Monday, September 27, 2010

Ten Things I've Learned

1. It matters where they go, and what they do.
This was my first surgery, so I didn't know what to expect as far as post-op pain, but I kind of figured that cutting you open was cutting you open, and that both incisions would hurt about the same. Wow, was I wrong! I couldn't even feel the lower incision until the next day. Not kidding. I had no idea where they had put it. I can feel it now, and it hurts a little. But the one in my neck... that's a different story. That one hurts! It turns out that cutting all the way down to the spinal column and then moving the bones around is a lot different than just cutting a few inches down into the flesh.

2. It hurts to laugh after spinal cord surgery.
Yeah, it pretty much hurts to do anything that requires movement. That's kind of a no-brainer, I know. But my brother-in-law made a funny comment on  my facebook wall, and that was one of the first things I read after surgery. I laughed, and it hurt really bad, so I just have to give him a hard time. (Thanks, dude.)

The worst thing, actually, is coughing. Not only does the involuntary movement hurt my neck, but I also get little surges of electricity through all four of my limbs. I remember running into that when I had the trial implant in place. (It didn't take me long to learn to turn it off every time I felt a cough or a sneeze coming on.) But this one isn't even turned on yet, so I wasn't really expecting to get shocked by it.

3. Kids can be gentle.
In all honesty, the thing I was most concerned about going into this - more than any potential complications, more than the pain of recovery - was how it would affect my kids. (Specifically, how I would manage to take care of them once my husband goes back to work and my mother-in-law goes back home, and how they would react to my incapacity.) The former is yet to be seen. The latter is not as bad as I had feared.

The first thing they both did when I got home on Wednesday afternoon was to come over and give me veeeery gentle hugs. It was adorable. This afternoon my 4-year-old brought me a teddy bear to snuggle with, because "I thought it would help you feel better." Then he made me some pretend macaroni soup, and told me to "Eat it. It will make you stronger."

4. Eating nothing but Jello and apple sauce gets old.
Oh, solid food... how I miss thee. Ok, I know it hasn't been that long, but still. At first I was so queasy after surgery, and because of all the pain meds, that I didn't really want anything. But then I got hungry, and did want something, only to discover that I couldn't chew anything. (I'm stuck in the cervical collar, which pretty effectively immobilizes the lower jaw.) If I were to try to chew anything, I would have to do it by moving my upper jaw. Not only is eating that way very difficult, but moving that way after this surgery is very painful. So Jello, apple sauce, pudding... these are my new best friends. And my new worst enemies.

5. One of the blades in my ceiling fan is lower than the others.
Not being able to move sucks. That's about as much sugar-coating as I can give that one. I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. Sure, I get up now and then, for brief periods. (I'm sitting up right now, for example.) But I get way too tired way too quickly, and have to lay down again. My muscles are sore. I miss my elliptical. (That's how you know it's bad. When you start missing your exercise equipment. Bad, bad sign of going insane.) So I lay in bed and watch the ceiling fan spin. And now that I know that one of the blades is lower than the rest, that's all I can see. Another bad sign of going insane? When you start seeing noises. No joke. I can actually see the fan going "whomp, whomp, whomp" every time that blade comes around. Something has to be done.

6. My mother-in-law makes really good tortillas.
How many times, in the history of the human race, have the words "thank goodness my mother-in-law is here" been uttered? I'm guessing maybe half a dozen, tops. But I am actually really glad that she was able to come stay with us for a couple of weeks. My husband took this week off, which is cool, so he's been helping take care of me. But it's been really, really nice for the kids to have Grandma here to play with. And she's going to still be here next week after my husband goes back to work, so at least I won't be having to try to take care of the kids on my own yet, and I'll get a little more rest/recovery time. Plus, she makes really awesome homemade tortillas, and the whole house smells good all day whenever she makes them. :)

7. Warm, watered down Gatorade is even more gross than regular Gatorade.
The first thing that I did when we got back to the hotel where we were staying after surgery was to throw up all of the water that I drank in the recovery room. As far as "things to throw up" go, water is by no means the worst, but I still wouldn't call it pleasant. So it caused a bit of an aversion to water for a few days, and I pretty much stuck to apple juice, Diet Sprite, and Gatorade. I've never been a huge Gatorade fan, but it's one of those things that you drink when you aren't drinking water. I don't know why - just one of the mysteries of life, I guess. 

So my wonderful, sweet, loving husband has kept my bedside table stocked with all of my essentials - apple sauce, pudding, Jello, a bottle of apple juice, my favorite pink plastic bottle filled with water (which I have finally started drinking) and my second-favorite pink plastic bottle filled with Gatorade. He's awesome, and he's taking wonderful care of me (lucky woman that I am.) But in his infinite sweetness he put ice in the bottle of Gatorade, knowing that it is better cold than it is warm. The only problem was that I was sleeping so much, and not able to do much of anything at all, that most of the day went by before I even touched it. And that's how I learned how much worse being warm and watered down makes it.

8. Being able to watch TV online is awesome.
There's no big story there. It's just cool. And it breaks up the monotony that is my days.

9. Skin glue is pretty cool.
They used skin glue on my incisions instead of stitches. I don't know what it will mean for the scar (if it will make a difference at all) but it does mean that I don't have to go have stitches taken out, and that I can get the site wet. There's none of that "no shower for..." however long it usually is. I was (with great difficulty, a lot of help, and great pain) actually able to take a real shower. Yeah, the post-op shower is not the easiest thing I've ever done, but at least I can do it. And being clean is awesome.

10. Counting all the way to ten is really hard.
That was going to be a joke, but all kidding aside, this whole experience has been really exhausting. I can only get out of bed for little bits at a time before I have to pass out again. (It took me all day to write this, between naps.) Two days ago I went outside, because I was going stir-crazy and had to move around a little. I walked all the way to the end of my driveway, then down the sidewalk to my neighbor's driveway, and back home. I was so proud of myself! Then I spent just about all day yesterday, and most of today, sleeping. Sigh. I know that sleep is good, and I know my body needs the rest so it can heal. It's just tiresome, and I feel a little like whining sometimes. 

But, like I've said before (and I'll keep saying)... this is temporary. And it has a purpose. 

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