the safe hospital world that I had grown used to and wanted hubby there to support me as well.

Hubby called back and said he was leaving work, heading home to change, then would be up to the hospital. I expected him around 10 or 11. I told him which soft, loose pants to bring me, which top, and decided to go without underwear or bra as the elastic would be too painful on my incisions. I did not think to ask for my coat, thinking the cold rain would remind him of my need for that.

So much happened that final day. More blood work. Visits from so many doctors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, home care coordinators, social workers..so many people on a team making sure I was going to be safe and healthy at home.

It was a whirlwind of information, and I wished hubby would hurry. My lunch came and I called, he still had not left home. I was getting angry and hurt now that he didn’t do what he said he was going to do, and that I was all alone, and that he was going to miss the important information.

Sure enough about 2pm PT lady came for me and still no hubby. We went to the gym to practice the stairs to make sure I could get into my home and up to my bedroom. She had me walk without the walker a little, just holding her arm and hand, and that felt amazing. Then we practiced getting in and out of a car safely. I have to do it without bending or twisting- not so easy, that’s why we practice the maneuver.

This lady saw how thin my right leg was and asked about the atrophy. I explained that this surgery corrected 27 years of nerve compression, that I’m stronger and can feel it now. She nearly cried for me, and I nearly cried too, but I wasn’t letting myself believe it yet. Not for about 2 more weeks.

She gave me some other challenges, let’s see if you can walk up the stairs leading with the right leg then. I hadn’t even attempted that in 27 years. I said OK. It took a moment of staring before my leg did what I wanted, something PT calls ‘motor planning’, but then I did it.

Step up. Step up. Pulling myself up with my little right leg. It started quivering after about 4 steps, so we stopped to rest, but I felt like I climbed mount Everest. She wanted to see me lead with it going down now. I was scared. It used to buckle and give out. But I had two railings and a safety strap under my arms, so I said OK.

Step down? Yes! It held! I couldn’t believe my eyes or other senses. That couldn’t be my leg. I went down the 4 steps, very slowly, letting my right leg bear my weight for the first time in adulthood.

When I got to the bottom, my leg was hot, trembling, flexing. I could feel muscles inside of it. Angry little muscles, yes. But muscles working and firing. Such an amazing feeling. I so wished hubby had been there to see this.

PT lady wheeled me back to my hallway and said she was sad I was leaving today, she would love to keep working with me. Then she asked me to walk some more to see how it recovered. It hadn’t. My leg was quivering jelly. I was going to push through and drag it along and she made me stop. She said never push a muscle past fatigue, only up to fatigue.

I was shocked and it showed on my face. I explained that I was used to pushing past that point. She got a little upset and said she can’t imagine any physical therapist asking me to do that, that pushing past fatigue only causes pain, once you lose quality of motion you are doing harm not good. She asked me who told me to do that?

I said it was my dad….she put a hand on my shoulder and said she was sorry and we had a quiet moment of understanding. Wow. And woah.

So many years of abuse, and pain. I felt it all lift and float away in that moment when she understood. Because I understood. It wasn’t me. AF was a sadist. He enjoyed my pain. He taught me to hurt myself, to ignore signals to rest. He would say things like “no pain, no gain” or “nothing in life is easy” or “pain isn’t real it’s all in your mind, you can choose to feel it or not” or “quitters never win”. He was full of sayings like that to fill me with shame for wanting to rest. Well no more.

Now it got confusing as back in my room, the pain from PT was overwhelming. Dr ordered me Tramadol, a weaker narcotic i had not tried yet. I was willing to try, the pain was bad enough, and i figured it might help for the car ride too. The pill and fatigue made me spacey, but I swear two different doctors, a nurse, and the home care rep all gave me different instructions regarding my bandages and suture removal. Again why I wanted hubby there.

Finally about 3pm he did arrive. At that point we were only waiting for the final discharge which took another hour or so. I tried telling him all the information he missed before I forgot, which overwhelmed him, and he could tell I was annoyed but he didn’t know why. I was also dreading the car ride. Nearly two hours of bumpy torture coming soon….

A young girl arrived with a wheelchair. I asked hubby for my coat as he out his on, and he looked frightened. Ummm….I  didn’t bring you one, you didn’t ask for one. I tried not to be too hurt and annoyed by his thoughtlessness as nothing could be done now.  I was packed into the wheelchair, a pillow behind me, and all my gifts on top of me.

The ride down was alright, but it took hubby about 45 minutes to retrieve the truck from the parking garage. By the time he pulled up, I was in excruciating pain from sitting in an awkward unsupported position. I kept trying to shift in the chair but nothing helped. My spine was on fire.

They said I was not allowed to sit still for a 2 hour car trip and that we had to plan a stop at least once to get out and walk for 10 minutes on the way home to keep blood flowing or something. We pulled into a rest stop about half way home. I got myself out of the truck, but it took an enormous effort. I was stiff and sore. Hubby gave me the walker, but I couldn’t make it move in the parking lot. There was too much resistance compared to the smooth hospital hallway. I went about 5 feet and started crying, tears streaming down my face from pain, fear, and frustration. I asked hubby to walk me back with his arm, the walker was too difficult. It was much harder to get in the vehicle this time than at the hospital, I had to push through the pain and the chills from walking in the cold rain without a coat made all my sore muscles angry and tight. Once back in the truck, he cranked up the heat until the chills subsided, then we headed home again. I hoped it was worth it to follow that advice to stop and walk because everything hurt so much worse now. Every bump in the road went directly into my spine and there was no way to soften the blow.

Finally we made it home. I struggled to get out of the truck. I could barely move. Every muscle was stiff and in spasms. Hubby got me to our porch steps, somehow I went up, only three but it felt like I was ripping apart inside with each step. In the house he had a chair for me near the door. Nice, but it had a curved back so I couldn’t actually lean back on it without causing extra pain, even with the pillows. I sat there a moment and decided it would be best to get in bed.

Upstairs.

We started the longest, slowest journey. Step up, moan, whimper, breathe, pause, step up, grimace, whine, breathe, pause, step up, ouch, groan, breathe, pause….until I made it to my room.

Then I stared at my bed. My flat, non hospital bed. And I lost it. I started sobbing. Why did I come home? I wasn’t ready! That trip was horrible torture and now I don’t have an adjustable bed, I can’t do this. I should have stayed in the hospital longer.

Hubby stared at me all bug eyed and helpless as men do with crying women, but even worse because if he touched me it would likely hurt, and he usually says the wrong thing, so he just stared in silence.

In a moment I calmed down, tried to roll into bed, but it was too low and i yelped in pain. Hubby had bought some wedge shaped pillows and asked if I wanted to try it. It made it easier to roll and I got in, but it seemed so hard, like laying on cement! I could feel with my hands that it was soft though, it was only my sore back making it feel hard.

Hubby brought me ice gel packs and slid them under me, covered me with blankets, and then I just waited for the pain to ease. I took a tramadol they sent me home with, but it only made me nauseous and did nothing for the pain. Somehow I made it through the night, by breathing, visualizing, and distracting myself with tv and candy.

I wanted hubby with me that night but was afraid he would bump me in his sleep. We placed a giant body pillow between us in the bed as a barrier, later we named it the “chastity pillow” to be funny, but it effectively kept us apart and me safe.

I discovered I could walk to our bathroom without the walker by holding the dresser, the bedframe, and the walls. PT lady calls this furniture walking. My tiny room and hallway really made the walker impossible upstairs. Plus I wasn’t having balance issues, I was ready to walk on my own and try out my new legs.

Just as soon as I napped.

Surgery story, part 6

Saturday morning I woke up feeling hungry, actually hungry, stomach growling and everything. My liquid breakfast was not satisfying at all. The beef broth was gross, plain chicken broth I can handle but this stuff was vile.

When the doctor came in I asked to be advanced to real food, maybe some fruit? He was concerned I had not had a bowel movement yet and I countered logically that I have had no solid food yet…I mean I’m good but I can’t make something out of nothing.

PT guy came for me and we walked to the end of the hall by the nurses station, then he gave me a ride in the wheelchair to the PT room. I remembered a room like this from being 12, various ramps, bars, steps, platforms, even half a car for practicing. He took me to the steps, tied a safety belt up around my armpits, and asked me to walk up the stairs. First I tried it using both railings, then with only one side like I have at home. I felt it pull in my hips and back, but my legs felt strong. I got to the top much more easily than I thought I would be able. Down was even easier. I may have audibly woohooed here, as he gave me a puzzled look. I explained i couldn’t do this easily before surgery, that my leg was much stronger now. I did it twice and started to get tired so we stopped.

He didn’t wheel me back to my room, only back to my hallway. He asked me to walk the rest of the way. I was already tired but he said we needed to build up my stamina. So I did it. Slowly. I think some molasses covered snails passed me actually. But I did it. Woohoo for stamina.

Back in my room an aide came in to help get me cleaned up and changed into a fresh gown. Her idea of helping was different from mine though. She put everything in the bathroom, walked me there and left. I told her I couldn’t bend or reach my legs or back and could she help? Her response was that she had a horrible headache, about to explode, and had to go sit down. So I got back in bed half clean with what I could reach by myself and I would ask hubby to help me when he got in later.

I was disappointed when lunch was more broth and jello. I asked the nurse if the orders were changed? She said not yet, but she saw drs notes that he was going to. I said OK. But then i told her how hungry i was and that i was dying for some fruit. She came back in with a few fruit cups hidden in her pocket. I could have kissed her! She smiled and said Shhhh like it was a big secret and I smiled back before digging into the best tasting pears of my life.

Then I heard a familiar voice, my son. Hubby had brought my kids to visit. They looked scared at first, I tried to let them know I was ok. My youngest got in bed with me, I put a pillow on my belly so he didn’t bump my incision. He liked putting my bed up and down. They brought me flowers, a stuffed bear, candy, and a duck figurine. My middle guy didn’t make eye contact with me, he was struggling. My daughter was chattering away telling me about her week.

Then a helicopter flew near, my room was next to the landing pad. And my youngest seriously must have had his own flashback or something like it. He says, that’s like the one I rode in…I can’t feel my legs…I can’t see…

I yelled to hubby to catch him before he hit the ground and he just made it. He nearly passed out, was all in a cold sweat. We gave him ginger ale and turned on the TV. Hmmm. Guess little guy remembers his icu trip to the special childrens hospital in the helicopter about 2 years ago when he was only 5. And seeing his mom in pain and inflated and all bruised everywhere was bad enough without the helicopter reminder. Poor little guy. He was OK though.

My sis in law arrived soon to take the kids to her house for the night. We planned the timing so their visit with me would be brief, for them, and for me too.

Then I heard another familiar voice. My oldest brother was there. I was somewhat surprised he had come, especially since  earlier today was mom’s actual funeral. Hubby said he brought his whole family, so I decided to visit with them out in the hallway, not enough space in my tiny room.

I was shocked that walking was getting easy, that I had already recovered from PT earlier. I stood and walked and chatted with my brother, his wife and several of his kids until I got too tired and shaky. I felt special and loved. He said the funeral went well and he was so pleased my surgery went so well I was up and walking.

When I got back in bed, I realized I may have overdone it. Ok definitely had overdone it. My back went into spasms. That wonderful nurse saw this and brought me a giant sack of ice nearly as big as me, asked me to roll to my side,  and lean against the ice like giant frozen body pillow. The ice helped in a few minutes and I fell asleep. I woke up soon, feeling very cold, but much better. I asked hubby to move the ice and I was thrilled to see dinner had come, with mashed potatoes! Real food! Nothing tasted great, but with my numb tongue and growing hunger it didn’t matter much. My belly needed food. I still didn’t eat much, I felt full right away, but it was a satisfied feeling.

I slept well that night, in between the poking and prodding of course, and the constant calls from my roommate. She was 79, often not entirely lucid, quite loud, quite demanding. She would ask for nonsensical items with the call button and whoever answered was always polite and always sent someone to check on her.

The next day my sis in law came to visit, the one that went to my mom’s memorial. She brought more flowers.

I didn’t have so many visitors or support during my surgery when I was 12. I was alone for nearly all of it. AF stopped by most evenings after work. Mom only came once when my brother drove her, too afraid to drive to the big city. So for 2 weeks, I was alone there. Alone for all of the tests and PT for a newly paralyzed girl. I don’t remember being afraid or lonely. Abused kids aren’t entitled to feel that. So I didn’t. But I feel it now. I look at my kids, and can’t imagine ever leaving them alone. So I feel now what I couldn’t then, and I understand the depth of my pain and PTSD. I’m ready to care for this woman, that as a child was uncared for. I’m no longer ashamed of the girl within. I understand her, and want to help her.

Surgery story, part 5

My stomach announced its awakening with intense cramps that tugged at my incision. I knew this was a good sign, but it did not feel good. By morning I was happy to say yes when the nurse asked if I was passing gas. One of those things you don’t miss until it’s gone I suppose.

My surgeon came in to see me that morning and I was so happy to see him. He told me briefly about my surgery, that it was a success, that he decompressed the nerve and restored full function, that he stabilized and restored balance, but we would talk more later and all I had to do now was rest and heal. He was beaming, happy for me, and proud of his work. His positive energy is contagious.

He said he had to catch a plane and would be out of the country for 2 weeks but his team would take great care of me and call him every day.

I stopped him leaving by asking about my numb tongue.

Suddenly his face changed. His smile left. I had never seen him like this.

There were a few events that could have caused trauma to your tongue though we did our best to minimize it.

One was a serious complication you need to know about, and could have been life threatening if you were at any other hospital not equipped to handle it.

(OK I wasn’t really liking this conversation. No one said anything about complications. I had no idea what he was saying, and it was super scary, he was so serious)

While you were sedated, already deep under anesthesia you had an extremely rare laryngospasm causing you to not receive oxygen for some time. It was required that you be extubated, as you crushed the tube, treated with medications to relieve the spasm and reopen your airway before a new breathing tube could be inserted. This is an extremely dangerous situation and you need to make sure all your doctors are aware of this before any future surgeries you may have so they will be prepared for this possibility. You are fortunate you were at this hospital with my team when it happened.

(Oh f*ck that doesn’t sound good. Wow. Thanks for not letting me die?? Alrighty then. But all I said out loud was)

oh…ok

So even though every care was taken, it is possible your tongue was pinched during this process as it had to be done quickly.  Also during the transcranial nerve monitoring an electric current is delivered through your scalp that causes your facial muscles to contract, including the tongue. It is possible all of this has caused some trauma and irritation to the nerve roots of the tongue that should reverse in time.

(What he actually said was longer than this, included more medical terms, and scary stuff like various direct mouth injections, flipping me over, packing my mouth with gauze, hard to see my face when I’m laying on it and contractions with current need to be strong enough to travel the length of my spine…and I got really tired listening to him. I couldn’t hear anymore of what I had been through. He answered my question…and then some…for my tongue might be numb. But he had no idea how long to expect. He said if it was still numb two days after surgery, then it would likely take weeks or months)

Oh…OK…thanks

He peeled back my bandage to peek at my incision (rolling over wasnt AS bad today) and said it looked good, only some mild drainage on the bottom. Then he left.

After a liquid breakfast, PT came in again. This guy wanted me to take a walk. I raised my eyebrows and thought skeptical thoughts, but of course I said OK. I always say OK. My hand was still inflated, but I could get my thumb and pinky wrapped a bit around the walker today, mostly I still had to rest it there on top. But this walker had wheels, so I didn’t have to lift it like the one I had when I was 12. I only had to push it slightly and it moved. I no longer hated this walker, it was becoming my friend, my path towards freedom.

Look at me go! I could race past ummm, no one actually. But I didn’t care. It felt so good to be walking, well, emotionally good. Physically it hurt. Each step pulled and tugged on my back and belly. PT guy asked me to walk out to the hallway. I walked past my roommate, first time I had seen her, and eventually I made it to the door. He asked me to stand and rest a moment, then head in the direction of the elevators ahead. I was slowing down, which I didn’t know was possible. PT guy guided me to turn around and head back. By the time I reached my bed, I was sweating and breathing hard. I had walked about 30 feet and needed a nap.

When I woke up I noticed my left arm hurting, and noticed swelling around the IV. I called the nurse. She took it out, I had blown another vein. This one didn’t inflate too badly. She started looking for a spot to start a new IV and I was bruised and swollen or bandaged everywhere. They were doing several blood tests to check electrolytes and hemoglobin to see how i was recovering from the blood loss, so i had bandaids everywhere. The nurse called a special IV team in that used a vein finder, it shone a red light and like magic my veins appear. Even with the special team and tools, it took 5 more attempts to get one in, and it was nearly in my right armpit, not exactly comfortable.

After a liquid lunch PT guy returned and wanted me to start using the regular bathroom in my room. I wished I had the closer bed, the walk seemed so far, but of course I said OK. I’d do about anything to upgrade from the bedside commode. I still needed an escort to walk with me, but they left me alone in there, much better.

Then transport guy came with a wheelchair and said time for x-rays. Again? PT guy was still there, so he put two pillows in the wheelchair and showed me how to get in and instructed the guy to be gentle. I had to hold my Walker on my lap/feet so I could have it with me to stand for the x-ray.

The standing x-ray was easy. Then she wanted me to lie on the hard metal table. I should have refused, but everything else was going so well I thought I would try and be compliant. It hurt. It hurt for several hours. And it was for another abdominal x-ray because the one yesterday in my bed wasn’t a clear picture. My stomach is fine! It will be fine soon!

A Dr came up later and asked me again about passing gas, yes, passing stool, no.

Then an aide comes in and says she has an enema for me. What? ??? I was so tired, in too much pain to fight. She has me stand and lean forward and comes at me with a squeeze bottle. Let’s just say the contents did not go where she thought it did, which was fine with me, as I didn’t need it. I also didn’t need to be all wet now. She handed me a towel and left and I shook my head in disbelief.

I slept until my liquid dinner. I confirmed each time that I do not like orange jello. But the cherry ice was superb. I tried not to think about why my throat hurt, that I had a rare complication and was within a minute of death. I used to wish for death. Was that my wish being granted? Did something happen to change it though? Why am I not only alive, but with this amazing outcome of restored sense and strength in my legs?   I feel so many new sensations, the blanket, my toes rubbing together, the coarse texture of the hospital grippy socks. I also notice a lack of pain, no more crushing, or zapping, or twitching, or jumping. My legs are calm, happy, and move when I ask them to. I fall asleep moving my toes and ankles up and down, up and down, up and down.

I wake up with pain in my arm. Yup, the vein has blown. The nurse stops the pump and removes the IV. I tell her how difficult it was to place that one and that it only lasted 8 hours. I asked to please have no IV since it was only fluids, and I was drinking fine, not vomiting. She asked Dr and I got permission to go overnight without IV if I promised to drink a certain amount of water. I agreed.

Without the IV, my arms started deflating, and I started peeing unbelievable amounts. I overflowed the measuring ‘hats’ they place to keep track. My poor bladder couldn’t hardly keep up, I’m sure my kidneys were tired too. By morning my hand and arms were normal size and I was exhausted. I couldn’t help wondering if they were giving me too much fluids all along. I felt SO much better without that IV.

Surgery story, part 4

The vomiting did me a favor and either removed some of the meds, or just the waves of pain cleared my mind for a moment. Enough for me to notice my hand was inflated. My fingers were the size of italian sausages and I could no longer bend them. It looked like when you inflate a rubber glove. Did you see Big Hero 6? If not you should, great movie, but I was Baymax. My wrist and arm were swollen too, up to the elbow. I stared in amazement for a bit then tried to use my sausage to push the nurse call button but I couldn’t push hard enough, it was too puffy. Oh. This must be why they have two buttons, one on each side of the bed. I used my other hand. It was the first time I pushed that button so far during my stay, I hated doing it.

Can I help you?

(Huh? Like a drive thru? I thought she would just come to me, I didn’t know I needed to say why first. I always rehearse drive thru orders. I tried to think of the non insane way to say my fingers were sausages but the word swollen was not coming to my loopy brain)

My hand…ummm

Your hand? Is something wrong with your hand?

Yes

I’ll send your nurse.

So I waited, staring in amazement, wondering if my hand might float away, or get popped, it looked straight out of a cartoon so why not, and I was high and well I probably would have those thoughts anyway, who am I kidding. It was horrible and awesome too. It hurt. A lot. But the sight of it…wow.

The nurse came after a while, all I did was hold up that hand.

Her eyes got huge, but not as huge as my hand. She pulled a phone out of her pocket and called someone. Someone came in, said oh no, her IV has infiltrated, I bet someone took her blood pressure on this arm. Then she looks at my other arm, with the Ric dressing, and says, oh….hmmm….OK….well….wow look at the bruising….you poor girl, does this arm hurt? I’ll have to turn off your pump, remove this IV, the fluids have infiltrated. It will go back down but it will take several days. (The awesome was gone when she said days. Sausages are not awesome for days, but I said ok)

So she took out the bad IV and starting looking for a new spot. I had one on the left wrist that was not being used, she had to check if it was still good. It hurt a little but was still flowing so she switched me over to there rather than start a new one.

A Dr came in, not my surgeon, but one from his team, to examine me. She asked me to roll onto my side so she could look at my back. This was the first I had tried this, and it was not easy. Everything pulled, and I felt like I weighed a million pounds. Luckily I didn’t have to stay in that position long. she said everything looked good, no excess drainage or blood. I was supposed to let them know right away if it increases. (I’m thinking I can’t see back there but I just said OK)

I told her about my numb tongue and she looked confused. She had no idea and said to ask my surgeon and let him know if it didn’t get better. I told her OK, but I was getting really worried I might permanently have a numb tongue. I should mention that I was talking with a horrible lisp and impediment a bit like crossing Sylvester Stallone with Sylvester the Cat and wondering why no one else seemed concerned.

After the roll over I was sweating and shaking and hurting. It was like the bed was now lumpy cement and I couldn’t get comfortable. I waited a while for the spasms to stop, for the pain to stop, and then gave in and pushed my pain pump button and let it drift me off to nauseated sleep.

Then a nurse and an aide came in and said they were going to remove my catheter. At first I was confused, until I realized I had not gotten up to pee. Oh yeah. OK. So removing Foley’s from your bladder aren’t the most fun but I do believe it may be the only time women have it easier than men. Not much, but I’ll take it.

So once they were done I started to worry that they removed it too soon. I mean, how was I supposed to get up and go if I could barely roll over?

While I thought about this, a lunch tray came to me. I still was confused, and did my best to eat a little even though everything in me was screaming not to eat. I had a few spoons of chicken noodle soup, a piece of lettuce, a couple pear cubes from a fruit cup, a few sips of water and I was done.

I rested from the exertion when someone from PT came in to see me. she said it was time to get up out of bed. She had a walker and set it next to my bed. I really hate walkers, remembering the one I had when I was 12, and I instantly hated her. But I knew I had to do it.

She put put special kinesio tape on my arm, to help draw the fluids from my hand back into my core. That’s the tape athletes use to stabilize shoulders and such, I laughed to see it on my balloony, non athletic limb.

She then explained I’m not allowed to BLT, bend, lift, or twist. That I have to log roll out of bed. I’m thinking, is there any other way? OK, let’s do this. I roll to my side, bend my knees, like earlier. This time she raised the bed to help me sit up and pulled my feet out to dangle all in one move. There. I was sitting on the edge of the bed.

And I needed to vomit. At least I could reach the bucket myself from my upright position.

PT lady waited for me to vomit, like she’s used to having this effect on people. Then she pushed the Walker in front of me and asked me to stand. She did ask if I felt dizzy, which I didn’t. And she saw my inflated hand and said to rest it on top since I couldn’t grasp with that hand. She held my shoulder on that side just in case. But I stood up fine. It was much easier than the rolling over bit.

My legs were strong.

Both legs.

I just stood there on two legs that I could feel for the first time in 27 years.

She asked me to take a step, did I think I could make it to the chair? I thought I might make it to the moon. Come on, I have two good legs. I can do anything now.

I shuffled over a few steps to the chair, turned around and sat down. She was beaming at how well I did at being safe, no bending, reaching for the arms of the chair before sitting. She doesn’t know I’m an old pro at this.

I was in the chair when hubby arrived. He couldn’t believe it! The nurse came in to change my bedding and wash me up while I was out of bed. That felt great. And odd. We found two electrodes near my left breast I didn’t know were there, and several large pieces of tape covering holes on my legs. Another “what in the world did they do to you…” And me offering suggestions. I guessed it was from the emg nerve monitoring, they stick needle electrodes into your muscles. I’ve had it done while awake so I know, and appreciated not knowing this time. I knew this nurse was actually a student or aide to be on sponge bath duty, so I didn’t let her blank stare bother me. She was super nice and taking great care of me. Everyone doesn’t need to know everything. Yes I typed that. See how much I’ve grown? (I did cringe a little, I admit, but only a little)

Know what’s better than pain meds? Brushing two days of vomiting off your teeth. Being clean brings amazing amounts of comfort.

So I get assisted back into bed, try to settle the shaking from muscle spasms when a transport guy appears with a wheelchair and says he needs to take me for xrays. I looked at him like he had grown horns and was speaking backwards. I told him no way I could get in that wheelchair. I was thinking i was worn out from a few minutes in the chair, no way i can do a whole bumpy ride downstairs. He left for a while and said OK, I’ll take you in your bed when he returned.

Hubby went down with us. I was glad to have him there.

In the x-ray room, they asked me to roll over on my side while they placed film in the bed, and then I had to lay on the film. Ouch!! I asked what this was for, and he said it was checking my abdomen for ileus or obstruction. What?

I then asked hubby, when was my surgery? He gave me a stupid look, and said yesterday. I let that sink in. Why are they making me eat? Why are they concerned about a slow stomach and vomiting? I’ve only been out of anesthesia for about 12, maybe 14 hours now. I usually don’t eat until day 2 or 3 after lesser surgeries. This was odd.

A dr came in later to listen to my belly, ask about nausea, ask about passing gas. No, my belly was still knocked out for the count, no sounds. He put me on a clear liquid diet. Thank you! Why wasn’t I on that to begin with? Idiots. If I had the flu I would have broth and ginger ale why should this be different? The 7 inch hole in my belly, reaching from my navel to my hip, I can only imagine my guts were pushed, disturbed, maybe even bruised to get a clear path to my spine. Did they expect no symptoms from that? Plus the anesthesia, plus narcotics, plus iron pills, plus vitamins, plus pepcid, plus colace…come on. Is all of this to hopefully kick-start my system and get me home, what 1 day sooner? Rather than letting nature takes its course gently? Grrrr

So I started refusing my meds. I told her they hurt my stomach. I only accepted Tylenol. Plain Tylenol. And I stopped pushing my button for pain meds too. I wanted to sober up and let my stomach wake up.

They brought me these lidocaine patches for my back that worked better than any med so far. Nearly instant relief that allowed me to sleep.

I woke up with a familiar urge. Uh-oh, I had to pee. I pressed the nurse button. An aide came in and I explained that I had not gone yet since my surgery, and I can’t walk very well…I got that blank look again. She called the nurse. The nurse called PT. Good lord, does it take a village to help a girl to pee? PT approved me using a bedside commode. They brought in this thing that looked like a chair but you lift the lid and a toilet seat is underneath. They help me roll over, sit up, walk a few steps and sit on this thing. And then 3 people are there with me waiting for me to pee in a chair next to my bed. Umm yeah this might take a while. Now I knew how my toddlers felt, encouragement really doesn’t help. Eventually one by one each person left and they handed me the call button and said to call when I was done. It still took a LONG time to get my bladder muscles going. It hurt to push so I did in small bursts with a deep breath first. Finally done and exhausted, I was ready for bed.

That day ended with a dinner of broth and tea and cherry ice, all of which felt great on my sore throat and didn’t make me sick. I continued to refuse meds and sober up, feeling better for doing so.

I survived day 1 but I had some unanswered questions.

Surgery story, part 3

I didn’t know it, but it was about 10 PM when the nurse brought me a dinner tray and attempted to wake me up in my room. I was so sleepy, and everything was blurry when I managed to open my eyes for a moment at a time. I did see hubby sitting by my bed.

I either said or moaned something to indicate I was not hungry.

She came to my left arm to take my blood pressure and said what is this? (She saw the ric dressing) Woah…..she put the cuff on the right side. I couldn’t see what she saw and was too sleepy to care.

Hmmm your pressure is low honey, do you feel dizzy?

Even in my diminished state I wanted to call her an idiot and roll my eyes. But I was too sleepy. I lost a lot of blood, even with the cell saver, of course it’s low. Plus I’m lying down flat. Idiot. Plus I’m more heavily medicated than a tranquilized bear. Wtf. Seriously.

The nurse asked me to rate my pain level, I again moaned something. I was aware of some pain but it was too general all over and overwhelming. I was too sleepy to think and rate anything. Numbers were this abstract concept I couldn’t pin down in my floaty mind.

I think the nurse mistook my moaning to mean pain, not sleepiness and leave me alone sounds because she put something in my hand and explained it was my pain pump, that it would deliver pain medicine when I pushed the button. That I could push it whenever I wanted, and that if I heard two beeps it delivered a dose, but if I heard only one beep it was too soon and no meds were pumped. She asked if I understood.

I moaned something like uh-huh and nodded my head with my eyes closed again.

She asked me to go ahead and push it now because she was not allowed to push it for me.

I located my hand and the tiny button in it. after some concentration, I was able to push it in, and heard two loud distinct beeps.

The nurse said good job and something else…I was instantly getting sleepier. And queasier…ugh. I didn’t know that was possible.

The nurse showed me how to use my bed buttons, and nurse call buttons. Then she wrapped my legs in something, I heard a beep, and the something started squeezing my calves to prevent blood clots. I drifted in and out of sleep no matter how much i fought it, until I heard hubby say he was going to go get some sleep and he would be back in the morning. He kissed me and left around 11pm after getting up at 4 am and being there all day for me.

The night passed quickly enough with me totally loopy. I wasn’t aware of much pain, I was more bothered by the nausea.

At some point a nurse brought me a big jug of water which I ignored. Some point later she made me sit up and drink some of it despite my protests. My mouth still felt weird, and I was still so queasy. But I had a few sips at her insistence. It felt wrong on my tongue and my throat felt raw the entire way down. As soon as it hit my stomach it started another round of vomiting, rather dry heaving, which earned me more zofran. I was too exhausted to refuse it even though I knew I had too many different meds in me.

That injection knocked me out cold. I could no longer fight it. The next time they came in to check my vitals and draw blood they lifted my arm for me like I was a rag doll.

A nurse brought me a little cup full of pills. She injected more into my IV. She did tell me everything but I was too sleepy to understand. I now know it was percocet(narcotic), iron, vitamin c, multivitamin, colace(stool softener), pepcid(acid reducer).

Not sure how much time passed, but it seemed way too soon, a breakfast plate was brought in to me. I had no interest. Someone came in and raised my bed, put the tray in front of me and started explaining to me I had to eat and drink or I’d never get better.

I was so sleepy and loopy and confused, I wasn’t sure how long I had been in the hospital at that point, and by the way she was talking I thought maybe I hadn’t eaten in days. So me being the good girl, I decided to try even though I was so nauseous, head spinning.

I had a sip of orange juice and it felt like I was drinking fire. I had a sip of milk and that felt better on my throat but my tongue was weird. I tried the coffee and couldn’t feel the heat. I tried some Cheerios and couldn’t feel them. Because I couldn’t feel my tongue.

I touched my tongue with my fingers then, and it was completely numb, like dentist got it with the Novocaine numb. I was just starting to wonder about that when breakfast decided it needed to come back up. The nurse handed me a bucket, removed the food tray. I tried telling her about my tongue. She asked when did it start? Why didn’t I say something before? Well…this was the first I tried to eat and I’ve been sleeping…eye roll

She said she never heard of that and I should ask the doctor.

Sigh. Here we go.

Surgery story, part 2

I awoke in a recovery room, although awoke is not quite the correct term to describe my mental state. I was aware of people talking and noises everywhere. I could only open my eyes for a few seconds at a time, everything I saw was blurry and confusing anyway, so it was alright that my eyelids were too heavy to keep open and try to focus.

Next I was aware of my mouth feeling wrong, a queasy spacy feeling, and a feeling like I was surrounded by people talking all at once and no one made any sense. Several people were touching me and saying my name. I think. Or it was the same nurse or doctor walking around my bed quickly, faster than my brain could process. I can’t be sure.

Someone asked me my name and birthday and if I knew where I was, the year, etc. Identification and also mental status questions. I tried to answer but my mouth felt so weird (whats wrong with my mouth ?) and I could only whisper. I knew I had surgery and checked my face with my hand. Nope, no tube in my mouth, but my lips and cheeks felt odd. Or did my fingers feel odd. As I was trying to decide, someone wiped my mouth with what felt like a wet sponge. It helped a little but I could barely feel it. So weird. Why couldn’t I feel it? I tried asking about the tube, is this normal not to feel, but couldn’t get the words out.

A woman grabbed my hands and asked me to squeeze. I could barely do it, my arms were so heavy, like my eyelids, but I also noticed it was hard to feel her hands. Or feel my hands. I wasn’t sure which. She moved to my feet and told me to push against her hands. She said both feet sweetie. Huh? I was. I thought I was. Except I couldn’t feel her touching my right foot. I opened my eyes enough to see her holding both my feet. She said to the woman next to her “did she come out of the OR like this or is this new? Does the Dr know? This is severe neural deficit on the right and I don’t see it noted, I think it’s just happened now”

So I may have had a flashback here, remembering waking up from surgery paralyzed…but I’m not sure. I was so sleepy and sick, I’m truly not sure.

Then the nausea, oh man, the nausea hit me full force. I tried saying I was sick, but made no sound anyone could hear. I started waving my arms, but still no one. Then I started dry heaving, noisily. Gross, I know. My stomach was empty, no eating 12 hours prior to surgery, a 10 hr surgery, plus however long til now…I was empty. But my stomach was still trying. Each retch was louder than the next and growing more violent. I screamed in pain in between each retch as it pulled on my incisions, along my back and abdomen. Tears formed and flowed freely now.

This got some attention. Someone handed me a little cardboard bucket just in time as my stomach found something somehow to bring up. Someone else gave me an injection of zofran, and put a scopalomine patch on my ear.

I suddenly dropped the bucket, unable to hold it. I felt my entire arm go limp, along with my right leg curling up. Oh crap! Hemiplegic migraine! Or a stroke…and I didn’t want to tell them it was a migraine if it was a stroke since that was possible after such extensive surgery.

Someone started neuroassessment on me again and if she didn’t say it I clearly heard her think oh f*ck. When she asked me to push against her hand, push, push, PUSH!!! I can’t. She knows I can’t. My entire right side is limp and droopy, useless as a noodle, numb too.

I’m trying to say “hemiplegic migraine – need magnesium” but aphasia and my numb mouth and sore throat are making it sound like this.

Hem, hem, hem, pleeeee, Kik, mikchal, ammmmm

Mags, mags, mags, mags, ummm

OK so I actually laugh to myself here when one nurse gets the other to put her head by my mouth and they are both a bit panicked and not hiding it at all, and I think this must be what Lassie felt like. What’s that? Timmy needs magnesium? Good girl.

With me repeating and them checking my record, I heard them say OH, could she be saying hemiplegic migraine? I see that here. Can a migraine cause this? I don’t know…I never heard of hemiplegic…

Honey, are you having a migraine do you think?

I nodded yes. And closed my eyes.

Do you need magnesium treatment?

I nodded yes again. Someone patted my left hand twice, reassuringly.

They called someone and started me on 2 grams of magnesium. About an hour, I think, later the hemiplegia was getting better, but I was still retching and moaning in pain. I was trying to recall the anti nausea med I usually get in my migraine infusions when an angel read my mind, or my chart, and said Dr ordered compazine for you since zofran and patch aren’t working. That was it! Hurray! I told her “oh good, i usually get that in migraine infusions”. Wait, did i speak out loud ? Yes she understood me. The trouble speaking before was all due to the migraine. My mouth still felt weird inside like it was swollen and full of cotton balls. And my sore throat only let me whisper. But at least my brain let me form words. The magnesium must already be working. Another neuroassesment proved this to be true. I was regaining strength in my right arm and leg. Everyone looked so relieved, not a stroke then, and not a spinal cord injury…phew ! I had never had an infusion right at onset before to see how quickly it could stop a migraine in its tracks. I’m usually pretty bad off before I get one so this was awesome, I was like “take that stupid migraine!”

Relief was nearly instant from the compazine. My stomach settled and with all the magnesium, anesthetics, pain meds, I slept soundly for the next hour or so.

Next thing I knew someone was touching my arm and saying “what is this? What in the world? What did they do to you, look at that bruising. That will have to come out before she can be moved. But what is it?”

I tried to open my eyes and saw a woman , a super blurry woman, holding my left arm. My eyes kept closing, too much effort. I heard another woman say she looked on my chart and it’s a Rick. They paged someone but said it would be a while for the special team to arrive so we should notify the family now then to see me while we wait.

My family ? Soon I heard hubby’s voice. Ah such a good voice. I tried to see him but I still couldn’t focus on anything. And then I heard, “sir, sir, are you alright? You better have a seat. Someone get us some apple juice! ”

I heard him say yes, he was a bit woozy and giggle nervously. (Apparently I looked so gorgeous I made him swoon)

Once he was stable hubby came up to hold my hand. I still couldn’t see him. I also heard my FIL now. I tried telling hubby about the migraine and asked if everything was OK otherwise, but I don’t really remember much of this. He says I kept falling back asleep and seemed anxious and talking fast. Seems odd to me when I felt like everything was so slow. He also told me later that others in this shared recovery room were sitting up and laughing with family members, not so sick, bruised, swollen, glazed eyed, and generally beaten up like me. But I’m guessing not everyone had just had 10 hours in OR, a 7 inch incision on the abdomen, a 14 inch incision on the back, 2 disc areas replaced with donor bone wedges, fusion across L4 to Ilium, new metal screws and instruments, a slight revision around T12 to decompress the nerve root, a foraminony, laminectomy, and a few other scary spinal words I don’t recall at this moment. I’m actually not entirely sure what all he did to me, I’ll find out in my follow-up next week.

Anyways I was sleeping peacefully until a new voice arrived, another woman, and she just kept saying “sorry”. ” so sorry honey, I have to do this, I know you’re finally resting. Sorry it’s going to be uncomfortable, but this Rick has to come out before we can move you. Just hold real still, OK, please? So sorry” (I later found out it was RIC,
Not Rick, Rapid Infusion Catheter for the nifty cell saver machine that returned my own red blood cells to me)

If I wasn’t so dopey I would have been freaked out. She started tugging on my arm and I felt something moving in my chest. She kept pressing and pulling, pressing and pulling. I looked over once and saw this long white tube dangling out of me and she was still pulling. Finally it was out and she started saying sorry again. “So sorry, but I have to keep your arm up and press here tight for about 20 minutes to make sure you don’t have any bleeds. I’ll try not to hurt but I do have to press hard.”

She held up my arm and it did hurt, but not much, and I kept falling asleep I was so over medicated. Eventually she was satisfied, wrapped my arm in gauze and then a rubber pressure cuff, which I didn’t know until the next day.

At some point they declared me stable enough to go upstairs to my room. I don’t remember the journey at all. I just know I was woken up later in a different, quieter room.