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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rough night

After thinking I had made it pretty well through the day, either I ate something that didnt agree with me or too many meds on an empty stomach. Started feeling nauseous around 9 and then vomited about 10 times. If I thought my throat was sore before, that definitely didnt help. All of the meds have nausea as a side effect so I called the Nurse and she gave me a different pain reliever and some anti-nausea meds.

Only up to eating applesauce and cheerios today which surely isn't helping my feeling tired and weak. Pretty lightheaded whenever I stand up, even if slowly. First night sleep in the recliner not awesome but I did sleep a bit. Having alternating chills and sweats but no fever.

Took a little walk around the hood first thing today but havent felt up to it since. All I did today was watch tv and mostly with the sound muted because of the raging headache that's started. I moved to the couch for a change of scenery and I am officially all caught up with the Kardashians.

Incision is itching under the neck brace but not too bad. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to the shower tomorrow! Also hoping the throat swelling goes down because that is the worst thing so far.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Day 1 post-surgery: baby food!

After a lovely hospital breakfast of apple juice and apple sauce, I got home around 10:00 a.m. Went straight to pharmacy to get Percocet, muscle relaxers and laxatives. Still itching like mad, but I'm getting around better by myself. Spent all day parked in the recliner, drinking water continuously to stave off constipation.

Also, no matter what I do, I'm swallowing air when I eat or drink so there's lots of burping. Throat REALLY sore today. Feels swollen and a bit raw, which makes swallowing hurt, kind of like strep feels. When I started coughing, got a little nervous I was infected from the ETT. Called the nurse and she said it was too early to have an infection. So more liquids, etc. Getting the pills down is ok but a bit of a struggle. Cough drop helped a little.

Only foods I can get down are applesauce, some cut up peaches in juice. My husband made me some vegetable soup with chicken broth and pureed it until it was totally smooth. Tried yoghurt but it seems to upset my stomach. Popsicles seem to do the trick very nicely but I have a towel stuck in the front of my brace because I keep dropping food on myself.

Left arm pain still noticeably absent and numbness in thumb seems almost gone. Surgeon said he found and removed bone spurs which he thought were contributing to my pain. Unfortunately, meds make me so wonky, I cant read or concentrate on anything but mindless TV.

Even though I'm getting around, I tire pretty easily so really need someone to help with getting water, remembering pills, getting blankets, pillows, etc. Took a 2 hour nap but I am shooting for a normal bedtime and sleep interrupted only by midnight Percocet.

Discharged after 1 night!

Early morning day two, and I'm getting ready to go home already! All the various tubes etc. attached have been removed. I didn't get too much sleep but was able to nod off for about 4-5 hours. The drainage tube in the incision was uncomfortable when the nurse removed it because it was sewn into the incision. Lots of cutting and tugging, owie!

Good thing I've been practicing sleeping on my back (well I had to because of the neck and arm pain). Slept almost upright in the hospital bed which was the only way to get comfortable. I will not miss the constant monitoring of vitals, for sure.

The anesthesiologist and OR nurse came by to see how I was doing but I haven't seen the surgeon. He did talk to my husband yesterday but I had more questions for him. I guess those will wait until the first follow-up in two weeks.

After all my worry, I am pretty confident I can do this. Thank you modern medicine!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

So far so good! All the gory deets.

WARNING: Contains some medical details you may find skeevy. Read on if peeing doesn't offend you. I went under at 7:00 a.m. and woke up at 11 in a sunny room with a nice view of the City. The last thing I remember is the anesthesiologist loading up the IV. Status check: All four limbs present and accounted for and mobile. Left arm pain? Gone! Tingling? Also gone. Numbness in thumb and finger, improved but still noticeable. New symptoms: Neck and trapezius aching and moderately sore throat. Tried out the pipes and voice is weak but largely unchanged, just a little hoarse. Ginormous neck brace in place and tube present draining from the incision. Incision doesn't hurt at all but I'm still coming off the anesthesia. Two percocets later and I feel just fine. Too fine, apparently to use a bedpan in a crowded room. Apparently I'm shy that way. After transferring me back to the private room, the nurse gave me a sacral patch to ward off bed sores (?!). She peeled off the leads on my chest and back but I've still got the pulse Ox monitor on one finger and a second IV on my left hand. I've got electronic leg compressors which alternately squeeze my legs to promote circulation. Drank two ginger ales with ice which helped sore throat. Got a little hungry and had good success with some yoghurt. Crackers not so much because throat pretty dry and they stick going down. I'm juicing up on an IV for hydration which is making me need to pee quie a lot. I am pretty unsteady on my feet but got up with the nurses' help and shuffled to the bathroom. Little difficult to empty bladder, seemed to require some concentration. Not sure why since they said I didnt have a catheter. My oxygen saturations are occasionally dropping below 92% so nasal cannula replaced, yuk. Then she gave me a tube to suck into to work out my lung capacity. Kind of hurts my neck actually. I guess that's from being ventilated/intubated. Worst symptom so far is itchy, itchy face, nose, trunk. After a couple of hours, I needed a hit off the Morphine pump. Wow was that fast! Unfortunately, more itching ensued. Thank goodness my husband stayed all day because I can't really move around much at all. The neck brace started getting really uncomfortable and felt like it was allowing me way too much movement. We called the Resident who took it off and bent the tabs on the bottom up so it fits more snugly now. Much better. Only downside is it will not be much fun for sleep....but giving it the old drug-induced college try. Considering I only got about 4 hours last night, that should be no problem. Overall assessment: Pain, tubes, other interventions so much more manageable than feared. Day 2 post-surgery may change all that but we'll see. Positive Attitude: 7 of 10!

Monday, May 28, 2012

See you on the other side

Packing a bag for the hospital reminds me of picking out the outfit for my first son to wear home from the hospital: Something comfortable with buttons that can be slept in, washable a plus. Somehow this is way less fun. Now all I have to do is cram in all the things I won't be able to do for at least 6 weeks.  Options include: Finish painting the 3d floor ceiling (task which clued me in to the severity of current neck problem), drive myself around all over town or hone my hip hop dance moves. 

Instead, I'm giving my husband the list of people to call/email after, relocating all the power cords for my fave gadgetry and testing out the sweet granny grabber my neighbor got me.  Next up, buying all the drinkable groceries I can think of.  I've also decided to allocate some post-surgery thinking time to solving the dilemna that is laundry.  No matter what the life event, it seems like far too much time has to be spent dealing with smelly clothes. Not many options really, considering public nudity laws but its too soon to rule out some edible/instantly biodegradable possibilities. 

Next post:  Drug-induced, wonky and even more stream of consciousness.  You have been warned. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Jumping off a cliff

Just got back from final work trip. Glad it went well but now the gaping maw of the recovery period is staring me down and I'm definitely blinking first.

The hospital just called to confirm I'm the first surgery on Tuesday and I need to be there at 5:30 a.m. What a relief to know I can savor those clear liquids until 3:30!
The good thing about this time slot is if the anesthesiologist messes up, I'll still be unconscious.

Even though I've been preparing mentally for a month, the fact that there are no entries on my calendar for 6 weeks is officially weirding me out. It feels a bit like I'm hurling myself off a cliff, no bungee, no 'chute. I've delegated all my work tasks and spent 3 days training so others can continue the project I've been on for the last few years. I'd be lying if I didnt say I'm worried everybody will discover I'm dispensable after all. I think my brain is going soft already.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pre-op labs

So there went 5 hours I'll never get back. Two blood pressures, a temp and a bunch of consent forms. Granted there was A LOT of waiting around, thanks to the lady with an earlier appointment who got lost for an hour on her way from the parking lot. Singlehandedly raised the BP of everyone else waiting for her. I'm actually surprised I didn't get lost myself in the labryinth of habitrail hospital buildings. Being a non-smoker with no chronic conditions did not get me a free pass unfortunately but I did tell everyone who wanted to know. The first intake nurse had actually had this surgery as well. She showed me her scar which wasn't bad at all. She confirmed that my surgeon did recommend the neck brace for 6 weeks (ayeee!) and that my throat would be pretty sore for about a week. No driving until the neck brace is off which I'd kinda forgotten about...fortunately my husband and I work in the same building so that will give me some hope to get back to work part-time, sooner. My last day in the office is tomorrow because I'm squeezing in one last trip through the end of the week. What was I thinking?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Countdown getting serious

Little over 1 week to go and I'm ratcheting up the preparation level.  Since its the end of school, I'm sending my kids to stay with my parents for the week to spare them the joy of watching me sleep on the couch and drool on myself.  Current status = somewhere past 50%: 

Disability forms submitted?  Check. 
Work projects completed?  Sort of check. 
Kids end of school party nonsense/projects completed/prescriptions filled for trip?  Check.  

In addition to bangin', motorized recliner I've got coming, I've ordered the arc4life pillow (thank you Queen of Neck Pillows) and am eyeballing foam wedge pillows in the hopes of sleeping in my bed.  We bought a Tempurpedic memory foam mattress last year and I already miss it :( 

Searching for a ray of hope about recovery time landed me here:

Experience Read stories from people who say...

I've been forced to tell people at work who are trying to schedule meetings for me that I'm not sure how long I'll be out after the surgery.  When they gasp and start sympathetically clucking at me its surely not helping, much.  Major shout out to my "work sister":  She has been so helpful - reassuring me that she'll cover my projects while I'm out.  This past month we've been working on a 3-day training seminar that I'm traveling for next week and the preparation has helped pass the time, no doubt.  No one can say I didn't try to impart all I know before going! 

Now all I need to do is not jack my neck up even worse grabbing my luggage off the carousel again.  Maybe I should bring a collar so I can convince people to help me retrieve it?  My husband tells me I don't look like I'm in enough agony to be needing surgery, whatever that means.  Must practice damsell-in-distress / pain-face more, I guess.  Here's hoping I am this tough afterwards. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Now I remember how I got here

After a few good days I'm back to the constant arm pain, tingling and numbness that I started with. Without it I was questioning why I needed surgery but as soon as it returns, I remember. I've still been doing pretty much nothing so I can't relate the increased symptoms to activity. Still looking for support from others who have similar syndromes but so far no luck.

Artificial Disc Replacement is intriguing but I can't seem to find surgeons doing it locally or even in-state.  The below study also suggests my degree of kyphosis doesn't make me a candidate.

Complications of Bryan cervical disc replacement

Very detailed overview of the relative risks and benefits of traditional fusion vs. disc replacement. While researching treatment options I found some interesting information about injecting growth factors into discs. Check out this recent interview:


Unfortunately, the treatment doesn't sound like its an option for me as its primarily for lumbar patients.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Movies, TV series and finally getting to the TBR pile

Now I'm 2 weeks out and the long recovery period is starting to look longer and bleaker...Note to self, no more message boards because no one there seems to have a good story to tell about recovery or the dreaded neck brace. So I am stockpiling books, audiobooks, movies and TV. So far for video I have The Walking Dead, Dr. Who and Breaking Bad. Amazon has contributed Johannes Cabal, The Necromancer and Sir Pratchett's June release will arrive just in time.

Beyond that, I am searching for other projects to fill the days. Suggestions welcome! I'm pretty sure I'll be too medicated to get to fun things like finally going through the 12 million loose photos in boxes organized. ;)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Don't run out of pain meds

So I've been feeling so well I got a little relaxed about my pain medication.  But I remembered to call and ask for a refill from the surgeon who's going to perform the surgery.  His office said sure, just have the pharmacy fax the request and we'll fill it for you.  After reassuring me that I could continue to take Ultram up until the date of the surgery, I promptly forgot to pick up the prescription.  That is until last night when I realized I'd taken the last one. 

Now I'm scrambling around at 2 a.m. looking for something stronger than Midol.  Long sleepless night short, I won't be making that mistake again.  My new normal should not involve zero sleep. But, being the type A personality that I am, I made good use of my time finding things like this: 

A homemade desk you install on top of your treadmill so you can walk while working at your computer! This is way better than the stupid balance ball I've been sitting on at work. That thing only works my core (what core) - if I can actually walk for 10 hours a day I'll never have to diet again.

Alas, I'm guessing corporate real estate wouldn't be too keen on my installing this in the office.  Next best thing, adapt current desk for standing:

Peyton Manning and Jason Derulo

Oh, that's the same surgery Peyton Manning had and he's already throwing footballs and dodging sacks?  I'm sure I'll bounce back in exactly the same way.  Now that I've sort of stopped feeling sorry for myself and watched enough skeevy You Tube videos of the surgery, all I can focus on is planning for how I'll get through the recovery period.  I'm in full-on worst-case-scenario preparation mode.  Aside from straightening out the details for being out of work for N weeks, all I can think of is "what am I going to do with myself???" 

So here's where I start stockpiling back episodes of TV shows I missed:  Breaking Bad, Dr. Who and The Walking Dead.  Let's see, that should last me about a week.  Next up:  5 non e-reader books from the TBR pile.  Thank you!  So, I think I've covered maybe 8 days...Since my surgery is going to pretty much devour the best part of the summer, I'm stuck with nothing but reality TV.  I'm almost as scared by the prospect of 6 weeks of Big Brother as I am about the possibility of not being able to speak or swallow after the surgery.

Plan hatched at 2:00 a.m.:  As soon as I'm able to walk, I'll get up every day and walk the 1.3 miles to the movie theater and see a matinee!  By then, it will be deep in the heart of blockbuster summer movies so surely I can find something worth $8 bucks, right?  Fast forward to the "next" morning, when I realize that girl in a neck brace won't be able to turn her head to see all the cars of the 8 lanes of traffic I'd have to cross to get to the theater. 

I guess I'll have to content myself with bedazzling my neck brace a la Jason Derulo:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

More reasons why I am an idiot

After getting through an unrelated medical issue last summer, I renewed my fitness regimen with perhaps a bit too much vigor.  Push ups while suspending from swinging straps? Sure thing, I'll give you 25!  Road cycling in the rain on rural, shoulderless roads?  Why not.  Four weeks in, I thought, ow, my arm is killing me, I really am out of shape.  More acrobatics please! 

Then Dr. Doesn'tHaveAMedicalDegree decided she had "pulled a ligament" which was why I couldn't lift my dominant arm.  Der.  Let's sit on that for 3 months and see if it gets better.  Meanwhile, let me continue with my numerous activities entailing exactly the same head and arm positioning:  Desk work, reading, piano, cycling and my tablet addiction.

It wasn't until I was unable to sleep the night without agonizing pain in my shoulder and bicep that I figured some actual doctoring was needed.  Coupla X-rays later, I think I've got the best neck in the whole world and some Alleve would do the trick.  Yeah, that didn't work at all. 

After a week of steroids, I felt like I was 75% better but was probably only 50%.  I didn't realize until that initial PT evaluation how limited my neck range of motion was.  6 weeks later, I'm still getting what seems like random bouts of tingling and pain in my left arm.  I've started using ice finally and finding some relief there.  Tried the muscle relaxers once and drunk-worked myself through that whole day.  Finally settled on a medication regiment that involved low dose pain relievers at night and during the day as needed.

No Offense But...Second Opinion Please?

My first MRI was on a day when I was feeling pretty good.  I was happy to hear they had a seated one so I didn't have to lie in the coffin tube.  That lasted until it actually started and I got a nice increase in symptoms that lasted during the clicking.  I know, I know, hysterical reaction.  If someone else had told me that happened, I would have made soothing noises, maybe even a shoulder pat while thinking, "loony!"

So...I met with the doctor for the second time to review the results.  He did a great job of showing me the films so I could see what was going on.  Again, I'm not physician but I could see right away I was hosed.  That wicked-looking forward kink in my neck?  Probably not a good sign.  So on we go to surgical options.  Being the good researcher that I am, I have my head filled with all sorts of hopeful, minimally-invasive notions.  Not so. 

However, we do have options apparently.  While there is clearly a herniated disc at C5-6 which was indenting the spinal cord, it is less clear at the level above.  So he tells me that it is "up to me" whether to have a 1 or 2-level fusion.  Umm, what?  Yes, based on the hundreds of these that I have performed, I would definitely have an opinion on which way to go.  After getting passed off to the nurse for scheduling, I pretend I'm going to go through with this immediately and pick a date for about 5 weeks out.  Meanwhile, off to the social media to beg former classmate doctors for a neurosurgical recommendation. 

And then I got a crush on my physical therapist

Next up - neck surgeon. I was expecting it but still delighted to hear the S-word mentioned on visit #1. Even though I think of myself as reasonably (ok more than that) intelligent, it wasn't until he asked me that I even realized my hand and thumb were numb. Worst history-providing patient ever! I waffled, equivocated and I-guess-so'd my way through the history. Honestly, it seemed pretty pro forma. I'm sure it is statistically borne out BUT I still felt like I was just getting queued up for the surgery train.

After a bout of "how will I ever find the time to go to therapy", I dove right in to PT. Developed a wee crush on my therapist, but I think mostly that was the Medrol-Dosepak speaking. After a week of steroids, I felt like I was 75% better but was probably only 50%. I didn't realize until that initial PT evaluation how limited my neck range of motion was.

Soon, the kids were joining me in the dorky nerve glide exercises she gave me. I like to think they were cheering me on but in reality I think they were ribbing me a bit. Snarky brats! At this point I'm walking around with ice on my neck every hour and thinking how much better I'm doing. (Product plug: Found a great reusable gel ice pack which fits perfectly around my neck

In reality, I think I was just adapting to "my new normal". This included me not bending to put clothes in the dryer (so sad for me, I know), no housework, cooking (okay I didn't cook before) but no exercise of any kind. I'm home on the couch under a blanket trying to counteract arctic neck syndrome.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Saga of the pillows

Goldilocks would have been proud.  It all started with my quest for the highest mountain my neck could climb.  I might as well have been sleeping rough in a cave that thing was so dense.  My first clue should have been the fact that Pillow Everest and I broke up and reconciled so often.  While we were on a break...I couldn't bear to be with another so went without.  (Punintentional). 

Then, I remembered something about anatomy and went ergonomic and memory foam.  Ahhh, sweet neck pillow, what times we had.  You didn't even get mad when your 12" eensy cousin and I even went on vacation together. 

What 1 item helped you the most after surgery?

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I'm 43-years old, married mother of two boys. I work full-time but the daunting prospect of 6-ish weeks of recovery has led me here. How much TV can one person watch?

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Medical Details If You Must

Two-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion scheduled for May 29th. Herniated discs at C4-5 and C5-6 indenting the cord with significant kyphosis.

I am not a medical professional. The information contained in this blog is not intended to be nor is it medical advice. Nothing contained herein should be considered a substitute for consultation with a qualified health professional.