Friday, February 15, 2008

Home Sweet Home

I was released from the hospital Monday evening... 4 days ago now, but it seems so much longer than that...

That Monday morning, a nice man named Darren came to my hospital room and had me climb up onto this skinny bed, and then he wheeled me through the hospital to an area that I could not find again if I wanted to (which I don’t). There I went into a room that resembled a surgery room, and a team of about 4 people, who were so very, very nice, inserted a PIC (peripherally inserted catheters) line in my left upper arm. It all seemed extra serious, but Joe, one of the team, explained that it really was a relatively quick and simple procedure, and I should be in no pain, possibly only some discomfort. He said that it all looks so involved and serious because they are super concerned about keeping the area sterile. Since the PIC line goes through my vein very close to my heart, I was fine with the emphasis on clean and sterile.

The team of 4 moved together like a choreographed dance. It was kinda amazing laying there on this skinny hard table covered in warmed blankets watching the flow of activity above and around me. I said, “Y’all look like you’ve done this before.” Joe said, “Well, we saw it done last Friday, so we feel ready.” Cracked me up. I was happy; the PIC line meant I could go home.

My sister, Kathy, took me home from the hospital; Kev was there at the hospital with me right up until the very last part, and then he left to go watch Sammy play a basketball game. I insisted (and Kathy’s big car is so darn comfy to ride in). Another sister, Joie, came over shortly after Kathy and I arrived at my house. It was wonderful. Those 3 words don’t do my feelings justice.

Around 7:30pm or so, a young man named Matt arrived with supplies for my IV’s and with 8 bags of antibiotics.

Kev and Sammy arrived home shortly after, and Sammy’s team had won their game. Yay!

A nurse from a home care outfit arrived the next morning, Tuesday, close to 8:30am. She had called the evening before, and I was prepared for her arrival. Pam, the RN, taught both myself and Kevin how to give me the antibiotics using the PIC line. She also went through many other things, and she did a lot of paperwork and input on her cute, little laptop (smallest laptop I’ve ever seen someone use!). Pam left close to 11:30am.

One of the things Pam did was to change the PIC dressing. This had to be done the day after it was inserted, and then once per week. She, or another nurse will be back next Tuesday morning to change it again. It’s not really gross or anything, but it’s not pretty either, but here is a photo of my PIC line, if you’re interested in seeing what it looks like.

I felt pretty comfortable with the IV; Pam was an excellent teacher. Another nurse, Sharon, arrived Tuesday evening about 8:15pm or so, and she went through the process of watching me handle the next bag of antibiotics.

Since then, I’ve been giving myself the antibiotics each morning and each evening, and I’m very comfortable doing it. It’s actually pretty easy.

Another nurse, Becca, arrived yesterday morning at about 8am, and she took some blood for testing. She then set up this machine called a telehealth unit. Each morning at 6:30am (I chose the time), it say’s “Hello, it’s time to take your vitals” or something like that. I then stand on a scale when she tells me to (it’s a woman’s voice), step off when told, put the blood pressure cuff on when told, and the finger unit, it takes my BP, my heart rate and blood oxygen level and transmits the data, along with my weight, back to the home care outfit that’s handling my case. I then have to record the data myself on a form they gave to me. It’s one very cool unit. The primary thing they are monitoring is a weight gain of over 2 pounds in one day or 4 pounds in one week, which could indicate a fluid retention (not a good thing).

I gave myself the last bag I had of antibiotics yesterday evening, and the nice young man, Matt, arrived shortly afterwards with more supplies.

I can do this. But I hope, sincerely hope and pray, that this will be over within a couple of weeks. My next appointment with Dr. Adams is on Monday, Feb. 25th, and I’ll know more after that about what happens next.

One thing is for certain sure... having this PIC line and doing this at home is better than being back in the hospital. So much better.

I had Kevin take another photograph yesterday evening when he changed my dressing. Here is the link; I don’t think I see a lot of progress... and here’s a link to a photo he took this morning. Also, here’s a link to the post that had all the other photo links in it.

If you’re interested in seeing what my surgery was like, I found this web site that explains it very well. Two major differences in that animated explanation vs. my surgery is that the animation shows 2 cervical vertebrae, while mine included 3 (C5, C6 & C7), and also Dr. Adams did not take bone matter from my hip for the fusion; he used the bone matter removed from the site (my neck).

I’m still struggling with pain management. I’ve had some really rough evenings and nights, and mornings. Yesterday I got a tip from yet another nurse (I’ve talked with so many lately!).. and so last night I set my alarm for 1:00am. When it went off this morning, I took a couple of pills, so later, when I woke at 6:00am, pain meds were still working, & I wasn’t in agony. Nice tip.

I also got a very good suggestion from my sister, Kathy. If you have looked at the photos of my incision, you may have noticed the skin past the redness immediately around the incision.. the tape that’s been applied for the past 4 months to hold the bandages has been doing a number on me. The skin around my incision is incredibly sore and sensitive. The various tapes we have tried makes my skin itch like crazy... and the site was already itchy enough when it began healing. Whenever the dressing had to be changed, I loved the part where the dressing was peeled off... and I dreaded the next taping. Kathy suggested we try Band-Aids. OMG. Relief. You have no idea the relief. Thank you, Kathy! O Wiser Sister!!

This experience is definitely the most painful event I’ve had in my life. I feel that I’m pretty tough, and that I have a high tolerance for pain. But this stuff... it’s intense, and it’s kicking my butt. Thank goodness for the meds.

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