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.



  1. We are so grateful you are okay!!! May God continue to give you strength and courage!! Tell Lizzie we said Happy Birthday!

  2. Will continue to pray for you and your mom and whole family!