Finally Friday – 6 weeks post op

As I expected, the end of last week (flight to Seattle) and this week (drive to Richland) exhausted me.  Sleep, ice, rest, and my back feels alright – but the fatigue is a very real thing.  I just don’t bounce back as quick as I did before the surgery.  As Chel and others keep reminding me – I’m putting a ton of energy into healing my back, growing bone, and so my extra energy reserves are bound to be low.  Sleep, eat well, take good care of my back as it heals – REST – is all part of recovery.

On Tuesday I had my 6 week check up with my surgeon.  X-rays first, that look very much like the ones they took 3 weeks earlier – except that I did flexion and extension instead of just standing up straight.  Doc says I’m pretty much where he expects me to be.  I talked through some of what I have been feeling nerve wise – and he takes credit for ticking off the nerves.  During surgery he had to move them out of the way to clean up the joints and do the fusion.  Nerves are slow to heal, but what I had pre-surgery was physical pinching of the nerves – now they are just irritated and need to adjust.  Continuing with ice through out the day and rest will keep the inflammation down and hopefully keep the nerves happier.  I have another appointment in about 8 weeks.  I have an appointment with the physical therapist in about 2 weeks and then appointments twice a week to see her for about 6 weeks.  I can start riding my exercise bike, and doing gentle yoga.  Gentle walking and stretching will also continue, and helps with the mad nerves stuff.  Still no NSAIDS – they affect fusion healing.  Still no heat – not good for the fusion either.  Careful and smart return to doing more and more – and working up to lifting up to about 35 pounds by the next time I see the doc.  As the nerves heal, and the muscles get stronger, the sense of soreness will dissipate as well.  Honestly, it’s not my back/surgical site that bothers me.  It’s my butt and down my legs to my feet – all nerve related.  When I’m not good about walking, resting, stretching, icing – that’s when the nerves start firing all crazy.  The muscle relaxers keep me from having major cramping and charlie horses – so that’s a good thing…but the muscles in my legs are sore.

Ok, but how do I really feel????  Well, pretty good most of the time.  The good outweighs the bad for sure.  I am moving better each day, feeling stronger.  I still am not wearing much besides leggings – as the waist band of my jeans and work pants rubs funny across my incision site and irritates it.  I can wear them for a couple hours, but then I am just annoyed – so leggings and a couple super soft elastic waisted skirts and such are my work wardrobe for now.  I’m able to do laundry without much trouble, and load and empty the dishwasher, even change the sheets on my bed.  I can bring in 2-3 smaller pieces of fire wood at a time so I don’t freeze.  I can take the trash out to the big can – as long as I don’t let it get too full – or put the used kitty litter in there – that makes it too heavy.

I’m thankful that I’m doing as well as I am, and that I can start to do even more, and get back to most of my routine. I know my back will tell me when to slow down, take a break, and sit on some ice for 30 minutes and take a break.

Image result for scripture for healing

5 weeks Post Op

5 weeks ago I went in for spinal fusion.  I’ve been back to work for a little over a week and a half.  I’m not quite up to full time, but pretty darn close.  Each day I leave the house with a cooler with my breakfast, lunch, and 3 ice packs.  I use one in the car on my drive in, and then throughout the day I rotate through the 3 of them with trips back and forth to the freezer helping to get me moving more and more, and also I get to do the stairs to help with strengthening my hips.  Walking is great, but stairs add a layer of strength work that I can’t get at home.  I’ve also taken one of my yoga mats back to work, and during my lunch I can do my stretches there.

I’ve had a few challenges to navigate over the past week.  I had a mix up with getting my muscle relaxer prescription filled.  I asked them to send it to one pharmacy.  They sent it to a different one.  Not a big deal, just a quick trip across town – only to find out their computer system was down and they couldn’t even confirm if they got the refill request.  It was of course after 5pm.  I took a deep breath and a memory check of what I had in my “arsenal”.  I’m not really a drug hoarder, but if you remember, we struggled to find a combination to reduce the severe cramping I had the second week.  It was truly out of my hands at that point, so I headed home knowing that God’s got a plan, and it will all work out tomorrow.  I did alright overnight with ice and the other muscle relaxer I had been prescribed.  At least I slept and didn’t have muscle cramps!!

Tuesday morning I called the surgeon office again, and asked them to please send the prescription again because of the mix up last night.  I headed into town back to the first pharmacy.  “Um, I’m sorry ma’am but this shows that your insurance won’t pay for a second refill until the 25th because this was filled by another pharmacy already.”  Alrighty then…I thanked the nice pill lady, and headed back to my car with my cell phone plastered to my ear.   Yup…they had sent it to the other pharmacy yesterday and when their system accepted it (apparently after the computer rebooted) it locked the prescription.  But here’s the thing…they didn’t actually HAVE the medications on hand – but the delivery should be here by 11am.  Perfect I grumbled to myself, thanked them and said I’d be back after my appointment.

And so I headed off to my appointment – with the massage therapist.  Mostly I was looking for a just a bit of tension relief and some general pampering, but hopeful that she would be able to maybe ease some of the muscle soreness in my hip and glute too.  That’s the thing about a painful recovery, or chronic pain – you tense up allllll your muscles and so it’s not just my back around my surgery site that holds the tension.  I’ll see her again next week.

Finished up there, and then back to the pharmacy.  The delivery had come in, my prescription was filled and waiting, and off to work I went.

Tuesday night was also my return to Stephen Ministry.  That was good for my soul.  I got lots of wonderful hugs from folks who have been praying for me, and I got to hear what everyone had been up to since late June.  We had a good continuing education session around talking about faith and spirituality with our care receivers, and then went into peer supervision.  I got home late of course, and after a quick bite to eat, off to bed I went.

So that brings us to today, Wednesday.  I was pretty tired by the end of the day, so cut out early – I did work through my lunch technically, so I’m still calling it an 8 hour day.  I stopped at the grocery store for a couple of things and had to ask strangers for help lifting my kitty litter first into my cart (25 pounds is a no-no), and then into my car.  I was very thankful for well raised college boys who helped me very politely.  Next stop was the feed store for duck food – but they always ask if they can help me – 50 pounds was a definite no-no.  This was a big tall line-backer sized college or farm kid and he very easily got the grain and loaded it into my car for me.  I’m not one that asks for help very often, but I know I have to be smart – and lifting stuff…is not smart right now.  I try and keep myself under 10 pounds.

Tomorrow and Friday will be as close to my old routine as I’m going to get for a while.  I have to teach my seminar on edTPA to student teachers.  Thursday is the local student teachers, and then Friday I fly to Seattle for that group.  I’ve planned it out as much as possible to be set up with ice packs available during the day since I’m pretty sure TSA would not look favorably on my homemade ice packs…since they don’t freeze solid and stay slushy.  I’ve got my nice lumbar memory foam pillow, and my little bag of prescriptions.  I’ll be tired by the end of it all I’m sure – and I promise to listen to my back and move when I need to….and REST as best I can.

Next week it’s another check in with my surgeon (who knows about my massage appointment and my flight to Seattle for the day already).  I expect that will net me an order to start physical therapy.  I also have to make a long drive over to the Richland area and teach my seminar on Wednesday.  Listen to my back; ice; stop and walk; rest.  Pretty much how I’ve approached my entire recovery.

Alright, dinner is about ready (Buffalo Chicken Soup – YUM!), so I’ll leave you with a bible verse to ponder.

Image result for deuteronomy 33 12

Back to work – More or less

Week 4 post op as of Monday, September 10.

Friday I went to a training at work – spent a few hours visiting and training and eating catered lunch.  After about 6 hours, my brain and body were tired and I headed home.

Monday I went to work knowing I had a whole lot that needed to be done in a short period of time.  I dread this particular week every semester for its work load and stress level – so coming back this week was bound to be a challenge.  I managed to get through most of the day – and getting most of what HAD to be done, done.

I can now clearly and easily tell when it’s time to get up and move.  Stairs are using different muscles – but in a good way – than what I’ve done for the last 4 weeks.  I’m still using ice packs to help control pain.  I’ve had to be a bit more casual in my work attire as well.  Usually I wear some version of khakis or casual slacks and a nice blouse, and then jeans and a nice blouse on Fridays.  Well – the waistline of jeans and khakis rubs right across my incision.  I can tolerate it for 2-3 hours – but then it’s pretty annoying.  So I asked and was given permission to wear leggings to work (better than pajama pants!), and I’ve had to be creative in finding shirts and sweaters that allow me some modesty and cover my butt.  I’m generally opposed to leggings except for working out – and today’s college students wear them all.the.time!  With no thought to modesty and covering their butt – no matter the size/shape!  But I digress – I do have modesty, and so I’ve been carefully considering how I can be work appropriate as I continue the recovery process.

Ok…so ice packs, moving when I feel like it, and soft elastic waist-lines to keep my incision happy.  And knowing my limits.  Monday I did about 7 hours, Tuesday was 6, and Wednesday about 6 1/2.  We’ll see how the rest of the week pans out – but I’m making an educated guess (tee hee…I work in education….get it???) that 6 hours is going to be my norm for a while.  If I didn’t have an hour each way, and a scheduled hour lunch break (making for an 11 hour round trip out of the house working gig) it might be different.  But for now – that’s what feels comfortable.  And thankfully, my work is very accommodating.

I’ve also begun doing more light stretches under doc’s orders.  Hamstrings, calves, quadriceps (wall sits), pelvic tilts, knee to chest, half crunches, etc.  Things to just start using those lower lumbar back muscles a tiny bit, and stretch my legs and hips out.  I’ve been doing some hip and hamstring stretches all along (the PT in the hospital said I could) plus some just ankle and knee rotations. Really just focusing on being comfortable and not getting locked up as stiff as a two-by-four!  Hence, I can still put my own socks on, tie my shoes,  and all that.  I’m still being very very careful not to bend or twist in the area of the fusion – only the pelvic tilt I’ve started this week per the doc.  I’m making slow but steady progress I think.  Getting stronger  – for example, I can more easily kneel down to pick up the dog food bowls and put them down full.  The stairs at work will help that too.  Stretching and using all the thigh and hip muscles more.

I’m off pain meds during the day – so just muscle relaxers and regular tylenol – and ice – and walking – and stretching.  I can tell when hour 5 rolls around, as I start to tighten up and little twinges pop up.  So I know that’s the best time to do a gentle walk  – to the freezer – and get a fresh ice pack and sit for a while.  6 hours is the interval for both tylenol and the muscle relaxer.  It would be nice if I could take something a bit longer lasting – but not for a while.  Regular NSAIDS like ibuprofen and aleve affect bone growth and recovery in a fusion, so I’m not supposed to take them.  I’ve still been taking half a pain pill at bedtime, and another half at the magic 6 hours later – but I need to start taking a “read” on my body and see if I really need it or not.  I think more than anything I’m just “afraid” of the pain.  We’ll see how it goes this week I guess.

You know how I said I can clearly tell and feel when it’s time to move?  Yeah, that makes sleeping and the whole “overnight” thing interesting.  Meds last 5-6 hours, ice packs 2-3 hours, and my position needs to change somewhere in there too.  Pre-surgery I slept mostly on my right side.  Post-op has been mostly on my back with a pillow under my knees – but I get so stiff – and my hamstrings…yowsers.  So I’ve been trying to do a bit of side sleeping the last couple of nights too – left and right side.  Not sure either side is more comfortable – it’s just nice to have some options.  I tend to start on my back with ice, and then roll (log roll, log roll, log roll – hips and shoulders together!) to one side for a while…and then eventually get up, go get new ice, and start all over.  Only to be awakened a few hours later with warm ice packs, stiff legs, and need for 3am meds.  But the variety is nice

Oh…another interesting discovery this week – for the next YEAR…before I go to the dentist (even for just a cleaning) I have to take antibiotics.  And no major dental work without clearance from my back surgeon.  The bone growing business is SERIOUS apparently.  I also have to wait until after 6 weeks before I do anything.  I was due for a cleaning this week, but have rescheduled for mid October now.

Anyway, that’s how the week is going.  It’s nice to be back to a sort of normal routine, and I know the fatigue is to be expected.  I actually sort of scared myself a bit when I looked at my calendar and realized that the end of next week begins my seminar series that I teach…good mental challenge for me, but I have a sneaking suspicion it will be more physically tiring for me this time too.  I have a strategy session planned for tomorrow morning to get my head back in the game and make some solid plans.

I’ve been thinking about appropriate scriptures for this post for a couple of days – there are great verses in so many books of the bible – the New Testament for certain – any of the gospels, Philippians, Ephesians.  The Psalms of course – so beautiful and poetic.  But as always, when I start thinking about scripture to share, God leads me to the perfect one. I hope this verse from the prophet Jeremiah, from the book of Lamentations moves you as well.

Image result for lamentations 3 24