This blog and my shops have been somewhat neglected lately and I hope you’ll forgive me. Two weeks from today I travel to St. Louis for my back surgery. And once I have a task in front of me I’m quite tenacious and single minded about it. In fact, an old friend who passed away recently used to call me “mad dog” for that same reason. I’m sure that was equal parts admiration and exasperation! The reason for my neglect is understandable. Almost all of my time lately has been taken up with preparations of one kind or another for my upcoming surgery and recuperation.
I’m trying to clear my calendar as much as possible not just for a month or so but for the next year. Here’s why. I gave a pretty thorough explanation of my medical history here:
In January I wrote somewhat tongue in cheek about my upcoming pre-op visit to St. Louis as my fantasy Grey’s Anatomy:
My two days of pre-op tests went well; I passed everything! I also spent some time scouting out information for my caregivers. I did leave a day earlier than planned because St. Louis had a big snowstorm coming and I didn’t want to get stuck. After a 5-hour wait at the airport, I was much relieved when we finally got off the ground. The heavy snow dumped on St. Louis would have kept me there for another two days.
You’re probably wondering why I am so focused on getting ready for the surgery. Actually, the biggest part of my planning has to do with AFTER the surgery. Couple of weeks and I’ll be good as new, right?? Nope. The recuperation from this surgery is much longer than any other for a few reasons. The pain from the surgery itself is significant, so I will be on some serious pain killers for a while. Most of the muscles and nerves that cover my spine will have to be cut, and their regeneration takes a long time. Most importantly, because the bone material used to pack my spine takes up to a year to fully solidify and heal, I have to be very careful not to dislodge it while it’s healing.
So here’s the kicker: For many months and up to a year, I am not allowed to BLT (bend, lift, twist). I can walk, sit and lie down, but I cannot bend over for any reason – getting dressed, reaching lower shelves, brushing teeth, picking something up from the floor – can’t do it. I can’t lift anything more than 5 pounds – equivalent to a gallon of milk. And I can’t twist to reach something or look behind me in the car. I probably won’t be able to drive a car for at least 3 months anyway.
Obviously, these restrictions take a toll on daily living and that’s what I’m preparing for. I will have help once I get home. My next door neighbor will be my caregiver and family will help out. But I’m single and won’t have someone here 24/7. Here’s what I have done/am doing to prepare.
I have been getting appointments out of the way - gynecologist, dentist, opthamologist, dermatologist, hair stylist, both primary care doctor and St. Louis doctor for a humongous list of pre-op tests. I also scheduled a few lunches and dinners with friends and family.
Here’s how I’m “surgery-proofing” my house. Bedroom: I will spend most of my time upstairs in the bedroom or my workroom/studio. So I have a coffee pot; a small cooler and a portable travel-size refrigerator; a tray next to me on the bed with medications; bedside table with clock/radio, two phones, miscellaneous items such as pens/paper, dental floss, nail files, small scissors, eyeglass cleaner, etc.; breakfast food, snack food, water; bed table with tilt top for my laptop computer; walker; heating pad; books, magazines, TV. I added a memory foam pad to the bed. All of this allows me to be somewhat self-sufficient in the morning and to avoid going up and down the stairs until someone is here with me. Here’s some bedroom photos – I didn’t fuss with making it all look pretty for the picture. I’m all about practical right now.
Bathroom: Raised toilet seat, shower chair, hand-held shower head, long-handled sponges, loofah strap, shampoo/soap all wall mounted so I can reach without bending or twisting.
Clothing and “tools”: After the surgery, I’ll wear silky pajamas. They make it easier to move around in bed and get up and down rather than getting all caught up in a nightgown or cotton jammies. The smallest movements are going to be painful for a while. Once I’m moving better I’ll probably live night and day in shorts, T-top and those slip-on stockings with rubber bottoms that they give you in the hospital. (I have quite a collection!)
Here’s some of the tools I’ll be taking to St. Louis and using when I get back home – a grabber, long–handled shoe horn, hooks, stocking aid, toilet aid (don’t ask – I can’t bend, remember?) I have the grabbers all over the house - they really come in handy, surgery or not!
Kitchen: I have stocked up with frozen and packaged foods to make it easier for my caregivers. I won’t have much of an appetite in the beginning anyway. I also moved to the counter any utensils, pots/pans, dishes I might need regularly. Makes for lots of clutter but it’s convenient.
Studio/workroom: A few weeks ago I decluttered as much as I could and moved to counter height those items I think I might be able to work with after I’ve recuperated a bit.
Garden: There won’t be any planting this year (unless my nieces decide to surprise me) and my brother will do the spring cleanup for me. I have enough perennials to keep me happy, and I’ll just have to forego anything else for this year.
Other: Dishwasher, laundry, grocery shopping will have to be handled by my caregivers. Too much bending, too heavy, too many stairs. I’ll also have my neighbor and family start my car and drive it around every so often. Twice before when I had surgery and my car sat for too long, some critters built nests in the engine compartment! Twice!
What bothers me the most is that I will have to close both of my etsy shops for who knows how long. I know I'll lose followers, but I won’t be able to do any packing or go to the post office. I’ll be able to work on the computer and perhaps on very light, small projects but that’s about it. I’m hoping that it won’t be too long before I can post something on here. I’ll do my best to keep you up to date.
One of the after-effects of these surgeries that I remember most vividly is the exhaustion. Just taking a shower would wear me out and put me to sleep for hours. The doctors want me moving as much as possible, so it’s get up, walk around, back to bed; get up, walk around, back to bed. Another after-effect is some short term memory loss from the anesthetic. I will be talking coherently and making sense (mostly), but I may not remember the conversation a week later. And at first I’m not able to focus my brain enough to do more than stare at the TV. Ever hopeful, though, I have a couple of new books put aside.
Are you bored yet?
I just wanted you all to know why my attention has been sporadic lately. And I also wanted to ask you for your prayers, your healing thoughts, crossed fingers and toes, incantations … or whatever, all sent my way. I’m confident all will go well, but it’s a big surgery, and as I just outlined above, a massive rehabilitation.
Thanks for listening.