Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Herniated Disc Update #6, Surgery Edition

First things first:  I am allowed 20 minutes to sit.  Then I have to get up and "do activity" but really, I am discouraged from sitting very much at all.  Sitting is the scourge of back surgery.  So I've set a timer and I swear, I hear the theme from Mission Impossible - no, not the movies but the OGTVMI* - in my head every time I sit down.

Last Monday I had a laminectomy and discectomy for a herniated disc at L3-L4.  My MRI showed a disc fragment pressing on the nerve at L3, so the goal of the surgery was to remove that disc.  After six months of extreme pain, epidural steroid injections, opioid pain relievers, and physical therapy, I'd done all that I could to fix this; it was time for surgery.

My surgery experience went well.  I checked in and the clerk had an estimate of what our portion of the cost would be - she handed me the paperwork and both Jeff and I were kind of oh well, this is what it takes to get me better.  Then she asked me how much of that amount I would like to pay at the moment, which was great - I thought they would want payment in full.  I felt like I was on The Price is Right, naming a dollar amount and hoping it was correct, but she accepted so I guess I made it to the showcase showdown, or surgery showdown, in my case.

Pretty quickly after I checked in, they called me back to the pre op area.  My nurse was so nice; we discussed video games and the Nintendo Switch, which both his 8 year old son and I own, haha.  The best part was when he prepared to put in the IV port - he asked if I wanted lidocaine beforehand; Jeff and I looked at each other and said YES at the same time.  After the little sting of the lidocaine injection, I didn't feel a thing when he put in the IV catheter, so I highly recommend that option if you are ever offered it.
Taking selfies while waiting for surgery is so 21st century, no?

I was the third surgery scheduled for that morning and ended up going in later than expected because the second surgery ran long.  It was fine; we were watching HGTV and making sure to text people so they didn't worry that they weren't getting the "all is finished" text when it was expected.  One side note:  Jeff hasn't been with me for my previous surgeries, thanks to his old job, so the waiting surprised him.  Right before I was finally wheeled out to the OR, he commented that he thought we'd be done and home by now.  Hahahahahahaha.  He had no idea what was coming.
Bored.

I remember going into the operating room and speaking with the anesthesiologist for a minute before he put an oxygen mask over my mouth and nose and told me to take some deep breaths.  I did, and detected something other than oxygen in the mix, so I figured that would knock me out.  He kept telling me to take deep breaths because apparently I was harder to anesthetize than others, but finally, with an injection into my IV, I went off to dreamland.

After the surgery was complete, my doctor went out and spoke with Jeff, telling him it went great and he got everything out that was causing trouble.  I always think it's odd after day surgery that the patient rarely gets to speak with the surgeon but I guess they are already back in the OR with another patient by the time you wake up.  I have a follow up appointment next Tuesday so I hope to hear more details.

I woke up in Recovery 1, with just the nurse in the room.  It was so hard to keep my eyes open!  Eventually I was mostly awake and aware the my mouth was super dry, so she brought me a cup of ice water.  During this time the blood pressure machine kept starting;  apparently my BP was pretty high and my nurse needed to get it down before I could move on.  Now, I do have high blood pressure but it's managed well with medication - which I wasn't allowed to take before the surgery.  So I wasn't worried about that.  Honestly, I felt fine except for my dry mouth.
My lips were so dry, too - the nurse brought me some hospital lip balm but I was very happy to retrieve my ChapStick from Jeff when he finally came in.

I was drinking more water when the nurse, who I'd been chatting with, asked me if I drank coffee.  OK, subject change.  I said yes, and she offered to bring me a cup.  Coffee in the recovery room?  When did that become a thing?  Any case, I was very happy to accept it. 

She also brought me some saltines and graham crackers because she needed to give me medication that required some food in the stomach.  You guys.  I opened the saltines and took a small bite - less than a quarter of the cracker.  I started chewing and I swear to god, all of the pieces glued themselves inside my mouth - cheeks, teeth, tongue - I mean, I knew my mouth was dry but this was crazy.  The warm coffee helped with washing the cracker down, but from then on I could only take the most minuscule bite so I could swallow it.  It took at least 30 minutes to eat one saltine because my mouth stayed dry as the Sahara desert.  Finally I began dunking pieces of graham crackers in the coffee to soften them up and I got enough down to take the medicine.
Coffee, apple juice, ice water - service was pretty good at this restaurant.

Jeff was brought in at some point during this dry mouth/blood pressure time, and we waited for my blood pressure to drop.  I tried everything I could think of:  closing my eyes, taking slow calming breaths, not talking...nothing was working.  The nurse finally got permission to give me my normal blood pressure medicine, but it still didn't change.  My back also started hurting so she gave me some pain meds as well.  I couldn't tell if anything had changed with the pain in my leg - really, I couldn't feel my leg all that much.
Another room, more boredom.

Oh - during this time, the nurse said I looked familiar, and I told her I used to work in the gift shop and yep, that's where she knew me...and I haven't worked there in over a year!  Still, it was fun to talk about the purses and jewelry.  My blood pressure didn't drop any more, but I was alert enough to be moved to Recovery 2.  I was in Recovery 1 for longer than usual, which is normally about an hour and a half, and then you stay at least another hour and a half in Recovery 2...at this point Jeff started asking me what I wanted for dinner because that's when we'd be getting home.

The nurse in Recovery 2 said the same thing as the first nurse - I looked familiar.  Once again, I mentioned the gift shop and yep, that was it.  I actually remembered her so we talked about the goodies that she'd purchased.  After nearly an hour and a half my blood pressure finally dropped about 30 points, which was still in the high range, but my doctor said I could be released. 

I was ready to go but not so fast - first I had to take a walk with the nurse.  Have you ever seen people in physical therapy or at a hospital walking with a wide belt around their waist, with the nurse holding the back?  I have, and I always wondered how in the world that helped because it seemed like a pretty small system to hold a person upright.  Well, I am here to tell you that the belt/nurse combo works.  I was holding onto the railing in the hallway as I was wobbly walking, sure, but I stayed upright.
Up and ready to walk...but first let me get my hair out of my face.

I hesitated putting this picture in because it's just about the worst one ever - let's put a belt on and tighten it around your waist and then take a picture from behind...oh absolutely, that's definitely going to look lovely.  Also, not sure if I've mentioned this, but my secondary medication/coping mechanism for pain has been candy.  Lots of candy.  And no exercise.  I'd say I'm embarrassed about that, or mad at myself for having so much unhealthy food, but I'm not.  Enduring nerve pain for over six months took everything I had, and that included candy as well as pain meds.

I made it through my wobbly walk around the block - er, whatever it is inside a hospital.  Jeff filmed me from behind and when I saw it later, I looked like a drunk person trying to walk the line for a police officer.  Had that been the case, I would have been taken to jail, but it was good enough to be released from the hospital.  I was brought out in a wheelchair while Jeff brought the car to the hospital entrance, then gingerly got in the car, and went home to recover.  And as I mentioned above, Jeff had no idea how long this could take - my report time at the hospital was 8:30 am, and we left around 5:15 pm.  I think he's still a little surprised at how day surgery works, haha.

*OG TV Mission Impossible.  I just realize this didn't help as much as I thought it would, haha.

24 comments:

  1. That mouth dryness is from an injection of atropine--they give it to you prior to inserting the breathing tube. Keeps your mouth dry so the tube doesn't slip out of place. Yuck!

    Sounds like everything went well. Now it's time to heal!

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    1. It's so interesting to hear about medications that do such specific things, like drying out your mouth. Let me tell you, it works REALLY well, LOL.

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  2. What a relief to be on this side and that all went well. I'm glad you didn't have any nausea from the anesthesia. That cracker thing? Same here! It was like the biggest, driest cracker on the face of the earth. Then the nurse said to drink water to help, which made it like gum. But to get pain meds, you do it LOL.

    And day surgery really means all day. Glad you were able to go home and not have to stay in the hospital overnight. You never get any rest there.

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    1. Yes! I forgot that my sips of water made the cracker situation much worse. Such a weird experience. I was getting worried about staying overnight because of the BP - boy, I did not want to do that.

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  3. I am sure your body was under so much stress it had no choice but to elevate your bloodpressure. Isn't it amazing though that you can't feel it.

    I knew about the coffee thing - they actually offer it because if you're used to having coffee every day and don't have it, you could get a bad headache which would just be more stress that your body did not need. They will pretty much give you anything you want to drink in recovery - except adult beverages of course lol.

    Also, I've never understood why they try so hard to make you stay awake. I mean once you've woken and they know you have come around, why not allow little naps, especially in a case like yours where you were in recovery longer than you were in surgery.

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    1. Yeah, that's what I thought about the BP cause, too. And I'm sure the doctors see that all the time after surgery, which is why there wasn't a higher level of concern.

      And now you've got me wondering what I could have requested to drink...maybe a smoothie? Or a cold-pressed juice? I've never HAD a cold-pressed juice but I've heard about them so they must be helpful, LOL.

      Honestly, that sleep was the best - why keep me from enjoying it a little longer?!

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  4. I'm glad the "day" surgery went so well, and you got to go home that day. I'm learning a lot reading your blog about your experiences with this injury and now the surgery.

    Hopefully you will get more good news next week at your first post-op visit. I am so hoping the pain of the last many months is behind you now for good.

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    1. I'm glad to hear that you are learning about this, Susan - it's a big reason why I'm trying to be so thorough with documenting it, in order to help someone else. I found so little online regarding an L3/L4 herniation; at least now there's something more available.

      And thanks, I am right with you on hoping to put the pain behind me, too!

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  5. Won't you be so happy to look back on this a year from now and be grateful that you are pain free?!? Glad your surgery went well and you can get on the road to recovery!!

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  6. An excellent report!! That's funny about the dry mouth. I didn't have that because I had a different kind of anesthesia. But I also did take little naps, I think. I was in recovery for a long time mostly because they didn't have a room for me! And I got to see my surgeon that night, and he told the nurse to take me on a walk! Its fun that the nurses recognized you from your time in the gift shop. The pictures of Jeff looking bored are funny :)

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    1. Thanks, Debby! I didn't know there were that many different kinds of anesthesia for knocking you out completely - I knew that there are twilight ones, like for colonoscopies, but otherwise I figured there was just the one. Guess it's the surgeon's preference? Who knows...

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  7. Wow! What a long day! It impresses me you got to go home that day. It seems so serious but things like this are completely routine now.

    I never thought about not seeing the surgeon until later. I would think you'd have all these questions! It sounds like it's been a success so far, and I am so glad. I am not so glad to have the Tom Cruise Mission Impossible song stuck in my head. Ha ha ha.

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    1. It's good that they've made formerly serious surgeries as easy for a post-op recovery as they have, and it's always better to recover at home, but it's almost like when you have your first baby and two days later they're you wheeling you out with a newborn and you're like...wait wait - you're making me go home with this little thing? I'm not ready!!!!! LOL

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  8. Sounds like everything went well with your surgery - yay!! Next time Jeff will know to bring a long book or something to keep him entertained...wait...there won't be a next time, right? Good luck with your continuing recovery, and rest assured that when you mentioned Mission Impossible, my mind went directly to Peter Graves and Peter Lupus :-)

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    1. Oh man, I hope there's not a next time! But yeah, Jeff might have to bring some reading material because there's only so much you can do online with your phone.

      Glad to see that you went to the OGMITV, too. ;)

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  9. I'm so glad everything went so well and that you're okay! But my goodness, I can't get over the fact that you were walking right after having back surgery, much less back home the same day! That's amazing.

    And LOL at the pre-surgery selfies! They got me in too fast before my surgery this summer (otherwise I would have documented my sweet gown and scrub cap) and alas, selfies weren't a thing when I had surgery in the 90's.

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    1. What is interesting to me is that they want you walking - OK and laying down - versus sitting. I knew I needed to have good posture and habits while sitting (like don't put your elbow on the desk and prop you chin in it - I've been working on that one for a long time), but I didn't know how bad it was for your spine after surgery.

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  10. oh gosh, I still remember putting a dry cracker into my mouth after gall bladder surgery several years ago and just having a mouth full of dry for what seemed like forever! lol.

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    1. Ahh, you know what I'm talking about! It's so weird!!!

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  11. So glad all went well for you.

    Colonoscopies especially, or when the surgeon comes out to talk to family, we have started video taping those conversations so the patient can watch it later when their mind is clearer.

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    1. Doing a video like that is a great idea! Shoot, wish I would have thought about it earlier - Jeff would have done that for me.

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  12. I am curious as to why the hospitals always give Saltine crackers? Jeff is a good sport, but then again, he IS fulfilling his husband duties...lol. I hope your recovery goes well. HGTV always helps past the time for me too. Have you been watching the Brady House Renovation?

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  13. Thanks for the full report!!! Poor Jeff with his new experience!

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