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.

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Surgery Tomorrow Morning

Alright, so after church this morning I grabbed the pile of “don’t forgets” and loaded up my stuff into the car, and off we went to Post Falls.  Good thing I had my nausea bands, since I was relegated to the back seat!

Arrived in Post Falls just fine, unloaded all my stuff, and now we are going about our evening nothing too exciting to report.

Plans for this evening as it relates to surgery tomorrow:

  • Shower before bed with half the bottle of the special soap, clean clothes, and off to bed.
  • No food after midnight.
  • Clear liquids acceptable until 5am.
  • Shower in the morning with the rest of the special soap, clean clothes and be ready for the hospital.
  • Check in at 7:15, and then well…surgery of course.

I will be having a spinal fusion at L4-L5 and L5-S1.  My doctor expects the surgery to last between 4-6 hours.  He will have me up and walking the same day, and I will be expected to walk frequently from the very beginning and increasing as the days go by.  Walking will be my primary form of recovery and rehab.  I should be in the hospital 1 or 2 nights, and then discharged for recovery.  I am staying in Post Falls until the weekend, before heading back home.

My doctor said that most patients are back to work after 2 weeks, I have planned to take 3 weeks off and return to the office after labor day.  I can’t drive while on narcotics obviously, so that signals to me that hopefully most of the pain of the procedure will dissipate in a few days.

I will try and update the blog as soon as possible when I’m coherent – Feel free to reach out to me via email, Facebook, and on my phone – but please note:

There was a wild fire that burned the main network center for my cell phone provider – They have a network outage that means I do not have cell voice or text message.  They are working around the clock to restore services, but at this point – text and calling will not be reliable until they resolve that.  So I’m not ignoring texts, I promise.

Alright, that’s all I’ve got for tonight.  Time for dinner, and then shower and bed.

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Blessings to each of you, I appreciate your support through this journey!

Pre-Op Labwork and EKG

So after sharing my surgery news with my colleagues today, I went ahead and stopped by to have my pre-op testing done.

I started at the lab where I got stabbed in both arms (poor young kid didn’t have much luck with my left arm), had to pee in a cup, and have a swab up my nose.  Good times.  I’m pretty sure I’ll have a mighty bruise to show for his digging around in my elbow-pit before finally switching to my right arm.  The nose swab thing was a MRSA screening test.

My next stop was radiology where I had 10 stickers attached to various body parts, and then probes attached to those, and 30 or so seconds later she pulled them all off.  And that was my EKG.

I don’t have any other pre-op testing to do, so I’m glad that’s been checked off the list anyway.  I’m now under doctors orders to stay off all medications and supplements that are known blood thinners.  I don’t generally take a lot, but the Vitamin E supplements, and my random use of aleve.  Apparently most of the NSAIDS like aleve, motrin, etc. are a no-no pre-surgery.  So I’m relegated to tylenol for the next couple of weeks if I need to take something.  I generally avoid taking much anyway, so it shouldn’t be much of a challenge.  I have a pretty high pain tolerance, and I’ve been living with chronic aches and pains my whole adult life, and so I generally only take something during a bad pain flare.   I also went ahead and cancelled my physical therapy appointment that was scheduled for later this week.  I figured I would just save that co-pay for my recovery time in a couple months when I will be doing the rehabilitation side of recovery and in there a couple times a week for a while.

So now I just have to continue to tackle my to-do list to make sure I’m as prepared as possible before going in for surgery.  A bit of random cleaning projects, a batch of lotion and probably some salve, cooking ahead and freezing leftovers, and making sure I have a back up supply of toiletries and paper goods since I won’t be able to stop and pick stuff up on the way home for a couple of weeks.  It’s not unlike planning for a vacation – making lists, packing stuff, cleaning stuff, etc.  It’s just the destination is a hospital bed and then my couch for a few weeks.

The verse I’ve chosen for today is Psalm 20:4 May He give you the desires of your heart, and may all your plans succeed.

My desire today is to be free of radiating nerve pain, muscle spasms, and grinding bones so that I may serve my Lord with greater focus.  I desire to be a blessing to those around me, and to serve with kindness.

What is your hearts desire today?