Tag Archives: discectomy

Needles and Steroids and Spines, Oh My!

Well, today I will be having another injection. Just a standard epidural steroid injection, except this time they will approach the spine from the sides instead of going straight in, because of my hardware. This will be my first injection since before surgery (with the exception of a caudal a few months post op), and I’m really hoping this will help. I had what feels like a zillion of these before surgery, and they never really did much, other than make me miserable, but my neuro thinks its worth a “shot” (no pun intended) to try to find me a little bit of relief. Of course, he’s not the one face down on the table in an OR with needles going into his spine, so sure, why not, right?

But really, compared to spine surgery, this is a walk in the park, right? Hmmmm…perhaps that’s not the right phrase to use, since a walk in the park is actually pretty fucking miserable for me. Piece of cake? No, that won’t work either; since I can’t exercise because of my back, cake goes straight to my ass. Cake is my mortal enemy. A cinch. Like my pants all cinch my waist because I’ve gained about 10 pounds, due to cake and lack of walking. For fuck sake, does everything have to be hard?!? Damn.

Anyway…here’s hoping that today’s injection goes well and gives me a little relief.

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Is This Really Happening To Me?

Really? REALLY?!? Nine months post op, and I still feel worse than I did before surgery. Initially, my goal when I started this blog was to regularly update it as I healed. I wanted to share my victories, however small, and paint an accurate picture of spinal surgery and the recovery process. But my victories have been few and far between, and I don’t feel as if my experience has been “typical.” Yes, I know that everybody heals at their own pace. I feel that if a desire to be pain free was enough, I’d be doing cartwheels and running marathons right now. Instead, I can barely walk around my block.

Every decision I make has to take my back and pain into consideration. Just something simple, like going out with friends for a few drinks, or chaperoning my daughter’s field trip, or even going to a movie, can be a hassle. Not to mention everyday things like cooking dinner for my family or folding a load of laundry or just going to the bathroom – none of it is easy.

All of this has taken a huge toll on my soul. I rarely feel hopeful, and cry often. I cannot believe that THIS is what my life has become. I’m jealous of my friends for having quality lives, and easily annoyed with people who constantly bitch about stupid shit, like going to work or tackling the yard work. I fucking WISH I could go to work. I wish I still had a fucking job to go to. No, it wasn’t my dream job, but FUCK, I was good at what I did. And then I got hurt at work because of somebody’s negligence, and ultimately lost my job.

So now instead of bantering with my colleagues around the water cooler or solving complicated problems for clients, I spend my days laying in my recliner watching Gypsy Sisters marathons, in non stop pain. I can feel my ass getting fatter and my brain getting dumber. And honestly…I don’t really give two fucks. Most days I don’t even get dressed. I own more pajama pants than jeans now. My hair has taken on the shape of a permanent ponytail, even when I take the elastic out. Makeup? Yeah, I have oodles of it. I LOVE makeup. Well…I used to. Now I consider it a good day if I merely wash my face and moisturize. Sure, occasionally I have to leave the house, so I’ll shower, style my hair, make up my face and throw on a pretty dress. And then I feel like a total loser when I gimp around in public with my cane. I get evil looks from old people when I pull into a handicapped parking space. And I need frequent breaks to rest. What’s the fucking point?

I so wish I could share something more upbeat and optimistic. But this is some honest shit. I pretty much hate my pathetic life right now, and I hate anyone who has a better life than me (the world). Fuck it all.

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Surgery

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Finally, after months of waiting and living with crippling pain, it was time for surgery. I think I spent so long fighting for the approval, and then once it was approved I was so busy getting my house ready and making sure I had everything I needed for my post op care, I hadn’t really focused too much on exactly what I was about to do.

Let me preface this by saying that I had never in my life had surgery of any kind (wisdom teeth don’t count), and I sure picked a hell of a surgery to start with. A fusion at L5-S1 and a discectomy at the same level. The surgeon was about to go into my spine, scrape out a disc, then shave off parts of my vertebrae and pack the shavings into some bone that was taken from a dead body and slip that whole mess in my back, then yank a slipped vertebra back into alignment and finally bolt the whole thing in place with a bunch of metal rods and screws. In the car on the way to the hospital, I started freaking out a bit at the REALITY of all of it.

So. I arrived at the hospital around 5 am. Surgery was scheduled for 7:30. I had my girlfriend and my best friend with me. The girlfriend was for support, and the best friend was to keep the girlfriend from freaking out while I was in surgery. They took me back, had me change into a gown, some compression stockings and some ugly little slipper socks with grippy rubber soles. I also had to put my hair up under one of those hideous paper shower cap looking things. I had been told to arrive sans makeup or lotion, and I had to remove my contacts as well and wear my glasses, so by the time I was changed and prepped, I’m sure I was a sight for sore eyes. Or a sight that CAUSED sore eyes. Whatever.

The nurse started some IV lines. I think I had one in each hand? Maybe? All I know is, I had a lot of tubes coming out of me. Then over the next hour I was visited by three ghosts….no, that’s not right. Oh, yeah, I was visited by three medical professionals: the anesthesiologist, who explained how they would put me under; a nurse who asked me a shit ton of background questions; and finally my surgeon, Dr. Sexy himself. There was a brief discussion about who, exactly, would be seeing my naked ass in the operating room, while I was unconscious and vulnerable, and then I asked him to autograph my back. He grabbed a pen from a passing nurse and, with a grand flourish, marked the surgical site with his initials.

Everything got fuzzy after that. I don’t remember them administering the anesthesia or wheeling me into the OR. The next thing I have any memory of is waking up. I was quite disoriented and confused. I looked around and saw a bunch of monitors and machines, lots of beeping and blinking lights. I looked down at my hands, barely recognizable as hands because they were covered with tubes. Then I tried to move.

Mistake. Big mistake.

Pain exploded! I saw stars. I mean, seriously, I saw STARS. My back felt enormous and it was on fire. My legs felt heavy, like they weren’t even attached to my body. Everything hurt, even my hair follicles, I swear. My very first thought was “What the hell have I gotten myself into?” followed quickly by “What the FUCK did they do to me?!?”

I must have made a sound, because immediately there was a nurse in my face saying my name and asking how I felt. Seriously? Bitch, how do you THINK I felt? I felt like I imagine you would feel upon waking in a strange hotel room, laying in a bathtub full of ice, and missing a damn kidney. I felt like Satan himself had reached into my back and ripped half of my spine out. I felt like I had just run a marathon AND given birth to 12 pound twins AT THE SAME TIME.

The next few hours are kind of blurry. My girlfriend and friend came and went, I drifted in and out of sleep and some chick went buck wild and started throwing chairs across the stage on Jerry Springer. (Daytime tv sucks balls, by the way.) I had come out of surgery around 1:45 pm, but for some reason I wasn’t moved to my recovery room until about 10:30 pm. Once I was wheeled up to my new quarters, I had to transfer myself to the bed. It was the first time I had attempted any movement since first waking up. As if the pain from the surgery weren’t enough, I was connected to a urine catheter (bag o’ pee), a drainage tube in my back near the incision (blood grenade) and an IV. So not only did I have to force myself to push through the pain and actually move my entire body, I had to do it without tangling myself up in any tubes or wires that were coming out of my body in various locations.

It took me about 10 minutes to get into bed. Once I was there, the nurse adjusted the bed and tucked my pillows under my head in an attempt to make me comfortable. Ha. That was a joke. I probably would have felt as equally awful if they had nestled me into the softest cloud or simply rolled my broken ass onto the floor. My nurse brought me a cup of water and ice packs for my back. (Word of advice: if they don’t automatically bring you ice packs, ASK for them. They helped so much.) My girlfriend got my bedside table all set up with the magazines I had brought along, my phone and my tablet, along with the chargers. She wheeled the bedside table as close to me as she could possibly get it and made sure everything was in reach. I also had a huge bag of Jolly Ranchers that I kept near me at all times. My throat was so sore from the tube they had crammed down it, and the hard candies really helped to soothe it.

Once I was settled, the nurse set the alarm on my bed (seriously, if I moved out of the bed, an alarm would sound at the nurses station) and left. My friend hugged me and promised to come back in the morning to visit, then she went to wait in the hall. I was alone with my girlfriend for the first time that day. We were saying our goodbyes (no, she didn’t stay with me; she only had so much time she could take off work because the state does not recognize same sex partnerships so she does not qualify for FMLA to care for me, and I felt it was more important for her to take time off to take care of me once I was home). Now, I must have really looked like shit, because we’ve been together for 7 years, and in that time I’ve seen her cry maybe twice, both times it was about 11 tears tops, but she broke down and SOBBED like a damn baby. I mean, she pulled some full on Scarlett O’Hara shit and threw herself across the bed (ouch!) and bawled. It broke my heart. I could not believe she had held it together all damn day, then lost it when she was leaving. After a few minutes, she straightened up, wiped her eyes, kissed me goodbye, and put on her sunglasses before disappearing down that bright corridor. Such a beautiful, tragic mess.

The rest of that first night was pretty awful. I didn’t sleep at all. My nurse brought me ice packs constantly. I cried A LOT. My pain was, without question, a 10/10. Unfortunately there was nothing that the nurse could do about increasing my meds until the doctors came in around 7 am to do their rounds, so my nurse sat with me all night and held my hand while I sobbed. (I had a Dilaudid pump and I could push the button every 10 minutes, but it turns out they were under dosing me for the first 24 hours or so. This is another story for another post, but suffice it to say when I found out I was pissed and relieved at the same time. Pissed because I had been so miserable and my pain COULD have been alleviated, but relieved because it meant that my pain wasn’t abnormal and I wasn’t just being a big baby who needed to suck it up.)

So there you have it. Surgery. Without a doubt, more painful than 21 hours of hard labor with no epidural and a Pitocin drip (been there). But, at the same time, once it was over and I was in recovery, I knew that I would be able to move on to the next phase: healing.

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10 Weeks Post Op

So. I’ve slacked off with my posting, eh? I had every intention when I started this blog of posting regularly during my recovery. That hasn’t exactly worked out that way, has it? I will attempt to give an accurate account of how I felt at various times during the past 10 weeks by sorting through my Facebook updates, text messages to friends and notes from doctor appointments. I’ll just start here and work my way backwards.

Ten weeks. I can’t believe it’s been that long since I was sliced up. I still feel pretty damn terrible. I’m still using my cane to get around, but I try to make myself not use it around the house as much as possible. I’m still in pain daily, severe pain. In all honesty, it’s worse than it was before surgery. I’m on Fentanyl, Percocet, Lyrica, Cymbalta and a whole bunch of other crap daily. My incision has healed well, though it still itches and burns occasionally, and it’s still lumpy from scar tissue. Once the 28 staples were removed, I started massaging it with vitamin E oil daily, in an attempt to break up the scar tissue. The pain remains in my back, hips and legs, and my physical activity is still very limited. I am tired all the time and feel like I have no energy. I can’t sit longer than 30 minutes without feeling like my back is going to snap in half.

Emotionally, I am broken. I feel like this whole thing was pointless. I am on the verge of just giving up and giving in. I knew going into this that it would be a long recovery, but I am becoming impatient. It feels like I take one step forward and 5 steps back. There are days when I just don’t care anymore, days when I question my decision to undergo such a serious surgery. I also have good days when I can see and feel small improvements. I am definitely stronger than I was 10 weeks ago, yet there are so many things I am unable to do, things that I could do a year ago, even though it hurt. This whole thing has been an emotional roller coaster, so many ups and downs. I know I need to give my body time to heal, but some days it’s just so hard. I want my life back. I question why this happened to me, and cry about the unfairness of it all. I do know that it could always be worse. But right now, it feels like things will never be normal again, yet I refuse to accept this as my new life.

So there it is, and here I am. My next post will talk about the surgery itself, as well as the first few days following surgery. I will talk about the immediate impact surgery had on my day to day life, physical therapy, how I coped with having to ask for help and the toll this has all taken on my family and friends.

Here’s a photo of my incision as it looks today. You can see that they tried to line up my tattoo, but it didn’t exactly work out. I suppose, given the circumstances, they did the best they could. The “hole” above and to the right of the scar is from the drain that I had to have for about a week post op.

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