The Right Perspective

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.