Life doesn’t always happen like you think or hope that it will… sometimes it breaks you down so much that you never recover, other times… by sheer will.. you can rebuild yourself from nothing again. I am one of those people that have seriously been challenged so many times in this department in my life. I should receive a medal for the times that this has happened.
You would think by now, I would be used to rebuilding my life. Recovering from pain.
2017 has been a test of all kinds to my life. I’ve struggled with health issues, career, finances, and with men.
The year began trying to find myself again, I had several plans on New Years that I wanted to fulfill.
I had things to figure out… To start with, where I was with The Boy, dating, work, and then, my finances. I was audited on taxes and had that hanging over my head…with everything going on, I kept having these issues with my back aching, shoulder hurting and just feeling terrible.
I had a strenuous trip to Vancouver for business, then less than a month later to Southern California for one of my best friend’s weddings. Instead of 6 hours, it took me over 30 hours to get to the wedding and I wasn’t even in California 24 hours before traveling back home to NYC.
With all the flights etc. over this weekend…. I felt like my back was on fire, I spent the next 3 days getting massages, calling in sick, putting ice on my back, neck…After a few days of rest, I felt a little better… even though I was eating Advil, taking Advil PM to sleep and a bottle a week habit of Advil was really beginning to take turns on my stomach. I was living with Chronic pain and it was beginning to take a toll on my life in the worst way.
This went on for months, until I found myself in Urgent Care one day crying in pain… they gave me a shot in the arm for pain, a sling and told me that I had a bad shoulder sprain. Meanwhile, I made an appointment at the Ortho for a shoulder specialist to have it checked out, but he told me it was my spine and gave me a pain pill and referred me to my old Spine Ortho. After a few weeks of waiting to get into see her….By this time, I was in constant pain, at the rate of 10/10 on the pain charts, crying, and had lost the feeling in my right hand, most of the fingers on my right hand, and down my right fore arm…all numb, tingling, and felt constantly like I had hit my funny bone and these pains were shooting up and down my arm at all times. I was miserable.
It was finally mid-June. By this time, I had a series of bad x-rays where they told me that my cervical spine was shaped in the wrong direction? What?
In the image below, the one on the left is correct curve, mine would be the right.
After another week, I went back to my Ortho for the results to the MRI. After seeing her face upon entering the room, I knew it was not good news. You see, we had an agreement with the previous back issues that she would never refer me to a surgeon for spine surgery unless it was really necessary. I will never forget sitting there in the room looking at the scans and hearing the options and first one, being a Spinal surgeon, second, more spine injections, but these would not fix the issue, the third, getting the nerves tested, but again…this would not fix the issue.
The issue was that the discs were cutting off the nerves in my cervical spine as shown below.
After walking out of the Doctors office, I had a series of items and papers full of referrals to call for appointments… options. This was my “Oh Shit” moment… This was real.
At first, I called the surgeon to get into make an appointment and they did not take my insurance, so I went on a mad search to find other surgeons, referrals to several, it was right after The 4th of July, so it was a popular week to be off for the week. Me, I was planning my future and trying to understand how this would look. After an hour, the first surgeon’s office that did not take my insurance called me back and told me that the surgeon was able to review my MRI and since he knew my doctor so well, and trusted her opinion that he would fit me into the schedule the following morning for a consult. In regards to the insurance, they would file it, but would not charge me for the costs, if not covered.
The following morning, frightened and in pain… I walked into the Park Avenue office and began my journey.
He was a very handsome, kind, yet professional Surgeon. His bedside manner was very precise and he was meticulous with his observations, exercises and questions. After awhile, I was invited into his office to sit down and walk through some of my MRI images and discuss options.
It was determined that due to my spinal stenosis, disc degeneration, and disc herniation that I required a 2 level ACDF surgery on my cervical spine C5-C7. They would also remove bone from my hip to rebuild the discs. I loved how they explain that they will be going through the front of my neck, moving my throat and windpipe to get to the spine, remove the discs, rebuild the discs and insert cages and steel screws/plates to stabilize the spine.
The surgery would be scheduled in a few weeks and would take a few hours, with an over night stay or two, then home on bed rest with a slew of restrictions.
Fast forward 3 weeks, I was in the hospital with my mother and friend early in the morning getting ready to undergo Spine Surgery. The things that they don’t tell you, they tell you at this time in the morning…. They’re enough quick discussions and documents to sign in the blink of an eye that have you seriously reconsidering why you’re doing this at all… all frightening.
One guy checks vitals, another nurse cleans me and does this twice and takes weight (yay.. still down 15lbs), as well as confirmation that I am not pregnant (what a joke), then…. puts you in a fetching outfit, socks, and you wait. This is when the parade begins…The Resident, who gives me the whole scoop of the people that will be coming by…he starts telling me that I will be restrained and there will be pins placed in my head to keep me from moving… Umm… What? It’s like the Christmas Past/Present/Future…. and he takes blood, more vitals, reconfirms everything and explains that when the surgery is over they are performing now is over, they will come by…Anesthesiologist, A Doctor that strictly comes in and monitors the surgery to ensure that the Surgeon does not get too close to the spine, itself to cause damage, The Surgical Nurse to reevaluate me, and finally…The Spine Surgeon. He comes by reconfirm everything taking place with a few clarifying questions and then, takes out a pen to draw on my neck to where the incision will be. I want to crap my pants right now, but they took my panties.
After about 15 more minutes, the Nurse comes to put me in the wheelchair to take me to the surgery room…. we travel down a very sterile, cold hallway…you can feel death all around you.. I remind myself why I really hate hospitals. Once we get to the room, I’m moved to the surgeon table and am freezing, there is loud heavy metal music blasting and they explain the surgeon likes this while performing surgery… This is when I notice that the table has straps on it.. there is a part for my body, then my arms are away from the body with straps to tie me in with velcro ties and the same for my legs. This is when they strap me in and hook up the IV and I was gone for the next 5 hours.
I wake up in recovery… I can barely talk, my eyes are not functioning well and it’s really loud and busy. I have pains in places I’ve never had and I’m dying of thirst. I just want to go home. This is where I hear all of the alarms and realize that they are coming from me. I have monitors everywhere, I smell blood, and all I want to do is cry and sleep.
After seeing my mother and friend, barely recalling anything from this… I recall them being shuffled out. After waiting hours in recovery, they come back and tell us that they cannot move me to a room and I will have to remain in the recovery area overnight… with this, they send my mother home and tell her I can’t have visitors. At this point, I was freaking out… I had so much blood everywhere.. no one bothered to help with the blood from surgery.. it was in my hair, ears, neck down my clothes and everything smelled like copper. I was a mess. I hate to be dirty…I loathe dirty hair too…
After a lot of horrible nurses, poor treatment and non stop crying from being in pain and being treated like shit…. someone (another doctor) finally came to offer me some ice cubes, water and pain medication. The nurses acted like it was an inconvenience to help me…everyone else had their people with them in the recovery room, with the exception of me.
They decided to move me to a hospital bed from the gurney after several hours and the alarms continued.. emanating from my body with every movement. I soon realized this was my pulse and blood pressure from the pain. The incision on my hip hurt like hell and every time the pain was more severe the alarms got worse. At one point, there were so many people standing over me trying to get my Blood pressure down and apparently they were giving me shots of insulin to control blood sugars that were spiked and I’m not a diabetic.
After another dose of pain meds, I woke up to an empty recovery room, it was dark and some lights on with emergencies still coming through all night. I had a new nurse who tried to help clean me up and make me more comfortable. She actually gave me wet towels and etc to help with keeping me comfortable.
The hospital experience was complete shit.
Finally, the surgeon came by early and was extremely upset that I was still in recovery when he came to check on me. He promised I could go home and he would release me to get out of there that day. There were 2 clowns that took me for xrays and left me in a hallway for 30 minutes or more and when they finally brought me back to the recovery area, all of my tubes were bent and a miss. My mother came to help me clean up, the resident and nurses finally gave me some jello, water, and a sponge bath. However, they never helped with the blood in my hair/neck and etc.
When I got home, my poor mother had the job of feeding me, helping me bathe/shower and worse. I looked like someone had beat the hell out of me. They had shaved the hair above my ears to insert the pins into my skull to stabilize me during surgery and these sores were still bleeding and gave me throbbing headaches…they hurt so much. I had bruises all over my arms, legs, and body from where I was strapped down to the table during surgery and had apparently tried to escape…I was told by previous surgeons that I have had “out of body” experiences during surgery and this one was no different. The entire lower right abdomen was so painful where they removed bone for the discs. My throat felt like someone had removed it and put it back, it was scratchy and I couldn’t stop coughing when eating and drinking. Makes sense…they did move my throat. Lol
I was frightening looking.. I was tired, but sleeping wasn’t easy…I was wearing a hard collar and the incision on my hip made it impossible to lay on that side. All of the crap I bought to help..like a pillow wedge, body pillow, Side sleeping pillow…didn’t help.
I had a Miami J collar on and this would be my companion for the next 3 weeks.
I am very happy that I went through the surgery. I feel so much better that I realized that I must have been in chronic pain for so many years.
The recovery has been overall much better than anticipated. In the beginning there were so many pains and there still are, but after we finally got all of the blood out of my hair (not an easy task) and I was able to shower alone, it was a little better. I probably returned to work too soon, but given that I was a contractor, I had no choice. I kept pushing my limits with lifting, movements and etc. I obeyed physical therapy and would end up in so much pain hours later for doing the tiniest movements.
All that I can say is….I’m grateful for my family and friends during this time in helping me with things. After stopping trying to do all of these simple tasks (making my bed, laundry and etc.) helped me tremendously. Thankfully, I live in NYC and can get things delivered. After returning to work, I was laid off, but since I was a consultant… I did not earn any severance, so the stress of being 60 days post surgery with no income and no insurance is seriously frightening.
I’m 90 days post surgery and I am very happy that I went through the surgery. I still have to be careful, especially in winter with falling to not hurt myself. I am not fully able to feel the tips of my fingers yet, they’re still a little numb, my abdomen is completely numb from the hip to the groin, I have arthritis and other aches and pains still. However, I feel so much better that I did before. I realized that I must have been in chronic pain for so many years.
I have another follow up with x-rays at my 6 month anniversary, which is exciting and hopefully, by then I will be able to return to the gym and etc.
This takes care of the cervical spine, after this, we will be focusing on my lumbar spine issues to ensure that area is stable and not worsening…like I told the surgeon, we will deal with that when the time comes and I can’t walk.
There are so many more details around this time of my life… I am sure they will come about in my many other posts… as everything happening in one part of your world impacts another part of your life.
I’m actively trying to find a new job, and am interviewing a lot, but it’s a tough time of the year.
I’ve found myself close to rock bottom lately with trying to figure out how I can pay medical bills, rent, electric, buy food and etc. I’ve only 10 weeks of unemployment at $400/week and that doesn’t cover rent, and etc.
I’ve never been good at asking for help, but I’ve set up a Gofundme.com account here Go Fund Me in case you can help with anything at any denomination.
Thank you in advance for any help.
I’m still healing everyday…