The main reason I wanted to write a series on my surgery is that when I took to the Internet to educate myself on the procedure, most of the websites, articles, etc. were about the experiences of teenagers or the elderly. At 24-years-old, I wasn’t ever able to fully relate to what I was reading so in retrospect, I went into my surgery without a real specific picture of what was to come. Hopefully, this post can be helpful to any 20-something woman (or dude, I don’t discrimi-hate) who is in my shoes.
Here’s a short list of what I recommend pre-op and I’ll follow with explanations.
- Stock up on the following: comfy clothes, comfy shoes, mindless entertainment.
- Pack a bag that inclues: the above and a toothbrush and deodorant
- Attend lots o’ pilates and/or yoga classes to increase core strength
- I had suuuuper long hair that I knew would be a pain in the b-u-t-t to deal with since I wasn’t able to shower for about a week post-op. I cut it to just above my shoulders and am sooooo glad I did.
- Choose a surgeon you are seriously comfortable with. Like, I would love to have drinks with mine or babysit his kids or something weird like that because I’ve known him for so long and had no problem with him cutting a 14 inch incision down my back.
- Know that this won’t be easy. Sorry, but it’s true. But it really helps to be as mentally prepared as possible.
- Keep your spirits up. I wrote one of my Bible verses on my hand the morning of surgery. It was comforting to be able to look down and read it whenever I started to get anxious.
My surgery was scheduled for January 10, 2013 shortly after the madness from the holidays slowed down. This meant lots of surgery-related Christmas presents such as: comfortable pajamas, yoga pants, baggy t-shirts, comfy socks, fuzzy slippers, multiple crossword and Sudoko books, movies and all 10 seasons of Friends on DVD (!!!!!). I should mention that mindless entertainment is key here. Anesthesia seriously messes with your brain not to mention the gallons of morphine that I pumped into my system every chance I could. I probably watched about 30 episodes of Friends while at the hospital and I hardly remember any of them. I packed a book in my bag and it never saw the florescent glow of the giant hospital ceiling light. It took me about a month to be able to really focus enough to read a book or magazine.
From the moment I decided on surgery, my doctor recommended that I start participating in pilates/yoga classes to increase core strength. He said this would be very helpful to recovery since I would be relying on my core so much to make up for what my back muscles wouldn’t be able to do. Probably my biggest regret throughout this process is that I did not pay close attention to this advice. I’ve always been averse to pilates and yoga (ironically because Pilates always felt rough on my back) so I just kept procrastinating and before I knew it, it was December and wasn’t even worth the effort. Even though I kept up with my normal workout routine, I do think I could have benefited greatly from the focus on core strength. I’m currently 8 weeks post-op and I still have to push myself up with my arm while lying on my side to get up from laying down.
I feel it’s worth noting why I decided to have a major surgery 3 hours from where I live. Dr. Watt didn’t know anyone he could recommend to do the surgery in Charleston and it didn’t seem worth the effort to establish a relationship with someone new. Honestly, I can not believe I even considered for a millisecond finding a surgeon local to my area. Having the same doctor who had treated my scoliosis from day one ended up being remarkably comforting and certainly made the whole process much easier than it would have been. If you’re going through this, I highly, highly recommend using a doctor that you know well and feel comfortable enough with to ask as many questions as you want.
Be mentally prepared for what’s to come. Going into the surgery as a 20-something-year-old by this procedure’s standards means that you are old. I know, I know 30 is the new 20 blah blah blah. Not in this case. Scoliosis surgeries are most typically done on teenagers and young adolescents. Our body’s ability to heal at 15 years old is significantly better than at 24 years old. There’s only a 9 year gap, but boy, does it make all the difference. When I was doing my research, I assumed the following: I might only be in the hospital for two days instead of the typical four, if I wanted to, I could ride the three hours back home to Charleston as soon as I was out of the hospital and I would probably feel 100% after about 4-6 weeks.
False. False. And False. I think all of the above could have been possible for a 15-year-old, not for an old fart like myself. I was in the hospital for 5 days. I barely survived the car ride from the hospital to my parent’s house, let alone a three hour drive. And I am now 8 weeks post-op and not at 100% (I still have to bend down very slowly and can only sleep in certain positions, for example).
Hopefully, this post isn’t discouraging or disheartening. I wanted to be as honest as possible so as to know exactly what to expect. Even though it seems like all I had to say was negative, know that so far, I would not have changed a single thing. I definitely think this surgery was worth everything that I have gone through and am so thankful for the medical technology and advances that exist! After all, straightening your spine does have its advantages: Pre-surgery I was 5’5. Post-op I am now 5’7 holllaaaaa, my posture is much improved and I now have an excuse to shop for a new wardrobe!
Here’s a quick before and after shot:
Night before surgery 1 week post-op
Pretty cool, huh? Here’s my post about the Day of Surgery.