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Archive for April, 2009

Post Op Day 2 I woke up with a horrendous headache. Think terrible wine hangover headache. It was splitting my skull before I even moved in bed. I got up and took my shower, again with someone in room, just in case. Once dressed, my head was hurting so bad it was frightening me. I called the surgery center and spoke with a nurse. I explained the situation and the first thing she asked was if the headache got better when lying down. I told her, no, this was not a spinal migraine. I had just experienced one of those so severe after the myelogram that I ended up having to have a blood patch. This was not the same. This hurt before I even got out of bed. I told her I had not taken any pain meds till 4pm the day before. She actually said, “you are paying the price for waiting so long before taking the pain meds.” Then went on to say if it was not a spinal migraine, there was nothing they could do for me. She told me to go see my general practice physician for the headache. This is Post Op day 2! I told her there was no way I could get in a car and go anywhere! Finally she said to drink caffeine and if necessary I could take one dose of Advil or Tylenol after the pain meds if I still had a headache in an hour or so. I felt extremely frustrated and upset with the answer and the way I was treated. These were the people I had been told to call if I had any questions at all, etc, etc.

I did drink a caffeinated beverage and put a heated pad around my neck and shoulders. We wondered if the headache could be coming from that area due to the strain of the way I was having to move and lay. The heat and caffeine did help relieve the headache. The pain meds didn’t seem to help it at all.

A different nurse called in an hour or so since we had missed their follow-up call the day before. I went over the same things with her. She was much nicer. She didn’t have a lot of additional info, but did not chastise me for waiting to take the pain meds. I could tell she thought I really should have taken them on the day of surgery or at the very least the morning after, but she didn’t say anything smartass about it.

I got the feeling that none of the nurses would have given the same council as I got from the anesthesiologist on pain meds. I think the nurses would definitely have recommended I try the pain meds much sooner. I also wish I had tried them no later then first thing the morning after surgery. That is definitely something I would have done differently. Even better would have been to get an Rx for one single Percocet the week before surgery and tried it to see if it made me sick or nauseated. I was in enough nerve pain that something for pain would have warranted anyway. That way I would have know I could take them and would not have waited until the pain had settled in so deep before attempting one.

As I had been doing every day including the day of surgery, I would go out and walk several times a day. I walked slowly and only on flat ground. I would walk as far as I felt I could and then back. Most of the time I would have to lay down and rest when I got back. This first week my mom was staying with me, so she walked with me which made the whole experience more pleasant. At first, I would only walk about 4-5 houses down and back. Every day I could add a couple of houses to the trip.

Clothing however, started to be a problem about Post Op Day 2. My incision is in my low back, running vertically. Every thing I put on had a waistband that went right across that area. Suddenly waist bands, even on workout pants with a wide flat band seemed to be hugely thick and felt like a cord grinding into my spine. I quickly realized that I should have gone out before surgery and bought several pair of drawstring waist pants in at least a size too large. Flat waistbands are a must, no super gathered elastic with wads of tags in the back!

(Disclaimer: These are my observations about my surgery and recovery only. I am not a medical professional. I do not in any way intend for these observations to be used as medical advice or guidance. Please discuss with your physicians any questions, concerns, etc you may have.)

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I did get up and take a quick shower. I had someone else in the room with me, just in case I got dizzy or needed help. I was OK, but worn out just from a very quick shower. The bandage that covered the Steri Strips is waterproof, so showering is OK. I was just not supposed to let the water beat for a long time on the bandage.

Still frightened of the pain meds, I only took Tylenol and the muscle relaxers. I had been taking the muscle relaxers prior to surgery, so knew they would not make me sick. I had been told the day of surgery how I would need to get out of and into bed. I did this exactly one time while still at the surgery center (and completely drugged up). I am not allowed to bend or twist at the waist for 4 weeks. So, to get into bed I must sit on side of bed and then lay over like a board. To get up, I have to use my arms and push myself up into the same sitting position. This doesn’t sound so hard until you have to do it.

I had been using a lot of the muscles down my sides instead of as much arms that first day. I had also been lifting my head a lot trying to get the pillow comfortable, which also strains all those side muscles. I was getting very sore from this and the pain was getting progressively worse. Finally at 4pm Tuesday (day after surgery) I took the first Percocet. I had the Phenergan ready, just in case, but there was no way I could continue on Tylenol alone. Halleluiah, I can take Percocet without getting nauseated!! We were very careful to make sure I ate before taking it. By this point I was in a lot of pain the pain from both the surgery and the odd way I had to sit, stand, lay and move in general. I was actually frightened by how much I hurt. As tears slid down my face I told my mom that if I had known it would hurt so much, I didn’t think I would have done it. Repeat this same scene at 8pm Tuesday.

We were surprised that the surgery center did not call Tuesday. Turns out they had, and somehow we had missed the call and the voice mail. If we had talked to a nurse that day, we would probably have tried pain pills earlier in day.

(Disclaimer: These are my observations about my surgery and recovery only. I am not a medical professional. I do not in any way intend for these observations to be used as medical advice or guidance. Please discuss with your physicians any questions, concerns, etc you may have.)

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Everything was exactly as it had been explained to me. As I mentioned before, I had my surgery at a spine surgery center, not the regular hospital. I think this had huge advantages! I went to my “suite” (large room w/sitting area and TV, bed and bathroom). The nurse came with me. I had been prepared that they would be doing a urine pregnancy test that morning. I am glad I knew about this because since there is no food or liquids after midnight the night before, I waited till I got there to go to the bathroom! I got into the gown, the anesthesiologist came in, got IV going (pretty much pain free thanks to EMLA cream!), and my family was allowed to come into the room with me. I was getting more nervous by the second and kept asking for more meds. They finally hit me with a big dose because I was freaking and crying. I was not exaggerating when I said I would be on the verge of a massive panic attack! That dose did the trick. I do not remember being wheeled out of room into surgery. Thank God! I did not want to be aware of the elevator ride with all those strangers, nor did I want to see the surgery room!

The next thing I remember is a lot of commotion and a nurse with a Slovak accent talking to me and feeding me ice. I did my best to become conscious and eat the ice. I knew I had to be aware, empty my bladder and walk before I could go home. I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible! My family came back in, the surgeon and anesthesiologist both came in and talked to us, I passed my requirements for release, and we were out of there! I was back home by 11am.

That day I was so pumped full of anesthesia and other drugs that mostly I slept. I would wake up, get up, walk around the house a couple of minutes, eat a bite or two, then go back to sleep. This is exactly what I was supposed to do the day of surgery.

I was very nervous about the pain meds. I knew I could not take Loratab or Darvocet. They gave me Percocet. I was scared to death it would make me throw up, and I felt if I threw up, I would die. The anesthesiologist had counseled us that if my pain was tolerable (3 or so on a 1-10 scale) that I could just take Tylenol. So the day of surgery and most of the day after, this is what I did.

They had also given me Phenergan suppositories in case the Percocet made me nauseated. If I used one of those at the first sign of nausea, it should stop me from throwing up. To me, this seemed like a poor option. I don’t like the thought of taking one med to counteract the side effects of another. Secondly, they usually give patients a steroid dose pack in addition to pain meds, but I knew from past experience that I cannot tolerate the oral steroids. For those who can take them, the steroids probably help immensely.

(Disclaimer: These are my observations about my surgery and recovery only. I am not a medical professional. I do not in any way intend for these observations to be used as medical advice or guidance. Please discuss with your physicians any questions, concerns, etc you may have.)

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I was incredibly impressed with both my surgeon and the anesthesiologist. The surgeon called me with the results of the myelogram. He said he did not feel there was any need for fusion, just laminectomy/discectomy. He spent at least 30 minutes on the phone with me answering all the questions I had about the surgery and recovery, which I had been writing down since the first day I met with him, pre-myelogram. He explained exactly what the surgery was and covered all my questions to my satisfaction. I talked to him about exactly how freaked out and nervous I was about surgery in general. I asked how we could manage my anxiety the day of surgery. He offered that I be his first surgery of whatever day we scheduled. I jumped on that! He told me I would hear from the anesthesiologist and meet some of the nursing staff at pre-op. He also said if I thought of other questions, to call. I called his office the next morning and scheduled surgery for the following Monday (first surgery of the day

I was given the anesthesiologist’s email address and was told he was expecting me to contact him. I emailed him with my fears and questions regarding the IV, anxiety meds to get me through from that time the IV was in till I was taken to surgery and pain meds. The anesthesiologist called me that afternoon. We spent no less than 45 mins on the phone. I am a very hard “stick.” It’s hard to get blood from me, it makes a black bruised mess and IVs are worse. I knew there was a topical cream that could be put on the skin to numb it before the IV was even started. I requested this. I also told him he would have to have anxiety meds ready to start the minute the IV was in because I would be on the verge of a screaming, flaming panic attack. He gave me his cell phone number and encouraged me to email or call him with any questions or concerns I might think of. I did! I emailed him no less than 8 times, and he responded every time. He also called me the Friday evening before my Monday surgery and went over everything with me again. He was very specific on exactly what would happen from the minute I arrived at he surgery center till I got back to my room after surgery. He had also called in the EMLA cream for me to apply to back of my hands prior to arriving so they would be numb when he started IV.

What physicians spend this much time talking to a patient outside of office visits? Very high marks on that

(Disclaimer: These are my observations about my surgery and recovery only. I am not a medical professional. I do not in any way intend for these observations to be used as medical advice or guidance. Please discuss with your physicians any questions, concerns, etc you may have.)

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Well, I finally had to have surgery. Lumbar Laminectomy/Discectomy. The short description is a small vertical incision was made in my lower back (L5-S1 area), a small piece of bone (lamina) was removed, nerve and muscles moved out of the way and the herniated portion of the L5/S1 disc was removed. Internal stitches were used, 3 Steri strips on outside. Incision is only about 2-2.5 inches. This was outpatient surgery, but still is considered major surgery.

I fought the idea of surgery for over a year and a half. I tried every other option I could find, and I do mean everything! I went to both an orthopaedic surgeon and neurosurgeon for opinions. I finally decided to go with the neurosurgeon for the surgery. I felt better with this physician and they have the top rated facility for spine surgery in the state of TN.

I had the surgery on Monday, 3/30/09 at 7am. I was home by 11am. That day I was so pumped full of drugs and anesthesia that I felt very little pain and slept most of the day. I would get up and walk around the house a little, then go back to bed. I was able to eat very small portions of food as well.

According to the surgeon, everything went very well. Today is 13 days post-op. I don’t have my follow up with surgeon till a week from today, which will be 3 wks and 1 day post surgery.

I have been trying to make notes on how I have felt and my general observations about the whole process. I will post those in a series of smaller upcoming posts.

(Disclaimer: These are my observations about my surgery and recovery only. I am not a medical professional. I do not in any way intend for these observations to be used as medical advice or guidance. Please discuss with your physicians any questions, concerns, etc you may have.)

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