Archive for the ‘Memoirs’ Category

I was still taking a shower every morning with someone nearby in case I were to fall, etc. I always took my shower immediately after getting up and before I took any meds. They shower, drying hair and getting dressed would wear me out to the point that I would be shaking all over. I would get something to eat and take a pain pill. Usually after I ate, I would need to lie down for awhile, maybe nap a little. After that, up and walk, outside if weather was nice. If not, I would walk monotonously around my house for at least 15 mins w/o stopping.

My big accomplishment for Post Op Day 4 (Friday after surgery on Monday) was to go out in the car! My mom drove. I took a pillow to put behind my back. It took some engineering to figure out how I could manuver into the seat w/o bending or twisting. Finally we figured that one out. My back was still way too sore to touch the seat back, so I had the softest pillow ever and put that behind me trying to leave a gap at my lower back where the incision was. We only drove about 4 miles to Burger King and went through the drive thru. We ate in the car and came back home. I was totally exhausted by then. I got out of the car and walked a little to try to ease tense muscles, then went to take a nap! 🙂

It felt for that first week after surgery that all I did was get up, shower, eat, take meds, take nap, get up, walk, take nap, walk, eat, go to bed. I could not lay on my back still. It was way too sore and painful. so, I couldn’t easily watch TV or even read. The days and nights seemed one endless string of the same things. It was getting old by this point!

(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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After the Myelogram Hell week, the surgeon said that he is confident that lumbar laminectomy/discectomy surgery is all that is required. He sees no indication for fusion. So, that was the upside of Hell week. I am having some massive anxiety over the thought of surgery. However, I do believe that this is the right decision at this time for me. My life has deteriorated over the last year into something I do not recognize nor enjoy at all. I am just hanging on till I wake up Monday after the surgery is over!

I was highly irritated, OK, made as hell, last week at the surgeon’s office, but the surgeon himself is wonderful. He called me Monday and talked to me on the phone for over 1/2 hour. He answered every question I had and did not rush me in the least. Then I was given the neuro anesthesiologist’s email address. I emailed him some questions, and he called me Tues evening and talked to me for almost an hour! We have emailed back and forth about a dozen times in addition to that. Oh, and gave me his cell phone number!! I actually work in the healthcare business and know that this is NOT standard operating procedures for physicians! I am totally impressed with them and feel completely confident in their abilities. I just seem to have this terror about something I can’t quite put my finger on. It has to do with the time up till I’m put under rather than the actual surgery itself.

I’ve started my own prep work. I’m using David Lanz’s Christophori’s Dream CD and visualization. I can have my iPod in my pre and post op suite, so I hope I can get myself in a meditative state (or at a minimum a notch or two calmer) Monday morning before being given the anesthesiology.

I have my eye on the prize: dancing again! I’m thinking Samba lessons….

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Well, decompression didn’t produce any real changes in my pain and nerve problems. It might have if I had discovered it a year or more ago. Finally after a couple of weekends of just about constant misery I decided to consult a neurosurgeon about my back. He said surgery was a definite, but the upside was he was certain he could help me. After talking and discussing all my symptoms and reviewing my MRI from Jan, he said he wanted to send me for one last test before giving me his surgery recommendations, a Myelogram. He was going to be on vacation for a week, but I could have the myelogram on Monday, and he would be back the following Monday and give me results.

According to him and his staff, the myelogram is not all that different from a steroid epidural. Since I’d had 3 of those in last 2 months, I thought no big deal. Oh my God was I wrong. The procedure itself isn’t bad. They inject a dye in your spinal canal and do x-rays and a CT. None of that was too bad. I was told by the doc’s office that I should take it easy rest of day after procedure, but would be fine to go back to work next day. Imaging center said I had to be on full bed rest for 24 hrs, only getting up for bathroom and could sit up to eat for 30 mins, 3 times that day. Huh. Discrepancy. Who to believe?

I did my bed rest that day and got up next day for work. Had a headache which proceeded into full blown migraine. I was already at work teaching a class and almost passed out. I actually laid down on a table in the training room while my students and co-workers brought me my phone and packed up my stuff. Called imaging center and they said I had to get home immediately and be on strict bed rest for 24 more hours. Only up for bathroom. Called my husband to come get me, left car at work and went to bed. That was Tues. Got up after that 24 hours and seemed OK. This was Wed afternoon. Next morning (Thur), migraine back again. Guess what imaging center said? Surprise, surprise, back to bed for 24 hrs.  They also said they would call in a pain med. It took me 4 calls between imaging office and doc office and 8 hours before anything was called in. I was told twice that it would be called in within 30 mins. Nice, huh?

That night (Thur) called the answering service b/c migraine got worse. Talked to radiologist on call. He was only one in 4 days that had given me much information at all. Seems the hole that is caused by the needle that injects dye sometimes does not close on it’s own, causing migraines. Bed rest is first line of treatment, to see if it will heal on it’s own. After almost 4 days of total bed rest, it did not seem likely. A blood patch is the next thing they try. This involves starting an IV in one arm, using that IV to draw your own blood and then injecting your own blood into your epidural space. Usually this gives instant relief from the migraines. But it is another procedure.

Next morning (it’s Friday now, original myelogram was on Monday), the radiologist from night before calls to see how I am doing. He is concerned because if I want to try the blood patch, we need to get it scheduled since it’s close to impossible to do these on the weekend, and it would have to be in the ER, etc. I decided I had to have the blood patch because the migraine was not any better and I had missed an entire week of work as well as life in general. My husband also missed whole week of work and cancelled a trip that was planned for over 6 months.

I went through another round of “who’s on first” between the imaging office, the doctor’s office and a second imaging office where they same radiologists work and who had done all my epidural injections. Everyone kept telling me to call the other office. It was a freaking circus! The only one who was trying his best to help was the radiologist that was on call Thursday night, and he wasn’t even working on Friday! I finally got in for the procedure.

The IV part was horrible for me. Any type of taking blood, etc is usually that way. They got IV going (they give you fluids as part of this whole thing) Once that was started and the throbbing of that stopped, someone came in to see if she could get blood out. She couldn’t. Figures. The first person who started IV came back with the radiologist and was able to get blood going, no problem. I asked if I could have her back for actual procedure. Guess who I got? First one who couldn’t get blood! She said the other person had told her exactly how to do it. Real confidence builder!

By this point I was a wreck. They did not have any anxiety meds, no pain meds, nothing except injectable lidocaine which they put in your back before the other injections. They had me turn over on this tiny steel table I had been lying on for an hour and a half while still hooked to the IV. Then took the blood, then injected it in my back. Felt like my hips were going to explode. I cried through the whole thing.

After all that and the rest of the IV was done, my lower back and hips hurt enough like never before, but migraine was gone. That was yesterday. Today lower back is some sore, migraine is gone, only slight headache now and then.

The neurosurgeon returns on Monday. I don’t even know the results of the freaking myelogram! I wonder if it will be worth the thousands of dollars in lost work, and medical bills? And how do you even begin to estimate the cost of the loss of days of mine and my husband’s lives?

My trust in what the neurosurgeon may tell me about surgery, recovery, etc is now sorely diminished. Not to mention my confidence in his office. Everyone told me to call someone else. No one seemed to know what they were doing!

I am in a real quandary knowing what to do. I also have a lot of anger that I don’t know how to release. Screaming or beating pillows is not really an option at the moment. I cannot risk a headache right now! Hoping this angry post might help a little!

If anyone ever says they want to do a myelogram on you, run like hell!!!

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