Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My First Year...

Being postop:  The months since my Nov 28, 2011 surgery have literally flown by!  At the moment of creating this "Anniverary Update," I'm speechless (or shall I say type-less) at my recovery and the blessing God has given me.

Celebrating events without my mom:  I am randomly overwhelmed with emotions of missing Ma but find more joy than sorrow in my memories of her.  My triggers seem to be when I want to call her throughout the week as I used to then realize she is no longer there to answer the phone.

Being pain free:  Life is grand when not bedridden by pain.

Raising a German Shepherd pup:  Indi is growing like a weed and is an incredibly sweet girl.  I've trained her to hop onto a couch so I can easily slide her into the walking harness without having to bend over.

Living spontaneously:  It has been exhilarating living pain free which makes it possible to do many unplanned dates, trips, events, etc.

Believing I can try new things and actually doing them:  I've replaced my old pre-op view of life, "I can't do this/that because of my back pain," with, "I am going to try this/that because I can."

Participating in races:  Never thought I'd be capable much less inspired to want to race walk. What a difference a year makes!

Taking archery lessons:  Dr. Lenke approved me to do archery because it may help rebuild the atrophied muscles between my shoulder blades.  I actually won a contest too by shooting three arrows in the gold!

My postop collage has been updated and is listed under the August 14, 2012 blog entry.  

A quick recap:
Nov 2011 Preop

Nov 2012 Postop

Please pray that Dr. Lenke sees fusion on my next set of xrays in February 2013.  Notice how clear my February 2012 xrays look?  Fusion will appear as cloudy areas around the hardware, so I'm praying have a great cloudy xray!

Some recent pix and vids...

1st archery lesson - I'm the tall chick!  :)

1st trip to ice cream shop with Indi

Me and Lizzie, Nov 2012

At the park with Indi.  Notice how I keep my back straight when kneeling down?  Working with the "down" and "high 5" commands.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Abundantly Overflowing!

It's been a whirlwind of a month with activities abundantly overflowing on our schedule.  Here are some highlights!

I had a PR (personal record) in the 5k race recently.  My speed improved to a finish time of 51:38!  The August 5k race finish time was 56:50 so I'm happy my training proved beneficial.  It was a beautiful morning that we shared with our friends.  Thanks for joining us!

 We upgraded from a pair... a pack!
We added Indi to our family as my early birthday gift.  Indi is now 12 weeks old and was born July 3, 2012.  Her official name is Declaration of Independence, aka Indi.  I've wanted a German Shepherd for a long time.  Ma always wanted a Yorkie but never got one.  The last time she mentioned wanting a Yorkie was about 1.5 years ago when she said, "I wish I had gotten a Yorkie."  I told her it wasn't too late to get one.  Ma never got her Yorkie, but that made me think about certain things in my life now that Ma is gone.  Why put off things on my Wish List?  I didn't want to find myself down the road regretting not getting a German Shepherd, hence the addition of Indi!

I've found that I'm able to squat down to clean up occasional puppy messes, get her leash on her, etc.  There was one incident I wasn't able to do anything.  It was chilly the other day and I wore exercise pants.  Indi must have thought I resembled a chew toy because she pounced on my leg and chomped on my ankle.  Obviously, I screamed as her teeth are razor sharp.  My scream startled Indi who let go of my ankle but my pant leg was stuck on her tooth as she was backing away from me.  My daughter was laughing hysterically because I couldn't bend over to get my pants out of Indi's mouth, but she managed to help me out and get my pants off Indi's tooth.  Glad I could be a source of entertainment for someone!  :)

In addition to racing and expanding our family, Lizzie, who is part of the Junior Olympic Archery program, has been busy with tournaments this month too.  She earned 1st place at the South Eastern 720 Part I tournament in the Bowman category.
Lizzie is third from the left, dark blue shirt
A much welcome cloud passed by
Lizzie at her target, third from left
Lizzie brings home the Gold!

Two weeks later, Lizzie earned 1st place in the Georgia State Tournament which makes her the 2012 Georgia State Champion in the Bowman category!  Pictures will be posted soon (still looking for the camera cable).  Lizzie's goal is to become a member of the Olympic Junior Dream Team in 2013.

And to round out the month of September, Lizzie was featured in the September issue of the WebMD magazine where she reviewed Michelle Obama's cookie recipe.  You can read the article here or pick up the magazine if you are in a doctor's office this month.

I've had quite a bit of muscle atrophy between my should blades despite doing PT exercises.  

Once I'm 1 year postop, I'll be released to do exercises on our weight machines.  There is a Postop Collage on my blog now (Aug 14, 2012 blog), just two more pix to post for October and November 2012 and then I'll be 1 year postop!  Wooo Hooo!  I still have a lot of numb areas across the middle of my back, upper left thigh, etc.  Praise God for a blessed recovery!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Is It True, You Never Forget How to Ride a Bike?

Lizzie and I recently went to Nashville, TN to meet my new Achilles team.  Are you wondering, "Why in the world would Doreen go all the way to Nashville to walk with a group of people?"  Since there aren't any Achilles chapters in Georgia, the Nashville chapter graciously took me under their wing.  It was an especially exciting evening for the team as they received a special delivery straight from NYC.  Joe Traum (whose dad, Dick Traum, started Achilles 29 years ago) and Ellie Cox from the Achilles NYC headquarters drove 15 hours to deliver 3 handcycles to the Nashville chapter!  Handcycles are powered with your hands on pedals located near your chest while your legs and feet are secured onto the bike near the front wheel in addition to your torso being strapped into the seat. 

Invacare XLT Handcycle
I was paired up with John who was my guide.  It was a delight chatting with him during my trek around the course.  I shared with John how Janet in the NYC office put a bug in my ear about doing the NYC Marathon.  I'd never thought of that before and asked Janet do people actually walk the race?  She explained that the course is officially open 12 hours but there are some people who take much longer but ultimately finish.  Achilles members are guaranteed a slot in this race.  Zoe Koplowski is a member who has walked and finished the race for the past 22+ years and is an incredible inspiration!

While chatting with John, I explained that I have two thoughts about me doing the 2014 NYC Marathon and that one of them (heck, who knows... maybe both?) will play out in the future.  The initial idea is to walk the NYC Marathon which if I train at a slower pace than what I'm currently walking to build endurance, I can potentially finish the race in 9 hours (starting time is 6a for Achilles members).  Then a new idea popped into my head when I said to John, "After seeing the handcycles tonight, wouldn't biking the marathon be faster than walking?"  Hmmm, now that's a concept! John immediately asked if I wanted to try one of the bikes when we were done walking and I was suddenly very excited at the idea of getting onto a bike.  

So, how does a person with a fully fused spine with a sacrum anchored into the pelvis get down onto a handcycle?  VERY CAREFULLY!  There were a couple of physical therapists in the team and they, along with Joe Traum, were very patient and kind in helping me onto the bike.  
Joe, Will and Liz helping me onto bike.

The bike pictured above had the highest seat of the three bikes, about 14" off the ground.  I was able to straddle the seat and then with the help of Liv and Will who braced me under my arms, I was able to slowly and carefully lower down onto the seat.  I was shocked!

The seat was surprisingly comfortable on my lower back and it felt good to have my legs stretched out.  Joe explained the details of the bike and told me to slowly turn the front wheel with my hands on the pedals; it was an odd sensation.  Joe also explained how this particular bike doesn't involve using your entire body to turn as compared to other handcycles that are lower to the ground.  While he did say, "You'll never win a race on this bike," because of the higher upright position of the seat, this bike will allow me to finish a race which is my goal.

While I didn't actually cycle around on the bike this time (I didn't want to over do it after having just walked almost 3 miles), I do have plans to take it out for a spin the next time we are in Nashville.  I look forward to talking with Dr. Lenke to see if a handcycle will possibly help rebuild the muscle that atrophied between my shoulder blades.

Pictured below are Joe Traum, Will, me, John, and Sarah who helped launch the Nashville chapter.  Thank you so much for such an inspirational evening!

It is such an interesting path I'm on during my recovery being almost 10 months postop.  It's as if I'm trying to make up for lost time after being unable to live my life leading up to the surgery being bedridden for most of my days.  I was definitely an observer of life last year, being a participant is so much more exhilarating!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Post Op Collage

Here is my work in progress of preop pix through 9 months postop.  Oops!  Just realized I didn't take the 2 month postop January pic (heavily medicated at that point), the 8 month postop July pic (too busy living life while on a 3 week holiday) or the 11 month postop pic.

                                       Before Nov 2011   10 Days Postop       Nov 2011         Dec 2011
                                                                                Dec 2011  

3 Months Postop Feb 2012
4 Months Postop Mar 2012

5 Months Postop Apr 2012
6 Months Postop May 2012

9 Months Postop August 2012

7 Months Postop June 2012

Yikes!  Didn't realize the muscle atrophy 
looked like this!

10 Months Postop September 2012

The grand finale - 12 Months Postop Nov 2012

Saturday, August 4, 2012

My First Race!

It's been an incredible 2 weeks since I made the decision to enter the Run for Wounded Warriors 5k (3 miles) race.  Even though Dr. Lenke advised I should never jog, I participated as a walker.  My daily walking routine is 5 miles (8k) but I break it up into 1.5 mile chunks throughout the day.  Last week I started walking 3 miles nonstop for a few days to prepare for today's big race.

My day started at 4:20a with the sound of pouring rain.  Hmm, what a way to start my racing journey.  I tried to go back to sleep until 5:30a, but I was too excited and couldn't sleep.  Jeremy snapped this pic of me at 5a.
Fortunately, the rain completely stopped by the time we arrived at the venue.  We lined up toward the back of the pack for the start of the race.  Jeremy and Lizzie let me set the pace for our little team (Team Bionica!) and I kept telling myself, "Slow and steady... be the tortoise." 

It was a great course with cool, cloudy weather.  Lizzie was eager to run so she broke ahead of us and ran ahead.  Coming into the 2 mile mark I started picking up a little speed and passed some people.  Lizzie made my day when I crossed the finish line and I heard her cheering for me!  This by the way, was my first race in my entire life!  That's all about to change.
Next steps?  I plan to walk in several more 5k races leading up to my new big goal: walk the Hope & Possibility 8k Race in NYC Central Park June 2013.  I discovered an incredible group Achilles Track Club which encourages disabled athletes to participate in mainstream running events.  I never thought of myself disabled (or an athlete for that matter), but apparently I fall under that umbrella and am now a member of the Achilles Club.  Achilles says that the term disability runs the gamut of wounded veterans, multiple sclerosis, blindness, recovering from surgery, diabetes, cancer patients and survivors, etc.

I'm also 9 months postop and here is the latest pic.
Once I'm 12 months postop, I'll create a collage of each month's postop pix to see a side-by-side comparison.

*Update: I had to share this silly pic Jeremy took of me after a glass of post-race wine.  Tried to cross my eyes, but...

It's been an incredible journey!  Praise God!

Monday, July 23, 2012

How I Maintained Exercises While on 3 Week Holiday

Phase I – Sebring & Cape Coral, FL
Day I started out with a road trip starting at 6:30a, stopping at 10a for breakfast and a brisk walk through the restaurant parking lot.  Next stop was 4.5 hours later for a quick shopping stop and lunch, walked about 2 miles.  Final stretch was 2 more hours in the car until our final destination of Sebring, FL.  Total time in car: 10 hours, I drove 5.5 hours, no pain, no need for pillows in the car.  I walked 1.5 miles this evening.

Day II was a busy day: church, out for breakfast, grocery shopping, pool, power nap, cooked dinner, walked my usual 3 miles that I normally do on Sundays.  I discovered I can do the backstroke in the pool; definitely woke up some sleeping muscles!

Day III included my usual 5 mile walking per day, upper body workout (I brought my dumb bells), more backstroke swimming at the pool, laundry, cooked dinner.

Day IV did my lunges and 5 miles of walking, cooked.

Day V walked 5 miles, upper body workout, walked for a couple of hours following my daughter and sister-in-law who did some fun 4th of July activities at the neighborhood clubhouse.  

Day VI relaxed in the pool, 5 miles of walking and lunges.  Thoroughly enjoying the evening storms that blew through.

Day VII drove to Cape Coral, FL so hubby and daughter could fish and then we house-hunted the area for a vacation home then returned to Sebring.  Total time in car: 10.5 hours, I drove 5 hours, no pain but very stiff at the end of the day.  This was a light day of walking, maybe 3 miles total.

Phase II – Orlando & Tampa, FL
Day VIII drove to Orlando and checked in at the condo which was only 1 hour away from Sebring.  Walked 5 miles and did upper body workout.  I was able to squat down to sit on the edge of the pool and dangle my legs into the pool this evening.

Day IX relaxed at the pool in the morning, walked 3 miles.  I discovered I could comfortably sit in a comfy chair and cross my legs while reading; NEVER thought I’d be able to do this postop.

Day X relaxed at the pool in the morning, walked 5 miles and did upper body workout.

Day XI spent 7 hours at Magic Kingdom, 1 hour at Downtown Disney, rode 6 rides, walked more than 5 miles, did lunges and am completely exhausted but not in pain, just a bit stiff.  My first ride was the People Mover which was a piece of cake.  Ride #2 was Winnie the Pooh.  There is a Tigger section which is rather bumpy but I simply sat upright so that my back wasn’t touching the back of the seat.  It was a really cute and fun ride.  Ride #3 was It’s a Small World and it was another easy ride to get into.  Ride #4 was the Haunted Mansion which would have been fine except for the chairs moving so fast and the employee rushing everyone to hop into the moving chairs.  I mis-judged the distance of the height of the seat because it was dark and ended up plopping down a tad bit hard onto the seat which tweaked my back for a bit.  Ride #5 wasn’t really a ride, Presidents Hall, but was a nice respite from the hot day.  Ride #6 was the Jungle Cruise and it was a bit odd stepping onto a moving boat but I was pretty comfortable.  I decided today that I will pass on the upcoming trip to Harry Potter World since 99% of the rides have a back warning.  It was wonderful to have such a busy day that didn’t end with me in bed with pain.  I haven’t had a day like this in over 10 years.  Life is great!

Day XII relaxed at the pool, did upper body workout and walked 5 miles.

Day XIII while hubby and daughter enjoyed their day at Harry Potter World, I spent my day reading, walked 5 miles and did lunges.  Surprisingly, hubby and daughter came back by 1p because they were able to hit all the rides on their To-Do list and we hopped in the car for Tampa an 1.5 hour away.  We went to some of our fave spots and had tasty food.  It feels wonderful being spontaneous now as compared to pre-op where the pain prevented me from most activities.

Day XIV Everyone slept in, relaxed at the condo, did laundry, packed up and danced with hubby for the first time postop!  Walked 5 miles and did upper body workout.

Phase III – Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Day XV drove 3 hours to the east coast and checked into the condo for the “Girls Trip” of our last week in Florida.  Hubby had to fly back home to ATL for a few days before flying out to San Francisco so I drove him to the airport this afternoon.  Walked 5 miles and did lunges.

Day XVI went to the beach and discovered how wonderfully odd it felt to walk on soft, uneven sand!  My entire back was tingling because of the way I walked on the sand.  I didn’t walk far, about 1.5 miles and was completely exhausted in a great way this evening.  Enjoyed some time at the pool enjoying the ocean breeze. I walked a bit more at the condo for a total of about 3 miles.  I usually only walk about 3 miles on Sundays.

Day XVII Explored the neighborhood I grew up in and then walked 6 miles non-stop at a massive outlet mall which covers 7 miles.  I was quite tired by the time we got back to the condo and laid down for a bit before dinner.  Before we went to the mall I walked 1.5 miles at the condo so my total walking for the day was 7.5 miles along with lunges.

Day XVIII Drove along the coast, walked 5 miles and did upper body workout.

Day XIX Explored more of my old stomping grounds, walked 5 miles and did lunges.

Day XX Decided to head home early and drove 10.5 hours from Ft. Lauderdale to Atlanta (I drove the entire way since hubby had already went home for business).  Walked 1.5 miles before we hit the road and walked another 1.5 miles this evening.  Since today’s total walking was 3 miles, I will swap today’s workout for my normal Sunday routine of 3 miles.  This means, on this coming Sunday, I’ll walk 5 miles and do lunges.

I covered A LOT of ground with walking and driving on this holiday which will be great preparation for our Paris trip.  I never over did my exercises because there was never any pain, just occasional stiffness and there was no need for even a Tylenol.  This has been such a remarkable journey.  This weekend I was able to vacuum the entire house for the first time since hiring a cleaning lady a year ago.  God has abundantly blessed me and I am humbled by His generosity!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Awesome Weekend!

I had a fantastic weekend: great time with my in-laws and showing them fun spots around Atlanta, went swimming for the first time postop, sat on lounge chair, went to the movies, etc.

When I saw Dr. Lenke a couple of weeks ago, he said that if I have access to a pool, swimming will be great exercise.  Our neighborhood pool opened this weekend and I was excited to get into it.  It felt really weird though.  I held onto the edge of the pool, slowly pushed my torso away from the edge and slowly kicked my legs.  What surprised me the most was how sore my shoulders were the next morning!

I ran into Dr. Lenke and his nurse, Kelly, in the hallway on my way to his office.  Kelly gave me a big hug and said to Dr. Lenke, "Doesn't she look great?!"  Dr. Lenke smiled big and said, "She does and she's taller than me now!"  I was out of Lenke's office in less than one hour.  Note to self: schedule first appointment of the day on future appointments.  Dr. Lenke didn't see fusion yet on my xray which appears as cloudy areas around the hardware.  He said that fusion starts to appear on xrays around 6 - 9 months post op and that it's just a little too early to see it in me.  He isn't concerned about non-fusion since my hardware is still in the right position and I feel so good.  I can increase my workout weights slightly and start bending a bit. 

Going through airport security was a bit interesting.  I printed a TSA Hidden Disability Card  in hopes that there wouldn't be any drama going through security.  I've read how some scoli patients don't set off alarms at airports while others do.  Jeremy suggested I try going through without mentioning my hardware and not showing the TSA card just to see if I set off alarms.  Unfortunately, the alarms went off which meant I had to have a pat down despite  showing the TSA card.  The Atlanta agent was nice and was concerned about not hurting me.  She said that on my flight home, show my TSA card first and ask to be screened in the special machine to elliminiate a pat down.  I did what she said in St. Louis, but after I stepped out of the special screening machine, I heard a voice on a walkie talkie, "Anomaly in the torso."  The St. Louis agent gave me a partial pat down of my back only, despite me showing the TSA card multiple times.  One of these times, I look forward to a pat-down-free experience in the future.


Post Op Exercises

I've heard a lot of folks who are planning to have scoli surgery say they wish they could see how someone fused to sacrum looks like when they move.  My daughter filmed me doing my post op exercises so hopefully this will show people what is possible after surgery.  As of today, I am 6 months 2 weeks post op and I wasn't allowed to do any exercises, except walking which started on the day after my surgery, until I was 3 months post op.

I am in no way recommending any exercise for anyone as I am not a professional physical therapist; just sharing what works for me.  If you have questions about post op exercises, talk with your surgeon.


One Leg Step Up - prescribed by Dr. Lenke's physical therapist:

Log Rolling - prescribed by Dr. Lenke PRE-OP.  Most every scoli surgery patient will need to learn log rolling in order to get in/out of bed correctly to keep the spine straight.  Patients should learn how to log roll before surgery:

Bicep Curls - prescribed by Dr. Lenke's physical therapist.  I used to do bicep curls preop with 20 pound dumbbells, but have been using 5 pound dumbbells since the surgery.  Dr. Lenke said I can increase my weight to 10 pound dumbbells:

Skull Crusher - NOT prescribed by Dr. Lenke but an exercise I used to do preop.  This exercise gives my upper back and shoulders a really nice stretch:

Triceps - NOT prescribed by Dr. Lenke but an exercise I used to do preop:

Ceiling Press - prescribed by Dr. Lenke's physical therapist:

Flyes - prescribed by Dr. Lenke's physical therapist but an exercise I used to do preop:

Tricep Curls - prescribed by Dr. Lenke's physical therapist:

Overhead Press - NOT prescribed by Dr. Lenke but an exercise I used to do preop:

Modified Lunges - prescribed by Dr. Lenke's physical therapist.  After seeing this video I'm shocked at how low I'm going with my knee.  I definitely wasn't going this low when I started doing this exercise a few months ago:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

5 Months 1 Week Post Op Pix

I've been receiving kind words from people thanking me for being so candid with my blog.  I have some new pix to share and still feel a bit uncomfortable "exposing" myself, but I've been told the photos have been very helpful to those stepping into the surgery journey.

Here goes...

Pre op Nov 2011 Back

Post op Apr 2012 Back

 Pre op Nov 2011 This is what my tummy looked like when my spine collapsed 4 inches

Post op Apr 2012  This is what my tummy looks like when my spine was stretched out, re-gaining 4 inches

Lizzie says my tummy isn't squishy anymore.  LOL!

I had a couple of milestones the past few weeks:
Wore heels!
Painted my toenails, I've discovered how long my arms are!
Pulled on my boots and zipped them up without help!

Woo hoo!  :)


Sunday, April 15, 2012

5 Months Post Op

A fellow scoli sister summed it up best for me recently:  I've had a bittersweet year.  Tomorrow celebrates 5 months post op and I still am amazed that I'm "on the other side."  I've been prescribed some exercises by Dr. Lenke's physical therapist:

Upper Body Workout while lying on bed, x3 set of 10 reps:
Tricep curls
Bicep curls (sitting on edge of bed)

Lower Body Workout, x3 sets of 10 reps:
Single Leg Step-Up (at bottom step of our stairs)
Modified Lunges (can you believe it??? Lunges???)

My weekly workout schedule is:
single leg step-ups, everyday
walk 5 miles every day, Mon - Sat
lower body workout, Mon, Wed, Fri
upperbody workout, Tues, Thu, Sat
rest, Sunday

Dr. Lenke explained to me that walking is the most critical exercise postop as it is a weight bearing exercise that promotes bone growth.  According to Dr. Lenke, full fusion occurs between 6 - 9 months postop.  I'm doing every possible to walk as much as possible (as long as it doesn't cause me pain) because I am in the crucial fusion period.

The day after my last post in February, I weaned completely off all pain meds.  Occasionally, I take one Tylenol if my back tightens up after an upper body workout, but I haven't had to take one in a few weeks.  I can honestly say that at this stage of my life, I am the healthiest I've ever been.

I'm still limited with certain movements until one year post op: no bending, lifting, twisting.  I tried squatting downward to get items into the lower dishwasher rack, but when I talked with Lenke's nurse, she told me I shouldn't be doing that.  I'm not able to get items into/out of the dryer either as that involves both bending and twisting.  We'll probably invest in front load machines soon. 

I'm struggling to cope with Ma's passing, it's been difficult for all of us.  The greatest gift Ma gave me was spending her final weeks taking care of me postop.  I'm thankful she was able to witness my successful surgery.  Thank you, God, for an amazing mom and incredible best friend.  For those of you reading this who smoke... QUIT, you are literally killing yourself.  It has been a blessing to spend more time with Pa.  I pray God keep him strong and healthy.

After getting very sick from one Forteo injection postop (I was doing daily Forteo injections preop), I talked with Dr. Lenke's nurse and asked her if it is true, does severe scoliosis skew bone density results to read worse than they really are?  She confirmed this as accurate.  She reviewed my density report with me and confirmed that my density, outside of my lumbar area, has nearly 100% normal bone density.  She went on to explain that with all the BMP Dr. Lenke packed into my lumbar, that there should not be a density issue in my lumbar area ever again.  I decided to no longer continue with Forteo.

Last month I was able to meet a group of fellow scoli sisters in Atlanta.  Two of the ladies who were preop brought their hubbies so they could chat with Jeremy about what to expect from a caregivers perspective.  There was another woman who was postop.  It was wonderful meeting the ladies and hubbies and we hope to get together in a few months.

It seemed surreal to me that I was offering advice on what to expect from spinal surgery because of how fast everything fell into place for me:
June 2011 realized something was seriously wrong with my spine because of debilitating pain
July 2011 met Dr. A in Atlanta and scheduled surgery for Aug
Aug 2011 Dr. A cancelled surgery because my spine was too severe for her skills
Sept 2011 traveled to St. Louis to meet Dr. Lenke who scheduled me for Aug 2012 surgery
Nov 2011 accepted a cancellation slot and had surgery!

It is like a dream how events unfolded.  I am finally living the life I've dreamed of, pain free!  It is incredible that all my pain is completely gone.  My reason for having the surgery was to first stop the progressing curves and next, prayed for some sort of relief of pain.  Dr. Lenke explained that patients fall into one of three categories:
70% patients have a decrease in pain
22% patients have no change in current pain levels
8% patients have worse pain postop

Praise God for granting me to be pain free for the first time in over 10 years! 

I've been asked a lot lately when will I be back to "normal."  Never.  I am creating my new normal.  This surgery has taught me how to be adaptable and creative, but above all, it has taught me humility. 

I look forward to seeing Dr. Lenke in a few weeks.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

3 Month Post Op Xrays

Yesterday I had my 3 month post op xrays taken locally which will be sent to Dr. Lenke.  Can you see the little cages:
There seems to be a little connector piece above the top cage that is connected to both rods; I'll have to find out what that is.

Don't the screws look huge:

My dad said they look longer than the screws holding up his house.  :)

I'm trying my best to completely wean off the last pain med.  Recently I decide to skip the 1 pill a day I'm down to but ended up waking at 1a really hurting.  I took 1/2 a pill and it helped a lot.  So now I'm down to 1/2 a pill per day and look forward to ending this cycle soon.

I realized recently how much of my days/nights preop were spent in bed because of pain vs. life postop. Preop days were comprised of me laying day every afternoon at 1p until about 3p or 4p, up for dinner then back in bed by 6:30p for the night. Now, I lay down for maybe 45 minutes at some point in the afternoon to stretch out, not because of pain and go to bed around 9p to watch TV until about 10:30p. My days are much more productive now that the pain is gone.

I've been walking a lot more this week; just getting lost in thoughts and losing track of steps taken.  The other day I walked 4.6 miles and was completely wiped out and slept great.  Lizzie and I went to the mall because I needed new jeans (I've lost 13 pounds because of the surgery).  I lost Lizzie's pedometer in the dressing room and when we went back to get it, it was gone.  Oops!  I can't tell you how many pedometers our family has lost in the past 2 years.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Arlene Lob Memorial Fund for Cancer

In loving memory of our dear friend and Les Lob's wonderful wife, Arlene, we have established an Arlene Lob Memorial Fund to Fight Cancer.  It is intended to collect funds in the short term to be given to the battle toward cancer.  The Fund is organized by the We The People group of Tanglewood and the Highlands Tea Party.  Les is co-founder and an active member of both groups.  Arlene's support and encouragement for Les contributed greatly to the work of these groups.

We are accepting cash contributions and personal checks made out to "We The People" up until March 1st.  You can give donations to Zelda Kimm, Dale Pflug, Jack Nelson and John Larsen or mail contributions to Dale Pflug, 3312 Beartooth Pass, Sebring, FL 33872. 

We all recognize the ravages that cancer has made in our community and its growing threat in the future.  Tanglewood is in the midst of its annual Cancer Drive, and at the close of that drive, a check will be written by We The People in Memorial to Arlene Lob from funds contributed at that time.  Funds received afterward will be forwarded to other Cancer Campaigns as they become available.

Please give generously to this worthy cause! We know that many have already contributed to the cancer drive, but if you have not, please consider this initiative.  If you have questions, please call Dale Pflug at home, 863-658-1280

Thank you for your consideration. If you knew Arlene and Les, please pass this message to others that can help!

Dale Pflug
John Nelson
John Larsen
Zelda Kimm

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Incision Pix

I have a funny little story to share about the incision pix.  Last week while at Dad's, I glanced down and saw some before/after photos of me on a table.  It caught me off guard because I didn't recognize the photos so I asked Dad about them.  He said Mom wanted to show them to some of her friends.  Yesterday, I asked Jeremy to send me all the postop pix he had of me because I'm ready to look at them.  I haven't seen many of the photos because I wasn't comfortable looking at them, until now.  Jeremy show me the photos but I did not see the set that Dad had at his house.  After speaking with Dad today, he said I received a letter from Dr. Lenke's office while he and Mom were here in December which contained the photos.  After digging through a file cabinet today, I found the letter.  Dad mentioned that when I received it, I told Jeremy to put it away and that I didn't want to look at it.

While I am a bit apprehensive about exposing my body to the world, I hope that those who are contemplating surgery may find hope/strength/inspiration in seeing what is possible with surgery.  I, myself, was very grateful to see before/after pix of scoli patients.  Here is the first batch:

The photo above is from Dr. Lenke's office showing 6 days preop and 9 days postop.  I was still swollen but the changes are obvious including my rib hump (side shot photos) disappearing.  I now have 36 screws, 2 rods, 2 cages and a couple of bolts comprised of a combination of cobalt chrome and titanium.  I regained the 4 inches of height that I lost last year so I'm back to 5'10".

The above photo is 12 weeks post.  Notice how my left hip sticks out now?  Dr. Lenke will look at this when I see him in May.

I have more photos to post.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Special Prayer Request - Updates

It is with a heavy heart I write this blog as Mom went home to be with our Lord on Feb 13.  I am finding peace in knowing that she did not suffer an exceptionally long time with the cancer and am especially comforted to know that she passed away peacefully at home with Dad by her side.  It was a humbling experience for me to be by Dad's side last week.  I am very thankful that my brother and sister-in-law were able to be there with us to help comfort Dad.  There has been a tremendous outpouring of love and support from friends, family and neighbors; THANK YOU!  I pray that God continues to give Dad strength and peace and that He helps all of us heal.  It amazes me that Mom found the strength to be here for our family postop in December and that we managed to have an early Christmas dinner including my brother and sister-in-law.  We hadn't been together like that in many years.

The drive to Dad's is about 8 hours plus a little extra for a gas stop and lunch.  I discovered that after about 1.5 hours in the car, I needed to sit on a pillow.  We stopped 1/2 way in Valdosta which is 4 hours from home.  I don't think we could have pressed on beyond 4 hours as my back was tensing up from stress.  We stopped at the 2 hour mark so I could get out and walk.  It was chilly outside so we found a Kroger where I walked inside.  It was incredibly refreshing to be in sunny, warm Florida where I was able to walk outside on flat ground.  I'm restricted at the moment from walking inclines and since we live in a hilly neighborhood, Dr. Lenke doesn't want me walking my neighborhood yet.

Since I wasn't able to make it to St. Louis last week, Dr. Lenke will accept local xrays to be sent to him.  I'm back to walking 2.5+ miles a day.  It is interesting to realize how walking actually feels good now compared to preop.  I will try to remind Jeremy to take 12 week post op photos today and post a slew of pics from day 2 postop to present.  I'm eager to see the changes.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Special Prayer Request - Updates

My folks came to Georgia in December to help take care of Lizzie while I was in St. Louis and then also helped take care of me once I came home.  Their time here was cut short by severe back pain that afflicted my mom.  We all thought Ma may have tweaked her back with a pinched nerve or something similar.  Since they returned to Florida, Ma's pain has increased significantly.

It has been determined that Ma has lung cancer which was also found in her back.  She will have 3 weeks of radiation targeting her back and then will start chemotherapy afterwards.  Since all my prayer warriors will see this link, I humbly ask that you join our family in lifting Arlene up in prayer for God to protect her, keep her strong, stop the cancer and ease her pain.  I also ask for you to keep Pa, Lester, in your prayers to remain strong during this challenging time.

I'm doing well with my recovery: started driving last week, am down to 2.5 pain pills within a 24 hour period, and am walking between 1.5 - 2 miles every day.  I'm excited to see Dr. Lenke in a couple of weeks for my first follow up visit in addition to having a special Valentine's Day with Jeremy while we are in St. Louis.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Good, the Bad and the Blackout

It's been a while since I posted because I've been focusing my energy on recovery: eating, walking and resting.  I am 5 weeks 4 days post-op as of today and am down to one pain med.  Thank goodness I'm weaned off the other pain meds!

Update on Ma's back issue.  She hasn't been able to start physical therapy until today and Pa said that she had a good session, but is definitely tired now.  She returns for more therapy tomorrow so please keep her in your prayers.

My in-laws are here this week helping us and we are so thankful.  Today is Lizzie's 12th birthday and Nana baked her a birthday cake.  Looking forward to dessert tonight!

The Good
Had my first big outings from the house this past weekend since the not-so-successful outing on Dec 24th to see Christmas lights.  On Saturday, Jeremy took me and Lizzie to the hair salon.  I was a bit apprehensive about the hair washing part since the chairs are low to the ground and recline backwards.  We brought my pillow and it actually turned out better than I expected.

On the way home, we had lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant.  I've been walking through the house without my walker for about 2 weeks, but brought the walker with us in case I needed it.  Our server recognized us right away (it's been a couple of months since we were there last) and was extremely accommodating when he saw the walker.  He was kind to pull the table toward me to make sure I was comfortable.  I must say, it was a beautiful, sunny day and it felt so refreshing to be a part of society again.

Driving home, the pain hit me full force and thankfully we had my med with me because I knew my dose would be due prior to getting home.  We learned on this outing that my current maximum time in a car is no more than 30 minutes one way and to be away from home no more that 3 hours.  We were actually gone 4 hours and it was just a bit too much.

On Sunday, we took Lizzie to a pre-birthday lunch with her friend.  We were well planned with the distance of the restaurant from home, meds and water in hand, pillow and walker packed.  When we arrived we were given a choice of waiting for a table with chairs or to be seated right away in a booth.  My first choice was table, but since I didn't want to wait, Jeremy and I figured that if I sat at the outside end of the booth and he sit across from me, that might work out in terms of him helping me in/out of the booth.  Our plan was good but my execution was off which leads me to...

The Bad
As I was lowering myself onto the booth bench, I miscalculated the height of the bench and wound up dropping down onto the much lower than anticipated bench.  This sent a jolt up my spine that was quite painful to say the least.  Despite my faux pas, we had a delightful lunch but opted to take dessert home because the pain was increasing.

The Blackout
Sunday evening started out as my typical routine of going to bed.  I woke up about 4am to use the toilet and soon realized the little room where our toilet is located within our bathroom started to spin and that I had to get out ASAP.  I opened the door and started yelling for Jeremy.  What I don't know is if I was yelling in my head or just whispering because Jeremy didn't hear me.  I must have made some sort of noise because the last thing I remember was our dogs barking.  I woke up but I could not see anything except total blackness but I could hear Jeremy's voice.  I told him I didn't know where I was.  He said, "Drink this, keep drinking," he was holding a glass of Gatorade.  Next thing I remember was lying in bed with my vision restored.  I asked Jeremy what happened.

Jeremy explained that the barking dogs woke him up and instead of looking for me in bed, he said jumped out of bed and looked toward the bathroom.  He said he saw me trying to brace myself in the doorway of the where the toilet is located, but that I let go and was falling face first toward the bathtub.  Jeremy said he doesn't know how he did it (of course it was God that gave him the necessary speed), but he caught me from behind right before my head hit the tub but knew that he had to keep my back straight.

As Jeremy told me the story, he said he called out to Lizzie for help and asked her to bring a glass of juice.  I have a habit now post-op of keeping both water and juice at my bedside, but I had already drunk my juice which is why there wasn't any upstairs.

As Lizzie tells the story, she heard Jeremy yelling, "Oh God! Oh God!"  She thought she was dreaming until Jeremy yelled her name.

I asked Jeremy did I say anything after I fell.  He explained that I was out cold and was limp in his arms like a rag doll.  I asked how did he get me off the ground.  He had Lizzie push an office chair toward me and he somehow got me up into the chair and then rolled me to bed.

What caused this incident?  Initially we thought my hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) may have been the culprit.  If I don't eat small meals/snacks throughout the day, my blood sugar will drop to the point where I experience loss of vision (only able to see blackness) and the feeling that I will faint.  I haven't had a hypoglycemia incident in many, many years.  Since the surgery, Jeremy and I have been careful to keep water, juice and snacks at my bedside before I go to sleep at night.  The next day, I kept thinking about the entire event and something wasn't making any sense.

I began to recall 4 mild episodes about 3 weeks prior to the blackout that only occurred when I got up in the middle of the night to take meds and use the restroom.  These 4 other episodes felt as if I might have been starting a hypoglycemia incident, but because I wasn't fully awake at these times during the middle of the night, I kinda thought maybe I was just dreaming or that the combination of meds were making me think strange thoughts.  Immediately I realized the connection that these episodes only occurred in the middle of the night, so perhaps this had nothing to do with my hypoglycemia since my past incidents with hypoglycemia only occurred during the day.

Suddenly, I remember my doctor telling me about some side effects of the sleeping pill (Ambien) I was taking post-op: sleep walking and doing things in the middle of the night that patients have no memory of the next day like eating a lot of food out of the refrigerator and not knowing the next day where all the food went.  Jeremy and I talked about it and agreed that the sleeping pill might be the primary issue that caused the blackout.

After speaking with Dr. Lenke's nurse, Kelly, she explained that blackouts can be common post-op for a few different reasons:

1.  The combination of post-op meds can lower blood pressure.
2.  Blood counts can continue to be low several weeks post-op.
3.  Sitting up and getting out of bed too fast can cause blood pressure to drop quickly.

Kelly said she feels confident that because I normally have low blood pressure, the blackout was probably caused by a combination of the reasons listed above.  I immediately stopped taking the sleeping pill and am down to one pain med.  Since then, I have not only been able to sleep through the night one evening, but am very clear headed the times I wake up in the middle of the night, waking Jeremy to let him know I needed to get out of bed.  This is a precaution Kelly recommended for several days since the blackout that I don't go into the bathroom alone and to turn on all the lights.

Kelly told me that Dr. Lenke recently had a patient who blacked out in her bathroom, hit the tub on her way down and broke her neck!  I'm passing along this information for those who are scheduled for surgery so you can be aware that blackouts can be common.  I found relief in talking with one of Dr. Lenke's patients who also experienced a blackout.  She, too, tried to brace herself in a doorway but blacked out and hit her head on the door frame on her way down.  My relief was in learning how common blackouts can be; that my episode wasn't the first by any means.  Kelly said that if I had broken any of my hardware, I would have known it right away by experiencing excruciating pain.  The only thing I felt was some stiffness the next day in new places which was most likely caused by Jeremy catching me and having to move me off the floor.  

I continue to thank God for this journey, including the "hiccups" along the way, because each day is a bit better than the prior day.  As I mentioned in my first blog, I hope that by sharing my experiences, it may help someone leading up to their scoli surgery.