Wow. I just read through my last couple of posts here and almost cried. It’s been about six weeks since surgery. Honestly, I have felt pretty darn good ever since waking up from surgery. I literally was awoken by the surgical team, on the gurney on the way out of the operating room, and first things that ran through my mind were:
- I’m alive. I made it through.
- My shoulders and upper back ache, and my throat is definitely swollen, but overall I don’t have any real pain. Must be the meds or anesthesia?
- No radiculopathy pain in my shoulder or arm anymore!
They wheeled me to the PACU. I forget what PACU stands for, but basically it is the post surgery area where you get closely monitored until your room is available. I remember just laying there oddly elated. Elated that I got through it. Probably more so that I felt pretty good considering I had just had my neck sliced open, bones drilled, etc. etc. Really, aside from very achy shoulders I felt fine. And even the hard collar, which turned out to be a new one provided post surgery (they told me after that the collar I was issued at the surgeon’s office was WAY undersized), was not uncomfortable. I didn’t even feel any pain from the incision. It felt miraculous.
After about 2 hours in the PACU I started to get really annoyed. I recall that I kept telling myself to chill out, that you need to just be thankful. But I was annoyed that it was taking so long to get to my room. I just wanted to get to my room, see my wife, and exhale. It took almost 5 hours to get a room. The hospital was super busy. They did allow my wife to come up to see me in the PACU for a few minutes, which apparently is very unusual. Although they assured me this was an exception due to the delay in room availability, when she appeared I thought to myself, “Something must have gone wrong. They don’t let visitors in here. This might be it.” But no, I was fine. They just didn’t have rooms available.
Eventually they wheeled me to my room. I insisted on getting out of the gurney and getting into bed on my own, and they obliged. I felt like I would have no problem walking, but when I got up I was very wobbly. I was worried. My room was very small, but nice. I noticed later, during my long walks around the corridor, that my room was one of the smaller ones, and also was closest to the nurses station. That sounds like a benefit, but no, it was always noisy. But I had trouble sleeping so I liked the distraction.
Three hours later, after much begging*, an equipment tech who seemed to also double as a nursing assistant, volunteered to walk the corridors with me. I think around fifteen minutes in she started to regret it. We walked for about 25 or 30 minutes. She said it was just about one mile total. I was able to walk fine. My legs felt light. Only concern was my heart rate was up. It didn’t go down until the next day – we still don’t know why.
It wasn’t all roses. My throat was definitely swollen, big time. I did have the expected difficulty in swallowing. I forced myself to drink, through a straw of course, and eat ice chips constantly. I felt as though it was like exercise for my throat – to stretch it back out as quickly as possible. Probably not really effective approach but I figured it couldn’t hurt. The surgeon’s assistants came to check on me and when I told them about the swollen throat they immediately ordered a steroid to be injected. Within an hour or two I started to feel it working, to the point where I was able to eat dinner that evening no problem. It was actually *really* good. But when I took the cover off of the plate I got a chuckle, as it looked like steak. It turned out to be a very soft meatloaf. My complements to the culinary staff at Jefferson University Hospital – the food was excellent.
I will leave out the rest of the details as this post is getting long, but the next morning my heart rate slowed down and, since I otherwise felt good, once the surgeons saw that I could swallow they authorized discharge. Around 11am or so that morning, after one night in the hospital, I was discharged. Shockingly (to me), they let me walk out on my own. I expected a mandatory wheel chair ride, but no, the nurse told me I could go and pointed me towards the elevator. I later found out from my wife that my room was in the Ear, Nose, and Throat ward and not the neurosurgery ward, so I didn’t have nurses experienced in neurosurgery. That made some things make more sense. I won’t go into it, but the one nurse I had for the evening shift was not particularly helpful. Biggest gripe was that she wouldn’t allow me to walk. Walking, I believe, was critical to my recovery. So I was relieved when I woke up very early the next morning and met with the doctors and they told me I could be disconnected from all of the monitoring equipment and am free to walk as much as I wanted, in anticipation of discharge later that morning.
This post wasn’t meant to be a detailed trip down memory lane of my hospital stay : ) It was meant to be focused on how my recovery has gone since. But I guess it’s better to make that a separate post, so I’ll do that.
The ride home from the hospital was a little nerve-wracking but mostly uneventful. My brother and sister-in law were waiting in the drive up lane in front of the hospital. I walked out and got in and they took me home. I made it.