The Joys of Surgery

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Just under two weeks ago I had anterior cervical discectomy and fusion surgery. You can look it up. In a nutshell, it means the surgeon will cut your neck open, remove/replace some troublesome discs, and attach a plate and screws so it all fuses together. Fun right? No.

I had the surgery after several non-surgical treatments failed to work. I’m lucky. My surgery was just a couple of levels (C5/6 and C6/7) but the pain before surgery was intense because one of the discs had herniated so badly that it was putting a lot of pressure directly on my spinal cord. Scary stuff when your spinal cord is involved, especially around your neck.

So, off to surgery I went. The third-ish of my life if I leave out the dental implant surgery I’m in the middle of completing. As an adult in my late 20s I had my tonsils removed. Ow. A few years ago I had an emergency appendectomy. That required a couple of nights in the hospital. But I didn’t have time to think about anything which, in hindsight, was not so bad. I had surgery within a few hours of realizing I would need surgery.

My spine surgery was scheduled two weeks out so obviously I scoured the Internet to learn everything I could about ACDF. Bad bad bad bad idea. Terrible really. As I was learning I was also thinking that emergency surgery (my appendectomy) seemed like such a better deal than this planned surgery.

Because: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I WAKE UP AND CAN’T FEEL MY ARMS AND LEGS?!? Oh, that was just one of many questions that kept me up at night. But I was/am lucky in that I have a great medical team – at one of the country’s top hospitals for orthopedic surgery – and they patiently and kindly answered all my questions.

I also heard from friends who had undergone similar surgeries. It all helped. And I was SUPER lucky to have had two great friends take turns staying with me during the first 10 days of recovery. Amazing. But as I’ve recovered I keep thinking about the day of surgery. It was such a weird experience and there were so many things that I didn’t know to ask about in advance once I got started on surgery day.

So, dear readers, if you find yourself heading for surgery, a few things to keep in mind…

1. This may change hospital to hospital, I’m not sure, but it is ENTIRELY possible that you might go under (anesthesia) wearing a completely different (and very strange) hospital gown than you wake up in after surgery. This is really not cool to realize. You will definitely miss those giant paper underwear when you regain consciousness and realize you have no idea who may or may not have seen your booty in all its birthday suit glory.

2. When they tell you to start taking stool softeners in advance of surgery, listen. Pain killers are the worst for your, ahem, system. The. Worst. Ever.

3. When you pack your overnight bag, you should pack something that is WAY too big. I’m talking 3x too big, people. And then just ignore it when you put it on and it fits. Even shoes. Where the swelling comes from is beyond me but… wow. WOW. Just wow. Goodyear Blimp. I’m just now getting back to normal. Crazy.

Overall, recovery has been well. Slow and steady, which is OK with me. Some bumps here and there but even the pain when those bumps happen is OK because I know it’s my body healing. Positive energy and lots of love – both in real life and virtually – help tremendously. I’m lucky in that I’ve had great doses of both.

But all I can keep thinking is… man, I hope the people in the OR focused more on my tattoos than on my toosh. And with that, I’m off to nap.

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