But seriously, I had back surgery for a ruptured disc in my lumbar spine.
I injured it back in college when I was lifting a gentleman as I was helping him prepare for work. Since that day my back has always given me problems; first it was the initial dropping to the floor the day it happened, then it was that time I collapsed while picking up my fat cat, then finally when I sank to the bottom of the swimming pool following a flip-turn gone wrong. After the unfortunate flip-turn incident, I decided to go back to the doctor. We had a little photo session on Black Friday and the MRI was very clear-I had squished that little disc as far as it would squish till it popped right open and oozed a bunch of gunk all over my L5 nerve root. My L5 nerve root was not very pleased about this and chose to scream bloody murder all the way down to my toes for a couple months while I attempted to shush it and coddle it with physical therapy and steroid injections. L5 wasn’t giving up very easily and decided to make it feel like someone was doing surgery on my calf 24/7 with no anesthetic. It was neat. I shouldn’t really complain though.
I could walk. Yep. That’s it.
I wasn’t able to sit or drive or bend or lift or twist…you get the point. But darnit, I could walk. I could walk all the way to Pittsburg if you asked me to. I’m going to guess I walked about 50 miles a week during those months. (you’d think some pounds would have shaved off in that amount of time but nooo…) Finally after going the conservative route for months and jumping through all the healthcare hoops, I decided we had reached the point of surgery and I scheduled my microdiscectomy. Say that five times.
On knifing day, my beautiful mother came to watch the boys while Jason and I headed out at 0630 to enjoy our surgery date. I got to wear a gown and stockings and slippers. It was all very glamorous. One thing I did notice that was missing was my surgery doula. You’re right, those don’t really exist. But if they did, I would totally be one. Turns out I had to advocate for myself in nearly the same way that I would for a birth. I should mention first that I felt fully supported and heard by my care team. They really were wonderful and they supported me throughout with options and explanations. But it’s the little things. It’s always about the little things when we look back. Even in birth, the little things are the things you remember and wish you had said or wish you had done differently after it’s all over. I noticed that some people talked about me, not to me. Some people told me the plan instead of including me in the plan or asking my thoughts on the plan. When medications were given to me, they were not always explained to me and I was not always given the opportunity to discuss them. Thankfully, my entire job is to help families communicate with their care teams so I was able to politely ask the questions that needed to be asked and get the answers I needed while still maintaining a cordial relationship. But still, a surgery doula would be pretty cool.
I awoke from surgery confused and in a lot of pain. Apparently I told some CNA that he wasn’t good at rubbing hair and needed to learn how before he got a girlfriend. Oops. After getting my pain meds calibrated just right, my brain decided it was just too sleepy to breathe and would occasionally forget. Neat.
Needless to say, my outpatient surgery quickly turned into an inpatient surgery. I spent the night walking the hallways of Sanford’s 6000 overflow wing in my fashionable hospital gown, stockings, and grippy slippers. I had to miss my “Meet the Midwives” event which was going on just six floors below me. In the end, I’m happy I did it and I’m feeling better each day. I’ve even considered getting a tattoo of a little needle and thread next to my scar. We’ll see. If you see me doing cartwheels down Phillips Avenue, I’m feeling better. (Who are we kidding, I can barely do a somersault correctly…)