Category Archives: Stronger, Better

Microdiscectomy – Two Weeks Overview

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I hit the two week mark this week.  It is truly incredible how much things have changed in just the past week.  At this point following my shoulder surgery, I could not even walk until the end of the block without turning gray and needing to sit down.  Even though back surgery is scarier than shoulder surgery (again, it’s your spine…gaaaaack), I think the recovery portion has been less painful.  Although the stakes are higher — nerve damage, paralysis, permanently living with a poo bag — there is less cutting and moving of actual muscles and tendons and thus the recovery seems easier.

Here’s my journal from the first day and the first week following my microdiscectomy at L4/L5.  And here I am after two weeks:

Day Eight (July 9)
Celebrated one week today!  My mom came over to visit and I felt pretty good.  Tired and weak, but basically good.

Day Nine (July 10)
My back is still sore where the incision is, but I’ve been able to start doing some things gradually myself, like washing my hair in the shower, using the bathroom, and getting my upper half dressed.  The bottom half is still dependent on PCA.  I try not to think too much about my foot and my toes, except for doing exercises with the resistance bands every day and trying to push my big toe up and down against PCA’s hand.  I’m so glad he’s here to help with everything and mostly to keep me positive because the numbness is scary.  Doing this surgery at such an “in flux” time of our lives (no jobs, in the process of moving across the country, no home and no stability) has been a real challenge for both of us.  We don’t talk much about Atlanta because it still seems pretty far away and we’ll have to wait for doctor’s clearance before I travel.

Update: went in to see the doctor for a follow-up appointment.  My surgeon was out of town so I saw someone else in his practice.  It’s a bit vague on who this guy actually was — orthopedic specialist? — he wasn’t a surgeon and he didn’t seem super knowledgable about the surgery itself.  When I told him I had no feeling in my foot, he said, “fantastic!” in kind of an absent-minded, autopilot kind of way.  It was weird.  He did say that the numbness can be normal and that the feeling SHOULD come back.  I want to believe him but it’s hard.  Especially because he said, “sweeeeeet” when PCA told him he was a helicopter pilot.  I just don’t really want my doctor to say, “sweeeeeeet” when I’m already freaked out.  PCA was amazing because he very clearly expressed how disappointed we both were in the complete and total lack of pre-surgery or discharge instructions, and the fact that the surgeon just disappeared after the surgery when I had many, many questions.  And the fact that the nurse gave us conflicting instructions.  Like don’t ice.  Who is ever told “don’t ice” after SURGERY?  So the doctor listened and said he would relay.  I wish I could learn to speak like PCA does. He never gets emotional or angry (or cries those awful “I feel sorry for myself” tears that I do during confrontations like this).  He just makes his point effectively, and moves on.  He even manages to make small talk afterwards, thereby diminishing all the awkwardness in the room.

The other good news is that the stoner doc said I can fly in about two weeks.  So we can make our plans for Atlanta!

Day Ten (July 11)
The kids came over today.  They are all hopped up on summer, and giddy about an upcoming trip to Magic Mountain this weekend.  We looked at all the rides on YouTube and they are SO excited.  I wish I could go too!!!!  It’s supposed to be 99 degrees at the park though, so I guess I’ll just lie here appreciating the cool breeze in this room.

Day Eleven (July 12)
Amazing news today!!!!!  All of the sudden, I could feel the carpet beneath my toes.  Prior to this I had no feeling at all and could not tell where the floor was or what I was standing on.  It felt like I had a wooden block on the end of my foot.  Today, I could feel that I was standing on carpet.  Then I went outside and could feel grit on the warm pavement.  It’s fantastic and gives me such hope that it will just keep coming back!

Day Twelve (July 15)
Sleeping much better.  I still take either half an Ambien or half a pain pill.  I nap whenever I feel like it — a luxury that I am sure I will look back upon fondly when I’m back to working full-time.  Hopefully my future employer will understand that every day around 4pm I need to take off all my clothes, climb under a blanket and zzzzzzzzzzzz…

Day Thirteen (July 14)
Viva la France!  Ou est le bibliotheque?  Ah, Gerard Depardieu.  Foux du fafa!  Bastille Day!   I still feel like my foot is wrapped in cotton but it’s getting stronger.  I have no pain in my back at all.  Amazing!  I’m noticing how much easier it is to stand up straight.  I was so crooked — like a sideways “S” — before the surgery.  I could not roll over in bed without indescribable pain.  Stretching, sitting, driving, walking and all daily activities were out of the question for over a month.  So for me, the way I feel now is incredible.  I baked an Orange Creamsicle Cake.  I wanted to make something using just the ingredients in the house.  It took all day (there were a lot of breaks) but it was delish!

Day Fourteen (July 15)
The successes just keep on coming.  Of course, my description of success is all relative…but still.  I feel like the Tiger Woods of back surgery.  Just breaking records left and right in my own little world.  So today I walked up and down a flight of stairs.  This is a huge deal because it has actually been very difficult to navigate stairs, especially walking down.  Either I have to plant my numb foot on the stair below, which feels extremely unsteady, or I step down with my good foot and it feels like I’m going to pitch forward and tumble.  But with PCA’s help, and clinging to the bannister, I managed it.  The reward was taking a shower in my sister’s bathroom — she has a huge walk-in shower with two jets and even a little bench in the shower itself.  I could have stayed in there all day!  I still can’t bend to shave my legs.  Oh how I wish I had been able to get them waxed before surgery but driving was out of the question.  I also walked for about 30 minutes today, very slowly and on flat ground.  PCA and I strolled around the neighborhood just chatting.

Day Fifteen (July 16)
Two weeks today!  What has changed since last week: I can feel the floor and tell what texture I’m stepping on.  I can lift my toes off the floor and walk on my heels across the room.  I can walk up and down stairs; it’s not easy yet but I can do it.  I can shower by myself and use the bathroom (and reach to flush the toilet).  I no longer use the walker or the cane.  I seem to have a bit more feeling across the top of my foot.  I can wiggle my toes, although they still feel stiff and weird.  I can walk up and down small hills.  I am just generally moving around more, standing up straighter, and able to do more before I get tired.  I can sleep through the night (with help from either a sleeping pill or a guided meditation before bed).  I can do a low squat to pick up something off the floor, if I keep my back straight.  I can sit for short amounts of time — about 30 minutes, tops.  I can stand for long periods of time.  Today I baked cookies AND cupcakes!  PCA says my scar looks good and it’s healing.

We took a 1-mile walk today along the bluffs today with limoncello vodka spritzers to celebrate the two-week mark.

I feel really good, all things considering.  I hope I can make this much progress over the next week too!  And I need to remember that I’m still in the super danger zone for re-herniating.  It would be horrible and out of the question to have to go through this all again, so I am going to be super extremely wrapped-in-bubble-wrap careful with myself.   I really hope that the surgeon allows me to get in the pool at the 3-week mark, as that is probably something I’m looking forward to most.  I just want to do slow walking laps around the shallow pool and build up to very gentle swimming.  It will be a bit disconcerting to expose my Beluga body to the general public but oh how I want to be in the water these days…

When life hands you oranges…make Creamsicle Cake

Right outside my window is a small slice of blue sky and an orange tree that is so filled with fruit that the branches barely move in the breeze.  About every five minutes or so an orange falls on the ground with a satisfying “thwock” that sounds just like a fly ball being caught in a mitt.  A red hummingbird feeder hangs from the branches of the tree and all day long two hummingbirds (named Fig and Newton) stage turf wars.  Beyond their haven is a lovely Black Mission fig tree that is also a battleground; it is the site of the war of attrition that I’m waging with a neighborhood squirrel over the ripening figs.  This view is what I see from my bed, where I have been laid up for twelve days now recovering from back surgery.
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I spend almost 20 hours a day in this bed, flat on my back and wearing a back brace, so it’s a view that I know well.  Luckily, there is plenty outside to keep my eyes and my mind occupied and today I started thinking about making an orange dessert.

Why doesn’t anyone make orange pie?  It seems like it would be delicious…a nice orange meringue or an orange peach combo on a flaky crust.

Anyway, I came across a recipe for Orange Creamsicle Cake and it seemed the perfect thing to make on a hot summer day.  Between the long cooking times, cooling periods of the cake and my many breaks, this became an all-day project.  More ambulatory folks could make it in a mere 2 hours.
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I used to LOVE Orange Creamsicles and orange sherbet when I was a kid.  Our mom used to bring home cartons of orange sherbet and pineapple ice cream.  When you opened the carton — those old-school box style ones with the flaps that got all messy and never closed right — the ice cream was in perfect squares.

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I think our brand was the generic version from Safeway or Angelo’s or one of those other 1980′s Massachusetts grocery stores.

Anyway, on to the dreamy creamsicle cake.

I decided to adapt a recipe I found online on Kat’s Sweet Somethings.  Her original recipe is here, but I was missing cake flour and orange extract and since I can’t drive yet I have no way to get to the store.  I figured I’d work with what I have.  I also wanted to add extra orange flavor, so I soaked the cake in an orange-honey mixture to make the layers moist and flavorful.

It turned out really great.  The cake was dense and heavy with an intense orange flavor, and a fluffy, light frosting.  It tasted just like a creamsicle and the vanilla-orange combination was perfect.  Here is the recipe I used:

Orange Creamsicle Cake

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • zest of four large oranges
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups cake flour (I didn’t have cake flour so I used the conversion of 3 cups minus 6 tablespoons of all purpose flour)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice (with 1/4 cup reserved for soaking)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3-4 gingersnap cookies (optional, for decoration)

1. Grease two 8″ cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.  Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees
2. Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, beat the butter with the orange zest until fluffy.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk together until mixed.
4. Add the sugar to the butter mixture in small batches, mixing thoroughly before adding the next batch and scraping down the sides.
5. Add the eggs one at a time to the butter-sugar mixture, making sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next one and scraping down the sides as you go.  Add the vanilla to the butter-sugar-egg mixture.
6.  Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.  Then add half of the sour cream and half of the orange juice and mix until combined.  Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by the remainder of the sour cream and orange juice, finishing with the remainder of the flour mixture.  Be careful not to mix too long.
7. Pour batter into pans evenly and bake for about 60 minutes or until cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Allow cake to cook completely.
8. Optional: Mix together honey and remainder of orange juice until honey is dissolved.  Poke a few holes in the top of the cooled cakes and pour the orange juice-honey mixture over them.  This makes the cake dense and adds even more flavor, but I imagine it would be just as good without it.  If you do decide to add the syrupy mixture, place the cakes in the fridge for at least an hour to allow it to soak in fully.

Meanwhile, make the Fluffy Whipped Cream Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below).  I opted for a plain cream cheese frosting rather than adding any orange flavor to it as it seemed a bit too over the top.

9. I figured I’d make this a four layer cake, using this method to cut the cakes with a long serrated knife.  The cakes will be sticky if you’ve soaked them with the honey-orange syrup.
10. Assemble your layers and frost with the icing.  Top with crushed ginger snaps.

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Fluffy Whipped Cream Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/5 cups heavy whipping cream
8 oz cream cheese
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Chill your beaters and bowl, if possible.  Beat the whipped cream until it forms soft peaks.  In separate bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy, then add in the vanilla, salt and sugar.  Continue beating until creamy, then fold in the whipped cream.

Microdiscectomy – Week One Overview

It’s been almost two weeks since my microdiscectomy surgery, which took place on July 2, 2013.  Here’s how it’s gone so far:

Day One (July 2)
My complete Day One journal is here.  Day One sucked.

Day Two (July 3)
I got a fairly good night’s sleep, all things considered.  The back brace that I’m wearing is large and bulky — much stiffer than the one I wore following my 2005 microdiscectomy.  I’m taking Celebrex for the inflammation and Oxycodone for the pain.  I still can’t feel my foot or leg at all.  PCA dragged a paperclip across my foot and I can feel the pressure of it but can’t tell what he’s using; I can’t tell whether it’s sharp or dull.  My sister borrowed my mom’s walker and I’ve been using that to get around.  It’s really hard to get up and down the single stair that leads to the guest room and I have to put my arm around PCA if I want to navigate it.  Using the bathroom is a challenge, as is most everything else.  I am moving like a robot, trying to keep my body perfectly straight and only move arms and legs.  It freaks me out that I can’t lift my toes, wiggle them, or move my big toe.  Makes me scared that if it doesn’t come back I’ll have problems driving since I can’t feel the gas pedal.  Trying hard not to panic about that.  Meditating helps, even if just for 20 minutes at a time.  I usually fall asleep to the thought of my body healing itself better without my worrying about it.  I’m not hungry but I’m trying to eat chicken broth and crackers with the pills.  The surgeon called today and said it was good that I could lift my toes even a fraction of an inch.  He also said to ice, which was (of course) the opposite of what the clueless nurse instructed.  He said he expects the numbness to improve a lot in the next week.

Day Three (4th of July)
So weird reading everyone’s Facebook feeds: BBQ’s and beach trips and summer stuff and fireworks.  I feel so removed from everything and so out of it.  We took such a big right hand turn with the surgery and haven’t gotten back on the path of our normal life and all the social fun stuff that goes with it.  My sister brought her kids over for a short visit and I LOVED seeing them, all hopped up on summer fun.  Pain-wise I feel pretty good.  I never really let it get ahead of me before taking a pill.  The surgeon had said the anesthesia and morphine would wear off today and I’d feel it more and he’s right.  But it’s nothing compared to my shoulder surgery and frankly I’m surprised at how little it hurts.  To be honest, I never really liked fireworks anyway.

Day 4 (July 5)
Sleeping last night was tough as my leg is aching like crazy.  It’s a deep, throbbing ache that nothing seems to help.  Can really feel the pain in my back today too.  I feel like I’ve been hit in the back with a baseball bat.  My whole body feels really bruised and sore.  But, I feel slightly stronger.  I feel great actually, and every once in a while I get hit by a wave of euphoria that the surgery is OVER and now all I have to do is get better.  PCA has been making videos of me walking and I shuffle a lot less.  It seems easier to pick up my leg, although it’s still weird because I have to watch my foot for every step since I can’t tell where the floor is.  I did 3 circuits around the kitchen island with the walker today and it wiped me out.  Amazing how your whole body puts all its resources towards healing and there’s not much left over for anything else physical.  I sleep whenever I want to, dropping off a few times a day.  I feel like I’m getting stronger and am a lot more optimistic today.  I refuse to wallow.  PCA cleaned the whole backyard, brought the dead garden back from the brink (we are living with my sister, who has a black thumb) and has been doing so much around the house.  He has to help me with everything.  The grabber is a Godsend but it’s still much faster when he helps me get dressed, put on socks, get stuff from fridge, refill water glass, etc.  I move so slow and am really limited.  Took my first shower today!  We got the whole bathroom wet.

Day 5 (July 6)
It’s the little things.  I have one water glass that I use for rinsing and one water glass that I spit into after brushing my teeth because I can’t lean in to get water from the faucet and if I just spit it out it would splash everywhere.  Lying in bed I have the pillows propped up to be about 15 degrees and a pillow under my knees.  I’ve started trying to sleep on my side and I actually use a pull buoy (for swimming) between my knees as it’s easier than a pillow and it’s the exact same shape.    Plus it keeps me inspired for getting back into the pool.  The incision hurts today.  I try to get up about once an hour as I can’t lie down for that long without hurting.  Nothing is comfortable for long but it still can’t compare to pre-surgery, when I could not lie, stand, sit or crawl without crying.  I’ve stopped taking the pain meds at night because it reacts with the Ambien and I end up waking up after 4 hours with my heart racing and can’t get back to sleep.  I’ve decided to try taking pain meds during the day, then half a pain pill about 45 minutes before bed, then the Ambien after that.

Day 6 (July 7)
Finally went for a short walk today, about 5 minutes up and down the street.  Walking down the driveway was tough as it’s a small hill and with my wonky leg I feel like I’m going to pitch forward all the time.  PCA is there to support me.  All in all it was a success.  I haven’t tried sitting yet except for about 5 minutes at a time.

Day 7 (July 8)
Today I could lift my toes about half an inch, which was an amazing feeling.  One week tomorrow.  As far as recoveries go, I have it pretty good with this breezy room, huge flat screen TV, beautiful garden, and my husband here to help.  There’s even a dog and everyone knows there’s nothing like a furry friend to help make you feel better.  I cooked spaghetti sauce tonight; it was an all-day project and I took a lot of breaks.  Nighttime is tough because I’m just not tired after a full day of doing nothing.  My muscles are screaming out for activity.  I’m restless and bored and want to get on with it.  I am truly amazed at how little it hurts and it’s really hard not to want to do more and more.  I’m terrified of re-herniating and going through this whole nightmare again, so I won’t take any chances.

All in all, I have to say that after one week I feel pretty good.  I’m deeply scared of having permanent numbness in my foot and leg, but the surgeon has assured me that he sees no reason why it won’t come back.  He says I have a narrow spinal canal, but that he was careful with the L4/L5 nerve.  Unfortunately, I went down this road once already and I have a hard time believing what the surgeon says.  I heard those same words 8 years ago and the feeling never came back.  However, the difference this time is that I have seen some improvements in the past week (whereas last surgery I saw no improvement from the day I woke up from surgery until the present, in terms of nerve damage).  I feel as though my leg is getting stronger, the stair is easier to navigate, and either I’m getting more used to the numbness and have more confidence in where to place my foot or it is getting a little better.  It seems like I have a bit more feeling across the top of my foot.  Still nothing in my toes, heel, calf or the side of my leg.  Hopefully we will see some changes in the week ahead.

Things that have helped me:

  • Fresh mint (it helps with the nausea from the meds)
  • Guided Meditations, especially those dealing with pain, healing, sleeping and recovery
  • Grabber thing, so I don’t have to bend, reach or twist
  • Relocating everything to waist height prior to the surgery
  • Handheld shower nozzle
  • Slip-on tennies
  • Lightweight nightgowns as it’s easiest to just put on one item and be done with it
  • Distractions — Netflix, HBO, computer games, blogs, organizing photos (dream on)
  • Back surgery forums such as Spine Health and Healthboards. A lot of them are scary horror stories but it’s also nice to see how other people with the same issues are doing
  • Socks with nonslip pads on the bottom since my numb foot is always cold
  • Reusable gel ice pack (I used this when I had shoulder surgery and am reusing it now by lying it flat on the bed).  It’s expensive but worth it.
  • Visitors, the kind who don’t care if you’re wearing nothing but a nightgown and a Deenie back brace

Microdiscectomy Journal: Week One / Day One

First off, I’ll stay away from the “why me?” questions, as I went through that hell a few months ago with shoulder surgery and I don’t feel like going to the dark place again.  Suffice it to say that another surgery — and a second spine surgery at that — was not what I wanted to happen two weeks after getting married and in the middle of a cross-country move.  But, it happened, I did it, and now I’m recovering.  So I thought it might be helpful to write a little bit about the microdiscectomy, if only to track my own progress.

Day One
I went to the surgery center (The Beverly Hills Penthouse Surgery Center, to be exact) knowing more or less what to expect.  I had a microdiscectomy done in 2005 on L5/S1 and this time I was going in for a microdiscectomy on L4/5.  A microdiscectomy is where your disc has ruptured or herniated and the surgeon moves aside your muscles and nerves in order to get to the disc and “shave off” the part that might be pressing on a nerve and causing pain.  It really fucking freaks me out to think about someone in there manipulating my spine, so I won’t write more about the actual procedure because gaaaaaackkkk.  Typically they won’t do this surgery until you’ve tried all conservative methods and/or you have started to lose feeling in one of your legs.  That’s a sign that the bulge is pressing on a nerve and potentially causing permanent damage.  For all the millions and millions of people who suffer from back pain, it is still not so easy to pinpoint exactly what is causing specific pain and therefore surgeons are reluctant to operate because there’s no guarantee that you will wake up with the pain gone.  My neurosurgeon explained it to me that there are 30 moving parts in the lower back and any one of them could be responsible back pain.

I arrived at the surgery center at 6:30am.  Weirdly, I had worked in the building before — producing the series “30 Days” with a production company called Actual Reality.  My episode had been about a mom who binge drinks for 30 days straight.  So it was a little weird to be in the same building but now be wearing a backless gown.  The nurse made me put on compression socks, took my vitals, and made inane small talk about reality shows (“are they really real??”) with me and PCA until the surgeon came in.  More inane small talk (“feeling steady today?” “Hope there are no earthquakes, ha ha!”).  When I get nervous I do this high-pitched cackle that makes me sound like a moron.

In the weeks leading up to the surgery I had been listening to a guided meditation to help healing before and after surgery, and it had really assisted in keeping my pre-surgery fear and anxiety under control.  Meditation was not something I had pursued consistently before, but this series was simply wonderful.  I’m a believer.  As I was waiting I kept reciting some of the affirmations and trying to stay calm and positive by imagining my family and loved ones giving me support.  Soon enough it was time and I said goodbye to PCA.  It would have been sadder if I could see his face but I had to take my contacts out for the surgery and they had already removed my glasses.  I remember being wheeled into the icy OR and seeing my surgeon-blur.  For some reason we chatted for a minute about the Dyson fan (the one with no blades).  I made some absolutely stupid joke about those fans being made for surgeons since there was no chance a hand could get cut off by the blades and his hands were worth more than most (CACKLE CACKLE CACKLE) then I fell asleep.  One wonderful woozy part was that I felt my Aunt Susie’s presence near me.  She had just passed away a week before the surgery after many, many health battles which decimated her body but never broke her spirit.  She was the strongest woman I’ve ever known and I felt certain that she was with me.

I woke up in the recovery room and couldn’t feel my right leg.  At all.  I started crying.  People kept coming in and out and I kept telling them that I couldn’t feel my toes or my leg.  The surgeon came in and ran a little spiky thing across my foot but I couldn’t feel it.  I could see PCA’s face — he looked very worried.  The surgeon said that it was “alarming” and left the room.  I think I dozed.  I remember crying a lot.  This was my worst fear, as I had ended up with nerve damage from my 2005 surgery and I had hoped not to have any more.

My throat hurt a lot and it tasted like I had swallowed a helium balloon, with that powdery rubbery flavor.  I felt really lucid but in retrospect I was high as a kite.  My back didn’t hurt at all, but I felt stiff and uncomfortable in the bed and it was raised to an almost-sitting position.  The nurse did not seem to have a clue at all.  She kept telling me the surgeon was going to come back to see me because of my “complications.”  We couldn’t get a straight answer from anyone.

Then they wheeled in a plastic surgery patient next to me.  She was an 18-year-old girl who was getting a boob job and a nose job: a graduation present from her mom.  Oh, LA…there are some things I just won’t miss.

I wanted to leave.  I was miserable and completely believed that I had just made the worst mistake of my life.  The surgeon called from his car phone.  He wasn’t coming back. PCA asked him if my numbness and complications were normal and he said they were not typical.  I got really upset and wanted him to talk to me face to face.  He said that he saw no reason why I shouldn’t get feeling back in my leg but his response meant nothing to me.  I was in full panic mode by then.  My sister was there and she was worried too and I just generally felt awful and mad and worried and dramatic and like a difficult patient that everyone was either ignoring or patting on the head.

PCA and the nurse helped me to the bathroom.  This was probably only an hour or two after waking up.  I could not walk as my right leg kept buckling.  I couldn’t feel the floor and so I didn’t know where it was — it was really scary.  I spent the next few hours alternating between freaking out and pro-actively diagnosing myself online using my iPhone, then mapping out my recovery strategy.  There is really nothing worse than an incapacitated producer.  I kicked everyone out of the room so I could feel even sorrier for myself.  It was not my finest hour, mentally.  There was wallowing.  Eventually the nurse fitted me with a back brace and helped me get dressed in sweats and a camisole top with a zip-up hoodie over it.

Finally, around 4:30pm I was discharged.  The nurse wheeled me to the car and it was a  challenge to get in.  We had placed a trash bag on the seat so that I could slide on it easily to pivot without twisting, and a pillow to put behind my spine, and we had the seat reclined back as far as it would go.  PCA drove us home and I made him stop at Jerry’s Deli for chicken broth.  We got home, made it up the driveway with me leaning on him and hobbling along, and he helped me into bed.

Someone had posted on Facebook about a documentary on HBO called “Miss You Can Do It,” and it followed a beauty pageant that had been founded by a woman who has cerebral palsy.  The pageant was for girls with disabilities and suffice it to say I cried through the whole entire movie.  I truly do not think there were more than 3 minutes out of 90 where I wasn’t sobbing. I was lying on my back and tears were just running unchecked into the pillow.  It was a wonderful documentary and such shot of perspective right when I needed it.  Yes, I was scared but I had come through the surgery safely and had to focus on that.

I had come home with prescriptions for Oxycodone, Ambien, and an anti-inflammatory.  I took the Oxy every four hours on the dot, trying to stay ahead of the pain.  I didn’t sleep much the first night because I can’t sleep on my back and my leg felt so weird and foreign — like I had a wooden leg — that I couldn’t drop off comfortably.  I think I slept in two three-hour segments and that got me through the night.  I woke up feeling pretty good and with only minimal pain, but my leg and toes felt the same.  The first thing I saw was the orange tree outside my window and the hummingbird feeder.  I had made it through Day One.

The Rollercoaster

“Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or having everything happen at once.”                                                                   — Paulo Coelho

Talk about a crazy month.

I married the love of my life in a magical ceremony, surrounded by the people we love most in the world…

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We adopted two chickens from Luckenbach, Texas (that’s them in the Shiner Bock beer box)…

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My shiny new husband and I went on a glorious mini honeymoon in Northern California…

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Then we moved out of our house, packed everything into pods, and saddled up to relocate to Atlanta for a fresh start…

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…only to find out a few days before the move that I need back surgery!

Always in my life things have come in waves, and long ago I got used to the ebb and flow of good and bad, but this particular wave has knocked me over and I’m still fighting to catch my breath.

We were in the midst of packing up the house when we got the test results back from an MRI I had done back in April showing a herniation in L4, nerve compression, stenosis, as well as a creeping arthritis and small tear in L3.  During the moving-out process, I had become increasingly incapacitated and spent most of the weekend lying on the floor on a yoga mat moaning while Chris, my brother-in-law and another heroic friend did the heavy lifting.  New tenants were moving in, and staying one more month in our home wasn’t an option.  We had to scramble to put together a Plan B.  The back pain got so bad so fast that it soon became impossible for me to stand up straight, sit, walk or even lie down for more than 20 minutes.  I looked in the mirror one morning and I looked like a sideways S.  Flying (or driving) across the country was no longer an option.

So…instead of spending our glorious newly-wedded bliss reveling in a new city, we said a said goodbye and began playing a waiting game.  Chris drove across the country solo in order to be in Atlanta for work, and I stayed in Los Angeles to meet with spine surgeons and get second opinions.  I had a back surgery done in 2005 — my friends and family know that it was the single toughest thing I have ever gone through due to some devastating complications.  It is hard to believe that I will need to get through it again but I will.

Compounding the whole messy situation is the fact that we don’t know yet whether the back injury is related to the boat accidents from last year, or if it is a problem that would have happened on its own, or if the accidents exacerbated a problem that was already there.  And because the disc is torn and has herniated, there is the risk of long-term nerve damage if it’s not taken care of quickly.  There is no “quickly” in the Wonderful World of Workers’ Comp*…so I have been seeing my own doctors rather than wait.

This could so easily turn into a rant but I won’t let it.  A few months ago, the thought of another surgery following so soon on top of that mindfuck of a shoulder surgery would have sent me into a tailspin.  Now, however, I would give anything for the pain to stop so that I can resume a vertical life.  The only thing I can compare this back pain to is one of those white-hot toothaches, the kind that leave you sobbing and begging and staggering around the streets in search of a dentist who can help.  I’d have to ask women who have had kids or men who have been kicked in the beanbags whether those are worse or better experiences on the “I want to die just so it will stop” pain management scale.

Tomorrow morning I’m getting an epidural steroid injection.  That’s the final step of the “conservative” treatment, and the two surgeons I have consulted so far have told me that they don’t expect it will stop the pain itself but it will be a valuable diagnostic tool for surgery.  So, onward and upward.  I’ll leave you with this inspirational quote on top of a stock photo which I have always despised.  Screaming and enjoying the ride are not mutually exclusive!

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* Coming up next: a post on how to navigate Workers’ Comp if you have been injured during a production.  I have learned so much in my past six months and I am hoping that I can shed some insight to others in the same boat…er…situation.

Shoulder surgery – 6 weeks later

They say 45 days is the magic number.  I have laid here like a Christmas ham for the past six weeks yet there has been a frenzy of activity going on in my shoulder.  It’s amazing that whatever the surgery — back, leg, arm, shoulder, brain — it’s always six weeks until you really turn the corner on your recovery.  The human body is so predictable and efficient in this way.  If it can make a whole new liver every six weeks, and an entirely new stomach lining every five days, then it can certainly make some real progress on a centralized trauma wound when all systems are focused on healing.  Cells spewing out chemicals to get everything going, other cells replicating themselves to replace the damaged ones, the immune system ramping up to squash infection, tiny little fibers sprouting up to reattach the torn ligaments to the bone, collagen collecting near the wound to build up the scar tissue — a surgery marshals all the body’s resources in order to heal itself.  When I think of how much is going on at my surgery site it’s really not surprising that I still have to take breaks when I walk up a flight of stairs.  

It was really tough to go from being so physically active to this slug-like existence, but I have found that reading and learning about how it all works has been comforting during the more frustrating times.  Apparently there is 100% turnover of the atoms that make up your body every five years.  That means that you are literally not the same person you were just a few years ago.  And we have 60,000 thoughts a day, yet 90% of them are the same thoughts we had yesterday.  So even as our body gets constant upgrades, our thoughts tend to go around and around like a hamster wheel.  I know mine do.  ”What would we look like without noses?” pops up pretty frequently.

I also think it’s crazy that we are all made up of 65% water.  Which means that when PCA says “I love you,” what he really loves most about me is water.  And babies are 80% water!  So weird. 

Okay, enough about our bodies and ourselves.

Last night we hosted our Christmas party and it was wonderful!  We hadn’t planned on doing it, with PCA out of town and me being of feeble body and spirit, but we rallied and it turned out to be one of those magical evenings where everything goes smoothly and you laugh all night and reminisce all the next day.  I love our friends because they don’t care that I’m rocking a fetid sling and bad hair (still can’t reach my arm up to style it) or that we served ham, biscuits from a can and Peeps.  PCA made chocolate peppermint martinis, my sister brought homemade marshmallows for the hot chocolate bar, my adorable nephews showed up in Christmas sweaters and flashing Rudolph noses, and although we had every intention of stopping early we ended up going until 1:30am!  I LOVE when parties have a good ebb and flow and last night was one of those.  PCA has to go back to work for a 20-day stint out of town the day after Christmas, and so we both felt very lucky to have the time to catch up with old friends, new friends, neighbors and family.

PCA is working so hard these days to pick up the slack.  The surgeon has said it will be about a year until I can go back to work.  Which I am reeling from.  Speaking of thoughts going round and round, what does this mean?  What will I do?  I always had this vision in my mind of a time when I would happily say goodbye to my career with no regrets in order to try something new.  I find myself wondering if that time has come, and whether I could ever make my peace with having that decision made for my by someone else’s actions and negligence.

I started physical therapy and have had two sessions so far.  PT has been great for understanding why it could be upwards of a year out of work.  The therapist told me that I had enough work done in my shoulder for 5 people, because all of the tears were so serious.  I can’t lift my arm more than a millimeter at a time and all the exercises we do are passive range of motion — meaning the therapist flings my arm around and yells at me to relax while he does it and I grit my teeth and concentrate on not screaming.  He asked me to make a muscle with my bicep and I couldn’t!  Where did it go in such a short time?  I love physical therapy though.  It’s the good hurt.  It is forward progress and it feels like someone is in it with me for the long haul.  It’s hard for me not to push it and my therapist keeps telling me to slow down.  He’ll say “do five reps” of one baby exercise or another, and when his back is turned I quickly do 10 or 15 reps.  I can’t help it.  I just want to get better quickly.  It’s very hard to not feel in competition with the person I used to be before the accident.

Most days now I don’t think about the long term and I try to focus on the small successes. I can mostly dress myself now, and tie my own shoes.  I can drive short distances if it’s a route I know and I can avoid the freeways.  I can almost sleep through the night.  I can cook, as long as I have a sous chef there to help me lift a pot off the stove or chop an onion.  All of these seem like small miracles and I’m so grateful for them.

One last anecdote.  About 20 years ago there was an experiment conducted on mice at the National Institute of Health.  A scientist, the Head of Molecular Biology, injected the mice with a chemical that stimulated and enhanced their immune systems.  He had them smell camphor at the same time.  After a while, just the smell of the camphor would stimulate their immune systems without the use of the chemical.  Then he took some other mice and he injected a different chemical that destroyed their immune systems, and he had those mice also smell camphor at the same time.  And so he ended up with two groups of mice: one group that could smell camphor and stimulate the immune system, and one that could smell the same camphor and destroy the immune system.  Which is so crazy, because it means that it is the brain that is deciding whether to heal or destroy itself based upon external and arbitrary factors.  It says so much about the mind-body connection when it comes to getting better.

Four weeks tomorrow

One month down…eleven to go!  These past four weeks have been an eternity and I’m glad to be crossing this milestone.  I wish I could say it’s been easy so far but it has not.  I have had pain like I’ve never experienced and moments of complete despair.  There were days where I literally sat motionless for 23.5 out of 24 hours and other days that just passed in a haze of pain medication and Netflix.  Those were the dark days.

Now, at four weeks, I am still so far away from recovery, but things are getting better every day.  There are some scary developments, like being completely unable to move my arm out in front of me — not because it hurts too much, but because it is not responding to what my brain tells it to do.  It just hangs there.  I can move it in other directions and so I know that it is not a case of the muscle atrophying.  It just feels like whatever muscle was needed to lift it slightly is now gone.  In order to type, I have to pick up my arm and rest my hands on the keyboard.  Once I do that, I can type (with my arm pressed in to my side).  I have no idea if this is normal but I’ll be asking my surgeon when I see him on Wednesday.  Until then, my orders from PCA are to stay positive and not freak out.

I had wanted to write more frequently so that I could keep track of my little victories.  I would love to say that life got in the way, but I don’t have much of one.  I’ll try to make the best of it now.

I made a lot of progress between weeks two and three.  We went to Vegas for Thanksgiving, and PCA hooked up the ice machine in the car so that I could ice the whole way there.  Then we spent most of the time relaxing in the hotel room.  Occasionally I would put on the sling and stroll around the casino, but it sometimes got stressful because there are so many people who don’t look where they are going and I was constantly bobbing and weaving trying to avoid a collision.

We had big plans of going out to dinner and a show — PCA had planned the whole thing, including a Pretty Woman-esque day of shopping for something to wear since I only brought elastic-waist sweatpants and slip on shoes.  Unfortunately, after a few hours of shopping, my shoulder was throbbing and it soon became clear that we had been overdoing it.  I think that was the night that I took a few Percocet and watched a intensely detailed documentary on PBS about David Geffen instead.  

I have no regrets.  It was wonderful to be with my family, and also to be out and about socializing.  We even found a craps machine I could play since I couldn’t throw dice at the table.  It was the first time I had slept in a bed since the surgery.  We got 6 pillows and made me a sort of inverted V shape and I slept on my back propped up with my arm resting on a pillow.  My other triumphs were: taking a shower on my own for the first time (still washing my hair one-handed though) AND I managed to tear the TP off the roll myself.  All in all, I’m so glad I went.  

Today, at four weeks, I feel like I’m slowly getting better.  It is so clear when I overdo it, and I pay the price for days.  I tried to go for a long walk over the weekend, and ended up doing 3.5 miles, including some small hills.  It took me an hour and a half to walk, including two breaks.  I ended up having to sit on a wall outside someone’s home because I thought I was going to get sick.  Once I got home I laid down and could not get warm for hours afterwards.  That night we went to the tree-lighting on Main St and out for a drink, with a plan to walk to a neighbor’s party.  But the walk was too much and we ended up having to turn around just half a block from their house.  I went home and went straight to bed.

As I’m sitting here now, my shoulder is hurting.  I still do my routine of icing and passive exercises and Tylenol.  I stopped taking the pain meds about a week ago and stopped taking Ambien two nights ago.  The nights are still very difficult as I am still sleeping in my sling and lying on my back.  I’ve had terrible nightmares and insomnia.  The pattern seems to be one very bad night followed by a good one, over and over.

What else to report?  The days are longer now since I don’t get as many visitors and I can’t sit in the chair for one minute longer than I need to.  I feel like I can’t watch any more TV and I’ve never been much of a movie person.  I do lots of crossword puzzles and am reading a book about every three days (“The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet” was unbelievable.  David Mitchell is a virtuoso).  PCA has been working a lot and that’s a good thing.  We were together every minute for three weeks (except for breaks when my sisters or mom came to take care of me) and he has been there pre-tearing TP, fastening my bra, getting me dressed, putting my hair up (still a source of frustration), tying my shoes, filling my ice machine, washing my hair, making tea, hosing me down in the shower, cleaning the whole house, cooking to order, running errands, grocery shopping, doing laundry AND working.  But more than anything, he has been my cheerleader.  He has patiently listened to me through the worst of my fears, anger, doubt and sadness.  He forced me to follow the doctor’s orders exactly, and forbid me to overdo it.  And through it all he stayed positive and always brought me back from the “dark place” to one of hope and excitement for the future.  Had I any doubts about marrying him — which I never did — they would certainly have been squashed by now.  He is the most wonderful person on the face of the planet and he’s my rock.

Right now he is dozing in my reclining chair.  I so wish I could wrap (both of my) arms around him.

Anyway, the past few days have seen huge milestones.

  • We had people over for brunch on Sunday and I felt great the whole time.  That night we went to the movies and although I was uncomfortable sometimes, I found that shifting my arm around seemed to help.  P.S. “Lincoln” was incredible.
  • I drove for the first time — to the gym 1 mile away.  I don’t think I’ll be driving any farther for a while, as it’s still one-handed and it’s hard to do any type of twisting to look behind me which makes parking a small challenge BUT it’s so great not to feel trapped
  • I went to the gym and rode the recumbent bike for 20 minutes, then walked to the library a few blocks away to get a few new books.  A guy in the gym told me I was hardcore.  So true.
  • And…I finally managed to reach my hair with both hands!  By crouching over and tilting my head down to my right hand, and keeping my arm firmly pressed against my side, I could almost sort of put it up.  It’s a weird-looking retro side bun but it is huge progress!

Tonight we are heading to the Promenade to get a little Christmas spirit.  I’m about to make coffee with cinnamon whipped cream and can’t wait!

Here’s a pic of my messy side bun:

Shoulder surgery — day 10

Finally pulled the bandages off my shoulder and got a look at the mess.  I have huge bruises on my shoulder, scabs from 15 different puncture wounds, swelling and four tiny cuts that have healed over pretty well.

The surgeon did exactly what he planned on doing, which as far as I know is the following:                             

  • (Right) shoulder arthroscopy
  • Subacromial decompression
  • Rotator cuff repair
  • Superior labrum anterior posterior repair
  • Distal clavicle resection
  • Biceps tenodesis
I believe it’s the biceps repair that is causing most of the pain at this point.  It turned out to have been almost torn in half.  The labrum was also torn in half and had completely separated from the bone.  It makes sense that the pain is still so bad sometimes that I can’t stand up when you think about the amount of work that he did in there.

Still, looking back, I’m glad that I did the surgery.  I’m hoping for a full recovery and it is certain that I would have had a lot of long-term problems if I hadn’t gotten things repaired.

Shoulder Surgery – one week later

Well, I made it to the one week mark and I get to celebrate by taking time out of my sling during the day!  Unfortunately, I’m still not allowed to do anything useful with that injured arm, and so it just hangs there like a sausage link while I struggle to do everything with my left hand.  Baby steps.  

When I was preparing for surgery, I scoured the internet for information on what the recovery was going to be like.  Even with all the research, I was pretty unprepared for the tougher aspects — the ones that I dreaded beforehand are as bad as expected.  I feel like I did everything possible to prepare for them, but it has still been more draining than I anticipated and in some cases preparation just doesn’t help all that much.  I hope that by writing it all down I’ll be able to see how far I’ve come in the ensuing weeks and months.

I hate not working.  My job is very physical and spending 22+ hours a day in an orthopedic chair is its own particular kind of hell.  

Here I am on a past job…just lounging on the Ross Ice Shelf while my sexy helicopter pilot fiance approaches for a landing:

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Also working:

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Here’s me now:

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I have a barf bag on my head (I was on a LOT of meds).  Sitting here like a milk-fed veal, with nothing to do but wait, I find myself reviewing the events leading up the boat accidents again and again.  It seems inevitable now that something bad was destined to happen on our shoot, given the circumstances and the willful negligence of the people in charge of the logistics of the production.  There are so many stories about production companies cutting corners on safety in order to pocket those line items.  The glut of reality shows means networks push for more and more danger in their series and it means incompetent production companies line up to make the shows, thinking that because they have a concept (usually involving a bunch of tough guys doing dangerous jobs), they can be the next Thom Beers.*  I can’t believe how close I came to dying because of someone else’s stupidity.  It makes me very, very angry and determined to right some of the wrongs in our industry.

I have learned a valuable lesson from my injuries.  I will never again work for a production company that does not have experience with dangerous, overseas productions.  Nor will I ever work on a show where the star of the show is given total logistical and financial control over the production.  When I see promos for “Bamazon,” I want to kick in my TV.  It seems incomprehensible that I will still be sitting here recovering while the series airs in early December.  By the time it runs, I will only be at the halfway mark, with another eight weeks to go before I can think about resuming my normal life or getting back out in the field.  That’s a long time to sit here thinking.

I am tethered to an ice machine, which circulates freezing water around the surgery site.  I have to ice my shoulder for 15 minutes every 15 minutes.  This means that my life revolves around the “off” times, when I can unplug from the machine, hit the button on the reclining chair to elevate me to my feet, and struggle out of the chair to the kitchen, bathroom or front porch.  Unfortunately, the ice machine connector requires one to push a button and pull the plug at the same time, which can’t be managed with one hand, and so I have to call PCA on walkie to unplug me.  He carries his walkie everywhere, and even brought it to the supermarket during one of his rare forays away from my side.  Soon enough, my 15 minutes of break time are up, and it’s time to repeat the process.  PCA plugs me in, I slowly lower the orthopedic chair, take a pain pill and resume my life as a slug.  

Things I can’t do one-handed: open bottles of medication, tie my shoes, put up my hair, put on socks, turn the pages of a book, carry a laundry basket, crack an egg, zip up a sweatshirt, pull on skinny jeans.

I wonder whether my recovery is typical.  It’s incredibly painful.  Far more so than I ever expected, and much, much worse than either my back surgery or my knee surgery.  My surgeon says that he expected it to be tougher for me because I am “emotionally invested” in my shoulder and he’s right.  I blame someone else for my injuries and for the pain.  I have a lot of flashbacks about the boat accidents.  It makes it hard to move on.  I have yet to sleep through the night, or for more than two hours at a time, and the lack of sleep is messing with my ability to stay positive.  I dread going to sleep sitting up, and no matter how many pills I take I’m unable to get the pain lower than a 4 or 5 at night.  I can make it through most of the day without the pills but the nights are miserable.  

Yesterday we went to the library for my first field trip out of the house since the surgery.  It was so refreshing to be in Santa Monica among the living, although it was hard not to yell mean things at the happy, two-armed people strolling in the sunshine, swinging their shopping bags, doing pushups down by the beach, or walking arm in arm, blissfully unaware of my mono-limb jealousy.  I felt like a troll who had emerged from under a bridge with my greasy hair in a side ponytail, giant sling, smeared lipgloss (impossibly to put on left-handed) and my ugly sweatpants.  Still, it was a successful mission.

I’m looking forward to the week ahead.  One down, eleven to go.

* My boss on “Deadliest Catch,” and the creator of “Ice Road Truckers,” “Bering Sea Gold,” “Ax Men,” etc etc.

Surgery Survival Kit — Day 5

Spending 24 hours a day in a chair is soooooo boring.  Here are a few survival tools, assembled within easy reach:

1. Water

2. Gingerbread tea

3. Metamucil (blech)

4. Fresh mint (for nausea)

5. Oxycodone, Ambien, Advil, Vitamins

6. Red rose from the garden from PCA

7. Walkie for summoning PCA

8. Vanilla caramel candle

9. Book

10. iPad

11. Lip balm

12. Ice machine (out of sight)

13. Apple TV with Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Downton Abbey, and Arrested Development queued up.

14. Notebook for recording misery

Day Five feels kind of like Day Four although about a million times better because I finally got to take a shower (with PCA’s help).  it took so long that we actually ran out of hot water, but it was wonderful!  now my sister is here, making mini pizzas and keeping me company.  PCA just made a fire.  Between the two of them they take care of me and change my ice every 15 minutes.  i’m so lucky to not be in this alone.

bathroom explosion:

I’m getting more used to the sling, and its getting a little easier to take care of day to day hygiene (although i would never leave the house in my current outfit).

heres a pic of the ice machine, my current best friend.  GAME READY!

Shoulder surgery – day 4

First day of passive exercises and i cant believe how much it hurt.  thought i was going to be sick from the pain.  still recovering from less than two minutes of exercise.  i cant believe how tough this recovery is.  the exercise consists of hanging your arm down and then slowly swinging it in a circle without using any muscles.  chris had to hold me up because i amost passed out.  the pain literally made me sick.  good Lord.  its going to be a loooong recovery.  its amazing how different i feel from just five days ago — the day before the surgery.  i felt so great back then; i feel so awful now.  i cant wait to start feeling better, even just a little bit better.

still taking 2 oxy every 4 hours, 3 advil every 8 hours, ice every 15 minutes.  my day is spent watching the clock and waiting.  this aint living.

Post shoulder surgery — day 3

Day three. (dictated via Dragon, so excuse the weird punctuation and lack of caps). lots of pain in the morning but I finally slept well. I woke up to the sound of rain. it was wonderful. sleeping is hard as I have to sit upright the whole night in the recliner chair and I tend to want to roll from side to side trying to get comfortable.  it’s like sleeping in an airplane. right now my shoulder hurts a lot. the pain is deep inside and it’s a throbbing ache that even the Percocet doesn’t seem to change too much. every once in a while i get waves of feeling really good and I want to go out to breakfast or go for a walk or go see a movie but within five minutes of standing up I just want to sit back down again. I’m so tired.

today Chris made me a smoothie and a cup of tea and he just headed out to bay cities (the deli that heals all wounds) to pick up some mac n cheese and a Godmother. the ice machine is a lifesaver — it circulates cold air all around my shoulder and I run it on for 15 minutes and off for 15 minutes all day long and it’s fantastic. Im attached to it with a long cord and i feel like a cyborg on a charging station. going to the bathroom is a process. Chris has to disconnect me from the ice machine, I have to take off blankets, pull all the pillows away that are wedged in around me, and then slowly elevate the chair so that my feet are underneath me and then he helps me stand up. Once im in the bathroom its mostly okay but he had to pre-tear off pieces of toilet paper because I can’t twist my body and tearing it off the roll is a two-handed job.

every day is a new experience and filled with things I have to learn to do all over again, whether it’s putting in my contacts, putting on my socks or even just getting a pair of sweats out of the drawer. it’s very tiring but I am so lucky to have Chris here to help me, and one surprise has been that I’m able to use the fingers in my right hand from time to time to hold a piece of paper or brace something when I try to twist the top off or even just take the lid off of Chapstick.

I’ve been learning what works the best. definitely wear comfortable clothes that you can pull on and off with one hand. I borrowed a bunch of pull-up stretchy top sundresses from my sister and those been a lifesaver I wear those with no bra over a pair of elastic waist sweatpants. I have a stretchy headband that I can put on one handed to keep my hair out of my face. We got a reclining chair which and I’m in that thing 24 hours a day. we also lined up a lot of movies and TV shows to watch but I don’t have a lot of patience for them yet. I’m glad the air date for Bamazon got pushed or I would have probably pulled my anchors out throwing something at the screen. It had been set to air on the date of my surgery but I don’t think I could’ve taken that irony. I have all my medication set up and Chris keeps track of what I need to take. I have a bundle of fresh mint I inhale when I get nauseous: I drink a lot of water and I’m trying to eat as many vegetables (along with mac n cheese, of course) as I can and I’m taking my vitamins.

Someone just delivered flowers but I couldn’t get up to get the door!!!!! I’m dying to see them!!!!! Hurry home, Chris!!!!!!!!

Surgery Day 2 ~ first post op appointment

my first thought this morning: I am SO glad it’s over.  Then: pain meds please.

it was a long and restless night and i didnt get much sleep.  i simply cant sleep sitting up. i kept wanting to roll onto my side and then half-waking up to realize that i also wanted to throw up.  my meds are on the most annoying schedule possible — every 3, 4, 6 and 8 hours.  the “mint corsage” that PCA made has been really great at staving off nausea.  every time i feel sick i take a bundle of fresh mint out of its Snapware container and inhale until it goes away.  we even brought it with us to the doctors office.

the meds seem to have kicked in now.  i take one Oxy every 4 hours and 3 Tylenols 3x/day.

during one of my Feelgood Happy Funland stages i managed to change out of stanky sweatpants into more formal “going to town!” sweatpants.  and PCA helped me wiggle in to a stretchy tube top sundress (which i wore over the sweats).  that felt a lot better as the strap from the sling velcro is super scratchy.  oh and we also discovered an EKG pad still stuck to my stomach.  what a day of discoveries!

heres my goin-out outfit. note the messy ponytail from PCA.

the nurse removed my bandages…

ACCCCCKKKK its just as gross as i imagined!!  there are four holes, from where he did five different repairs.  turns out my biceps was also torn, longitudinally.  and we counted 15 different punctures from the anesthesia guy (too tired to look up how to spell anesthesiologist, who, by the way, also administered anesthesia to President Reagan. Fun fact from my surgeon).  Dr Knapp said when they were doing the bicep repair that it was clearly a high impact injury, shoulder meeting immoveable object.  could have been tree OR rock!  so many boat accidents, so many choices!

Strapless wedding dress, here i come.

here i am with new bandages.

so…plan from here is rest and heal.  i have to wear the sling for four weeks then i go back in to see Dr Knapp.

now im back home in my chair with my giant ice pack on.  finally got some food — crackers, a little bit of peanut butter, and some steamed squash.  i am so grateful for the windows of feeling good and i feel so much better than i did yesterday.

Shoulder surgery – day 1

I can’t believe how much it hurts. As someone with a freakishly high pain tolerance, I’m actually very surprised — it hurts a lot more than my back surgery did a few years ago and as far as I can tell the Percocet aren’t doing much. I got out of surgery at 4pm, after going in around 2pm to the OR. We are finally home. It was only a 4 mile drive from the hospital to home but we hit tons of Election Day traffic at 5pm.

Speaking of Election Day, I did manage to get out and vote before heading to the hospital! I wore my sticker proudly in pre-op…

…and then also on my sling.

I have been really nauseous since I woke up in the recovery room. Had one bite of toast but almost threw it up. PCA made me some mint tea and I’m drinking it now, hoping to settle my stomach so I can take my next dose of pain meds. The pain feels deep in my shoulder, like someone has been taking a jackhammer to my bones. It’s steady and distractingly intense. Deep breaths don’t help. Why are deep breaths always the answer? PCA looked up post- surgery nausea and most suggested five minutes of deep controlled breathing. I find myself clenching my hand and hunching my shoulder up to try and ward off the pain.

The surgeon told PCA that my injuries were clearly from blunt force trauma caused by high impact. In fact, he said my injuries almost exactly matched those of one of the Tennessee Titans whom he operated on last week. He also found a tear in my biceps and repaired that too. That’s about all I can manage for now. I’m icing 15 on and 15 off for the next forever. The recliner is a Godsend!

**** 9pm now. I hope im not in an Oxy haze hallucinating Obama’s re-election!!!! I must be dehydrated. Haven’t had any water since 945pm last night — almost 24 hours ago now. PCA just brought a handful of crushed mint from the garden. Inhaling that seems to help too. My hair is driving me crazy. I can’t put it up in a ponytail and PCA couldn’t manage it either! It’s like his man hands just don’t work that way. I have a million little tendrils hanging down, sticking to my sweaty face. Something tells me this will be the first in a long line of challenges in the getting-me-dressed department.

Ah, so it wasn’t a hallucination!