Sunday, January 12, 2014

Happy New Year! Now let's relearn how to walk.

So it's 2014 and I'm on the road to recovery. So I'm back.....and ready to get back to blogging, while taking on the full load at school, handling all my kid commitments, wife duties and recovering from my back surgery.

So here is the update:

At the end of Fall Semester 2013 (December 11th) I underwent a 9.5 hour surgery on my spine. As I'm sure I have said before, they had to open up the spinal cavity for my nerves to pass through (Stenosis), replace the two discs which were nearly completely gone (at L4/5 and L5/S1), as well as stabilize the shifting that was happening with L5 and the fact that it was all the way forwards. Upon getting in there, however, the surgeon found that L5 was not just forward it was in 2 pieces and free-floating around. They also found that one of my nerves was being rubbed and there was a notch in it, so that had to be repaired as well. All in all I now have 2 titanium rods, 6 screws and a titanium plate in place. Recovery at first was very difficult. I didn't eat the first 2 days in the hospital. By day 3 I was able to keep water, Sprite and a little Jello down. The entire time I was in the hospital my appetite was terrible but I was able to begin eating solid foods, though in extremely small portions by the time I headed home. Day 3 they made me start re-learning to stand and walk. At first it took 2 people to just roll me over in bed, help me out of bed to standing and support me as I could barely shuffle my feet a few inches to "walk". It was very important to me to be able to be home for Christmas and they were thinking I would need to go to an inpatient rehabilitation center for a few days to a week, but this would mean me missing Christmas with my family. So my determination (and stubbornness)  kicked in and I insisted on walking, standing and learning to move my legs again. I surprised the Physical Therapy department, my nurses and my Neurological Surgeons by going from needing 2 people to practically move me at all, to walking almost the entire floor of where I was staying and going up and down 9 steps completely unassisted by day 6. So day 6 I went home. :-)

Upon getting home, we had to make a few accommodations for me. A recliner, a grabbing tool, help to shower, shave my legs, make myself food, housework, dressing myself etc were all necessary. Honestly without my kids and my wonderful husband I would not have been able to come home. I was not even able to get myself out of bed because my left side does not respond quite as well as I need it to just yet. I am currently at 4.5 weeks post surgery. Some of the basic personal tasks I'm able to do...thank God. Use the restroom, dry my hair and style it, put on make up and make myself something to eat so long as I don't have to bend over or lift anything more than a can of fruit (for example). I HAVE over done it many times because I have a hard time allowing others to care for me...especially when I have been the caregiver of others for 16 years. My kids however are constantly telling me to sit down, to go take a nap etc. The first couple weeks I did nothing but sleep....Valium and Morphine have that effect on me. I have had a lot of time to rest and have made many efforts to increase my abilities and my muscles.

At this point I'm back to driving, though getting in and out of my truck is a bit hard with the brace on, which I have to wear for at least the next 3 months. This brace goes from just under my bust to just below my it is quite restricting. At this point we are the fusing stage of my recovery, which I can say is an uncomfortable process to say the least. If you have ever chipped your tailbone then you know that painful sensation of sitting on that chipped tailbone and then standing up. Multiply it by about 60x.....that is how it feels when you have bones healing from screws and discs repairing. I'm finally to a point however where the morphine pills are not so necessary on a daily basis, and I have almost completely stopped having the excruciating sudden muscle spasms that slam you awake at night and cause your back to arch (which I'm NOT supposed to do at ALL). Which means the Valium is much less often needed. School started back this last week for me and the kids, which has been so exhausting for me because I'm not used to this much activity yet. But I always like a challenge. :-)

I still have a LONG way to go...the skin on my left leg and foot is still numb, and the nerves deep inside are HYPER active making any touching of my leg painful on the inside like a bruise being touched but the skin feeling nothing. I don't have full use of my left leg but I'm able to walk as long as I'm careful with my steps. I'm unable to dress myself easily, but I'm getting better at it and Ben (Devoted Husband....DH) helps me do it, as well as shower and shave my legs, every morning. I can't put socks or shoes on alone, or lotion my legs and feet, but I am able to wash my own hair, brush my teeth, hair and put on my own coat. Getting in and out of bed is still a challenge but I'm getting closer and closer to doing that myself and have even had a couple of moments where I didn't need to wake Ben up in the middle of the night (3 or 4 times) to help me out of bed and get my brace back on, then do it in reverse just so I could use the restroom. I am finally able to sleep on my right side, instead of just on my back (I'm NOT a back sleeper) and can even roll myself into that position (be it CAREFULLY and SLOWLY). Which drives Ben a little crazy because he is afraid I will hurt myself. This is a crucial time for healing because if my spine doesn't fuse properly (if I lean, twist or bend) it could cause damage or reduce the effectiveness of my surgery. Once I get settled in my school schedule, and I'm not so exhausted all the time, I'm going to be going to outpatient physical therapy so that I can regain full use of my left leg.

I still won't be able to ride my bicycle for a  year (and then we are back into winter which means I can't anyway), and I'm not sure how much or how little of the outdoor activities Ben, the kids and I used to enjoy together I will be able to fully participate in with them once I'm fully healed, only time will tell. But I'm excited and anxious to simply experience the rest of my life without the nerve pain I was experiencing, not peeing myself (unintentionally) and having to sit out of everything because of my back. If I can't do something, then I'm going to photograph everyone else, just as I always have done...I'm just not going to be in pain standing to do so anymore!

Everyone sets "New Year's Resolutions". This is year, I have some that I think everyone has. Spend more time with family, invest in growing true friendships, take better care of my health, lose weight, travel......yet I find that I'm altering mine a bit this year. Obviously, allowing myself to heal is a big part of my goals this year....

In no particular order, this next year, my promises to myself :

To allow myself the time I truly need to heal.
To spend quality time with those I value and who value me in return.
To worry less about what my scale says, and more about the health of my body.
(Living with Celiac's is a challenge, as well as the PCOS, so weight loss is not easy for me. It is better to eat what is right for my body and allow myself to heal than to worry about what the scale says.)
To stop investing so much in the relationships that do not appreciate me, do not give back, use me and disrespect me. I don't have time for the drama or problems of others.
 The only "drama" or "problems" I should be focusing on are my own and those that my immediate family must endure. It is time to allow other people to suffer the consequences of their choices in life...I can't save everyone from themselves.
To make special time for each of my children and for my husband.
To strengthen those bonds and the communication that we have with each other.
To put my talents and my passions to work.
It is by example that  we teach our children to follow their dreams, work hard and not to give up just because it gets difficult.
To read for pleasure, not just for school.
To travel....nearby or far away...or both.
To strengthen and begin the LONG process of preparing myself for hiking part (or all) of the Appalachian trail (at some point in my life....but I can't at all if I don't heal and strengthen.)

And lastly, To allow myself to "love" myself and value myself without picking myself apart every time I look in the mirror.

A long list, yes....but mostly the same list as usual.

So here is to a new  year, and relearning how to more than one way. Baby steps still reach the goal.

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