One thing good about having surgery is certainly the prescription pain killers. Those things really work. Thank goodness.
So I had surgery on my neck, as planned, on Jan. 18th. I had to report to pre-op at 10am, where I went through all the various steps to prepare for actually going into the surgery. I had to shower and rub the back of my neck with this pink soap for five minutes. Sounds easy, but have you ever rubbed one spot on your body with a cheap washcloth and soap over and over and over for 5 minutes straight? Ugh. Dressed in the lovely hospital gown the nurse left for me, and having raided the closet I saw her get it from for a 2nd one, which I wore like a robe, I shuffled myself back down the hallway to the pre-op waiting room. The 2 nurses there were real nice. Having determined they would be unable to get in a good IV, they wrapped both of my arms in very warm blankets. Blood was drawn at some point, and I talked to an anesthesiologist. Then I was kissed goodbye to from Kev and wheeled down the hall. My bed was parked in one of the curtained slots, and again, the nurses and technicians and whoever else I saw there were all very nice. An IV was hooked up with one successful poke. I don't really remember too much after that.
Kev was given a 4-digit pin number for me, and while he waited in the large waiting room, updates on surgery patients, listed only by the pin numbers, rolled through a large screen hanging at the top of one wall.
The surgery was supposed to have taken only about an hour, but it took more than double that. The surgeon explained to us later that there were eventually 3 anesthesiologists working on me, and they had trouble getting me to sleep. Once he started the surgery, it became clear that the extra bone growth on my C6 vertebrae also included part of my vertebrae that was mostly broken off and hanging there, and it was more into my spinal cord than had been previously thought. The surgeon had to fix that and then fuse not just my C5 and C6 together, as originally planned, but also had to fuse my C7 because of the poor condition of my C6. Pins are in there, too.
I don't remember much about coming out of the anesthetic, or how I was transported to my official hospital room. But by late Friday afternoon, or was it early evening?, I was well ensconced in a comfortable hospital bed with 4 pillows and 2 wonderful nurses. The nursing staff team up, an RN and a LPN work together. I'm having trouble remember some names now, but the first RN was Joyce. So very nice. Over the weekend, I had Janelle and Amy, both also wonderful. Janelle was the RN, and as such, she was in charge. She is young and pretty, with perfectly applied makeup, and one of the most caring people ever. Some of the nursing staff you can tell are born caregivers. Also on the list of wonderful nurses there are Char, Denice and Debra.
For some reason, nursing care during the daytime shift was much better than the nighttime shift. From the first night on, I had trouble getting pain killers on time. I remember sitting in that bed one night, finally bawling with pain (and anyone who knows me, knows that is not like me) before I could convince the young, mean nurse Kristy to give me some meds. I still don't know what the issues were exactly. Especially since my doctor gave me enough pain killer prescriptions to shut down any level of pain I may have over the next six months... but in the hospital, the meds were doled out to me during the night shifts like I was an addict they were trying to control or something. Each night there was a pain-filled haze of nightmarish proportions.
I was ready to go home Sunday morning, but unfortunately the drain tube they inserted under the surgical site was draining a great deal more fluid out than would allow me to go home. Something like it had to be under 30 ml (or cc or ?) in a 12-hour period, and I was over 55. Then I didn't get to see the surgeon on Monday because he ended up with an emergency to handle. I finally saw him late afternoon Tuesday, and he immediately gave me the ok to go home. I busted out crying. It was strange. I didn't feel like I was gonna cry, but as soon as I realized he said I could go home, Bang! floodgates opened. Jeez.
The surgeon also looked at the incision site, and was super surprised... I had told him I heal quickly, much more quickly than the average person. He didn't think I was telling him the honest-to-God truth, but I was. My incision started itching early Sunday morning, like not too long after midnight. Itching because it was starting to heal already. So the doc told me to make an appointment for next Monday to possibly get the staples removed. When I called Wednesday to his office to make that appointment, the nurse started to correct me or argue with me... she told me that the staples stay in for 30 days so I had to be mistaken. I told her that truly I wasn't mistaken, and that the surgeon was seriously surprised by the progress of the healing on my incision, as had the nurses been... and I get this reaction a lot. I finally convinced her to make the appointment that her boss had told me to make. Fingers crossed the staples will be out at that appointment. They are bugging me big time, and it's itching there to beat the band.
Back to the detail of getting discharged... talk about so close, yet so far! As soon as the doctor left the room, Kev and I, and Sammy, too (well, mostly Kev and Sammy since I couldn't do much of anything) right away started to pack things up. Kev even made a trip down to the car with things. I got his help getting dressed from the waist down. The nurses still had to pull out the drain tube and bandage it up, plus all the paperwork. I had pushed the nurse call button, but as you can guess, if you've ever been through this... it took forever. Unfortunately, this whole fiasco took place at shift change. And it was also about the time my last set of pain killers were wearing off, which was just before I was due for my next set of pills. One of the day RN's had told me to be sure to tell the nurse, the RN, when I was discharged to give me a shot of Demerol for the car ride home so that I could go through that with as little pain as possible. The night shift RN I got wouldn't even give me a Tylenol. Nothing. Before I even signed my name on the papers, the pain was already getting too much to bear, and she wouldn't give me anything for pain. She explained I was already "checked out" and since I wasn't in the computer, there was nothing she could do. I told her I had asked for a shot of Demerol an hour earlier in preparation for the ride home, on the advice of an RN (who she knew). Too bad. I told her it was real clear to me that she didn't fucking care, and she should be ashamed of herself, but that if she had it in her to be ashamed for what she was doing to me, then she wouldn't be doing it. I think that was when I said to her, "you suck." I'd say it was the pain talking, but if I were to come face-to-face with her again anytime soon, I'd probably have more to say to her.
The car ride home was awful.
Thank goodness for leftover pain killers in our bathroom medicine cabinet. I don't really know what all I downed, but Kev was there watching over me, and I was finally settled on the sofa for a little while until they kicked in a took an edge off the pain.
Kev got my six prescriptions filled the next day, and pain management is easy-breezy now.
Kevin gets the Husband of the Year award for sure. That man has taken such good care of me. Even in the hospital, it was Kev that did almost everything for me, helping me up and to go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, get fed, get comfortable, taking walks, getting sheets changed, helping me wash up, everything. He was very watchful and protective. I think he wanted to strangle a couple of the nurses on my behalf. I should have let him have a go at that last one.
All the nice nurses really liked him, too. They would bring in a new hospital gown, or something and Kevin would tell them he would help me, and he was sure they had a lot of work to do, so he'd be happy to handle it alone. They would come in to be sure I had ate, or used the potty, and he'd give them all the details. The PT people would stop by to make sure I was up and walking, and he'd give them all the details.
It really has been impressive how wonderful he's been taking care of me. Just now, I am home alone for the first time since surgery a week ago, and he called some family members to make sure they call and check on me until he can get back from town.
All my family and friends have been wonderful. I've gotten lots of calls, cards and visits. Flowers and candy. And dinners - so nice! Our friends, Tracie and Annette, surprised Kevin at the school when he picked up Sammy from practice Sunday evening with dinners, homemade chicken noodle soup and bread from Tracie and cheesy potato casserole and baked ham from Annette. My sister, Janet, delivered a big pot of chili this morning for us. It's been real nice to have that wonderful food all set to eat in the fridge. And my sister, Kathy, is helping so much to take care of Sammy, and I know we can count on her for the duration of my recuperation. My family rocks.
This post has turned out to be longer than I expected... and it's taken me so long to get it typed out... I've been snoozing between paragraphs, I think. I'd read it over and make sure it makes sense, but that just seems too much to do right now... So you will all have to be stuck reading my drug-induced ramblings.
Oh! and I almost forgot. Photos. Gruesome, gory photos. Ye of weak stomachs may wish not to click on these links.
The first time my dressing was changed in the hospital was Sunday morning, and the young technician (not a nurse) doing it, Ashley, was a sweetie. When she got the old bandage off, I asked her if it'd be ok if Kev could take a photo of it with my cell phone, and she said sure, just hurry. (Not supposed to have the cells on in the hospital.) So he did, and then he showed me this photo. I told Ashley that it looked like a butt crack, and she burst out laughing, and totally agreed with me. It was the swelling. She explained that if the drain wasn't in there, the swelling would be really, really bad.
Yesterday evening, when Kev changed the dressing again, I had Joycie take this photo. Still some swelling, but much better. Just under 30 staples, I think. Oh, and this photo shows how they shaved my hair off my head... they went half way up my scalp in the back. That's gonna itch, too.
I tried to get the surgeon to save the bit of bone for me that they removed from my C6, but he couldn't. They send it off to the pathology lab or something. I'd like to keep the staples, though. Is that too weird?
Update: Here is a link to show where the C5, C6 & C7 cervical vertebrae are located. Good diagram from U of M.