Achievement Unlocked

As of a few days ago, I’ve been able to put my shoes and socks on unassisted.  Still takes quite a lot of effort, and there also may be a slight amount of grunting involved, but they get on unassisted all the same, and let me tell you, when you’re recuperating from surgery, it’s all about the little things my friends.

4 Weeks In

Today marks the 1 month anniversary of my surgery.  Yep.  This time 4 weeks ago I was face down in an operating theatre, splayed open with chisels and drills and tubes and machines that go ‘bing’ everywhere.

I’ve already spoken about my first night in hospital, and to be honest, I can only really remember key points of that whole first week.  There’s a lot of things that people tell me happened that I simply don’t remember.  But I digress..

Coming home to Toowoomba to recover was and still is the only logical choice.  Knowing that I would be significantly incapacitated meant that I couldn’t rely on my housemate (as incredible as he is) to take care of me.  I”m hazarding a guess that there’ll be some ex-Toowoomba folk reading this blog, so you’ll know what I’m talking about when I mention the anxieties involved in returning to this town.  For the other readers (yes, BOTH of you), I’ll try and explain.

It’s not like I was ‘nervous’ about coming home.  In fact, there’s a great deal of comfort to be found in the concept of returning home to have your parents look after you.  But there’s something that swells, ever so slightly, in your gut when you contemplate returning to Tba (that’s what we locals call Toowoomba.  That or ‘The Womb’).  It taps into the force this town has in terms of it’s ability to keep you sheltered.  Everything is no more than a 10 minute drive away up here.  There’s wide streets and plenty of open, luscious parks, and the overall look of the city is ‘nice’.  But you never forget the feelings you used to have when you lived here as a teenager.  The feelings that you were never going to get out.  The crushing fist of the place that grips ahold of you and tells you there’s no NEED to leave the place.  You remember your friends that were brave/smart enough to leave as soon as they could, and how being able to visit them was sometimes enough to make you think that you could still get out at any time you wished.  There’s no real problem with these memories as such, but the anxiety of returning home is fed by them, and soon enough, you start thinking that if you return to The Womb for longer than a day, you might just get stuck there again.

There’s also some guilt tied in somewhere along the line when thinking about returning home.  I always feel guilty that I don’t come back here enough.  I don’t visit my grandad enough.  My parents worked so hard to put me through private school and in the end, I just left.  Jesus, sometimes I even feel bad for the town itself-amidst all the crappy things about growing up in a small-ish town, I had some incredible times here, and made friends with people that I’m still friends with today, and yes, invariably we always end up telling ‘back in the day’ stories of all the ridiculously fun and (in hindsight) stupid things we did whilst growing up here.  It’s not Toowoomba’s fault that we end up with this absolute necessity to break free of the city’s limits.

The flip-side to all of these somewhat morose thoughts is that, after 2 weeks here, I am now anxious about how I’ll cope with returning to Brisbane, and I’m going to severely miss being in Toowoomba with my folks.

Sorry, this has spiralled, seemingly downwards.  I’ll try to get back on message.

So, recovery.  There’s times when it seems impossible that I’m able to walk around unaided after only 4 weeks have passed since the gigantic surgery I had.  It’s truly incredible.  4 weeks ago I had severe scoliosis.  Now, I don’t.  Pain is still an issue, though it’s *mostly* manageable with meds.  Me being me however, I am severely conscious of becoming too reliant on said meds.  They are rather serious drugs, but at this point in time, I still need them to be able to manage my daily pain levels.

I still struggle with things such as putting socks and shoes on, bending over to pick anything up, and my sitting upright time limit is at about 45 minutes.  Hoping to continue to lengthen that over the next couple of weeks.

I still do daily rehab exercises, but as of next week I’ll be starting more focussed, physio supervised rehab stuff.  I’m actually looking forward to it.  Well, kind of looking forward to it.

Aside from pain, the other area I struggle with is I still can’t really lie on my right hand side, which, up until the surgery, was my default side to lay on.  Admittedly, it’s mostly a first world problem, but it makes sleeping comfortably quite a challenge, as too much time on my left hand side causes it become rather sore.  Still, it’s all better than being in that f*cking hospital bed.

I believe that I have rambled on far, far, far too much for one post, so that’s it for now.  Thank you to everyone who’s texted or sent Facebook messages asking how I’m going and the like.  I can’t tell you how much they brighten my day.  I am a lucky man.

Here’s a pic of my wound with the staples in (I’m told somewhere between 70-100 of them), and one with the staples out.  I hope girls still dig scars.

Fairly Slowly. Kind of Surely.

Hi again,

this post comes to you from the high volcanic lands of Toowoomba.  Place of my birth and also current residence whilst recovering (and I feel compelled to tell you that I’m listening to ‘Happy’ by The Rolling Stones).

As per my previous post, I was discharged on Tuesday 29th May.  There was loose talk of it being Monday the 28th, but unfortunately my surgeon happened to walk in right at a point in time where I was waiting for recently taken meds to kick in, but I was still in a fair amount of pain and so was curled into something of a foetal postion with my hand covering my brow, so I didn’t hear him come in and I looked up and saw him there and he sympathetically said “you’re just not quite ready to leave yet are you?”.  I wanted to jump up in protest but due to the state I was in, I managed to feebly agree with him, so he said *maybe* tomorrow (Tuesday) or Wednesday.  It was most unwelcome news Doc,most unwelcome indeed.

Anyway, I settled in for for my daily 2 bowls of Special K and resigned myself to another day of hospital life, which basically went like this (please not that times given have NOT been exaggerated for sympathetic affect);

Regardless of which state of sleep you are in, any time between 5am-6am, a ver kind but not very hushed lady will enter your room telling you she’s got a fresh jug of water for you.  Generally it’s still pitch black, and I’m asleep, so I mumble thanks and inwardly think ‘FFS surely there’s a more pleasant hour at which to deliver me fresh water.  I’m hoping that i didn’t reverse my inward and outward dialogues one morning whilst in a morphine daze.  Still, they’ve got a lot of fresh water to deliver and it’s better than getting it myself.

About 15-20 minutes after the water, another kind lady arrives asking if you would like a drink with your breakfast.  I wont lie-for the first 5 days I always got lemonade, and I skulled it down quicker than a first year uni student playing fuzzy duck.  I know it’s not new, but there’s just something about cold lemonade when you’re feeling poorly that upon drinking, instantly makes you feel just a little bit better.

My hospital of choice was the Wesley in Brisbane, and I have to say it’s definitely a cut about any others I’ve been to.  Generally, hospital food is something to be avoided, and while the Wesley dinners did most times leave a bit to be desired, breakfasts and particularly lunches were top notch, and I even got to pick from a menu every day (the only problem being that I was so out of it on pain meds that by the following day I’d always forget what I’d ordered).

So, breakfast is all over bar the shouting by about 7am.  There’d be some folks reading this who would not know me to be a morning person, but if I’ve had sufficient time in bed the night before, I love being up early, and in a hospital, there’s an ever so slight “Oh What A Beautiful Morning’ vibe apparent for the first few hours of each new day, and after the first week, I found it the most pleasant time to get stuck into my rehab exercises.

The flipside of this mildly pleasant undercurrent is having to endure the night before.  There’s naturally pain and discomfort throughout the night when in hospital, but I’ll tell you this much for free-those f*cking rubber mattresses make things a heck of a lot worse.  Generally 4 times per night I would wake up not in a lather of sweat, but literally dripping with it.  My sheets, pyjamas, pillows (also rubber) all completely soaked.  Add to this the fact that I could (and currently only still can) only sleep on my left hand side due to the cut being too tender, and each night was hardly what I would call ‘restful’.  Still, there were people in there far worse of then me, so I tried not to dwell on it too much, and when things got especially difficult in the wee hours, I’d just press that little ol’ buzzer of mine and wait for the salvation of an icy cold lemonade to be delivered to me.

In the words of the illustrious Dr. Frank N. Furter..

..I’m going home today folks.

I’m so happy, I think I’m getting a migraine with all the brain chemistry overload.  Luckily good medication is easy to come by in these parts.

Once I’ve landed, I’ll post again.

Thanks for all the kinds thoughts and words.


Behold, the straightness.

Behold, the straightness.

Day 14, part 2

My anxiety about the experience of waking up from surgery was second only to my anxiety about not waking up at all from surgery.  I kid you not, I really, really hate the process of anaesthetic recovery.

It’s the very odd, discombobulating brain fog that hits you as soon as you open your eyes a sliver.  There’s also generally someone calling you by name and telling you to wake up.  At first it sounds like it’s coming from somewhere in he distance, but then you realise that it’s someone right next to your bed and you do indeed need to wake up.

Trying to come to grips with where you are currently lying is like swimming through treacle.  There’s just something that you can’t quite put together, but very very slowly, you start to piece together where you are and what’s going on.

Staying awake is reasonably difficult when you’re coming out of anaesthetic.  Just when you think you’re alert and with it, you’re suddenly asleep again.  More than once during this time I was asleep but could hear myself snoring loudly.  Nobody seemed to mind.

As you might expect, sometimes the longer you’ve been under, the longer it can take you to fully wake up.  I was on the table for 8 hours, which is pretty hefty, so getting ‘with it’ seemed to be taking longer than it should have (or at the very least, longer than I wanted it to be taking).  Add to this the fact that I lost 4 litres of blood during my operation (the human body only holds 5), my heart was tachycardic when I came out of the operating theatre, and I had a temperature- I was fighting something of an uphill battle.

For pain relief after back surgery, they insert an epidural into your spine.  Any ladies reading whom have had one will know of the wonders they can provide.  I had one for my laminectomy, and honestly, they are incredible.  Generally speaking, I wasn’t in any ‘pain’ as such while I was coming too (though I will never be comfortable with a catheter in), but in order to test that your epidural isn’t numbing too much of your body, they give you this test where upon they rub ice over your body.  You tell them where you can feel that it’s cold and where you can feel that they’re just touching you but it’s not cold. Unfortunately for me, I was numb from my nipple down, which as the nurses told me, was cause for concern as if your lungs go numb, they might just forget to work, which may result in a severe case of death.  I was still in quite a haze, but not long after the second ice test, the decision was made to turn my epidural off, thus effectively depriving me of any pain relief after 8 hours of spinal surgery.  I should say that the second part of the plan was that as soon as I could get some feeling a little bit lower than my nips, the epidural would be turned back on.  Like I said, I was still pretty out of it so I wasn’t overly anxious about things, plus I had a bit of residual epidural hanging around which I thought would see me through no problems.

As they wheeled me back into my room my parents were waiting to greet me, and seeing them in there was a moment of true joy for me.  The recovery nurse then had to deliver quite a detailed handover report to the ward nurse.  I vaguely remember her explaining the whole numbness thing and waiting to turn to epidural back on, but there was a lot of medical jargon being spoken, and it seemed to be spoken rather quickly.  In hindsight, I’m no really sure the ward nurse was fully prepared for the changeover, and I don’t mean in an incompetency kind of way, I mean in terms of my op didn’t go according to plan, I’d lost a lot of blood and temp and heart rate were up, all of it being a lot to take in and worry about.

Unfortunately time wore on, which was time wearing on with no pain relief at all.  It really started to get horrific my friends.  I’m not ashamed to say that I asked my mum to come over to my bed and I grabbed onto her hand with all my might.  I’m sure I probably did some ligament damage I was squeezing that hard-sorry about that mum.  I’d also started sweating profusely and feeling nauseous, and the pain just kept getting worse and worse.  I had a couple more ice tests, but each time they still thought I was too numb too high up to turn my pain relief back on.

I think close to 90 mins had passed when a different nurse, one I happened to know, came in to check up on things.  She immediately, professionally and brilliantly took control of the situation.  She hypothesised that I was dehydrated despite already receiving intravenous fluids, which was causing my nausea.  She decided to call the anaesthetist to check if I could receive double fluids, and also administered another ice test to see if the epidural could be turned back on.  Thankfully, no, splendourifically, my anaesthetist said yes to more fluids and also to my epidural being turned back on.

Within the next 40 mins the pain had dropped from sheer blinding levels to bearable levels, and the nausea had all but disappeared.  All thanks to one brilliant nurse.

So, that the story of the first 24 hours.  Everything is well now, but I hope that for the rest of my born days, I (nor anyone else I know for that matter) have to go through something like it ever again.

Day 13, part 1.

Hi everyone.

Well, day 13 in hospital (Sunday 27th to be precise).  I was hoping to go home tomorrow but it seems that it will now be Tuesday, as the doc wants to take no risks at all, because as he told me, he doesn’t ever have to do what he had to do to me ever again.

Which brings me to a little more of an in depth explanation of what happened..

Everything was running pretty much on time on the day of surgery.  I’d been assured that I was first up for the day, and for once this proved to be true.  There’s a lot of rigmarole involved in checking in with a hospital.  Also a lot of waiting around.  After I finally made it up into the actual pre-admission part, I was issued my gown, paper undies and taken through a small mountain of paperwork with various nurses.  My surgeon came in to say hi and have a chat, as did my anaesthetist.  Both are lovely guys.  I’m then taken to a bed and wheeled into a holding area, where I have to wait for about 20 mins.  Whilst I’m waiting there, a guy came and introduced himself as the technician who’ll be cleaning my blood.  WTF? I hear you ask.  Well, let me explain-

my anaesthetist informed me earlier that they place a needle into my neck to measure blood loss.  They then catch that blood and clean it and then transfuse it back into you whilst you’re being operated on.  Pretty amazing stuff.  Anyway, where was I? Ah right-waiting to be wheeled into theatre.

So they wheel me in and everyone says hello.  There’s a rather medieval contraption sitting in the room that is clearly designed for patients to lie face down on whilst having spinal surgery.  The anaesthetist comes in, and asks me if the valium I requested had kicked in yet.  It never arrived unfortunately.  ”Nevermind” he says, “I’ll give you some good shit”.  He gives me a local anaesthetic into my arm.  For some reason those locals always sting like a bitch.  In no time at all I feel lightheaded and really relaxed, and the next thing I know I’m waking up in the recovery room.   



But Seriously Folks..

I’m hanging in there. A few rough patches last night. Was on the slab for 7 hours. I’ll write more when I’ve got some energy reserves built up. Thanks for all the messages. I draw immense support from them. You have no idea how much they mean to me. xx