Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Maybe the reason I've been feeling both bitchy and droopy tonight has to do with nerves. I had a long conversation with the patient advocate lady at the hospital today. I'm supposed to attend a spine class at the hospital on the 15th. It's supposed to run four hours in addition to having some more blood testing (I swear, I feel like a pin cushion these days) and a consultation with the anesthesiology department, and there's no place for me to lie down. Given that I can't be "vertical" (read: sitting up or standing) for more than about 20 minutes without enduring blinding pain and getting lightheaded (even with the percocet), this is a problem. The lady at the hospital was very nice about it and told me that she could give me all the info over the phone... so she did. So hopefully my surgeon will clear me and say that I don't have to attend the class anyway. He'd been pretty adamant about my going. Keep your fingers crossed.

Anyway, the lady at the hospital basically gave me the run-down on what to expect when I'm in the hospital. Some of it was helpful (right down to where to get coupons for discounted parking), and some of it made me nervous. I think the sheer volume of information made me nervous. It's not like this is all new information - a lot of it is information I've known - but I'm getting a bit uneasy.

So here's what I know about what to expect while I'm in the hospital:
  • My surgery will take about six hours.
  • I'll be in the hospital for three days.
  • I'll have two surgeons working on me. One will be my orthopedic surgeon, whom I love, and the other will be a vascular surgeon, who will be there for the first couple of hours to make the incisions on my "front" and deal with everything on that side.
  • Since my surgery is an anterior-posterior procedure, I'm going to be very sore not only in my back but also throughout my entire abdominal area, since it sounds like they'll basically just push a bunch of organs aside so they can work on my spine from that direction.
  • The first couple of days are going to be "really rough," in the words of the hospital lady. My surgeon told me I'll probably hate him for the first day or two.
  • I'll have a morphine drip that I can control for probably the first two days/nights - which sounds to me like an awfully long time to be on morphine, since I've never had it before (and I'm nervous because a lot of painkillers make me sick). But I suppose it's good to know that I'll be able to self-administer pain meds every 10 minutes.
  • They might have to put some sort of drain in my dressing, in case my incision "leaks" (WHAT????).
  • Eating will be severely restricted at first, due to the distress my abdominal area will incur, having been effectively shoved to the side... on the plus side of that, once I'm allowed to eat, the hospital has room service so I can call and place an order according to a menu that'll be in my room.
  • They'll give me a kit of essentials for people who've had back surgery, including a "reacher" which will probably look like this yellow plastic toy my brother had when he was little.
  • I'll work with PT and OT (physical and occupational therapy, respectively) and will get up to try to walk the day after surgery. They'll start me using a walker and we'll go from there.
  • Apparently I won't be able to shower for a while - at least not as long as I'm in the hospital, and probably not for a few days thereafter (read: if any of you are planning to visit, you might want to come either immediately after the surgery, or wait a week so I can shower again).

The good news:

  • Thankfully, there are no restrictions on visitors or visiting hours.
  • The anesthesiologist should be able to give me something from the very beginning to prevent my getting sick from the anesthesia and painkillers.
  • I may have talked my surgeon into using stitches that dissolve instead of using staples that would have to be removed. I'd just been picturing a staple-gun... and in my head, that just didn't look good. I know that with this surgery it's idiotic to be worried about the staples, of all things, but I'll be very happy to have some sort of less-invasive-sounding procedure to close me up.

The recovery will be long, but like everything else in the world it'll get progressively easier as it goes. I'll be in a brace for three months following surgery. I'm not allowed out of the house for the first six weeks after my surgery (well, I'm allowed out of the house to walk up and down the street or around the backyard, but I'm not allowed to actually go anywhere because I'm not allowed to be in a car). During the second six weeks I'll be allowed to ride in a car, but I think I'm limited in how much I can do that. My understanding of it is that it's not so much because I won't be able to drive; rather, it's that they want to limit my time in a car because on the awful chance that I were to be in an accident or anything, it'd be really difficult to "fix" me at that point.

In a way I'm excited for the surgery - mainly because I'm anxious for it to be over. Even at the beginning - even when I'm on the morphine drip - I think it'll feel like progress, at least psychologically. The way I see it, every day that goes by is one day closer to being done with this whole ordeal. But right now I'm a bit overwhelmed. Like I said, a lot of this is not new information and most of it isn't surprising, but it's starting to make me nervous. Surgery is December 19, which is now officially less than two weeks away.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, your surgery is definately more to it than mine was. I hope everything goes better than expected, and from experience with a morphine drip (first surgery) I can say that it is a life saver the first couple of days.

Funny about the staples, I had the same reaction and talked my doctor into stitches too.

Hope your doctor says you don't have to go to that class.
Good luck :)

December 06, 2006 9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wishing you lots of positive vibes for a successful surgery and a speedy recovery!!! I'll be thinking about you!

And FWIW, staples creeped me out too, but they really weren't bad and I think it held things together really well.

Cousin Chelle

December 06, 2006 9:12 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

Those reaching-toy things are sweet. We had a few when I was younger and we could, like, pick-up stuff that was beyond arm's reach. No, I'm serious! I think they're cool...

My brother had surgery on his knee yesterday - he tore his... ACL (?) playing dodge ball with the kids at the school where he works. They gave him some kind of device that he has to use for 8 hours every day that just bends his knee back and forth. He also has some kind of liquid cooling system with tubes and such that keep his knee cold. It's so cyber! Will the hospital give you any fun toys to take home, or just the drugs?

Will you get a standard-issue walker? Can I cover it with fur?

December 09, 2006 7:29 PM  

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