Microdiscectomy – Week One Overview

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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
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