Category Archives: spinal fusion
9 months ago tomorrow I underwent the biggest surgery and the hardest time of my life. If you need a little background…I’ve written twice before about my scoliosis and the decision to have spinal fusion surgery. You can find those here and here.
What I haven’t done, until now, is show you the pictures. So here they are: the good, the bad and the ugly. To tell you the truth though, I really don’t see ugly. I am so high on gratitude that I made it through and that I’m still healing. Most days I feel unstoppable.
I had the surgery April 14, 2015 and was off all medications (pain or otherwise) by 11 weeks 6 days post-op. Not that I was counting or anything. Not too shabby for someone who had 2 rods and 32 screws put in her back.
The pain of not blogging for 6 months is that there is way too much to catch up on in one post.
But, it’s more painful for me at this point to not blog. So I’ll catch up the lazy way.
My last post was in February 2015. I knew at that point that I would be facing major spinal fusion surgery in April and it really consumed my prayer and thought life. I also spent a lot of time preparing in a practical way, planning who would care for my children and making sure their schooling would continue through this huge disruption in our family. In March, Chris and I celebrated our 13th anniversary. Actually, we didn’t celebrate at all but rather went out to eat and to Target with our kids. I think. I just know at some point Chris looked at me and said “this doesn’t feel like much of an anniversary celebration does it?” To which I replied, “It’s our 13th year. It’s not supposed to be exciting.”
April 6th – I turned 39. I actually had a pretty good birthday considering it’s my last before 40 and I was one week away from being splayed open like a fish and having 2 titanium rods and 32 screws put in my back. Yum.
April 14th – I only remember that being in pre-op felt very long…I wanted the drugs already so I could just stop being anxious. Then I remember feeling the worst pain and suffering I’ve ever felt when I was in the ICU. I actually thought I was dying. I was so heavily drugged that I felt like I was drowning and a big, fat, mean male nurse would walk around me and I would yell as loud as I could but he just ignored me. That was a new kind of torture and loss of control I would not readily repeat. In reality, Chris has informed me there was a fat-man nurse but he wasn’t evil. Chris also said I could barely whisper because of the tube down the throat (technical term?) I had during surgery. I think that was for about 48 hours but you’d really have to ask someone who wasn’t so medicated that they couldn’t control their bodily functions. I am not exaggerating here that the first time they made me sit on the side of the bed and try to stand about 24-48 hours after surgery was worse than having 5 children vaginally. PUT TOGETHER. A few of whom I delivered with no epidural. And that was only the 10 minute window of trying to sit and stand with several people holding me up. It was UGLY. I’m so glad my best friends were there to see me look like that.
I was in the hospital for about a week and then released! Yippee! The ride home was painful. But I was so glad to see and kiss my kids. And again, still heavily medicated. I had moved from the IV stuff to the pills but they were working. Unfortunately, less than 24 hours later I developed a fever and Chris (or possibly my mom) took me back to the ER. They told me I had pneumonia so I got to have another week bonus stay. Lucky duck.
When I was just 3 weeks out of surgery they started sending all kinds of in-home medical folks by, some to listen to my heart and look at my incision. Some to show me how to move again. Some to address my overall well-being. They all said I was doing great. I wanted to punch the PT gal in the face a few times but I didn’t. I just took my meds around the time she came and I liked her a lot better.
I basically had to wean myself off all the equipment a little at a time. First to go was the walker. Yes, at 39 I was using a walker. It was really sexy. Next, the raised toilet seat with handles. Then, the shower seat! I was so proud. I was finished with most of that stuff about 6 weeks out.
The next big hurdle was making myself walk. Everything I had read prior to surgery and all the doctors recommended walking as the surest way to a great recovery. I did it consistently from May until mid-June (another 6 weeks) at least 2 miles a day, then we had 20 days in June that were over 90 degrees and I wimped out. So I’m only sporadically walking these days.
Two weeks ago, 3 months post-op, I decided I would start to wean myself off the 2 pain medications I had been on since surgery. The doses were lower than they had been right after surgery but I am extremely sensitive to medication (and alcohol actually). So I started cutting the little guys in half and started to experience some lovely withdrawal symptoms. Physically and mentally. I have been very privileged, blessed, lucky (whatever you want to call it) to have never, until this point in my life, been addicted to any drugs or alcohol and because of that have never gone through detox. Now that I have and possibly still am…I understand completely why someone would feel they could not stop. The meds not only helped with pain, they were uppers mentally, they gave me energy and they suppressed my appetite. All wins. Except the narcotic addiction part. That part is not a win for anyone. Not me, not my family. So, when I felt it was time I decided to kick it. The only way to do that was to be sure there were no more around. Otherwise, I would have given up about hour 72 and taken just “a little something” to help with the flu-like symptoms and the crazy, swirling thoughts.
I’m 8 days off the little darlings now. My mind is still a mess, but honestly, I’m not sure that’s the drugs. Spiritually, God has been WEARING me out. Topics like foster care, adoption, helping families, being the hands and feet, transparency, writing, homeschooling and on and on…but that’s another few posts.
I am thankful I was able to have the surgery. I do think it has helped my chronic pain from scoliosis that I lived with for years. However, I still have days where I think it was the biggest mistake of my life, when I can hardly shave my legs or paint my toenails, I mourn my flexibility. Days where my strength runs out by 2pm. Where I feel the hardware do some weird shift and the nerves shoot lightening pain through areas. But I have to remember it is early yet. Hopefully by 6 months out I’ll feel different.