How the surgery came to be necessary…
I’ve been dealing with back issues since April 8 of this year. The symptoms pretty much appeared without any warning, except I began having trouble straightening up my back after I’d been sitting in the recliner for a while. Suddenly, I woke up one day, and discovered my left leg was feeling numb. The following day, the numbness was followed by a sharp, searing pain running from my left buttock, down to my left foot, and it hurt like hell! My husband, Ed, said it sounded like sciatica to him, and suggested bed rest for several days. After a few days, I’d feel better, then all hell would break loose again. Many days, I could barely make it down the hall to the bathroom and back because of the excruciating pain. After almost eight long weeks of this, I finally gave in and went to see my doctor. I had a feeling the news wouldn’t be good.
An MRI revealed I have a herniated disc and a bulging disc, both in the lumbar spine region. Apparently, I’m a victim of degenerative disc disease. (I’ve already had my cervical spine fused.) In spite of two rounds of Prednisone and physical therapy exercises, the sciatica kept lingering and making my life miserable. I fought the pain for almost 5 months.
Finally, about a month ago, I agreed to have a minimally invasive foraminotomy performed by the neurologist I’d been referred to in July. Basically, this surgery would make a larger pathway for the sciatic nerve to exit the spine, by shaving away some bone, thus keeping the nerve away from the bulging disc that appeared to be causing my symptoms.
I was a bit hesitant to have this surgery because I had two ‘trouble spots’ in my back, and the surgeon could only operate on one. He felt pretty confident, from my symptoms, that my trouble was being caused by the bulging disc at L4-5, but there was no way he could be 100% sure. I decided to take the chance.
Getting prepared for surgery…
The doctor’s office called me about a week and a half prior to my surgery, which was scheduled for Monday, September 14. They gave me a long list of “do’s and don’ts”. Preparing for surgery meant making adjustments to my list of medications and supplements. I was required to stop taking several of them about a week prior to surgery. These included the NSAID I take for rheumatoid arthritis, as well as a few other things like calcium, vitamin C, and cranberry supplements.
Waiting for a surgery time…
I sat beside the phone ALL DAY on Friday, September 11, waiting for someone to call and tell me what time to report for my surgery on Monday. Finally, at 4:30 in the afternoon, the phone call came. To say my nerves were frazzled would be an understatement! It turns out the office does all of their patient calling during late afternoon hours, but I didn’t know this. I was told to report to the Surgery Center at 8 a.m. on Monday morning, for surgery at 9:00.
The day finally arrives…
Ed and I hit the road at 6:15 on Monday morning. It was cool and dark outside when we left home. The drive into the city normally takes about an hour and fifteen minutes, but we chose to leave early enough to beat the morning rush hour traffic. I’m glad we left early because even though it was early, the traffic was still brutal. Our youngest son, who works in the city, told us about a short cut to the Surgery Center. Thanks to his advice, we arrived at the Surgery Center at 7:20! We had plenty of time to spare.
Let me stop here and mention that the son who told us about the short cut had originally planned to stop by the Surgery Center on his way to work, later that morning. Believe it or not, he encountered a four car wreck on his way to work, and ended up helping some of the folks who were involved, instead of making it to the Surgery Center to be with us. I’m glad he stopped to help the mother and her baby who were involved, especially considering they were stranded in a lane of the interstate when he stopped to help them!
At the Surgery Center…
Meanwhile, upon entering the Surgery Center, I quickly discovered there are lots of people with back problems! So many people looking for help, so early in the morning. At 7:30 in the morning, the place was filled with people! Some were there for surgery, others for pain management procedures. So many people, of all ages, looking for relief. I felt right at home.
After filling out the necessary paperwork and paying the necessary fees, (they always want some money up front, these days) I was taken back to the holding/recovery room area, questioned, then prepped for surgery. My nurse was great, thank goodness, and explained what she was doing every step of the way. A good nurse goes a long way toward making any surgery a positive experience!
Before I knew it, I had on my surgical gown, plus those lovely white support hose they ask you to wear during and after surgery. (Ed laughed and said the hose were my surgery souvenir, since I was required to wear them home.) Next came the iv and all the other wires they hook you up with. Finally, the anesthesiologist came by and had a talk with me, as well.
While I waited for my surgery, I could hear my doctor dictating surgical notes about the patient who’d just had surgery before me. He’d had the same procedure I was having. In a few minutes, I heard them bring the patient into the recovery room area next to mine. He was still snoring from the anesthesia… I knew it would soon be my turn to go!
About that time, Ed was allowed back to the holding area, to see me for a minute or two, before I was taken away to surgery. I barely remember the nurse putting on my surgical hat, or Ed kissing me goodbye. I felt the stretcher begin to move, then I went out like a light! The next thing I knew, I woke up, and it was 11:30–two hours later!
When I woke up, my back didn’t hurt at all, but my throat sure did! The anesthesiologist had warned me that this might happen, due to the breathing tubes that were inserted down my throat. This was my third surgery, but the only one that caused my throat to become sore. I wondered if the reason for this was because I was placed on my stomach, for the surgery, instead of on my back.
My next sensation was one of having “to go”. I told the nurse I needed to go to the restroom, and she seemed surprised. She told me my bladder had been drained during surgery, but I said I still needed to “go”. (Those iv fluids do it to me every time.) With her help, and that of Ed, I wobbled my way across the hall into the bathroom, and took care of business. The nurse informed me that I had just “passed a necessary test” in order to be released.
After eating a small snack of applesauce and saltine crackers, I was given some pain medication and a muscle relaxer. One of the medications I’d been given made my mouth so dry I could hardly eat those crackers! I drank an entire bottle of water trying to wash down four little crackers! Ed patiently fed me the snack. They gave me a throat lozenge, for my sore throat, but my mouth was so dry, I had to throw it away.
Thirty minutes later, my iv was removed, I got dressed, and was rolled out the door and put into the back seat of our car. I’d only spent four and one-half hours at the Surgery Center, from arrival to departure, including registration, prep, surgery and recovery! The entire ordeal was over, except for the ride home.
To be continued…