Like a caterpillar waiting inside it's cocoon to become something beautiful, I was diagnosed with Scoliosis at the age of 12 and have waited for 16 years and approximately 2 months to become this majestic creature. My life is now a blank slate where not only do I have to go back to school, but I have to find another career. I also have to regain my self assurance and esteem. Like the butterfly, I have finally been able to sprout my uniquely flawed wings and search for my new beginning. This is my chance to prove to myself that I am beautiful.
Hopefully my experiences have assisted you with yours. Remember that you are beautiful inside and out. Never listen to the negativity because it will bring you down. Be strong for yourself and stay positive. Like the butterfly, you will spread your wings and fly to places you never could of without Spinal Fusion surgery. You are not alone in this battle. You are a survivor.
Battle scars and all.
My brace came off today! I no longer have to wear it on car rides or walking around. It feels like I moved a mountain. It has now been 2 months to the day that I have had my Spinal Fusion surgery. This obstacle in my life has been a horrendous one, but I made it. I dreaded these days since June 2013 and it is complete. Now I just have to be careful, watch what I eat to maintain a healthy weight, wear my electromagnetic brace 2 hours a day for a little while longer, and get stronger. In February, I will go back to my surgeon to have him evaluate my spine again. They will take another x-ray to make sure the rods are still secure.
I also came home today to my boyfriend and our son. Oh, it's good to be home.
The beat goes on....
As the days pass, the pain gets better. I don't seem to take my Percocet as much as I previously did. I am allowed to downgrade to Vicodin as soon as this last bottle is finished. I also am not taking naps as much. I am able to walk a mile too. Every night I now have to wear a belt that is electromagnetic. It's supposed to help the bone graft solidify faster. It's uncomfortable to sit in for 2 hours a day, but whatever works.
I am also going into town more often with my mom. Of course, I do not do much. Mainly I walk around the stores. People do stare. Be prepared for that by the way. Humans are a curious bunch you know. Some just stare, others whisper as the walk past you asking what do you think happened to her, then occasionally a few will have the guts to ask you. I was asked if I was in a car accident, if I broke my back, and one lady even asked if I was in the CIA because of the brace.
I had my IVC filter removed on 11/18/13. (Remember this portion of the blog is behind due to the condition I was in at the time.) It was a piece of cake since I knew what to expect. Just like when they placed it, I was awake the entire time. I wasn't nervous at all, but I can tell you one thing- I NEVER want to go through all this again! The removal of the filter was the last big hurdle. I am now hospital free!! Yay!
As of 12/3/13 my brace will be gone! That's 2 months since my surgery! I am ready to live normally again!
1 month post op
I went to my 1 month post op appointment with my surgeon on 11/6/13. It was nice to get out of the house. When we arrived at the doctor's office, they took a new x-ray to check the rods and to make sure everything is stabilized. My wonderful surgeon then came in to check my reflexes and checked the incision. He said everything was healing beautifully.
My surgeon gave me a card that I will have to carry with me at all times due to the titanium that now rests inside me. Metal detectors, more so airport metal detectors, have a tendency to pick it up.
So, today was a great day with great news. Oh, I can also stop wearing my brace in 1 more month! Yay! He says I am strong enough!
Below are my x-rays. I went from 62 degrees to 15 degrees! Bless my surgeon and the astonishing world of science.
I would never wish this pain on anyone. Now granted, it's not constant due to the drugs I'm taking, but when it wears off......ugh. Even though I am posting these blogs a couple weeks later than what they happened, the pain I endured is imprinted in my mind. (Between the medicine and pain blogging came last at that time)
I slept very little. I woke up every 2 hours for weeks. My poor mother was right there with me the whole time too. I took a 2 hour nap during the day because my hip pain would get so bad, I didn't know what else to do.
At night when I did sleep, it was fabulous. When I awoke however, it was agonizing. My ribs hurt so bad that I wanted to cry. It hurt to stand or even breathe. It's a pain that you can not fully explain to anyone. At times, it felt like being stabbed with a dagger that was heated by fire. Other times it felt like ants crawling all over you (nerves reconnecting). I cried only once though. I knew that eventually it would pass.
Today was the same as Day 4 except for one thing...they told me I can go home today! I am walking well, eating pretty good, and my incision looks great too! The hospital is giving me a walker and a raised toilet seat to take home.
After lunch, 2 of my coworkers stopped by to check on me. They gave me some beautiful flowers. While they were there, nurses came by to prepare me to be discharged. The girls left and next thing I knew I was being seated in a wheelchair and being took down to my mom's car. I was so excited!
The drive to my mom's house was long, but I was happy. By the time we got there, I was so tired that I feel asleep and slept for a few hours. It felt glorious to lay in a comfortable familiar place again. Unfortunately, the pain was hard to forget. During the night I woke every 2 hours. My pain in my rib cage and hips was unbearable. The Percocet helped but not totally. It was just enough to lull my back to sle
On day 4, in the wee hours of the morning, my surgeon came by to check on me. He looked at my incision and the bandages and said everything looked great! I am so blessed to have a surgeon as good as him. If I wasn't so tired when he came, I would of kissed his hands!
I was able to walk all the way around the unit I was staying in twice with my brace and walker! It was an awesome achievement for me! I can also sit pretty comfortably in a chair for an hour. No fidgeting! I can eat a little more too.
It was a good day if I have to say so myself.
I was moved to a regular room on day 3. I had a roomate, but I can not remember her name. The nurse I had was wonderful and took great care of me. I also was able to eat a little more. Things like eggs and salad. The best was the milkshakes.
They took me off the morphine today. Now I'm taking pain medicine orally every 4 hours. The physical therapist also came again and I was able to walk 400ft! He said I was doing wonderful. Sleeping is still a problem, but I assume it will be for a while.
The second day in ICU was more of a blur. What I do remember is that I did not approve of the night shift nurse. She never came to check on me nor made sure my morphine pump didn't run out. She acted like it was a problem that I was in pain. The only perk was that my Mom was there during the day. If she was there for the night shift and saw how that nurse was treating me, all hell would of broke loose.
The daytime nurse was presistent and great. She made me eat a little and took my catheter out to make me use the toliet. When she helped me up to sit on it, it was horribly painful. Of course, I could not go. She said that it was normal and that it can take a few days for my body to wake up from all the anesthesia. A physical therapist came by as well. He had me put on my brace for the first time. So uncomfortable! He had me get up and walk with a walker. If the look I gave him could kill......poor guy probably gets it a lot. But, I walked down the hall and back.
The surgery took eight hours. There was nurse telling my mom and boyfriend how things were going every two. When I woke, I was in ICU. I can remember seeing my mom and Yvenson smiling at me. I think I smiled back.
My face was swollen from the length of the surgery. The nurse explained how to use the medicine that I administered myself with a button. It was morphine. Morphine does not cover up the pain entirely, so to deal with it, I fell asleep.
I don't remember Yvenson leaving, but I would look over and see mom playing on her IPad. She talked to me about the surgery and asked how I was feeling. Then the nurse, whom I liked very much, would have to adjust my position in the bed. She had me press the button for morphine and then slide me to my side using sheets and propping me up with pillows. Even a crinkle in the sheets made it feel like needles poking me, but the nurse kept adjusting until I was perfect. Like the Princess and the pea. Moving just that little bit wore me out and was so painful that it made me fall asleep.
Sleeping makes it go away. Until I open my eyes and realize where I am at.
The dreaded day....
Hello all! I am so happy to be writing again! My energy is finally high enough so I can concentrate! I have so much to share so I'm just going to hit the ground running and start talking.
My Spinal Fusion surgery was October 3rd. I had about 2 hours of sleep and had to be at the hospital by 5am. Mom drove me in the wee hours of the morning. Let me just say, there wasn't much said on that trip. We were both pretty nervous I think.
We checked into the Spinal Care Unit and it wasn't 20 minutes before they called me back to the holding area. I had to walk back there by myself, get changed into a diposable hospital gown (due to the "involvement of blood"), and the nurse began prepping me by asking all the medical history questions. After what seemed like 50 questions later, the nurse said she would get my mother. By the the time my mom came, the nurse was placing more chlorahexydine (antimicrobial) on my back.
I was a freaking nervous wreck. I was so scared. I was shaking my foot so bad that I was rocking the whole bed. Mom noticed and naturally starting tearing up telling me that it was going to be fine. I cried a little, but I was trying to be strong for her. Inside I was screaming. Unfortunately, I only got to see her for 15 minutes before being rolled into the pre-op holding area. I could not look back at her. Never in my life have I been that terrified.
Inside pre-op holding, I was the youngest person. Everyone else was middle aged or older. I was rolled into a corner with no one around me. I just stared at the wall trying to meditate and stay calm. A nurse by the name of Frank introduced himself. He said he was going to be with me the entire operation. He was very nice and made me as comfortable as he could.
The prepping began by placing pulsating cuffs on my calves to help stop blood clots. The IV was placed on both arms. A nurse came walking towards my bed with a cooler and placed it on the table directly beside me. It read, "Blood Bank for Tiffany O'Neal". That's when I started to panic. I started to hyperventilate, but the nurse named Frank mellowed me out. My surgeon stopped by to check on me. He was very kind and reassuring. The moment he walked away however, I started crying like a baby. Finally, they gave me Versed (anxiety medicine) to get me to chill out. Then it was lights out. I did not remember a thing.
My last day at work was yesterday and that was not a good day at all. I cleared my things from my desk and said goodbye to my coworkers and friends. Of course, I cried. I worked very hard and sacrificed a lot for that job plus, those girls became my friends in the process. But, now I am facing a world (after surgery) where I have no source of income. Luckily, my boyfriend is a supportive one and a good father. My mother, or should I say, "Super Mom" supports me through anything.
Tonight at home, I said my farwells to my son. Took everything I had not to cry. He was my shadow from the moment we picked him up from school. We talked to him the day before as well to try to prepare him and he apparently remembered. He hugged me and kept drawing pictures for me.
When I put him to bed, I read him a story and reminded him of how proud I am of him. I wrote him a note (in 5 year old language) and tacked it to his wall so he is reminded every night of how much I love him. He seemed to really like that. Kissed him goodnight and walked out the room before the tears came.
Then I had to say goodbye to Yvenson (my boyfriend). I wrote him a letter and gave it to him, but asked him to wait until I left to read it. I cried as we said goodbye by my car. We hugged for the longest while he kept telling me that it was going to be ok. Then being him, he tells a joke when anything gets serious and lightens the mood. Makes it easier that way....for both of us.
I drove to my mom's since she is taking me to the hospital in the morning. Yvenson has to take our son to school in the morning and we are trying to keep it as normal as possible for him. He will drive to the hospital after dropping him off.
Mom and I prepared anything that was left to prepare, like unpacking my bag to stay at her house for a few weeks and making sure my hospital bag has everything I would need. She also scrubbed my back with Chlorahexydine (antimicrobial) after I washed my hair.
We have to wake up at 230am to be at the hospital by 5am. Long drive.... I highly doubt I will sleep tonight. Suprisingly, I am in pretty good spirits. Mom says it's because I had so much time to prepare for it. She is probably right. Besides, I have to stay postive. Postive mind equals postive and faster recovery.
Today I went to the hospital with my boyfriend, to have the IVC filter placed. We got there at 7am and was brought back to pre-op pretty quickly. After reviewing my medical history, they drew 1 more vial of blood (to check if I was pregnant)and inserted the IV.
Approximately 45 minutes later, I was rolled back into the Radiology department. I got on the operating table myself and they strapped me down and gave me oxygen. A little versed and fetanyl was administered, but I remember everything. They placed a drape over the right side of my face and told me to look to the left. They placed iodine and began using a machine (I'm guessing it was a cardiovascular ultrasound). The doctor injected 2 shots of Lidocaine to numb the area directly below my cervical bone and in between my jugular on the right side. Again, my eyes are open the entire time and I can hear it. Next thing I know, they are saying that they are finished. I was then rolled into recovery for 1 1/2 hours.
I felt fine afterwards while in recovery because I was still numb. When the day went on, the pain started. It is not excruciating, but very noticeable. Like talking loud, swallowing food, bending down, and driving (later that afternoon I drove-trust me, I was fine).
I have 7 days to the day until my Spinal Fusion.......
September 25th, 2013
Today I received a phone call from the nurse at the hospital telling me that my appointment to place the IVC filter is tomorrow at 8am. So, I have to be there at 7am and someone has to drive me to and from the appointment because they have to sedate me to place it. They also have to place it in my neck. Yes, you read that they have to place it in my neck. Then 6 weeks after my Spinal Fusion, I have to have he IVC filter removed.
Another plus...I have to miss yet another day of work. Sigh... Whatever...
My boyfriend is going to drive me tomorrow and hopefully it won't be that long of an appointment. The nurse said that I can go back to work on Friday, but with light duty. So, that leaves 2 days left of work until the big day.
So here we go...1st round starts tomorrow.
Final pre-op with the surgeon.
Well, today was an interesting day. I had my final pre-op with the surgeon today. He went over how he was going to make the incisions and where. If I remember correctly, the incision will start at T2 and extend to L2. It will be titanium rods and screws as well. Now, the doctor did say that he was doing selective fusion, which means he is basically choosing the best area to fuse since I have a curve in my Thoracic (upper back) and one in my Lumbar (lower back). He says he is not going to extend to far into my Lumbar because he thinks it will correct itself due to manipulating the Thoracic. Of course, there is a chance he will have too. Just depends....
The doctor said he will have me placed in ICU for 1-2 days depending on recovery. He will also have me up and walking the next day. I will be fitted for a brace and will possibly only have to wear it for 6-8 weeks. Just depends on how I am healing. A nurse will also come to my house everyday to check on my incision site.
Now, here's the great news. He informed me that due to the possibility of forming blood clots and the family history of clots, I have to have a IVC filter placed. This contraption is inserted into my main artery and filters out the blood clots. I will have to have this placed prior to the Spinal Fusion.
Yea...more stuff, but if it helps me in the long run, the better.
Below are some pictures that took of my xrays:
September 20th, 2013
I went to another doctor appointment today, but luckily this was easier. I had to visit my Physician to have surgical clearance. The hospital that I went to on the 9th sent my doctor all the results from the EKG, xrays, and blood work.
The results came back great! No heart rhythm problems or blood issues like anemia or diseases. I found out my blood type in case they have to do a blood transfusion during my Spinal Fusion. Always a wonderful thing to hear! So, in other words, I have surgical clearance.
I have only one more appointment to go. The final pre-op with my surgeon on the 24th. He will review my MRI and answer any final questions that my mother or I may have. Which, by the way, I have a full page of questions.
Sigh....it's almost here....I'm ready. Not eating to well these days because of the nervous stomach and not sleeping the best, but it's to be expected. It seems to be all I think about even when I don't mean too.
September 15th, 2013
Today was one of the hardest things I've had to do. I talked to my 5 year old son today about what is getting ready to happen to his mother.
I decided to tell him at bedtime because that's when he seems to discuss his day a little bit easier than other times of day. I laid down with him and asked him if he remembers that Momma sometimes can't play because of her back. He said, "Yes, your back hurts a lot." I then hugged him as tightly as I could and told him that Momma is getting ready to have an operation to help my back feel better. He started crying saying he didn't want me to hurt. It took everything I had not to cry with him.
I told him that I was going to go to the hospital and then to his Grand-moo's house until I get better, so I will not be around him very much. I told him that he can come see me at Grand-moo's, but he has to stay with Papa (his dad) until I am stronger. My son cried and said he doesn't want me to go, but I said, "You have to stay and take care of Papa. He is scared just like you. He needs you to help him around the house and be a big man." He then replied, " Papa scared too? Oh, I have to be brave!".
I hugged him, kissed him, and told him that when I am gone, if he ever wants to see me, then to look inside his heart and that's where I'll be. I told him to also dream of me because I will be of him. That little boy is my heart and I have to be brave for him. He is the main reason I am having the Spinal Fusion. I want to know what it is like to play with my son without hurting. I want to enjoy the rest of our lives without being in pain. He is my love bug......he gives me strength.
September 11th, 2013
The Spinal Coordinator called from the hospital today to go over any questions that I may have about my stay during and after my surgery. Basically, if everything goes well I will be there for 5 days. Automatically after the surgery, I go into ICU for 1-2 days and then when I am more stable, they will move me to a regular room. I will have my own medication pump and will have plenty of medications available from the nurse if I need an extra boost. I will be measured for a brace while I am in recovery and it will be made and delivered the next day to wear anytime I am out of bed. They will have me up and walking the next day. I also will have physical therapy twice a day and begin to be weaned off the meds on day 3.
My mother and I went shopping for supplies the other day. Things like extra pajamas, yoga pants, tanks and cotton shirts to wear under the brace, and more pillows. Currently, my boyfriend and I are just trying to get our house stocked up so our son and him will be ok for a couple of weeks while I am recuperating at my mothers.
I also mentioned to the Spinal Coordinator to have a baseball bat handy in case they need to knock me out the morning of my surgery. She just laughed....I was totally serious. I have approximately 2 1/2 weeks..........I'm nervous, anxious, and can't wait to see the results.
I went to my pre-op appointment at Mease Hospital today with my mom and it was not as far as I thought it would be. Traffic in Tampa is what made the drive the worst. But when we arrived, it was easy access. Everyone who worked there was very nice and helpful.
I ended up having 7 vials of blood taken, 2 EKGs, urine test, and 2 chest x-rays. I was supposed to meet with the Spine Coordinator, but I guess she was busy that day. The RN discussed some of the things that will happen the day of my surgery. Oh, they want me to arrive at 5am that morning now too.
By the time I left, I was hungry from fasting, felt like I licked a salt block because I was so thirsty, felt like I had the life sucked out of me, and probably had enough radiation from all the xrays I've had recently to light a city. In other words, a nuclear salty slug who couldn't attract a vampire.
The scheduling coordinator called me today and told me that my Orthopedic surgeon is not affiliated with the hospital where I was going to have my surgery. She said that my surgeon no longer feels comfortable working with them. When I first started going to my doctor, he operated at 2 hospitals in the Tampa Bay area (Tampa General and Mease Hospital), but I chose the one I was familiar with and closer to home, which was Tampa General.
I am not very good with change, especially so close to the big day. But what can I do? I just have to go with the flow. It is still on October 3rd, with the same surgeon, and the same anesthesiologist. Just a unfamiliar hospital that is farther away. It has a good reputation though.
So, it's still on...just a different spot.