Friday, May 3, 2013

My spine surgery saga

So, on Monday, April 15th, I went in to the hospital for a two-level spinal fusion and lumbar laminectomy.  The decision to have surgery was a hard one to make, and one that I avoided for years, hoping that my numbness and pain would just get better on its own.  But of course, it did not, and never would.  I finally had to ask myself if I was willing to spend the rest of my life with the limitations I have at age 53 with walking and standing.  The answer to that question was easy ...... NO!  And, once I knew that surgery was the only option available to improve my quality of life, then the decision to move forward came much easier to me.

So, I went into surgery about 1:00 that afternoon.  It lasted five hours, and I spent about an hour in recovery before finally ending up in a room that night.  I really don't remember anything before waking up in my room with Steve right there beside me.  I know that day was a long, hard one for him - much harder than it was for me.

The surgeon talked to Steve afterward and said everything looked good and I should be on track to heal nicely.  Upon waking, I remember the pain not being unbearable at all and I recall thinking that the drugs must be good because I was pretty comfortable.  Until about 2:00 a.m. that night, that is.

I was turning over in bed and, all of a sudden, my head started pounding.  It was pain that I've never felt before and, please God, never want to ever feel again.  It felt like the back of my head was going to explode.  Steve got the nurse in right away, and she told me, "Push your pain pump," which I did.  I was literally thrashing around in the bed, which, of course, aggravated my incision area and caused it to start hurting.  It was a nightmare being lived out in real life.

The nurse put in a call to my doctor and he called back immediately.  He told her that he suspected it was a spinal fluid leak and to keep me flat in the bed for the time being.  In the meantime, my pain went away once I was able to lie still for awhile and once the meds kicked in.  The surgeon explained to me the next day that I had a particularly large bone spur on one of my vertebrae, and it actually was protruding into the dura mater (the delicate sac that contains the cerebrospinal fluid).  He had to get rid of that spur, and in doing so, nicked the dura mater.  He plugged it immediately and only a tiny amount of fluid actually leaked out.  He truly thought that it would not cause any symptoms due to the tiny size of the actual leak.

He told me this is not a common occurrence at all.  (I had to laugh because, if it's going to happen to anyone, it will happen to me.)  At any rate, the doctor's order was for me to lie flat until the fluid was reabsorbed and the headaches went away.  This was a big setback in my mind, because I was all geared up to get up that next day (Tuesday) and start walking and start my healing process.  Instead, I ended up lying flat in the bed for three days before I was allowed to get up.  The horrible headache would come back if I lifted my head at all, so I did my part and complied with the doctor's order.

Finally, on the day we thought I would be going home, I got to stand and take a few steps.  My equilibrium and blood pressure were all messed up, though, and I only made a few steps before having to stop and sit down.  I ended up sitting up for several hours that day, because the physical therapist said it would help me get used to being vertical instead of completely horizontal, and it would help me be able to walk without passing out.  (Always a plus, don't you think?)

The next day (Saturday), I was able to walk down the hall a good ways and back.  YAY!  It kicked my butt, though, and I felt like I'd just run a marathon.  Then, finally, on Sunday I got to go home.  Home.  Such a lovely word.  And, not to be too terribly sappy, but there is truly no place like it.  :)

More later --

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