Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Itchy Back

My back was itching really badly last night, so I got out of bed to go put some vitamin E oil on it. Since I can't twist, I had to arrange my bathroom mirrors so that I could see my back hands-free. My bandages were just removed today and all that remains are the Steri-Strips, so this was the first really good look I've gotten of my back. What I saw was so different from how my back used to look. I didn't see the deformed landscape of unevenly protruding shoulder blades with sagging skin on one side of my back. Instead, I saw a mostly smooth surface with shoulder blades that protruded almost evenly on both sides. I can't remember the last time my back looked this way. It's amazing to think that the handiwork of a highly-skilled surgeon is capable of transforming my back into this. For so many years I never thought much about how my back looked, I just wished for it not to hurt. Once I'm done healing, I may not only be pain free, but I will also have a fairly normal looking back. I'm so grateful and I feel so lucky. I owe Dr. James Hardacker at The Spine Institute a REALLY big thank you!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Home at Last

I've been at home now for a full 3 days. I'm so happy to be surrounded by my dogs and my things in my home. I was nervofora out the car ride home from the hospital because the reports I'd read described the ride as quite painful. I had prepared ahead of time by requesting that my Dad go easy on the gas and brakes. I had also asked my parents to bring lots of pillows so that I could pad myself. And as for my house, I was fully prepared. I had read books, and blogs, and spoken to friends who'd had the surgery. I was sure I was fully prepared for just about anything.

I was so excited as the nurse wheeled me downstairs to the car waiting for me at the front entrance of the hospital. I used the skills I'd learned in physical therapy and managed to get into the car without twisting my torso. Once in the car, I put one pillow behind me, one in front of me, and one on each side so that I felt like a safely packed bottle of expensive wine (this was an expensive surgery!). My Dad was easy on the gas and brake pedals, and very gentle on the turns. I could feel the un-fused portion of my spine absorbing each and every bump in the road. As we pulled into a parking spot on the street in front of my house, I was relieved because I thought the most difficult part was over. I opened the door and my Dad helped me out of the car and onto the sidewalk. As I stepped onto the street to cross to my house, I realized that the road was rough, bumpy, and uneven, much unlike the flat, smooth floors of the hospital. With a little extra caution, I made it across the street and up my uneven, broken steps, and into my house. I was so glad to finally be home. I walked over to the couch and awkwardly managed to sit down. Getting up was a little more difficult. Next up, my bed. I stepped up onto the stool beside my very tall bed, slowly laid onto my side, and then gently rolled onto my back just as I'd learned in physical therapy. My memory foam mattress felt like concrete, and it felt as though the titanium rods in my back were pressing against my mattress. It hurt and I wanted up, but I quickly realized that there wasn't a handle on the side of my bed like there had been on my hospital bed. My Dad managed to wedge my walker between my dresser and my bed so that I could use the handle of it to roll myself back onto my side and push myself into a sitting position. I began to panic a little because there wasn't a single place in my house where I could sit or sleep comfortably. The hospital isn't like a hotel. I couldn't just go back and ask to check-in for another 5 nights. My Dad suggested that I try the couch because he thought it was much softer. I tried it, but it wasn't any better. Luckily, I'd read about others who'd had this same issue, so I knew what to try. A quick trip to Wal-Mart and 2 mattress toppers later, my bed was more comfortable than the hospital bed. I've now slept comfortably in my own bed for the last 3 nights. The amazing part is that the quality and duration of my sleep is better than it was before I had surgery, even with having to wake multiple times throughout the night to take medication. My Mom has taken on the night shift, ensuring that I receive all of my medication on time. She's not only complied, but seemimgly embraced my crazy system for recording and monitoring every pill that goes into my body. This has been such a huge relief for me because the simplest things like getting in and out of bed are so complicated. I don't know how I'd do this without the help of my parents.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Post-Op Day 5 - Still in the Hospital

I had a rough start to the day today. Coming into this, I knew that my stay in the hospital would last until Thursday if everything went perfectly. I was aware that if I required blood then my stay would extend until Friday. Friday arrived and although my doctor and I had found a good combination of oral and intravenous medications to control my pain, I couldn't take the I.V. drugs home with me. I tried to replace my I.V. pain med with an oral pain med, but I awoke in excrutiating pain at about 3 am this morning. I began taking the I.V. medications again and my pain level eventually returned to tolerable levels. We're having a difficult time finding the right combination of oral medications to control my pain. I just spoke to the doctor and he has a few other oral pain meds for me to try. The one other issue I'm having is that my wound keeps coming apart at the very top, so today my doctor used a combination of glue and tape (no, not the kind offered in your local office supply store) to try to seal the wound shut. If the wound stays shut and the pain pain meds work for me, then hopefully I'll be able to go home tomorrow (Sunday).

When it comes to medications, I typically don't experience any strange or euphoric side effects. Either the medication does its job just as intended, nothing more or nothing less, or, it doesn't work AT ALL. For example, Morphine does nothing for me. Absolutely nothing. I've also discovered that Oxycodone doesn't do anything for me. However, it appears that Dilaudid makes me talk in my sleep. I think I realized this before anyone else, because I woke up several times, while in the middle of answering a question that no one had actually asked. My Mom caught on to this little side effect just yesterday when I awoke in the middle of throwing my arms into the air while counting down , "3-2-1!" Since then, she's caught me a few more times.

Friday, June 8, 2012

4 Days Post-Op

I can't believe surgery is over with and everything went better than I expected. I was in surgery for about 7.5 hours and recovery for another 4.5 hours. I now have 2 rods, 7 screws, and around 13-14 hooks holding my spine in place. My surgeon indicated that hooks had to be used on most of my vertebrae, because the vertebrae were too small to insert a screw into. I haven't gotten to see the post-operative x-rays yet and I can't wait. I'll probably get to see them at my appointment on June 14. My surgeon was able to reduce both my 40 degree upper curve and my 53 degree lower curve to approximately 15 degrees each. The outcome was better than I had dared to dream. My surgeon said that once I was opened up and he was able to see everything, he could easily understand why I was in so much pain and was having migraines. Several of my vertebrae were making contact and rubbing against each other nearly every time I moved.

I did end up needing some extra blood, so on early Tuesday morning I received the 2 units that I had donated prior to surgery. I know that donor blocod is screened very carefully and is very safe, however it was nice to have one less thing to worry about. It was also a relief to know that should I need blood, there was a special supply available just for me. Because I needed the extra blood, the earliest I could be released from the hospital is today. I don't see how that's possible considering the way I feel. To stay another day or two wouldn't bother me at all. I think going home will be a very difficult transition since my house isn't as conducive to someone in my condition.

To everyone that has been reading about me, thinking of me, praying for me, sent me gifts/ flowers or cards, thank you so much! It means a lot to know that there are so many people out there that care about me and are thinking of me.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Jill is in Surgery

Today is the day for Jill's surgery. We arrived at St. Vincent Carmel Hospital at 6:00 AM and she was immediately prepared for surgery. After reviewing the procedures and possible negative outcomes Jill was extremely calm and ready, but mom and dad were having difficulties seeing their daughter taken to surgery at 7:20. The surgery is scheduled to take 6 to 8 hours.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Countdown to Surgery

Tomorrow is the big day and hopefully the beginning of the end of 13 years of pain and searching for a solution. I don't feel prepared, but I doubt anyone ever does feel prepared for something like this. I'm not sure how long I'll be out of commission or to what extent, so I've tried to prepare for the next 3 months of my life. If only I could enlist McGyver to help me, then I'd be prepared for anything. This past week I've been busy visiting doctors to fit in those appointments that I normally would've had over the next three months. I also got my car fixed, rearranged my house so that important items are at chest height, wrote checks for upcoming bills, and cleaned. Today I finished up a few last minute tasks such as filling prescriptions and buying items to accommodate me once I return home (think raised toilet seat, step stool, walker, shower seat, grabbers, etc.). Most importantly, I got a pedicure with a close friend and my Mom. Not only was it great to spend time with my friend and my Mom, but also because I don't know when I'll be able to reach my feet next!

I'm very nervous about surgery tomorrow, but I know I'm in good hands. I'm expecting to be in surgery for 6-7 hours. During that time, my surgeon will make an incision on my back in the area of my thoracic spine (upper and mid-back). A combination of 35 mm screws and hooks will be attached from T2 to T11 (there are 12 thoracic vertebrae). Two 1/4-inch titanium rods will then be attached to the hooks and screws on each side of my spine. The attached rods will allow my surgeon to straighten and de-rotate my spine. Bone from my pelvis may be taken to use as bone graft to help fuse my vertebrae together. Over the past month, I donated 2 units of blood just in case I lose too much blood during surgery. My quick description of the surgery may sound simple, though it is anything but.  Below are a couple x-rays showing what my spine looks like now, before surgery.  My personal assistant (aka Mom), my chauffeur (aka Dad), or I will post the after x-rays as soon as possible after surgery.  Hopefully there will be a dramatic difference!  Now, just 8.5 hours before surgery. . .

Upper 40 degree curve

 Lower 53 degree curve