The first week after my surgery is blurry and difficult to remember. This is probably for the best. I remember being in pain pretty much always, but the memories are vague and fleeting. So, as you’re laying in your hospital bed for those first few days thinking that things will just never get better, know that it’s really not as bad as it seems in retrospect.
As I mentioned in my previous surgery posts, I was in the hospital for about 4.5 days. During that time I did the following: sleep, nap, watch TV. Rinse and repeat.
Seriously though, you’re in no state to be doing anything else. My mom and I went through almost the entire first season of Friends while I was there and I don’t remember any of it. I don’t remember conversations I had or books I tried to read. That being said, reading was basically impossible with all of the drugs running through my blood. It was very difficult to concentrate on the individual words, and I usually gave up after a page or two.
Things that I do remember: the physical therapist coming to get me out of bed and walking, residents coming to check on me, hospital nutritionists forcing me to eat, nurses pouring Miralax down my throat (yuck. seriously).
The hospital physical therapist came by my room about noon the day after my surgery … so pretty much 24 hours after operating. I remember wanting to get up so badly and not lie down anymore but also thinking that attempting to move so much may kill me. But it’s super important to start moving as soon as possible and as often as possible. It’s incredibly painful and uncomfortable at the time, but it encourages your body to heal faster.
PT has you do what they call a “log roll” where you roll either to your left or right until you are laying on your side. You would have thought they were asking me to roll an entire marathon by the amount of moaning and groaning I did while trying to roll myself over. I remember feeling like my whole back was on fire and I could feel the two sides of my incision pulling against each other feeling like the whole thing was going to come apart. It won’t. I promise. It seems that I have an affinity for drama in certain situations…
It probably took me about 10 minutes to finally get onto my side. Then, while they’re guiding you, they have you push yourself up on your shoulder. Here is where it would have been so crucial to have some killer ab muscles. Do some pilates, y’all! Seriously. So yeah, that part sucked, too.
Once I was finally sitting up, I immediately started to feel funny. I got really, really hot and started to sweat. The room started to spin, and I was certain I was going to throw up. This is all happening while the nurses are trying to change the sheets on my bed while they have a quick chance, so I’m roaming around panicking that I’m about to faint. The PT and nurses are telling me to breath and finally I go sit on the closest thing possible (just so happens to be the toilet) while they finish. So it took about 10 minutes for all that craziness to pass. This actually happened to me every time I got up to walk/use the bathroom while in the hospital. It was definitely annoying and made the task feel even more difficult, but apparently this is common when A) you are taking a bajillion medicines at once and B) you’ve been laying down for long periods of time and then change position abruptly. Makes sense. Once your actually standing up, walking is a breeze. It doesn’t hurt to walk, but it’s a slow process. Your body has been through a lot and it doesn’t want to move faster than it needs to. I was moving at a pretty glacial pace for the first week post-op, probably even longer.
Besides walking around, I also remember the nurses checking my stats a lot, like more often than usual. I had an usually low blood pressure for most of the time I was in the hospital and they also had various reasons for checking my blood counts often which meant I was constantly having blood drawn. Not fun.
I didn’t really eat much the entire time I was in the hospital or even for the first week post-op. I drank a little bit of water here and there and I nibbled on some Fruit Loops because the nutrition lady at the hospital forced me to. The medicine messed with me, and it completely killed my appetite. This was unfortunate because ultimately, they will not let you leave the hospital until you, ya know, go #2 – but that’s kind of hard to do when you’re not eating anything. The nurses will be giving you Miralax to drink a couple of times a day to help you go, but the closer I got to leaving the hospital, the more nervous I got about being able to leave. So they upped it to Miralax every hour. Not even kidding, y’all. But my alternative was a suppository and that was just not gonna happen. So, I drank Miralax every hour and it was disgusting. But it worked, eventually.
I also experienced a lot of naseau during my first week, so the nurses gave me an anti-naseau medicine called Phenergan which was awesome. I had one experience late at night where I threw up shortly after taking one of pills, which wasn’t fun. I would say this was my ultimate low-point through out the whole experience. The good news is that Phenergan also helps you sleep, so I literally spent most of that night and the next day sleeping. This was good for my mom and my husband because they were both able to go home, shower and get some sleep of their own.
At day 4.5, I was able to leave the hospital and I was nervous, but soo ready to get out of there! I was seriously smelly at this point. I guess going that long without a shower will do that to a girl. The nurses helped clean me off with a wash cloth before I changed into my own PJs. They also took out all my IVs and the drain pump from my back. This was all a breeze, not painful at all. I was wheeled down to the pick-up zone while my mom went to get the car. The ride home was not very much fun but we made it slowly, but surely.
There are a few things I recommend to make yourself as comfortable as possible once you get home. If at all possible, try to get your hands on a recliner chair. I spent about two months after my surgery basically living in a recliner. It was the most comfortable place for me to sit and to sleep. I’m not sure what I would have done without it, but I have read that body pillows or foam pillows can be helpful as well. I was never able to get comfortable for long periods of time on a bed or couch, though. Small, gray guard dog pictured below is optional.
I also recommend getting a potty chair. The hospital arranged for us to buy one, I think it was about 20 bucks. It attaches to your toilet so that you don’t have to lower yourself all the way down to the seat to go. Seriously, a life saver.
The best part of going home was being able to “bathe.” You’re not allowed to get the bandages/incision wet, so it’s a bit of a process, but it was still magical. It took my mom and I a bit to figure out the best way to go about the whole process but here’s what we came up with. Mom put a chair in the bathtub. I wrapped a towel around my torso and then put a poncho on and held it tight around my neck to make sure no water could drip through. Then mom used a cup/spray nozzle to get my hair wet and wash it for me. It’s obviously not very comfortable to sit in the chair and lean back for very long, but seriously, clean hair has never felt so amazing! It was 100% worth the 30 minute process to achieve it!
So that was pretty much week one. Like I said, sleep, nap, watch TV. Also, no judging for how completely creepy and weird I look in all these pics. Remember that whole no-showering thing? It’s quite evident if you
look closely barely glance at the pictures.
Quick shout out to my blog friend and fellow spinal fusion survivor, Pang for motivating me to finally get this post up. Better late the never, I suppose. You can read all about her story on her blog!