Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The path to the exit...

What wasn't so great was that my right hand side, which had been largely pain free before surgery was now painful. It was as if I had swapped the pain from the left to the right hand sides! The explanation was pretty simple: I'm a big bloke and in order to get access to the various bits of my spine and to place the screws and the fusion cage it was necessary to use a fair amount of force, including retractors and a "scissor jack" style distractor to re-establish the old disc space. This led to some substantial bruising and perhaps some bleeding. I suspect that the "handedness" of the surgeon who inserted the cage from the right hand side also had something to do with it.
The upshot of all of that was that it was hard to get and maintain pain control. I kept getting muscle spasm in the right buttock and that is a vicious circle - more spasm = more pain = more spasm. At about the same time the line in the back of my left hand got knocked out by a clumsy movement and an attempt to re-establish a line in my right hand was unsuccessful. That left me without access to morphine. The whole situation culminated in me sitting on the edge of my bed in tears at midnight one night unable to cope with the pain. A phone call or two and a sharp increase in pain control medication got the situation back under control. In retrospect that was the nadir, life improved quickly from there.
Days three and four saw the return of the torturers (the lovely physios)! They had me out walking again, firstly with the frame then without, then climbing three "mock stairs" then out to the fire stairs for a scary unaided climb up and down one flight of them. At the end of that process they declared that they were finished with me and I was fine to go home!
Friday also saw me off to the X-Ray department for a quick picture to ensure that everything was where it should be. Only two things were holding me back now: pain control and the delicate matter of "opening my bowels". To put it bluntly you can't go home until you can control your pain successfully and until you've demonstrated your ability to have a crap! Opiate pain medication is not helpful in achieving the second of those goals!
As far as pain control was concerned I was getting about 2 hours between bouts of medication. My nights consisted of two hours sleep, some medication, half an hour's walking the circuit of the ward and another couple of hours sleep before the cycle started all over again. I could shower myself, dry myself, dress myself. The drain and catheter had been removed. I just wasn't really on top of the pain and it was now 7 days since I'd had a crap. Finally on Sunday night it all came together and on Monday morning - 7 days exactly after I'd entered the place I was kicked shakily out onto the street.

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