Tag Archives: painkillers

My Surgical Experience – Part Three

As soon as I got up to my room, the nurse came to help me freshen up a little. She was wearing a tichel – headscarf – and was just a doll. Of course we played Jewish Geography, as one does, and it turns out she went to a summer camp with my half-brother many moons ago. She was so sweet and gentle. She also showed me how to work my pain pump. It felt good to be in charge of my own pain relief. It was about the only thing I had control over for a while.

I had a room-mate who was an older lady who had had back surgery up in Albany – and it had not gone well at all, so she came to Columbia to get it fixed. Poor soul – she was in so much pain.

About the time I was getting settled KoD was eating his dinner that had been delivered by Sir Chants-a-lot. At this point in time they were not allowing me to eat anything, but within two hours two kosher meals had been sent up, at different times, from the cafeteria. I could hardly swallow at this point – they had to move my esophagus out of the way to get to my spine during the surgery, so it was very sore and tender – so I just took the applesauce and the juice.

Within an hour my room was filled with friends who came to see me, one of whom I had actually NEVER met in person before! I was drugged up to the max and I hope I wasn’t too loopy. It was just so great to hang out with some of my favourite people. I didn’t want the boys coming to the hospital and had farmed them all out to friends.

By 10 pm everyone had gone home and it was time to turn in for the night. Except I got no sleep. I was in pain, the pain pump was only working so much, the nurses kept coming in to check up on me and my room-mate. I get that. I know it was necessary to check on us, but I so needed to sleep. I had special cuffs on my legs that inflated and deflated noisily every 15 or so minutes, to prevent blood clots or something. So I would fall asleep and jerk awake every time they inflated. Around 4 am I begged the nurse to take them off. Then there was the antibiotics that they needed to give me at 12 am and at 4 am plus the steroids that I had to take at regular intervals too.

At one point I was seriously considering calling the KoD and begging him to come back to the hospital…I was in tears. I just needed to sleep. I needed the KoD too. It was a long night.

At 6 am the student doctors (I call them baby doctors because they are so young!!) came in all bright eyed and bushy tailed. One of them leaned over, I thought, to examine the dressing. He ripped it off!! Without telling me he was going to do it!! Holy heckers it hurt!! My incision was now only covered with heavy duty steri strips. And lots of gunk from the bigger dressing.

A little while later Dr McC came in, we had a long talk about my recovery and what to expect. A little while after that nurse practitioner Mary came in to make sure I had the right instructions, and knew how to reach her if I needed to.

The KoD arrived around 10 am and was told that I would be discharged soon after. At this point they had unplugged and unstuck me – bye bye pain pump, hello Percocet! I honestly couldn’t wait to get home, but was worried they were getting rid of me too quickly. A Physical Therapist came to see me, to get me up and walking and to make sure I didn’t do any BLT – bending, lifting or twisting – during the recovery period.

I got dressed with help, and the porter came to wheel me down to the car. The valet brought the car around and helped me in. KoD drove us home, and by 1 pm I was tucked into bed.

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The community has been fabulous. My awesome friend / neighbor has arranged meals for us from the local ladies – a hot meal delivered to the door every night, Shabbat food, and this week, they have all taken care of feeding us for Rosh Hashanah. Their generosity and kindness has been so touching. I am so new to this community yet I feel so enveloped in their warmth and love.

My Surgical Experience – Part Two

So where was I? Oh yes, sleeping the day away….

The KoD went to the waiting area to daven and to wait until surgery was finished. We had been told that once I had been moved to recovery the Doctor would go talk to him and he would be brought back to see me.

My lovely friend G6, who lives not too far from the hospital, recounts that morning for us – better she tell it, as she was there! I knew she was going to stop by before work to bring coffee to the KoD and make sure he was ok – none of us realized how long she would end up staying.

More or less in her words:

Ok, let’s see…..

I came around 8:30, thinking that I’d be there about half an hour.HSM: and you wore pink, right, in my honour? Just like so many of my tweeps and FB peeps.

I figured the 90 minute surgery started at 7:30, right? So I’d be there till 9 or so and get into work just a tad behind schedule. (There are some advantages to being the boss, right 😉 ? )

The KoD and I shmoozed a bit and then another friend of ours, Sir Chants-a-lot, showed up toting breakfast for KoD. I think that was going to be the pattern for the day… Sir Chants-a-lot making sure the KoD got fed. (He brought dinner later, I think)HSM: Yes m’dear. He brought Shwarma. Which smelled heavenly but being as I was nil by mouth I didn’t get to taste it but the KoD totally enjoyed it.

I made sure to tweet updates, but there wasn’t much happening and by 10:45, we were all trying to pretend we weren’t nervous for the other guy’s benefit 😉 – but we all WERE. HSM: I cannot believe you guys stayed around…. Such good friends.

Sir Chants-a-lot took the KoD to get coffee and I stayed put ready to ambush the first doctor I saw.

When they returned, I told Sir Chants-a-lot to go find a pretty girl and shmooze her up and see if he could find out what was up ;). HSM says: the not knowing had to be driving you guys crazy.

I found none other than Darren – patient advocate – fresh off the farm from Kansas.  He talked “real slow like” but put our minds at ease when he was able to call into the operating suite and informed us that the surgery started late (HSM: and they couldn’t have told you that earlier?) and they were only putting the implants (you had implants??? And you’re masquerading it as spinal surgery…. tsk tsk…..) in then and that the surgery would last another hour. HSM Note: BONE and titanium implants. But haha!

We all breathed a silent sigh of relief, still trying not to show the other how nervous we were. It WAS 11 am by then, you know……

At 12 pm Darren decided to take lunch, which was just peachy because it was right around the time that we’d be starting to get antsy again. The nerve….

There we were, fighting our demons silently, with Sir Chants-a-lot trying to lighten the moments with (dumb but much needed) penguin jokes.HSM: remember any?

Nearly ANOTHER hour passed.

At this point, none of us was doing that great a job of hiding our anxiety. Sir Chants-a-lot accosted a sour looking “little old lady” patient advocate who after some investigation finally informed us that you were out of surgery. We all smiled and virtually patted each other on the back. It was kind of a “hugs” moment, but yeah…. no….. not happening……

We stayed until the doctor emerged to talk to KoD (one last photo op for the Twitter updates) and then figured he was in good hands and would see his Queen of Hearts shortly.HSM: he saw me alright, but I remember nothing. Sigh.

Exit – stage left……….

Thanks G6 for that recap. Thanks also for leaving out the fact that when you visited me later that evening I must have repeated everything a million times. KoD doesn’t remind me of this either. You guys must love me or something.

The KoD came to sit with me in recovery until I was ready to go up to a room. I remember nothing of the afternoon. Apparently I was very sensitive to the anesthetic so it took me a loooooong time to wake up and stay woken up afterwards. As soon as I was sufficiently awake they took me to my room.

To be continued…..

My Surgical Experience – Part One

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two weeks since my surgery. It seems like yesterday, it seems like months ago. But I guess I am finally ready to put pen to paper (ok, fingers to the keyboard) to recap the whole experience.

We woke up that morning at 4.45 am. The KoD had set up the coffeemaker the night before so that he could imbibe. Bless that man for not lording it over me that he got to have coffee and I didn’t. He was even a little apologetic about it! I was allowed nothing to eat or drink since midnight, except for a sip of water with which to take my painkillers. By 5.15 we were on the road, ready for surgery – or as ready as I would ever be. I wasn’t nervous – I was just looking forward to the left side of my body actually working as it should.

We had confidence in Dr McCormick – he told us he does 100 such surgeries every year. We had researched this surgery online, and our research coupled together with what we had been told by Dr McC and his nurse practitioner Mary put us very much at our ease. We knew what to expect.

We got to the hospital at 5.45 am, and made use of the valet parking. We took the elevator to the surgical check in floor and checked in, filled out paperwork, signed a whole bunch of papers, got a very nice identity bracelet, and sat down to wait to be called. My surgery was scheduled for 7.30 am and I was due to be in recovery by 9.30 am. A relatively short surgery. I was convinced that I would be awake and lucid by lunchtime. I knew friends wanted to stop by – I had given them the KoD’s digits so they could check in with him when I was up for a visit.

At around 6.30 am we were called, and taken to the pre-op area to get ready for surgery. We met with the nurse. The anesthetist came by and explained the whole putting me to sleep procedure. The doctor came by, the resident doctor came by (am I old, or are the student doctors just extremely young these days??)– I was a popular girl that morning. The guy in the cubicle to the left of me was having a cyst removed from his brain, and the woman in the cubicle to the right of me was having major back surgery. I felt blessed that my surgery was relatively “minor”.

At 7.15 the OR team came to get me and I walked two minutes to the OR, saying a quick goodbye to the KoD who was going to go wait in the surgical waiting area. I was so sure I was going to see him within a couple of hours.

I lay down on the gurney in the bright OR, and was chit chatting with the nurses. I remember telling them about the boys, and their ages. They explained they were going to put an IV in, and we carried on talking. That’s all I remember until about 6 pm….

The pain of painkillers

The strongest painkiller I will take these days is Aleve. But yesterday even that wasn’t working. I actually decided I would take something stronger, but after holding the pill (Dilaudid) in my hand for 10 minutes I just could not do it. I felt like taking it would be admitting defeat even though logically that doesn’t make sense.

Supermoms are not supposed to need narcotics to help ease their pain. We are not supposed to have any pain that can’t be cured with a hot bath and a cup of tea. Life kind of gets in the way of that sometimes.

I didn’t used to be opposed to pain pills. Quite the opposite. Now I know you are thinking addiction, but I had this whole speech about addicts needing the meds for the high, and people who are in pain need the meds to cure the pain therefore it’s not an addiction. I have reached the point that I believe perhaps I was wrong in some ways.

Here’s the back story. 8 years ago, almost to the day, I was 2 months pregnant with my littlest prince. From one second to the next I went from just mildly nauseous and bloated to the most unbelievable agony I have ever experienced. My back went out. Totally and utterly. Rushed to hospital, on morphine while pregnant, tests upon tests upon tests. I was discharged a few weeks later, on bedrest the rest of the pregnancy (so tough with 3 little kids underfoot) with no answers. I spent the next few years in abject agony with my back, going from doctor to doctor, getting diagnoses that didn’t help – fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, herniated disks, disk degenerative disease, one doc told me to just go to the gym and make friends and I will feel better. I did acupuncture and went to an osteopath. Nothing helped. NSAIDs and cortisone shots helped for a bit, but not long term. I was in pain and miserable and no one was willing to help me.

Until I found the right kind of pain specialist, one who looked at the whole ME and not just my back. After trial and error we hit upon a strategy that gave me my life back. I was put on Oxycontin, a strong narcotic. I had to take a dose every 12 hours in order to keep the pain at bay. It was tightly controlled by the doctor, and I was closely monitored. But I was able to function without chronic pain being my first thought of the day, and my last thought at night. I was able to be a mom for the first time in a long time. Yes I still had limitations, I wasn’t pain-free. My pain went from a 10 on 10 to perhaps a 5. And I could live with that. I had break-through pain, and I had pills for that too.

While still in pain and on medication, divorce proceedings were started. As most people who have been though all of that, you know that stress exacerbates all your aches and pains and sometimes brings you new ones. Even though for some time I had wanted to get off the oxy, that wasn’t the time. I hated being dependant on a medication like that. my life wasn’t in danger, I was just in pain. I didn’t need to take this medication to live, or did I? After taking it for so long I was no longer sure why I was taking it. Did it improve my quality of life, or was I too reliant on it?

A defining moment came, when I mistakenly took too much. I had all my pills in a pill organizer and that morning I took the pills from the wrong day. Later, thinking I had forgotten to take my pills that morning, I took more. Within an hour I realized my mistake. I called the doc and she said not to panic, that I would be fine, high, but fine. The pills would work their way out of my system and I would be back to “normal”. I called a friend to come take care of the kids because I knew I could not. And boy was I high! I had never gotten high in my life before that and never will again. It scared me. I was floating, and rabbitting on about insane things, making weird comments, and I was not in control! I hate not being in control.

It was after that that I decided that I had to get off the painkillers. I made a decision to accept whatever pain I was in, take advil or aleve, and get through every day as best I could.

I went to my doctor, explained to her that I wanted to stop taking the meds NOW. She explained to me that if I just stopped cold turkey I would go through withdrawal. I said that that was just for addicts, and I was not an addict. Even though I was taking it for medical purposes, not recreational, my body was used to having it in the bloodstream. So to just stop would send the body into withdrawal no matter why I was taking it. So over a period of months we slowly weaned me off the oxy. I had wanted an immediate withdrawal, but that wasn’t possible. It also meant learning new ways to deal with the pain from what was determined to be 2 herniated disks and sciatica.

It took 3 months of slow weaning, but I did it. I was narcotic free after almost 3 years of being a slave to a drug that helped me have a better life. Do I miss it? Heck no! Does my back hurt still. It does indeed, but my attitude has changed. I live with chronic pain. It’s a fact of my life. It does not define who I am. I will not allow it to interfere with how I live my life. Not now, not ever.

I was still left with Oxycodone (generic name is Supeudol), a short acting narcotic, for when the pain gets really bad. I used to take a whole one of 5 mg. Recently my back was especially awful and I took a quarter of a pill and I will never take it again. Just that tiny little piece played with my head. My body has gotten so used to being without narcotics that even the smallest dose makes me feel weird.

So yesterday, when my pain was really bothering me and Aleve didn’t do much, I wanted to take something stronger. I had told myself that taking one pill won’t ruin months of hard work but I still felt that it would be wrong for me. So I resisted. I took a hot bath instead and went to bed with a book and relaxed.

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