Coming Home… Or The Beginning of Recovery

I have been promising this post for a long time, I am not sure why I have been avoiding it. This is the last chapter of the story needed to bring all my dear readers through my journey up to now. I can think of numerous reasons why I wouldn’t want to write this, but none of them seem to be really valid? Maybe sub-consciously I didn’t want to write it, as it is one of the most trying emotional periods yet and it is also still very fresh in my mind, or maybe it is just my deeply ingrained procrastination at work. I think it also makes me a bit sad that I can no longer look back on a time that is a distant memory, I am at the point in my posts where I am just about up to date and I will have to start looking at the present… That scares me if I am being honest. It is much easier to look back on something that has already happened than it is to reflect on what you are currently experiencing.

I am afraid I will not be able to maintain my positive outlook once I start thinking about and reflecting on where I am now. (I almost slipped up a couple of nights ago,  I wrote a post that was infused with negativity and hoplessness, which goes against my goal to maintain a fairly positive attitude while still being honest. Thanks to feedback from Caroline and A. I realized that I was just whining, so I took down the post. Weirdly I didn’t actually trash it, instead I made it a private post. Why would I hold on to something that makes me feel bad? Maybe that is a subject for a later post,why do we hold on to things that make us feel bad?) Please don’t misunderstand me, I can see how far I have come, but I can’t measure my success daily. When I look at the day to day all I can see is pain, but if I further back than last week I realize I am indeed getting better, just not fast enough for my liking. I always want  to move at the speed of the hare but I can only move at the speed of the turtle. I am sincerely hoping the old adage of  “slow and steady wins the race” is applicable to recovering from back surgery as well as racing! 😛

I know that this is my blog and I get to choose what I write and post, but I also feel like I owe myself this opportunity to change my way of thinking and to remain positive. While simply writing this blog has really helped me,it is the people who have taken the time to comment and those that I feel are kindred spirits that have helped me more than I could ever have imagined. I owe a deeply sincere and heartfelt “Thank-you!” to each and every one of you. Who knew that people who were essentially strangers a month ago could make me feel more accepted, normal and cared for than people I have known for years?(That is not to say that the people I have known for years haven’t been great in helping me as well, but to the people who knew me pre-injury I am injured. Whereas the people I have gotten to post-op only know me now. I like that there isn’t a comparison to the person I used to be with the people I have just met. It makes me feel less damaged, maybe?)

Beyond the friendships, encouragement and understanding, I have found this blog also gives me a sense of accomplishment.  It feels like I have accomplished something when I see that people have read and enjoyed my posts. A really wise friend told me that I should, “[r]ead about anything and everything; write a list about places you’re going to go when you’re better and work towards it. Read up on it. Imagine what you’re going to do when you get there. Write stories about the places you want to visit. Feel it.” (I’m looking at you, A. 😉 ) I have wanted to write fiction forever but I have never put pen to paper (er, fingers to keys?) so maybe I will try to write creatively rather than lying around useless and moping.

I feel like I have to say this: I don’t mop often. I try not to express my frustration and down-trodden spirit all the time so that I am not one of those people who constantly have a complaint before they have something positive to say. I try to bury the pain and negativity,  but sometimes I fail. I try to be positive, and maybe if I just forget about how bad I feel I might be able to bury it deeper. Maybe if I just shift my focus I won’t feel the pain as much? Anyone have tips on how to ignore something as big as overwhelming back pain? Here’s hoping!

Alright, that is enough of that! On to my  first days home after surgery…

I was so excited to get home and so relieved once I actually walked into my house. After spending way too many hours at the hospital waiting to leave,  I was just so pleased to be back in my own environment. (I don’t think I mentioned this is my last post so I will cover it quickly here. One of the reasons I wan’t allowed to leave at the 11:00am discharge was that my intern didn’t order blood work in the morning, and my potassium levels were low the few days before [surprise! surprise! I threw up for one whole night and couldn’t stomach hospital food!] so she made me wait until the results from my blood work came back. Okay, I understand that it is something that I should find out before I leave but come on! Every other day I had been in the hospital I got blood work done in the morning so that my doctor/intern had the results before he/she came to see me around noon. Why on the day I was discharged did the intern wait until 12:30 pm to order blood work when she knew she needed the results before I left?? It was just a really frustrating and annoying situation. Especially because the results came back fine and it still took another hour and a half after that for her to finish discharging me. After the prescription fiasco [I told the intern that my prescription was wrong, the pills she prescribed didn’t come in the dose required so I had to take two pills to get the proper mg’s, she assured me they did come in that dose, but I had taken the same dose for a month or so and knew for a  fact they didn’t because the pharmacy had to request a change from my doctor the first time, I had to argue with her and eventually she changed it.] I was just so fed up with being there I was on the verge of leaving with or without my discharge paperwork.)

There is something about being home that makes things just a little better than they were when you were suffering elsewhere. My first night home wasn’t too hard, it was trying to adjust myself to my limitations that gave me problems. (and I still haven’t perfected it! :P) When I was in the hospital it was easier to not lift, twist, bend or do anything else that I found strenuous because there was always someone around to help. If I dropped something an orderly would pick it up, if I needed help carrying something a nurse or orderly would help me. So it was a mixed blessing when I did get to go home. On the one hand I was so sick of the hospital, their food and my room mate (who couldn’t control her bowels and moaned all day [I understand that it was not her fault, but it is still hard to sit in a room that smells like feces for an hour or two]) but on the other, the hospital is set up and equipped to deal with patients after back surgery. My apartment was not. (It is [kinda] now! At least my bathroom is totally Handy-Capable!) So well coming home was a incredibly high day for me, realizing all my problems and challenges brought me  right back down.

Trofus loves his house!

I hurt myself at work, so all my medial needs are provided for me by the Workplace Saftey and Insurance Board (WSIB). Again, this was a mixed blessing. ( I think I might write a post on my struggles with WSIB at another time but will quickly recap here.) I tried to get my mobility aids (like a shower chair, raised toilet seat, bath handle, reacher ect..) pre-approved so I could install  the products before I had surgery. WSIB refused saying that I needed a doctor’s note or prescription to get them covered and they wouldn’t accept a note pre-op because I didn’t need the aids before the surgery. I understand the theory, but in practice it is ridiculous. Anyways, I came home on Monday and immediately called my Case Manager. After a huge curfuffle because the hospital was supposed to give WSIB notice of my release so they could arrange to have my moility aids delivered and set-up. (The hospital did call but it was on the weekend and WSIB didn’t get the message before I called them.) Anyways, it took three days to actually get my aids from the store. It wouldn’t have been all that bad, showers were hell with or without the shower chair, but I couldn’t get off the toilet without help. My dignity took a huge plunge when I had to ask my boyfriend to help me off the toilet. It plunged further over the next couple of days when I realized just how limited I actually was.

When I finally did get the aids, C. helped me set up most of them. I had been pretty hard on the guy and he was really tired so he fell asleep at like 5:00pm on the night I got the delivery, without the toilet handles installed. I waited for hours, eventually resorting to trying to wake him up because I really had to go to the washroom! He, like myself, is not a good person to wake up so… long story short, I installed the handles on the toilet by myself. I knew it was stupid as soon as I tried to get up and couldn’t. So I laid on the floor in the fetal position for a couple of hours just crying. This had to of been one of my lowest points in the week following my return from the hospital. It was two very small things, both of which most wouldn’t even think twice about but I really couldn’t get up off the toilet or floor. But I was actually stuck on the floor, I could barely roll myself over. Beyond that I was also upset with myself for doing something so stupid. It probably would have hurt me less to just push myself to stand up off the toilet. Maybe if I had gotten a bit of momentum rocking back and forth I could have sort of rolled off the toilet? Haha, take a second to close your eyes and truly think about how you would feel if you were stuck on the toilet. It sounds ridiculous but it is really something we take for granted until it can’t be done with ease.

I can sort of laugh at it now because it sounds so silly but at the time I was so, so upset. I cried for hours, that silent-but-gut-wrenching-and-body-shaking kind of crying. Then I just decided that I had to get up. Yes it was going to hurt, but I thought if I did it right I could prevent any injury to my spine, and what else could I do? My hips were starting to ache from lying on the floor and I could feel my pain level creeping higher as I had been lying on the floor so long it was almost pain med time again. So, after a mini self-pep talk, I eventually started pulling and pushing myself up using anything within my reach. Slowly I stood, shaking from the exertion and sweating from the effort and crying. I made my way back to bed and silently cried myself to sleep after taking a handful of pain meds. (I fell I should mention that by “handful of pain meds” I really mean the most I can take as recommended by my doctor. I don’t randomly take uncounted numbers of pills! 😛 )

"Oh, so comfy!" - Paddington

Then there was my first shower at home. I had showered at the hospital with very little help, but the hospital showers are set up to be handy-capable and they also had duo-film (a plastic cover for dressings to keep moisture out) and all I had was plastic wrap and medical tape. Needless to say, it was impossible to keep the  water out using these tools. I also had a nurse that would help me wash and dry my feet, and my back and other areas I couldn’t reach. (There goes another bit of dignity! 😛 ) At home, I had C. and he was being as helpful as he knew how, but I don’t think he realized how limited my mobility was either, and I have always had a problem asking for help. Anyways, that first shower was glorious while I was in the shower, but once I got out I realized I would need help to dry off and instead of asking for it, I sat on the side of the tub and cried, eventually air drying. I asked for help for a while after that until I started to feel like I was burdening him. Now I dry off as best I can and kind of swish the towel around my feet and legs until they dry.  There are additional problems that I still face with showering, like cleaning my feet and shaving my legs. I used to really enjoy showering, it was like a stress reliever for me, but now it makes me sad. I constantly feel like my shower is incomplete, and not being able to shave my legs has been really crappy. It is finally nice out today and I wanted to wear capris but with my two inch long leg hair, I don’t think it would be very attractive.

Anyways, I suppose this has only been a small part of my home life in the weeks after the surgery. I am going to write another post on these weeks because this one is getting ridiculously long and there are still some everyday challenges I would like to discuss.

Paddington is a Manx! He has a bob-tail and rabbit-like feet!! Cutest Cat Ever (In my humble opinion)

Lastly, I am going to insert some pictures of my cats for entertainment!

The fat black cat’s name is Trofus and the smaller orange cat’s name is Paddington. I hope their cuteness makes you smile as widely as it does me.

I’d like to take a line or two to give a shout out to backonmyoown, roolily, jessicabarlow, Spaggy, Mimi, S. and Caroline. If it weren’t for all of you this would be a much less satisfying endeavor. (Please click on any of the names above to access their blog!)

As always, thanks for reading!                                                            – S.


19 Comments to “Coming Home… Or The Beginning of Recovery”

  1. I hope things have improved for you. Your blog, along with others that have commented, have made me hopeful. I now feel that I am not alone. May you all continue to recover and be healthy. Thank you!

  2. I also had an L5-S1 PLIF, and it changed my life for the better. I see you haven’t posted in a while. I hope all is well!

    Read about my story if you get that chance (I have tips on how to stay active after a fusion and some notes about the emotional toll of chronic pain):

    Take Care!

  3. I just found your blog through a friend. I have had a total of 10 fusions on my neck and spine. The pain is pretty bad, but try to stay positive, and reading your journey helps me to relate to someone that faces the same challenges I do. I sometimes cry myself to sleep, not so much because of pain, because I have had my life taken away from me. My last surgery was September 2012 and I am now 6 months out. I have tried therapy with just a little relief. My pain is worst when I lay down at bedtime. I feel like a two legged turttle on its back in an ice storm. The pain increases so much while I am attempting to sleep, that most nights I just get up about 2am and go sit in my chair and try rest from there. The rod down my spine is so painful and I and my sister have heard it squeak many times. Doctor does not know why. I have a broken screw close to my pelvic area that has come lose from the fusion since my September surgery. I have only gotten through one post and hoping that the others will be informitive about your daily challenges. I look for others that are sharing our same challenges. Thanks for your blog and may God bless you.

    • Thank you for your comment. It always makes me happy when I meet another titaniumbabe. (That is not my term – TitaniumBabe is a blogger here on word press – but anyone who has titanium in their spine becomes an automatic member. 😀
      I hope you heal this time… They think I may have herneated a disc in my C spine because of all the pressure… Fingers crossed that is not the case or surgery remains on my horizon.
      Tons of hugs.
      – S.

  4. Hi there, I’m a blog reader, never a commenter but your blog hit so close to home I’ve been crying on and off the whole time I’ve been reading. (not to be a downer!) Your journey is so similar to mine and it gives me hope that there are other people out there who know and understand how hard this can be. I was 25 when my back gave out the first time and my back continues to go out every couple of months three years later, it is clear that surgery is now my only choice. It has taken my life away from me so many times and I feel I have exhausted every viable option to avoid surgery. Your frozen toilet experience reminded me of all the times my back went out and I was frozen in place, occasionally blacking out from the pain. I’m so glad I’ve found this blog to help me see the light at the end of the tunnel, that I’m not alone, and that it’s ok to be upset about this because we have the right to be.

    • Hey There,
      What a wonderful/sad message to wake up to. Wonderful because it is always nice to know there are others that can empathize, bad because there is someone else who can empathize. You know?
      One way I thought about surgery was “I’m not getting better now. I have done everything I can. How much do I have to lose?” That was the key question for me, how much had I already lost and how much more time was I willing to lose? Thinking about kids, and marriage and all the travelling I’ve wanted to do cinched it for me. I want to have a baby, without a successful fusion I will never be able to carry one, let alone run after or pick up a toddler.
      It is okay to be upset, and angry and filled with rage at the unfairness of it all, and exhausted by the effort it takes to keep trying through so much pain, and sad that you’ve lost something, and vulnerable because you aren’t 100%, and angry again because of what you’ll miss out on in the future – Sky diving anyone? With a fusion, no way. – All of the emotions are okay. I’ve realized recently that i am mourning a life that’s passed. I can’t be who i wanted to be five years ago. Now I have to figure out who i can be.
      You’re not alone. Not by a long shot!
      Please, email me anytime.
      – S.

  5. Wow! I’m so glad you posted on my blog and left a link to this gut-wrenching and real and honest and wonderful blog. I’ve only read this first post, so I realize I have some back-reading to do (goody!), but I just wanted to say that you are clearly persevering through some serious challenges, and I can’t wait to catch up on your journey.

    • Hi SecretInsideGirl.
      Thank you for this amazing comment. I hope you enjoy your journey through my words. I am trying write clearly but to be honest, sometimes the words just escape me. I seem to have somewhat of a problem with language. (And with getting off topic, fair warning! 😛 )
      Anyway, I noticed you have another blog I am rather interested in checking out. I’m sure you will see me lurking there soon, like right after I finish this reply! 😛 I have this thing where I can’t seem to read a post I like and not comment.
      Thank you again, you have made my day a little brighter! 😀

  6. Hi – I’ve emailed you.

    Keep writing – it’s good and it does help.

    Well done you for taking this step.


    • Hi Caroline,
      Thanks! I hope it does help, but I think I might be hooked on writing already!
      Your email is coming soon, and thanks for taking the time to write to me. I sincerely appreciate it!

  7. Good for you for writing this. It will help you to heal.

  8. Thanks for sharing the cute cat pics! Paddington looks a lot like my cat, Orange Kitty. I mistakenly thought she was a pixie bob until recently. Does he come when you call him?

    On the job injury care programs tend to run in a strange alternative reality that often makes no sense to anyone, which makes them incredibly difficult to work with. Fortunately, you’re through the hardest part of your recovery, so things will slowly get better from here on out.

    • Hi TitaniumBabe,
      The pics were my pleasure! Do you have Orange Kitty? Paddington does come when I call him. He is the most cuddly kitty ever! He will actually sleep curled up into me when I nap. He also gives me hugs, and if I haven’t picked him up to cuddle him in a while he makes it known.and won’t stop until he gets cuddles. My boyfriend laughs at him because cats are supposed to be independent animals, but Paddington is wholly reliant and suck towards me!
      Thanks for the encouragement. I am just approaching the three month mark. One more week until then. I have an appointment with the surgeon on Tuesday to see how my fusion is coming along. I am kind of excited that he might let me go back to physio! Haha, it must be rare for people to be excited to go to Physio Therapy! 😛

      I hope all is well with you and that you are hanging in there. I think about you often and can’t thank you enough for all of your kind words and support; it has meant so much to me.

  9. S., I’m so glad you found me…… Your cats are handsome, indeed. 🙂

    I just keep thinking that your words here are really going to help people who are having to go through similar physical challenges.

    You wrote, ” …. I feel like I owe myself this opportunity to change my way of thinking and to remain positive.” …… That’s commendable. I, too, believe that our thoughts matter, that shifting our thoughts can be helpful. Yet, your feelings are important. Thank you for voicing your feelings as well.

    • Hi R.,
      Me too.
      Thank you. Your words have made posting it worth the effort it takes to write through my emotions.
      I truly appreciate reminding me that my emotions do matter. I try so hard to bury them because I have noticed that I am able to control my thoughts, but my feelings tend to run amok! I struggle within my posts to balance controlled thought with raw emotion. It feels good just to get it, or something close to ‘it’, out.
      All the best, and I have been thinking of you. Hope all is well!

      • p.s. S., Regarding the bloggers, like myself, to whom you gave a shout out…. If the rest are like me, you FOUND us … which means, you took the time to read our words, and you reached out to us and you cultivated friendships with us, which means you’re bringing support into your life. You did that! What a wonderful and smart and open way to be. Even when you’re hurting you can remember all the subtle ways that you are an instrument of your own healing. xoo
        I hope to make time to write an email to you today. Right now, I have a dreaded appointment with Clairol #28.

      • Gosh, Thanks Roo. I don’t know what else to say… Just thanks, I can’t wait for your email and… Can I see Clairol #28?

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