I had an L4-5 spine fusion revision along with L5-S1 on 1/10/18. That date is also my anniversary celebrating 31 years this year. It is just how the dates worked out when the surgeon could do my surgery. Maybe it was a good sign; a good day to have surgery?
I will say that I was in near panic levels waiting to be called back and prepped for surgery. I remember waking up in horrendous pain post-op last time; I was just so afraid I would wake up in that amount of pain again. Fortunately, between my pre-op nurse and the anesthesiologist, my concerns were discussed; I don’t even remember waking up in post-op!
My “case” went longer then anticipated. I was told it would take approximately four hours; it actually took six hours. This bought me a Foley catheter that drained urine into a bag. Just one more humiliating event in a long list of turning me into a group of symptoms; de-humanizing my person. Apparently I lost a lot of blood which then prevented me from maintaining a safe blood pressure. This bought me a room on the step-down unit where I would be monitored more closely. I don’t remember much of that first night; maybe I was symptomatic? The next morning, I had a new nurse who was fantastic. She was efficient and compassionate. Except for all the alarms that kept going off (not mine), it was a fairly pleasant day managing pain, checking my dressing, and draining the collecting cup of fluid from the line left in along my spine.
I knew the criteria I needed to “pass” to be discharged from the hospital. I needed to pass Physical Therapy by being able to walk down the hall. I needed to have a decrease in output from my drain. And I needed to be off the PCA (patient controlled anesthesia) pump. When asked if I wanted to try walking down the hall, I knew I had to do that! I walked up and down the hallway twice and was “passed” by physical therapy… Yeah!
By Thursday evening, I was to be moved to a regular neuro floor freeing up my bed for a more acute patient. I pre-medicated for the move knowing that “activity” would wipe me out. Being a “cheap date” (a little medication goes a long way with me), I under-dosed not wanting to be “fuzzy” after the move. By the time I got to the new room, my pain level was flaring up again so I asked for additional pain medication. I was told “no!”. The reason… Although I had taken the smallest amount of pain medication allowed, the nurse told me she did not want to have to come into my room with medication more then every four hours. That I should have asked for a higher dose to begin with! Well, I didn’t and now I was in pain. I was told there was nothing they could or would do about it! Meanwhile, I was asked to remove my non-slip socks to check for ulcers that I might have on my heels? The nurses on this floor didn’t want to be responsible for any skin problems I might already have. While I can understand the nurses wanting to document any skin problems, I felt like I needed to tell them that I had only been in the hospital for less then 48 hours. That I was an active, vibrant person who just had surgery to correct the arthritis in my spine. As I sat there writhing in pain, dear hubby was telling the nurse to call the resident to change the order if that was what was needed to get me more pain medication! I was so thankful he was there with me for just this reason. I don’t take medication unless I really need it! How dare this nurse; the person that was supposed to be MY advocate, deny me medication when I was obviously in serious pain!
It was this power-struggle between the nurses on this floor and my hubby, an orthopedic surgeon, that caused this problem. They weren’t about to let another physician tell them what they were going to do (or not do in this case). All the while, I HAD medication in my phone case that I carry with me. I certainly could medicate myself with these medications just like I have been doing the past several months. It took the nurses 45 minutes to come back to my room with my requested pain medication. Just one more de-humanizing ploy to make me feel bad that I needed pain medication and that I was a “inconvenience” in that nurse’s shift.
On the “up side”, they were true to their word in that they had no intention of coming into my room more often then every 4 hours and then it was to take a blood pressure reading. They insisted I needed my heart monitor on because I was on the PCA pump. That was easily fixed. I quit the PCA pump! It was such a low dose and not really helping my pain level anyways. Plus, if I stayed on the PCA pump, they wanted me attached to a finger probe that monitored my oxygen in my blood. I had not worn this probe for the entire day on the step down unit but here, they wanted to put it back on my finger. Another reason to quit the PCA pump! Having me tell the nurses what I would and would not do threw them into a tizzy again!
Friday morning and I was ready to go home! I had told the surgeon I was going to go home on Friday so it didn’t come as a complete surprise when he came to see me that morning. I was told that less then 5% of patients go home from the hospital this soon. Hmm… well maybe that is true but I don’t see what they could do for me that I couldn’t do for myself? The nurse practioner that works with the surgeon came in to pull my drain.
Bags were packed; discharge papers filled out and I was transported via wheelchair to the front of the hospital. I swear… that gal pushing the wheelchair intentionally hit every bump along the way all the while telling me some inane story about her aunt. Hubby left me there with the transport person to go get the car. After he left, the transport person left me too. I sat there in January weather by myself waiting for hubby to arrive in our car! Labeled a “fall risk” due to medications and instability in walking, it is a good thing I didn’t try to move or get up from that wheelchair. Falling on hospital property would be a huge liability for this hospital! I remember having my babies in the hospital so many years ago and being discharged to the front entrance with my new babies. No, I was NOT left by myself even for one minute!
The ride home was “rough”. I knew it would be! It took about 1.5 hours to make it home from the hospital and I felt every bump and crack in the road. Still, I had visions of my comfortable bed waiting for me at home that didn’t make me feel like I would fall out every time I turned over! And eating better food! The system the hospital had in place was that I could order “room service” any time between 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. And that it would take an hour to deliver whatever food I ordered. Gone are the days where you receive a liter pitcher with a straw to push fluids/water while in the hospital. Instead, I received a plastic cup and a regular straw much like what is used at Motel 6! As a bizarre and strange act as we were walking out of the door to drive to the hospital, I threw in my Yeti 16 ounce mug. I’m so glad I did! My Yeti mug kept my ice frozen and water cold bedside whenever I wanted a drink!
Probably the biggest reason I wanted OUT of the hospital… I can’t stand the filtered conditioned air pumped throughout the hospital. It isn’t unusual for me to have at least one window “cracked” throughout the winter and wide open throughout the summer. I love waking up to the birds chirping and the smell of sunshine! In the hospital, I just felt claustrophobic! And this is from someone who hasn’t had a problem from the many MRI’s I’ve had related to this spine problem.
Now home and the process of “pain management” continues. Ironically, my prescribed meds are not any different then what I was taking pre-op over the last several months. I take a sustained released med that works great on ALL of my joints but for post-op pain, it has very little effect. Norco/Vicodin is also prescribed which I usually break in half. A full pill WILL squelch my pain as it knocks me out and makes me fall asleep. And I have another pain med that I also usually break in half also. This will take care of the pain but again, it will knock me out. I usually take this at night knowing I will be pain-free for about 4-6 hours. In between these naps, I am up “walking” to get my circulation going. The highlight for today… I took a shower! I have sticky residue from the EKG stickers that I’m still trying to scrub off my skin. And I have a deep scab on my face from the paper tape they used when I was intubated in the OR. I’ve NEVER done well with any type of tape on my skin; I really hope this sore does not leave a scar!
Also at home, I’m surrounded by my animals. My old barn cat and my son’s two kittens are glued to me. Their constant attendance is somewhat unusual yet they are ALWAYS on my bed with me. I’m too unsteady on my feet to spend time with my dogs yet. I’m just afraid one of them will jump up on me and throw me off balance. But I hear them barking and running with hubby out at the barn as hubby cares for the barn animals. I hear Jack and Jill, my donkeys, bray when they see hubby knowing it is time for them to be fed. My goal is to get out there to see them both in the next day or two. I did spend some time with Maybelline, my blue front Amazon and Kazoo, the young African Grey. I cooed to both letting them know I was home and that I would take them both out of their cages soon. Kazoo, especially, appreciated being scritched and loved on but my stamina for standing at his cage is really pathetic right now. Again, I plan to spend more time with both of them in the not-too-distant future.
As the days blend into nights, I know I have to be patient with myself. I know I will get through this and be better off now that this surgery has been done. No matter how much I dreaded the surgery, and the pain, I dread losing my mobility and my active lifestyle even more. For now, I’m just taking it one day at a time!