On the morning of January 19th I underwent back surgery. My lumbar spine was all screwed up with bone spurs, compressed or nonexistent discs, one vertebra that was 1.8 cm out of position, bone and muscle scar tissue from previous surgeries and a mess of other crap that was pinching and irritating nerves whenever I stood or sat upright for more than 10 or 15 minutes. Oddly enough, when I was slouched in a chair or working my ass off in the yard, the back didn’t really bother me.
The neurosurgeon was going to go in and scrape out the bone spurs, chip away other protrusions, replace the discs, put the L4 back where it belongs and then screw and pin the whole mess (L2 to L5) together. The whole process, he estimated would take 5 to 5 ½ hours.
It took 8 ½ hours as my bone and scar tissue was unexpectedly thick and tough. I spent all of the next day in a complete fog and do not remember a thing until the evening of the day after surgery. Terry says she listened to me singing along with the oldies of the ‘50s and ‘60s while I was in recovery but I’ll have to take her word for it.
I spent much of the next week in a daze of oxycodone as well. I had no desire to be moved anywhere until I was assured that the lack of feeling in my right leg (from hip to toes) was temporary. I’ve been told that this a result of irritating the nerve both from the surgeon’s working on the nearby bone and scar tissue and from stretching the nerve with the insertion of new discs between the vertebrae. Even so, three weeks later, there’s been some improvement but there’s still some tingling and pins-and-needles that is disturbing. They say time will tell if there’s any permanent damage.
I got off the oxy (they called it oxy-fast) as soon as I could since I suffered every side effect they list for the stuff. Hallucinations? Check. I saw colored lights moving across the walls and ceiling like in a disco and bugs crawling on the tile floor that weren’t there. Creepy crawlies under the skin? Check. (Still itching!) Irrational and incoherent thought? Check. I ordered milk and mashed potatoes for one meal and usually couldn’t remember what room I was in as I transposed the numbers every time. I called Terry one night to talk thinking it was 5 PM and then 10 PM. It was midnight and 3 AM. The night I stopped taking the oxy I broke out in the sweats that soaked my bed and had the doctor checking by blood sugar and anything else he could think of.
They did move me from the hospital in Sayre to the Troy facility for a couple of days of physical rehab before sending me home. I didn’t want to go home, but they talked to Terry and she said she could handle me so that was it. Besides, there wasn’t a whole lot they could do for me at that point besides walking up and down the hall. (One luxury I don’t have at the Aerie is a long hallway to walk. Back when I was rehabbing my knees, I would walk laps on the deck, but that’s now ice covered and it’s 15 degrees out!)
I’ve had a couple of visits from the visiting nurse from home healthcare services with another from the physical therapists who did a quick evaluation and home inspection before leaving me with a half dozen exercises to do to strengthen my legs and work on my balance. I was supposed to see my primary care physician on Monday but the ice and freezing rain put a halt to that. We did get to see him on Wednesday and he told me that one of the side effects of the prescription pain killer is generalized itching. I guess I’ll have to trust to the hydrocortisone to relieve that itch until I’m off the pain killer.
I’ve a scheduled appointment with the neurosurgeon on Tuesday the 17th by which time the incision area should be pretty well healed up. I expect he’ll want to do an x-ray or some other scan to see how the bones, muscles and nerves are doing.
I‘ve been home now since Wednesday, February 4th and am slowly going stir crazy. I can’t drive. I walk with a walker. I wear a back brace to prevent any sudden twists or bends when standing or sitting. I’ve been doing crossword puzzles, sodoku puzzles and reading. A lot. Oh, and sleeping too. I’ve been sleeping 12 hours or so a day. Sitting up for two hours is a chore.
One source of amusement—besides the internet—is watching the birds and squirrels on the deck. Our friendly black squirrel has visited a couple of times but he gets outnumbered by the grey squirrels sometimes four or five to one. I’ve had flocks of goldfinches, pine siskins, redpolls, white breasted nuthatches, tufted titmice, black-capped chickadees, house finches, dark-eyed juncos, mourning doves, blue jays and even a red-bellied woodpecker visiting the deck feeders. The only thing keeping the birds at bay are the squirrels. They don’t like to share.