The Right Perspective

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Surgery #4 is Done

The fourth surgery of the year (since May 30th, if we're being technical here) is behind me....literally and figuratively, I do believe.  I had the hardware that had been installed 3 months before on the left side of my vertebrae removed along with a bone fragment.  The surgeon (who has done all of my surgeries) said the nerve was still really red and irritated so he thinks something was probably still rubbing against it, but he didn't actually see anything at the time of surgery.  That being said, there is nothing left to impinge that area of the nerve any more, which is good. 

He also told us that I was healing really well and that when he removed the screws there was no movement, so the fusing is apparently going well.  All good things. 

I did not, however, wake up miraculously healed with a fully functioning foot.  It's probably still a bit too soon to say that there was no improvement, but thus far, there hasn't been any change.  My back hurts and feels like it's been through a war (which it has this year).  Percoset is my friend and I discovered that miscounting how many hours it had been since my last dose (erring on the long end) does not feel good.  I also have external stitches for the first time since apparently super-glue doesn't always work as well the second time in the same spot. 

I go back on the 13th for my first follow-up appointment.  The surgeon told me we'd know by then if the surgery was going to fix my foot or if it still needed time.  He also said that in three months, if there was no improvement in my foot, that is was likely going to be permanent.  I haven't completely given up on healing, but I'm realistic.  The surgeon told Andrew and I both that he would feel better about my chances if the issues I was having went down my entire left leg.  That would be a more normal presentation.  However, with it only causing problems with my foot, there's a higher likelihood that this is permanent. 

It's a tough pill to swallow at times, but it's also not the worst thing in the world.  Frustrating, to be certain, but things could be so much worse and I am reminded of that quite often.  It's hard though.  It's humbling to be the only mom who walks into the preschool with a cane.  All the other moms are in their fancy clothes or yoga gear and while I might be in yoga pants, it's because I'm headed to physical therapy.  Of course, all the kids in Ethan's preschool class instantly recognize "Ethan's mom".  It's frustrating when "Maude" (the cane) falls over approximately 76 times a day and I have to slowly squat down to get it (because I'm not supposed to bend).   It makes the possibility of looking for a part-time job quite a bit more daunting as well (something I was actively doing before this whole ordeal began). 

But I know that if this is my future, it will be ok.  I still have my family and friends.  I've had people praying for me for nearly a year now and that's something sweet and humbling and wonderful as well.  I've learned just how disabled-unfriendly the world is, despite all the "handicapped accessibility".  I've learned to detest the electric carts, and in particular the back-up beeping sound.  I've learned that people can be very loving and understanding or completely lacking in compassion and couth.  I've learned a lot about myself .  And I'm pretty sure that the learning experience is far from over.  Please keep me in your prayers.  Pray for healing from the surgeries.  Pray for healing of my nerves.  Pray for improved function of my left foot/leg.  Pray for encouragement.  I try to be a "glass half full" kind of person and most of the time I succeed, but Satan creeps in from time to time and starts throwing doubts and frustrations my way and it helps to have an army fighting along side me with prayer.  Pray for my family as they adjust to a new normal.  It's not easy for any of us, but we're doing the best we can.  Thanks for listening.  Sometimes I just need to write things out so that I can get it off my chest.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Life Is Full of Surprises

Life is full of's just that most of mine this year haven't been good. 

I started off last week with my first ever experience of being pulled over by a police officer.  It was still dark outside, about 7:45 am, Monday morning.  I was trying my best to get both kids to two different schools on time and myself to physical therapy.  I had just turned onto a road after stopping at the stoplight when the flashing red and blue lights blinded me in my rearview mirror.  Since the police car was directly behind me, I immediately pulled over, hoping in vain that he was just in a hurry to get somewhere else.  Alas, he was not.  Both kids got silent in the backseat and I rolled down my window to accept my shame and reproach with as much dignity as possible, all the while hoping that the officer would be merciful and fast because....well, we were going to be late to school!

It turns out that I wasn't pulled over for speeding.  I got pulled over for having an expired license plate registration.  In other words, I didn't have the right color sticker on my license plate.  And apparently I hadn't had the right color since it expired in May.  Oops!  Of course, I had a few other things going on this May (like the almost complete inability to move without searing pain), followed by spine surgery.  But that didn't matter.  I suppose the officer didn't really have much choice in the matter and he wrote me the $143 ticket and sent me on my way.  

We got to Emily's school 6 minutes late.  She had to sign in to explain why she was late.  I told her to tell the office that my alarm didn't go off (it didn't) rather than have her try to explain the whole expired registration thing.  Turns out, she went with the much more dramatic explanation on the sign in list that everyone sees.....Reason for being late  "Police". 

I spent the rest of the day attempting to correct my registration mistake (did you know that in my county, NONE....not one, of the license branches are open on Mondays?...Yeah, neither did I.)  I had to drive 40 minutes (each way) out of my way to get current and then drop off the registration for Andrew's car, since it too was expired, then go pick up Emily from school again.  It wasn't my finest day.

Tuesday wasn't much better, but nothing worth writing about, just boring annoyances that I didn't need. 

And then came Wednesday.  I had a follow-up appointment with my neurosurgeon.  He wanted to check on my continuing symptoms and see if anything else needed to be addressed before the end of the year (and our insurance deductible resets).  Back in November when we met for the same reason, he was pretty sure that everything was going to be fine.  So imagine my surprise when he walked in the room, shook my hand, looked at my cane (because my foot is still mostly not functioning) and said, "We need to talk about removing the screw and bone fragment on the left side."  I wasn't exactly expecting that. 

So to sum up a very long explanation, he gave me the option of going back into surgery (outpatient), opening up the left incision, removing the screws on that side and fishing out a bone fragment that he is suspicious of causing some (or all) of my continuing concerning symptoms.  He said we could do this before the end of the year, in 5 or 6 months (if things hadn't improved) or not at all.  But he gave me somewhat higher than 50% odds that this might improve my symptoms.  Of course, it might also be another surgery with absolutely no positive outcome and more recovery.  Or it might be that the nerve needs more time to heal and only time will accomplish that....or, the nerve might simply be too damaged to heal and this is my new reality.  I told him I was going to need to think about it before I could give him an answer.

After much thought and debate and prayer and discussion, I decided to go for the FOURTH spine surgery in a 6 month period.  Ridiculous, I know, but in the end I decided that I didn't really have a lot to lose by having the surgery (although it may somewhat weaken the healing fusion, but the surgeon seems to think it shouldn't), but I could potentially regain all or most of my foot function (and lose the old lady cane!).  I had to take the chance because I am not enjoying this whole "disabled" thing one.little.bit. 

And so, if you think of it and can spare a few moments over this Christmas/New Year's season, say a prayer for me on Monday, December 29th around 11am.  I should be back home the same day and the surgery should be a piece of cake compared to the last one, but the odds haven't really been in my favor lately, so I'll accept any prayers you can send my way!!  And in case I'm not around for a bit....Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

An Update

Well, it's now been nearly 2 months (or 8 week on Thursday, to be exact) since my fusion surgery.  As far as I can tell, all the screws and rods are still where they should be and my incisions have healed very nicely.  So other than looking like Wolverine got to me (with my three nearly identical racing stripes), the carnage isn't too bad. 

I have been in physical therapy twice a week for about a month now and have seen some improvement in the strength in my left leg.  I am still walking with a cane for the foreseeable future and I have a temporary disability (read: handicapped) parking tag until April.  Thankfully, that should cut down the walking I have to do in all this treacherous snow and ice with which we have been blessed in mid-November!  I can now walk up the stairs one foot/leg at a time, as opposed to having to have both feet on each step before moving steps, but progress.  I've been practicing balancing on my left leg for 30 second at a time without holding on to anything.  I'm getting there.  I've been riding a stationary bike and have improved from riding 1.3 miles the first time to 2 miles by the third time (in the same 10 minute pathetic is that?  People RUN faster than that!!)  However, the people who run don't have to have their left foot strapped down to the bike pedal as firmly as it will go so that it will stay on the pedal and not fall off.  Because that's my reality right now. 

As much progress as my left leg is making, my left foot is not.  I still cannot bend my toes down on that side, which doesn't seem like a big deal, but I cannot wiggle my toes into a pair of flip-flops to get them on, for example.  I can't raise up onto my toes at all on that foot.  When the therapist asks me to stand on my tip toes, the right side cooperates just fine, but it looks like I'm not even trying when I attempt to stand on my tip toes on the left...which is an interesting be trying your hardest to make a body part do something it's always been able to do....and watch it completely not respond.  If someone presses down on my big toe and tells me not to let them press just flops down.  That foot is almost useless, but not quite, thankfully.

I have cut WAY down on meds and done some switching, since my left foot that won't cooperate does still have some major nerve pain.  I was taking the highest dose of Gabapentin (3600mg/day, from the 300mg/day that I started with) but now I have switched (after a fight with insurance) to Lyrica.   For a while, I was taking both as I weaned off of one and built up the other, and that was causing interesting memory issues.  But after some tweaking, I feel like the Lyrica is working better for my nerve pain.  I don't really have the horrid sunburned feeling and I no longer have to cringe and shield my foot if anyone or anything comes within 3 feet of it.  I still have some breakthrough pain that the Lyrica just doesn't help and the occasional sensation of an ice pick stabbing various parts of my foot and toes, but thankfully, that's more rare.  Still, even without the pain, there is a constant feeling that my foot isn't right and it sort of numb, but not quite....sort of swollen, but not really.  Fun stuff.

I officially hate my cane, which we've affectionately dubbed "Maude".  "Maude" falls down or gets knocked over at least 20 times a day, which is oh-so-helpful when I'm not supposed to bend.  The kids refer to "Maude" all the time and bless his heart, Ethan prays each and every day for "mom not to have to have any more surgeries and for her leg not to hurt and for her not to need the cane anymore to walk".  It's sweet and breaks my heart all at the same time, because I just don't know what the future holds regarding the use of my left foot.  It is possible that this will be a long, but temporary thing....or it's possible that the nerve was damaged too much and as it affects that foot, will ultimately be permanent.  No one knows and only (a long) time will tell.  Nerves are apparently the slowest part of the body to heal.

I saw the neurosurgeon again today and he commented once again on the fact that I have some decent amount of scoliosis (something we never knew until after this last surgery) which will likely make more surgery necessary in the future (hopefully at least 10-20 years down the line).  Not really what I wanted to hear, but ultimately completely out of my control.  I just hope that by then, surgical techniques and advances can be made to make things simpler next time.

In other news, Ethan is now 5 and loving his preschool class and teachers...making lots of friends, playing hard and basically coming out of his little shell in full force.  He's also showing some signs of ADHD (not so much hyperactivity, but lack of focus...just like his big sister).  His teachers love him and have been a great help to me while I have been somewhat incapacitated both physically and mentally because of all the medicine I was taking at first. 

Emily turned 10 in September and has been staying busy in 4th grade (how did this happen?)  She is currently working on an insect project that required researching 10 bugs and making a big poster and report.  I didn't think I'd survive the research/report part.  I'm pretty sure I'm not going to survive her teen years.  She's also preparing to play the part of Mary in her school Christmas play.  Drama is her thing and so this is right up her alley.

Andrew got promoted at work a few weeks ago and is now Vice President of the Trust Department and Trust Counsel.  He has lots of titles and letters after his name....I can no longer keep up!  We are all proud of him!

So that's us in a nutshell.  We're definitely all nuts, but hopefully headed in the right direction!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Cuteness Ahead and Help Needed

I think it's time for a break from the 35 year-old-going-on-85 medical drama and time for a little happiness and extreme cuteness.

But before that, the background:  Andrew and I have had two cats since shortly after we were married. The older cat, Puma, was around 14.5 years old this year and the younger cat Bob, was about 13.5.  Both cats lived nice long lives and lived luxuriously on soft couches and warm soft beds, but this year was a tough one for both of them.  Bob, who had had health problems all throughout her life got worse around Christmas and in January it became evident that none of us could continue living like that (trust me, you don't want all the details!). And so in late January, I took her to the vet and had her put to sleep.  I nearly killed me.  I sobbed like a baby and was somewhat weepy for several days later.  I knew it was the right decision, but it was still incredibly hard as she was absolutely the sweetest cat I'd ever had.

Fast forward to a couple of week ago...and the time had very obviously come for Puma to be put to sleep.  She had been struggling with thyroid disease for a couple of years and had lost at least half her body weight.  She was horribly anxious and literally starving all the time despite feeding her extra.  We couldn't keep watching her waste away and she wouldn't take the medicine and we weren't going to do surgery at her age, so I took her to the vet and had her put to sleep.  I was a mess yet again as we'd been together for a long time.

Last summer, we decided to get Emily a kitten since we knew both of our cats wouldn't last forever.  He is a black and white tuxedo cat that we named Zippy.  He's been through a lot with Emily.  I'm not sure he'd agree that he has been better off....but she's finally starting to learn that maybe you can give a little too much love and smother a cat!!

Zippy is not a cuddler.  He is very independent and prefers not to be held or touched at all most of the time.  I miss Bob, who was on your lap if you were sitting or was happy just to lay upside down next to a warm body (usually mine).  So after we put Puma to sleep, I went on the hunt for a cuddly kitten.  It couldn't be just any cat because I wanted a baby and I wanted to make sure that it loved to be a lap cat.  And I found a prospective kitten about an hour away at a shelter in Michigan.  Actually, I found several there and I went to look at a completely different one initially, but then I saw kitten.  I had seen his profile online and he looked beautiful, but it said that he had a broken leg and would always have a limp....and well, I just wasn't sure about that.

But then I met "Robin".  He was so very sweet and affectionate and his leg didn't seem to bother him at all.  He has the softest orange fur I have ever felt and he loves to be petted.  And he had to be mine.

So I put in my application and discovered that he would need to either be crated for four more days (to allow his broken leg to completely heal) or that I could come back in four days and get him then.  As luck would have it, this turned out to be the same day that I realized that I had definitely reherniated my disc for the third time, and so I opted to come back and get him, since I was in pain and I didn't want to take him home in a crate.

Long story short, we ended up getting him the following Saturday, and ever since, "Robin" has been the newest member of our family.  However, we still cannot agree on a name....we have tossed around hundreds, so maybe if I add some pictures, someone will have a great idea.  Here's our newest family member:
Here's the little guy, all curled up next to me on the couch.  This makes him look kind of a buff color, but he is much more vibrant orange...and long-haired, in case you can't tell.

This is closer to the right color.  And here is his favorite perch.  Apparently I need to pay more attention to him and less to the computer!

All sacked out next to me.  Wish I could get that comfy!!
This was after an epic cat fight between Zippy and "he who has no name".  They both were fighting over the coveted rocker in the sun.  After a good 10 minute battle, they agreed to share...grudgingly.
As you might be able to tell, Zippy is much larger than the new kitten and outweighs him by at least 8 lbs. or so.  But the little guy is plucky, despite his gimpy leg.
And while I am aware that this picture is not very good of me, I wanted to show you how he and I can usually be found.  I haven't been sleeping well and I was back on the couch early this morning.  The little fellow likes to lay on the pillow next to me.  Actually, he'd prefer to be my scarf or lay on my face, but I've been encouraging him to let me breathe! 

So, I know that there is a good name for him just on the tip of my tongue, but I can't decide.  Any ideas?

Monday, September 29, 2014

My Racing Stripes

Warning:  Surgical aftermath ahead!!
I'll write my post first and then if you choose not to see my new racing stripes, you don't have to.  (It's not that horrible....just some incisions closed with super-glue, but if you have a weak stomach, at least you've been forewarned!)
First off, thanks for the prayers after my last couple of posts.  It's been a rough few days with lots of fears and anxiety and pain.  I'm still not pain-free by any stretch, but I'm trying to just keep going and look for even small improvements.  I was able to sleep pretty well last night, so that seems like progress.
My left leg is still not very strong.  I can use it, but it doesn't like to cooperate fully and when pairing that with a very painful left foot, it's hard to walk well.  I can hobble around without the walker since I know my leg will hold me, but it's slow going for me, which I hate.  I need to get out somewhere and actually log some distance, but I'm not sure where.  A family outing to Walmart while mom walks behind her walker up and down the aisles just doesn't seem all the fun to me.  Then again, I haven't left the house (other than the hospital) since last Tuesday, so I'm getting a bit stir-crazy.  You can only make so many laps with the walker from the couch to the kitchen and back again before extreme boredom sets in.
And now I thought I'd post (mostly for my own records) how my surgical incision looks about 4 days-post minimally invasive TLIF surgery.  (I'm also posting this for anyone who, like me a few days/weeks ago, was searching for just how bad this surgery might be.  It was so helpful to find a few personal accounts on blogs and such that detailed exactly what the surgery and recovery were like.)
So without further ado (and with adequate warning!!), my new racing stripes:  The middle scar represents the first two surgeries (microdiscectomies) and the two ugly incisions are the new ones from 4 days prior to this picture.  They are super-glued together and are longer than the previous ones but should heal about as well once all the glue works itself off.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


I'm sitting here tonight at 12:56 am.  Or I guess I should say I'm sitting here this morning.  I'm waiting for 1:15 to come so that I can take some more medicine that will only marginally take the edge off of the worst of the pain.  I want to go to sleep.  I want to stretch out in my own bed and sleep all night long without waking up.  I don't remember the last time that happened.  Right now, I just want to sleep and forget about everything for a long while because I'm tired of all the pain and even more exhausted from the worry. 

I'm struggling to be patient.  I's only been a few days since surgery and I'd be crazy to think that I'd be bouncing back and feeling great.  I didn't expect that at all.  I expected to have pain and have it for a while...I guess I just hoped that I wouldn't have quite this much or that it would be some different pain than before (as in, no more horrific burning nerve pain in my left foot.)  Except that I still have that same pain, plus weird numbness and swelling and this is despite the surgery and all the meds that I'm maxed out on.  I can't take a higher dose of the nerve medication....and that terrifies me because it isn't working enough.

I'm worried.  I'm trying not to be, but in the middle of the night, when it's just me and HGTV stuck in the living room, awake when I don't want to be again, I can't stop my mind from going there.  To a place where the surgery doesn't work.  Where the bones don't fuse or something goes wrong before they have a chance to, or I accidentally bend or twist and break something or herniate a different disc and have to go through all this again.  Because right now, that all terrifies me and I don't really think anyone else gets it.  There, I said it...I'm scared and I feel really alone.  I'm usually able to be tough and push past this sort of stuff, but in the middle of the night...I'm just scared and alone.  I know God hears my prayers and the thoughts I can't even bear to express.  I know there are people all over who are praying for me and I truly appreciate it in ways I can't express.  But sometimes I just wish I didn't have to be awake or think for a while because I need the break from my own mind. 

I know almost no one reads this anymore, and that's was never written to be popular, just to be a record for me.  I just need to get this out somewhere because I'm so tired and scared.  But if you (whoever you may be) happen to read this and feel like praying for me...please do.  I could use a little extra strength for a while.  Maybe for a long while.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Back Home - This Will Be Long

Well, it's been an adventure.  I apologize in advance if whatever I type doesn't make sense or has lots of typos.  I'm on A LOT of medicines. 

I was admitted to the ortho unit of the hospital on Tuesday evening.  I spent the night with a lovely I.V. port hooked up to nothing....just waiting.  The hospital bed was supposed to be all high-tech, but let me just say this for the record: it was horrid.  It was an airbed, which I am not opposed to in general.  However this airbed kept inflating and deflating periodically (which I'm told it was supposed to do) and was too soft and lumpy and generally awful.  I most definitely would have preferred even the hard ER beds because they would have been more comfortable.  On top of that, it was adjustable, like all hospital beds, except that I would adjust it to sit upright, and then about a half-hour or so later I'd realize that I was laying down again.  It would ever-so-gradually start reclining on it's own, which it was not supposed to do.  I mentioned it to several nurses and I think they fixed it while I was in surgery because it seemed to behave better afterward.

I went into the pre-surgery staging room and met with the surgeon, the nurse and the anesthesiologist.  I asked the anesthesiologist if she could please be careful intubating me since the last two times, I've had chunks taken out of my lower palate that have taken a great deal of time to heal.  I know she wasn't involved in either of those times, but I figured I didn't need one more part of my body to hurt.  As it turns out, I didn't even have a sore throat with this intubation, so she must have been good.  I got something in my I.V. to relax me (Versed, I think) and that's all she wrote until I woke up in recovery. 

I could obviously tell I'd been through surgery as my back was ouchy, but overall, my pain was decently managed and I thankfully have not struggled with nausea from the anesthesia, so after a bit I was taken back to my room.  Apparently the surgery took quite a bit longer than anticipated due to the fact that things looked a lot worse than the MRI indicated.  I had once again ruptured a massive chunk of disc which had managed to wedge itself pretty securely against/into my sciatic nerve and was a bit tricky to dislodge.  Then when the surgeon went in to remove some sort of joint (a facet joint, I think), he could immediately see that that had been the problem all along.  He said it was moving back at forth just barely touching it (which is shouldn't) and that when he removed it, it literally just disintegrated from massive arthritis.  Lovely, huh?  He told me later that if he had known how bad that joint was, he never would have done the second surgery back in August because he would have known it wouldn't have worked.  So it seems that there really truly was no other option but to fuse me and screw me back together.  He removed the entire disc, replaced it with a plastic spacer filled with my bone material and something else to help it grow (Miracle Grow, perhaps?) and screwed everything in place, then stitched me up internally on both sides and super-glued me back together.  I now have three lovely racing stripes running vertically across my very low back.  The middle one is healed and just a little over an inch and a half.  It represents the first two surgeries.  The other two are currently very angry looking and are at least two inches long on either side of the original scars.   I'm really, really swollen and ouchy back there and on Percoset for the incision/surgery pain.  However, the Percoset wears off about an hour before I can take more and so that last hour waiting for the clock to tick by is pretty rough.

The first night after surgery, I was in some pain and it wasn't time for more meds.  My I.V. had been removed earlier due to some issue with it (which is fine by me, I hate the things in my arm) and the only other meds they could give me would have been morphine through another I.V. site.  I declined.  I tried to get comfy in my bed, but that proved to be impossible and while trying to adjust the bed, the nurse call button/remote thing fell onto the floor.  I really, really needed to change positions and sit up or get up out of bed, but the bed rails were up on both sides of the bed and I couldn't get them down, nor could I call for help, so I spent a miserable couple of hours, in tears, hoping someone would come and check on me or check my vitals or whatever so that I could move.  Eventually someone did come in and got my call button back and helped me get out of bed and into the chair next to it.  It wasn't much better and I was still hurting a lot, but at least I could get a hold of the nurses again.  Talk about feeling like you have no was scary.

I have had to humiliate myself and use the commode in the room (rather than the regular toilet) because it is taller and I can't bend or twist at all.  I much prefer my privacy, but my urine output had to be measured as well, so I just gave up and used the darn thing. 

I didn't get much sleep at all either night in the hospital and I am just exhausted.  I've been moving around as much as I can, and I passed my PT and OT exams with flying colors (walking actually doesn't hurt much and feels good to stretch, but I have to use a walker as my left leg just doesn't feel strong.  So at 35, I'm getting around my house with a walker.  Not exactly what I expected, but it's definitely necessary for now. 

I am getting better sleep at home, though still on the couch and still not in very long stretches.  I am having to set my alarm for every 4 hours so that I can take my Percoset and it is hard to catch up to the pain.  I'm also taking a muscle relaxer (which they forgot to give me at all the first night after surgery - lovely), gabapentin for nerve pain in my foot, which has come roaring back due to the horrendous amount of inflammation on my nerve, steroids to address said inflammation, stool softener because all the other meds have a huge tendency to constipate and all my normal meds.  I have to keep a list of when I took my meds last because I'm a little loopy and sometimes I forget if I already took it or not.  I don't need an overdose of anything!

I called the surgeon's office this morning and told them about the Percoset wearing off too soon and they are going to up that dose a little bit to see if it will help.  They are also upping the dose of nerve meds to the max to see if it will help with the nerve pain in my foot.  I may not make any sense at all once all that gets in my system, so I thought I'd update now while I still feel like I am mostly with it.

All in all, I can't say I'd recommend this surgery as a fun procedure.  It's definitely a bigger deal than the first two and it's going to be a long process to heal, not to mention that we still need the bone to start growing together, which will take several months.  So prayers would be greatly appreciated for quick and strong bone growth, healing and relief from surgical and nerve pain and strength to return in my left leg soon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Surgery Tomorrow!

Well, I know I haven't updated in a week or so, and I'm pressed for time now, but here's the scoop:

~Once again, I did indeed herniate a large portion of the same disc for a third time
~As a result, I will require a minimally invasive lumbar fusion known as TLIF, or Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion, of the L5/S1 vertebrae. 
~The offending disc will be completely removed (YAY...can't rupture any more ever) and replaced with a plastic spacer that will be filled with my bone fragments.  Then I'll have two rods placed to shore up the vertebrae and 4 screws to hold it all in place.  (Sounds like a good time, huh?)
~The entire surgery will last about an hour and a half and will require two, two-inch incisions on either side of my very low spine (which should make a lucky three across).  Once again, I'll be stitched from the inside and then super-glued back together. 
~I will be admitted to the hospital in about an hour from now (6pm-ish on Tuesday evening) and the surgery will take place Wednesday around 1 pm.  
~I will stay in the hospital for at least 24 hours, possibly two nights depending on how I'm doing.

So there you have it.  I would greatly and forever appreciate any and all prayers over the next few days for both a safe and successful surgery as well as a relatively easy and pain-free recovery (because goodness knows I've endured my fair share of pain over this last year!)

I'll update when I can....hopefully when I'm crutch-free!!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Deja Vu All Over Again

I can't really believe I have to even write this again.  Yet somehow, I'm not all that surprised either.  Long story short, I need lots and lots of prayers because all signs indicate that I have herniated a disc (likely the same one) for a THIRD time. 

I've been having nerve pain in my left foot, but not the kind that was debilitating like before...this was, I assume, pain from the nerves regenerating and healing.  I've been taking another steroid pack and just upped my nerve pain meds since the pain in my foot is causing me to be unable to sleep.  So, last night like many other recent ones, I slept (sort of, but not really) on the couch in the recliner portion. 

I woke up this morning pretty stiff and my low back hurt quite a bit, but as back pain really was never my problem, I didn't worry about it.  I took Emily to school, came back home and took a nice hot shower and got ready for the day and then Ethan and I went out running some errands for a while.  Around 1:00, I noticed that my leg was hurting suddenly and that it was making it bad enough that I didn't want to stand for more than a couple minutes.  I think I knew right then that it was all over. 

I drove to Em's school, picked her up and came home.  I could barely make it in the door from the car.  I can't really put any weight on my left leg because it shoots horrible pain up into my tailbone/low back.  The nerve pain isn't fun, but it's the pain going up this time that is unbearable.  

I have talked with the neurosurgeon's office and I will be doing a third MRI on Friday, unless (and I hope and pray it does) someone cancels before that.  I don't really expect anything other than another large herniation and that will almost certainly result in a more complex surgery....likely a fusion of the L5/S1 vertebrae.  This is a much bigger surgery with a rather long-term recovery period.  From what I understand, it can easily take 3-6 months or longer for the bones to fuse together.  Sometimes it takes much longer.  I should be able to resume life long before then, but I will have to be extraordinarily careful.  I may also acquire some medical-grade hardware in the process.   (I'll never fly again without a full-body frisking probably.)

So I'd greatly appreciate prayers from anyone who reads this.  I'm in a lot of pain and I'm exhausted and I've been in pain for most of this year.  I'm ready to be completely done.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

And I'm Alive

So I'm hopefully all done with surgeries now.  (Please let me be done!)  This one, not so rewarding.  True, I wasn't in excruciating pain beforehand this time, so the difference wasn't nearly as dramatic, but I knew that going in.  In fact, this time I came home in more pain, but nothing unbearable. 

I took a bit longer coming out of the anesthesia and required "nose fans" as we lovingly call them in our house.  (That would be nasal cannulas for the uninitiated.)  I also made it into the actual surgery room while still "awake, but relaxed".  I remember it was really cold, I was thankful that I wasn't wearing my glasses so that I couldn't really see what they might be using on me, and I was starting to silently freak out that the anesthesia wasn't going to work this time because I didn't remember any of this from the first time.  I also remember someone putting a mask on me and telling me that it was oxygen and that I needed to take some deep breaths....(I think they lied...I don't think it was just oxygen, but what do I know?  All I do know is that I was sucking that stuff down like I'd never breathed it in before and then.....)

I woke up, sort of , back in the recovery room and I remember fighting to open my eyes and being aware that my back hurt and that my throat and mouth didn't hurt as much this time from the intubation, but my tongue felt funny.  Andrew was brought back in and the nose fans were removed, I fought the battle with my eyes and donned my glasses yet again (looking oh so fabulous in the ugly green hospital gown with no makeup, crazy hair and tape residue on my face).  I got out of bed and felt pretty weak in my left leg, but made it to the recliner to sit up and eat some graham crackers and have some water (I hadn't eaten since midnight and eating and drinking were one of my three "getting released" benchmarks.)  After the first bite, I mentioned to the nurse that my tongue felt funny so she told me stick it out and she looked and said she didn't see anything wrong, so I let it go.  After a bit, the nurse took me for a somewhat unsteady stroll around the office area.  I felt decidedly less steady this time around because my left leg and foot are pretty numb.  They kind of feel really swollen, even though they don't appear to be at all.  I'm sure it's from all the swelling and invasion of that area for a second time in less than three months. 

When I got back from my stroll, I went to bathroom, which was the third and final phase of my release plan.  Mission accomplished, I washed my hands and then decided to look at my tongue for myself in the mirror.  And lo and behold, it had a cheerio-sized dark ugly bruise on the right side of my tongue, which is where they had to have intubated me since I was also starting to feel the familiar from last time raw spot on the floor of my mouth on that same side.  The nurse took a look again when I mentioned it to her and she said, "Wow, that wasn't there when I looked earlier!"  Weird.  Anyhow, she thinks it must have gotten pinched or possibly I bit it.  Fun stuff you never think of before surgery.

So since I passed my release exam with flying colors, I was able to get dressed and be wheeled out to the car to go home.  I had a bit of a headache most of the evening, probably from not having eaten until around 3:30.  Andrew picked up food for us, I ate, and then took a short nap.  Since then I've taken a few strolls from the living room to the kitchen or bathroom and back and spent the rest of the time in the recliner surrounded by (and occasionally stomped across) by two cats who hate each other.  The younger cat, Zippy, normally doesn't sit with anyone, but he deigned me worthy (or pitiful enough) to grace me with his presence.

So all in all, I feel a little worse for wear this time around, which I expected, and my incision looks a lot more gnarly than last time (I think it's bigger this time), but I'm faithfully taking my pain meds to "stay ahead of the pain" and will set my alarm for 3:30 in the morning to choke down another pill with some dry cereal and water and walk around the bedroom for a couple minutes until I get back in bed and hopefully fall asleep again until a more normal time in the morning.

Thanks for the prayers and please continue to pray that this time it holds because even in the room just before surgery, the surgeon mentioned again that next we'd have to talk rods and screws.  Not cool.

Surgery, Take Two

Today is my second surgery of the summer.  Hard to believe that I went 35 years without a broken bone or stitches or surgery and now I will have two surgeries about 2 and half months apart on the same disc in my back.  Yippee.

So if you read this and happen to have time for a quick prayer, I'll be heading to the surgery center in about 30 minutes and having the surgery around 1:00 EST.  Hopefully it will all go smoothly and the recovery will be easy like last time.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

An Update

Well, it turns out I might have made a decent radiologist!  But in this case, I wish I was wrong.  The official word is that I do indeed have another herniated disc, in the same exact spot, only much larger this time.  Go figure!  Thankfully, I do not have as much pain and am functioning ok for now.  The problem is that at any moment, just like last time, any special movement might suddenly push me over the edge back into that awful debilitating type of pain. 

And so it is that I will be repeating the microdiscectomy surgery for a second time in about 10 weeks.  Not exactly the end of summer bash that one plans, but that's life.  I will have the surgery with the same surgeon and procedure, just a little more in depth, on August 14th.  This time around is a little easier because I know what to expect.  Prayers are still very much appreciated, but in particular that this time will fix the problem for a good long time.  Because if I herniate the same disc again, the surgeon told me that we'd have to talk about doing a fusion and that involves rods and screws and bone grafts....and other ickiness.  I don't think I'm a wimp, but that just does NOT sound like fun at all.  So pray that this one holds.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I Only Play A Doctor on This Blog

Above are two MRI images.  The left image was taken on May 8, 2014.  The right was taken today, July 22, 2014.  They are both the same view of my lumbar spine.  See the last thick black line (disc) on each one?  On the right hand side of that each disc there is a dark bubble the sticks out just above the cursor on each image.  On the left-hand image, it was a 100% confirmed herniated disc on which I had a microdiscectomy surgery on May 30th.  I enjoyed 5 blissful, pain-free weeks....and then, the sciatic nerve pain came roaring back which led the surgeon to prescribe a pack of oral steroids, which didn't help at all and then led to a repeat mri.
And so today I had the second mri.  The office was running behind anyway and then, in between the first set of images with no contrast dye (lasting about 25 minutes) and getting the injection of contrast, the mri machine broke.  I was already about at my pain threshold from having to lay flat on my back with my legs fully stretched out, which really causes the nerve pain to flare, and NOT MOVE AT ALL.  Then I sat in the tube for another 10 minutes, perfectly still only to learn that the machine wasn't working.  They fiddled with it, tried again and a minute or so later told me that it would have to be completely rebooted, which I now know takes at least 10 minutes, possibly 15.  It did eventually start working again and 10 minutes later, I finally was able to sit up and get some relief.  I also wised up this time and asked for copies of the images and the radiologist's report.  I'm still waiting on the report, but I'm going to play amateur radiologist and compare the two images for you.
In my completely uneducated (and unpaid) opinion, I think the last disc has re-herniated based on the fact that the dark bubble is in the exact same place as before and seems to be almost as large.  Now the other possibility I suppose could be that what I'm seeing is scar tissue from surgery or something like that, but given the fact that the re-herniation rate after my surgery is 5-15% and the biggest post-op complication.....I'm thinking based on my symptoms (which are admittedly not as bad this time, but still pretty painful) that a re-herniation is very likely.  I should have the official report hopefully by the end of the week.
Can I just say, I grow weary of this!  Prayers are once again appreciated.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

And Now....The Rest of the Story

When last I wrote, I was in dire circumstances.  I couldn't sit upright or stand or walk.  Essentially, I was reduced to laying on my back with my knees up at a 90 degree angle or flat on my face with a pillow under my hips.  Even those positions were somewhat painful, just much much less so.  It's kind of hard to take care of a family (much less myself) in that situation.  Driving was extreme torture because I had to sit somewhat upright and yet that caused a ton of excruciating pain.  I did it because I had to, but I know it was not at all safe.

So Thursday night, my wonderful in-laws took on the task of caring for Emily and Ethan for the weekend and I prepared for my upcoming surgery.  Friday morning dawned after a long and nearly sleepless night (not from fear, but from pain).  Andrew drove me to the surgery center while I writhed around in the passenger's seat trying to remember to breathe.  Seriously, I wasn't anywhere close to this much agony when I drove the same distance to the hospital when I was 7 cm dilated in labor with Emily. 

Anyhow, I made it to the surgery center, managed to change into the lovely green gown and slippers and then got myself in bed.  I got my I.V. hooked up in my hand (yay....not) and then answered 400 questions (in addition to all the paperwork I'd already filled out).  Andrew came back with me for a while and we talked and prayed and then the lovely nurse gave me something that she said would relax me just before she another nurse wheeled me out to surgery.  I remember leaving the room, and talking to the nurses as we walked past the desk just outside my room....and then.....nothing.

About an hour, hour and a half later, I woke up back in my previous room with a nurse watching me.   My mouth was dry like cotton and my lip hurt and I could feel my back like something had happened there, but what I noticed most was that the compression "thingys" they had on my legs no longer hurt my left leg when it inflated, which it had before the surgery.  Already, things were improving.  After I woke up a bit and Andrew came back in, the nurse got me up and walked with me around the hallways....and for the first time since early March....I had no pain.  None....Nada....Zip....Zilch!  It was unbelievable that earlier that morning I had been wheeled into the office hunched over in a wheelchair and now, after back surgery, I was up walking and feeling great. 

After eating some crackers and having some water, I took another walk and was feeling really good.  My left foot was slightly numb but the nurse said that was from the swelling and would eventually go away.  After they verified that I could indeed still pee and they gave me a dose of pain meds, I was free to go....and I rode home sitting upright and feeling fantastic.  I could have danced out of the office.

Apparently the surgeon removed about 75% of the disc material through about a two inch incision very low on my spine.  Then he superglued me back together and sent me on my way.  The nurses told us that this was their favorite surgery to work on because patients like me usually got immediate relief and felt so much better.  That was hard to believe before the surgery, but now I am a true believer.  I feel like I've been given my life back.

Now I am 5 days post-surgery and so far today haven't taken any meds.  I can feel the incision in my back, but it's not anything horribly painful.  Actually, it's starting to itch, which I thing is probably a good sign of healing.  I can walk comfortably and I've even done a little driving, which was ok'd as long as I don't do a lot of twisting to get in and out and look behind me.  I even walked through Meijer last night, which I haven't done since March....the only thing that hurt were my feet (they haven't had much use lately!) and some slight low back pain, but that's more from the swelling and was never a problem beforehand.

The best part may be that I can actually sleep comfortably again.  The last few months haven't been great for sleeping, but the last two weeks were horrible.  I had moved onto the couch or floor and even then, I couldn't sleep much from pain.  Now, I am back in bed and sleep is a beautiful thing!

So that's the rest of the story.  I still have a lifting restriction (10 lbs, this week, 10 next week) and I need to be careful not to twist and bend from the waist, but otherwise, I am a new person....and I'm not taking the ability to walk or sit for granted again.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Updated: Prayer Request

Very quick update:

I am now scheduled for surgery this Friday morning at 8:30.  I should be home a bit after noon if all goes well.  This is actually a huge relief because the thought of trying to make it to Monday seemed almost impossible.  I can make it one more day.  Please keep those prayers coming!!


For a change, this post won't have any pictures.  (Sorry Bekah!)  Instead, I just wanted to get you up to speed on what's been happening in my little corner of the world and request prayers.

Since probably everyone who reads this has already heard, here's the scoop:

~ Sometime last fall, my left leg began tingling and buzzing and generally feeling "weird" (that's my super-technical word).  I could tell it was nerve pain, I assumed it was the sciatic nerve and everything I read said that only time would make it better.  So rather than freak out and run to the doctor, I waited...

~ Fast forward to late February.  My leg was still tingly and I was having trouble getting comfy in bed at night, so I decided to take the conservative approach and see the chiropractor (whom I had seen once before when I had some neck issues).  He ordered x-rays of my back and then told me that he was pretty sure I had a leg-length discrepancy based on the fact that my x-rays showed how horribly uneven my hips were.  This led to a CT scan to measure both my legs.

~ In the meantime, I began doing the chiropractor's therapy every other day, consisting of a very gentle manipulation, deep tissue massage and electrical muscle stimulation.  My CT scan showed that my right leg is indeed 11 mm shorter than my left leg, so I was sent to a podiatrist to get a shoe lift made.

~ About two weeks into the chiropractor's care, I suddenly went from a very tingly, buzzing feeling in my leg to all out horrible burning pain in the back of my thigh and butt any time I would stand or walk for a few minutes.  I told the chiropractor and asked if it could possibly be a disc problem in my back, but he told me it was probably a flare up of the muscles which was common with therapy.  I wasn't convinced, and more importantly, I was unable to do my everyday activities without significant pain.

~ Saw the podiatrist, had more x-rays, got orthotics (which I don't think I really needed) and a shoe lift.  After 3 visits and 3 weeks, with no change in my symptoms, I left the podiatrist in the dust and decided to go to my family doctor and see what he could do.

~ I should point out that it was now April and I had resorted to grocery shopping with the electric cart because I absolutely could not walk enough to get through the store.  The one time I tried, I ended up hobbling over to the shoe department in Meijer and sitting on the bench there until the pain let up.  An employee twice my age asked me if I was ok and I had to ask her to get a scooter for me because I couldn't make it to the front of the 35.  Not cool.

~ Saw my family doctor who told me I was having muscle spasms in my back that were pinching the nerve and that time and Ibuprofen would help.  I asked about possible disc problems.  He ordered more x-rays, which didn't show him anything.  Of course.

~ About two weeks later, I called his office and literally begged for an appointment because I was unable to stand for more than about 3 minutes without terrible burning pain.  Got in that morning, told the doctor how much pain I was in and that I couldn't even take care of my family by cooking or cleaning.  He stuck with the muscle spasm theory and gave me muscle relaxers and a mild opiod medicine to try.  Neither even touched the pain.

~  Another couple of weeks later, I called and begged for a referral to a neurologist or whoever the family doctor thought could deal with this pain because I was miserable.  He referred me to a neurologist and I went. 

~  The neurologist told me he didn't deal with this type of thing, but I think he saw and heard my desperation and did a few neurological tests on me and noticed that my reflexes In my left leg were not good.  He diagnosed me with a "s-1 radiculopathy" (which for normal people means pain referred from the s-1 disc down the left leg).With this official diagnosis, he ordered an MRI, which insurance finally approved (we had requested one almost 2 months earlier, and got denied).

~ Had the MRI which was horribly uncomfortable because I had to lay flat on my back with my legs stretched out straight, which makes my pain not good.  It was a long 25 minutes or so.

~  Got the MRI results the next day which showed a "very large disc protrusion" along with some degenerative disc disease.  Fantastic.  Neurologist referred me back to family doctor to find another specialist to deal with this. 

~ I eventually was referred to a neurosurgeon, but he was booked until mid-June.  I got on the cancellation list.  In the meantime, I saw yet another doctor who did an epidural steroid injection directly into my back.  For many people, it provides great relief.  For me, it made the pain exponentially worse and never got any better.  Now, even sitting was painful.  And so I began physical therapy.

~  PT felt great while I was in traction and getting electrical muscle stimulation.  But as soon as I walked back to the car, the pain was back.  

~ Fast forward two weeks to this past Saturday...I got a last-minute appointment that only God could have arranged with the neurosurgeon.  He got right to the point and told me that I had a "Huge herniated disc" and that it was compressing the nerve root and causing all the pain.  He recommended surgery....mircodiscectomy to be exact.  He told me what I already knew....I tried all the conservative things and none of them had worked.  I was absolutely miserable and couldn't hide it any more.  I writhed around in the passengers seat all the way to the doctor and had Andrew wheel me into the office in a wheelchair.  This is what I've been reduced to.  And so I will be having surgery (my first ever, including my first general anesthesia) on Monday, June 2.  I always thought I'd be so nervous about my first surgery, but to be honest, if they could do it tomorrow, I'd be thrilled because I am currently typing this while laying on the couch because I can't even sit up long enough to type a short email.  I can't sleep, I can't get comfortable, I can't drive safely and I can't take care of my family.  It's all I can do to take care of myself. 

And so, if you've made it this far, I would greatly appreciate your prayers this coming Monday.  The surgery will be around 7:30 in the morning and I should be back home later that same day.  Please pray that this completely fixes the problems in my back and that the pain will be gone.  Pray for the surgeons and anesthesiologists and anyone else involved.  And please pray that everything goes smoothly and safely.

Monday, May 05, 2014

A Wedding Full of Kids

Well, I'd like to have begun this post above this picture, but apparently my computer is being contrary today!  Anyhow, while I'm a bit late in continuing my wedding posts, I wanted to show some more of the 300+ pictures that I took last weekend.  

As mentioned before, Katy and Austin were VERY brave and wanted to include all of their nieces and nephews in the wedding.  That meant that Emily was the oldest, at 9, and the rest were under 5.  I repeat, they were very brave!!  

 These 4 hooligans dressed up quite nicely!  Too bad it was nearly impossible to get all 4 to stand still, smile and look the right direction at one time!

 Ethan with Aunt of my favorite pictures of the day.

All the lovely ladies of the wedding party.

Ethan looks like he's up to something here.  He's always thinking...or plotting.  Yesterday he told me I could call him "Ethan the Awesome" and I quote, "just call me when you need some awesome!"

 I love Bristol's face down at the bottom.  She had some great poses.

Speaking of poses....Addie was always ready for her close-up, while the boys were just doing their best to stay still.  

And then, as if 6 kids wasn't enough, we had to get a picture with the youngest nephew, Grayson.  He was much more interested in Katy's flowers than the picture, but this proves that he was there!

After quite a few pictures had been taken, Ethan came over to us and said, and again I quote, "Boy, they sure are working us hard!"  I think this picture sort of sums up his feelings by that point in the day!

Grandma wanted a nice picture of all 5 of her grandkids.  Well....this was all 5 of them together.  I'm not sure it was the look she was going for.  Bristol looks stunned, Addie is posing, Grayson is NOT pleased, Emily is just trying to stay focused on the camera and Ethan is looking at Grayson like, "Come on bud, we men have to do better than that!" :)

And here's Aunt Katy with her nieces and nephews.  We had taken A LOT of pictures by this time.  It's a wonder more people weren't in tears!  

Still more pictures will be coming.  I'm just taking my time!  As always, you can click on the pictures to make them bigger.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Here Comes the Bride

Those of you reading this have probably heard, but we had a wedding this weekend.  My sister-in-law, Katy, married her sweetheart, Austin and we had the privilege to be a part of their special day.
Here is Katy.  The picture doesn't do her justice....she was absolutely gorgeous.  It's hard to believe that this is the same little girl that I met about 16 years ago when she was 12.  I feel like she is, in many ways, a little sister to me.

And here is the groom, Austin.  I'm still trying to figure out my newish camera so sometimes the pictures aren't perfect, but the couple definitely was.
Katy and Austin make a lovely couple and Ethan has already invited Uncle Austin to play Lego Indiana Jones on the X-Box.  Priorities, people!

Here is the full wedding party.  Emily is standing next to Katy and Ethan is in front of Emily.  The two little flower girls are my nieces, Bristol (next to Ethan) and Addie.  The two little ring bearers on the other side were Malachi and Silas, Austin's nephews.
There were 6 kids under 10 years of age involved in the wedding.  Katy and Austin were brave!!
It definitely made for some fun moments and some fantastic pictures at times.
But at the end of the day, they all performed their wedding duties beautifully and it was truly sweet of Katy and Austin to want to include all their nieces and nephews on their most important day.

Before I go on, I should let you know that I officially took about 313 pictures over the course of two days.  Of course, some of that was trying to rapidly snap the same pose over and over because trying to get 6 little children to look in the same direction, much less smile and not fidget all at the same time was a massive undertaking.  I promise, I won't share all 313 pictures, but I did think I'd share some of the process building up to the wedding.

For the ladies of the bridal party, Saturday began quite early.  Katy's mom (hereforth referred to as "Grandma"), Emily and I left the house at 7:30 in the morning to get their hair done.  Emily went first.  She's never had any kind of formal hair styling, so this was a whole new experience for her.  Miss Ginger curled her stick-straight hard all over.  Here she is waiting for the curls to set while Grandma was getting her hair done.  (I'll spare Grandma the picture of her in the process!)

After a while, Aunt Katy and the rest of the wedding party joined us and started the process of becoming even more beautiful.

And here is the finished product....Emily in her dress looking very lovely.  She was a junior bridesmaid, just as her Aunt Katy was for our wedding lo, those many 14 years ago.

Grandma and Emily before the wedding.

Here are my two nieces, Bristol (in front) and Addie getting ready for their debut as flower girls.

And here is Ethan with Andrew.  His preparation for the wedding was much faster....lucky duck.  Men have no idea how easy they have it on a wedding day!  Ethan was tickled to wear his tux.  He was one handsome dude!

And here are Katy and Austin, surrounded by their nieces and nephews on our side of the family.  They were so cute.
I will be adding lots more pictures, but here's just a quick sample for now!

Monday, January 06, 2014

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful....

You might have heard, but there's a little bit of winter weather happening in our neck of the woods.  Something about a "polar vortex" which I refuse to read about, since I'm actually experiencing it at the moment!
Here's a picture from Saturday night.  The relative calm at the beginning.
This looks like a typical winter night around these parts.  Cold, but not excessive, some inches of snow, but no big deal.
We got up Sunday morning, went to church and out for lunch and then came home to settle in for the "big storm". 

This is a picture of Sunday night.  It was getting pretty cold, but still above zero, if I recall.  However at this point, we were officially under a blizzard warning.  I think that was a pretty accurate description.

Driving conditions were pretty bad.  Of course, we weren't going anywhere.

And then there was this morning.  Approximately 18 inches of snow (in the bit that I dared to measure from the back door).  It was still blowing like crazy, but the sun did come out and stay out all day.  It was very deceptive though. 

Somewhere behind that tree is a retaining wall....I promise.

Nothing but snow....and cold.....

And this is right now.  I know it's a little hard to read, but the actual temperature is -14 degrees F.  And yes, that does say a windchill of -38 degrees F. 
A moment of silence please.

And this is why we have all been home all day with no school or work.  There is a state of emergency until noon tomorrow.  No school again tomorrow and Andrew has to go into work at some point, but not sure when. 
Fun stuff.