Monday, April 26, 2010

First Week Post Labral Tear Surgery

Day 1 Post-Op: After what seemed like an eternity, 8am arrived and so did breakfast. It was gross eggs and gross Cream of Wheat so I didn't eat much. I remember crying at one point because I was just so stressed out and in so much pain. The amazing nurse Steve sat down with me and talked to me for awhile. He said that it was understandable I'd be crying after such a rough night and especially after such little sleep. He also said the pain meds don't help with emotions either, which I've definitely found to be true in the past. He told me about his ACL surgery and how there will be downs but there will also be ups, and recovery will happen though it seems so far away and overwhelming right now. Steve is an incredible nurse, to take the time to sit down and talk to me made me feel so much better.

Some random doctor came in to take the epidural out of my back. It was a quick pinch but my back was so sore it hurt just to lean over so he could take it out. Then my doctor came in to check up on me. He told me I could get on a stationery bike the next day as long as I pedaled with my good leg and left the other leg resting on the pedal. I laughed at that because I was in so much pain I couldn't imagine pedaling. Even a week later I feel uncomfortable with the idea. There's no way I'm getting on my bike (on the stationary trainer) until my hip feels better.

I was barely lucid when physical and occupational therapists came in to teach me how to use crutches. First of all I thought they were insane having me move in the amount of pain I was in. I was on the verge of passing out the entire lesson which consisted of me crutching down the hallway, up a little model of stairs and down, and back to the room. Voila, the entirety of my crutch training. The OT helped me learn how to use the bathroom and put on clothes. At this point I'm allowed to put 20lbs of pressure on my left (operated side) foot, which is basically just touching the foot to the ground.

Soon after they left Scott arrived and nurse Steve came in to answer any of our questions before discharge. Scott grilled Steve on all the medications and everything I (we) should be doing this first week. So glad Scott was there to be so assertive and ask everything. I'm not really good about asking medical staff questions, although I am getting better at it. Also I was still on the verge of passing out so having him there to write things down and clarify was essential. After that I was discharged and a nurse wheeled me out of the hospital.

Most of the day was spent in pretty awful pain and keeping myself from blacking out. From my waist down was still waking up and I was paranoid I was peeing all the time. I couldn't really feel my stomach but I was bloated from all the fluids and meds. My hip was obviously quite swollen. Some lady dropped off the CPM machine at my house, which I talked about a couple posts ago. It moves my leg really slowly from straight out to 45 degrees. It's important to do this (4 - 6 hours a day!) so that my leg doesn't get all knotted up and stiff. Controlled movement helps keep things loose so that I don't have permanent damage. I slept on the couch that night so Scott could have the bed to himself, he was completely exhausted as well. I woke up a few times to the room spinning around and to use the bathroom, which seemed to take a half an hour each time.

Using my CPM wearing the sweet double-sided tread socks the hospital gave me.

Day 2: Wednesday was a good day. I felt pretty positive and was already feeling a bit more mobile. The worst part that day was still feeling bloated from the Percocet. It's gross to talk about but seriously, it's important after surgery to drink a lot of fluids (although getting up and down is a serious pain) and take in fiber, probiotics, fruits & veggies and if necessary a laxative. It's the icky side of surgery that I was grateful other people blogged about, so there you go. I wish I saw this post from Susie at Goodnight Nobody before surgery.

Throughout the week Scott slept at my place so he could make me breakfast and make sure I had what I needed for the day. That usually involves making sure I took my morning pills, leaving a glass of water (or my favorite, coconut water) around my bed and feeding my cat. He also biked over from his job during his lunch breaks to make me lunch. I'm still in awe of how much he's helped me this past week and I don't know how I would've gotten through this without him. He definitely helps to keep me positive and I'm sure that without him I would be a depressive, bitter mess. Later that day my friends Kelly and Jason stopped by to visit me. It was so great to see my friends! Kelly had me laughing so hard I thought my stitches were going to burst.

Day 3: Spent the morning being miserable. For some reason I thought I would be feeling much better than I was. It seemed like before surgery the doctor and other people I had talked to acted like I'd be fine in a few days. I still felt pretty terrible and wondered if I was just being a baby or if its normal to feel so bad. I guess everyone is different when it comes to these things. With a lot of things in life I'm prone to wondering if I'm handling things "okay". Feeling quite helpless has had a way of amplifying my already self-conscious nature.

Scott gave me a massage during his lunch break. My body felt so scrunched up, twisted and gnarled post-surgery. The stress, the actual surgery itself, the epidural and then having to mostly lay in bed left my body so sore and my muscles tight. I started crying it felt so good. Since then I've noticed my body in general has felt a lot better. I highly recommend rubbing sore muscles with Arniflora and Triflora, which are natural topical gels that I've had much success with. I also love the fact that they don't smell like IcyHot or other muscle rubs, they have a light herbal scent. The Arniflora contains arnica and witch hazel. The Triflora contains comfry, poison ivy (yes weird I know, but it shouldn't cause a reaction) and wild rosemary. These two gels also help with bruising. I've been using them since before the surgery and I've noticed my hip usually felt achier if I've forgotten to apply them in the morning. The bruising from the surgery hasn't been so bad. Usually I bruise quite easily and expected my hip to be a purple and black mess, but I've only had light greenish bruising.

Later that day Scott brought me to my first post-op physical therapy session. I am back to going to Excel Physical Therapy in Hamden. I was happy to see my PT again. First thing she said to me was "No wonder you weren't improving!" and she said how happy she was that I got a second opinion and how she knew I wasn't going to stop trying to figure out what was wrong. Scott sat in on the PT session so he could learn along with me what I can and can't do. It's so great to have his active support in my recovery. I was still woozy that day and started to realize the Percocet was causing me to have acute nausea throughout the day. Not enough to make me completely sick, but enough to make me miserable. Anyway, it was great to have Scott there because I still wasn't feeling lucid enough to remember everything my PT told me. She reviewed my crutching and said I was actually doing really well. I was sure I was doing it wrong. I went home feeling really hopeful and positive about my recovery.

Day 4: I was upset once again that I wasn't getting any schoolwork done and was feeling pretty scared about returning to "normal life" in a few days. Avoided the world by watching a lot of stupid TV shows on Hulu. Took my first shower since before the surgery (they wanted me to avoid changing the dressing and showering as long as I could) and felt sort of human.

Day 5: My parents came down to visit. We all went to brunch down at my favorite diner in West Haven. My parents took me to the grocery store and I got to ride the motorized cart. I felt like a jerk when I passed an old woman going the opposite direction in the dairy aisle who was somehow controlling a walker as well as her cart and looked like she was about to fall over. Whatever the cart is as fun as it looks. My parents cleaned around the apartment while I fell asleep, the events of the day had worn me out. Most of the day was spent feeling nauseous from the Percocet, even though at this point I'm only taking one at night and dealing with the pain during the day.

Day 6: My parents stayed at a local hotel so they could see me two whole days in a row. We went to lunch and my parents proceeded to clean even more of my apartment while I rested and used the CPM. Finally did some schoolwork that night and started to feel better about returning to "normal life". Decided not to take a Percocet before bed so I'd feel better about driving the next day. Took a Benadryl because I've been spending a lot more time with my cat Björk this past week. I slept pretty well for the first night since surgery, I think the Benadryl helped.

Day 7: I went to my second post-surgery PT session in the morning. My PT says I'm already showing increased movement and I'm doing well. We went over my exercises again and she answered some questions I had. Called my doctor's office complaining about the Percocet. Now I have a prescription for Vicodin, so I will be taking my first one tonight. Hopefully it will treat me better. I have been in pretty significant pain most of the day. When my parents were here they gave me their TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator) machine. My PT uses one on me, but the one I have is a little consumer model. It's the size of a beeper circa 1997 and it connects to little electrodes I have to stick on myself. "A TENS unit is an electrical impulse generator that is used to relieve post-operative, acute and chronic pain," reads my instruction manual. I'm hoping I can use it during the day and then only take pain medication at night. Apparently they're not completely sure why TENS works and there are limited studies about its effectiveness. I will say that when it is running I feel the buzz sensation of the machine and it does seem to "block" the actual pain I'm in, which is a deep, burny pain.

More about TENS from my machine's manual:
How does TENS work?
"TENS, or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, means the transmission of small electrical pulses through the skin to the underlying peripheral nerves. TENS is thought to work in two different ways.

First, "high frequency" continuous, mild, electrical activity may block the pain signal travelin to the brain. Brain cells perceive pain. If the pain signal does not get through to the brain, the pain is not "felt".

The second way TENS is thought to work is by stimulating the body's own natural pain-control mechanism. "Low frequency" or short bursts of mild, electrical activity may cause the body to release its own pain erasers, called beta endorphins."

I'm getting better at crutching, definitely moving faster than Day 2. I feel a lot more mobile and my bruising is already gone. I was happy that I finally got out to drive myself around, and I'm feeling more confident about going back to work and school. Like I said, I'm still in pain but it is manageable, then again I've been "managing" life with pain since last October. It's hard to believe that at this time a week ago I was lying in bed at the hospital completely miserable. Feeling much more positive compared to that experience!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Surgery Day

On Sunday I turned 26. On Monday I had hip surgery.

I got up at 4:50am and took the last shower I knew I was going to fully enjoy for quite awhile. I took my time and shaved and just stood there in the scalding hot water, relishing it. We got to the hospital for 6am and I tried my best to keep it together. We got to the SurgiCenter and a very sweet nurse took me to my pre-op area. She would be the first of many amazing nurses I'd come across at Milford Hospital. She saw how nervous I was and did her best to calm me down, she didn't talk down to me (like a lot of medical staff tend to do) and put on extra blankets because I was already shivering. Scott came to say goodbye but the anesthesiologist doctor decided it was time to do my epidural and Scott had to leave. I started crying and that bought me a few more minutes with Scott. I vividly remember looking up and him, sobbing, scared and just wanting to be held.

The spinal was awful. I don't care what the hell the Russian doctor and over enthusiastic assistant he had tried to tell me. That shit hurt. Even on the Valium or whatever he put in my IV to calm me down I just wanted to rip the assistant's throat open with my hands as she braced me, repeating in a sickly sweet fake voice "SEE it's not so bad!?!" while the doctor shoved a needle in my spine. After that I met my anesthesiologist nurse and I was rolled down the hallway to the operating room. I looked up while people in scrubs walked around me and it was just like the movies. So surreal. I remember entering the OR and looking over at the "table" which was really a bunch of platforms and the foot braces that they would lock me in. I looked up at the giant lights and I thought back to alien abduction movies. Then I looked over to Dr. Schachter setting up the video screen for the camera. "So you gonna record it for me?" I asked. He said something about taking stills of the best shots or something and then...

I woke up in the recovery room shaking uncontrollably. One nurse there, who knows what I said to get her to like me so much, but she really took a shining to me. She piled warm blanket after warm blanket to get me to stop shivering. I always shiver after anesthesia but never this bad. Then I realized my throat was so sore. Not just sore but it felt like there was glass in there every time I tried to talk. She kept giving me sips of ginger-ale through a straw. She talked to me, asked me some questions. I told her how I lived in New Haven and we talked about restaurant week. I remember her telling the nurse upstairs who'd be taking care of me that I was "just a kid" several times and that I was a triathlete and made sure my boyfriend was in my room. When they wheeled me out she said something about how rare it was to get such a sweet kid in the recovery room and wished me the best of luck. I wish I knew a way to tell her thanks for being so comforting.

I was wheeled into my hospital room and I was so relieved to see Scott there. He was equally relieved to see me. I found out it was 3pm and I had been in the OR for 5 hours. That was two hours more than I remember them telling me it would take. Scott, my parents, his parents had all been worried because they expected me to be out much sooner. The tear was bigger than expected and I would find out later, bigger than average. Usually it takes 2 - 3 staples to repair a tear, mine took 4. My doctor said that when they put the camera in, the cartilage was flapping around in front of the camera. As promised, he took stills of the video for me. It looks like fish and the "staples" look like the plastic twine you use to tie down a pool tarp. My friend Kelly said the stills look like "a whale's vagina". Enjoy that image.

After I had finally stopped shivering, the worst symptom from the surgery was the sore throat from having the tubes put down my throat. I was drinking water, ginger-ale and chewing on ice chips trying to make my throat feel better. Scott went for a walk and came across a Carvel and brought me icecream. :) I didn't think I'd eat the whole thing but I did, it was so sweet of him. The nurses also gave me lozenges but nothing seemed to help my throat.

A few hours after surgery I realized that I was allergic to the epidural medicine. I couldn't stop itching. I couldn't feel my hip at all but the sore throat and the itching were too much to bear. There were even places on my skin where I had broken out in hives. The nurses gave me Benadryl but nothing seemed to help. I would try to sleep but I was overwhelmed by crazy, fast-cut editing visions of nonsense that freaked me out. I would look over to the wood cabinet in the room and it would swirl, warp, become fuzzy in places. I thought I was going insane. I would "fall asleep" and wake up hoping an hour had passed and it was only 15 minutes. I remember being so incredibly lonely.

After dealing with the extreme itchiness and sore throat for several hours I just broke down in tears. The nurses asked me what was wrong (like I hadn't been complaining for hours) and I could barely speak, all I could say was "I'm... so... fucking... miserable... I'm.... so... itchy, my throat... I can't... sleep..." Finally they called a doctor who recommended they stop the epidural drip. I spent the rest of the night watching TV, checking Facebook and Twitter on my phone and just hoping for the itchiness to subside and for 8am to come because that's when I knew I'd get breakfast, people would be coming to give me PT or whatever, and most importantly Scott would be there soon.

Next post will be about Day 2 and hopefully after that my successful recovery.