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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sticking to the Point

Today, I am scheduled to have my fourth acupuncture appointment. So far, it has been effective in decreasing the intensity and frequency of my pain. After the second visit, when I do need to take pain medicine (ibuprofen, acetomenophen), I have been able to reduce my dosage by 25%. With the pain reduction, I have an increased range of motion in my neck as well.

And, somehow, I am still not the biggest fan. I never felt good about the idea of sticking needles into me like a pin cushion, no matter how skinny they are. To begin, I got past the initial stage of just being weirded out by the acupuncture treatments, but this is no love affair. Then, as with most things good for you, I've got to work hard to get my insurance company to partially cover it. (Please, pray with me that they cover the acupuncture.)

After my first acupuncture appointment, I was so tired that I went home around 2 pm and slept most of the rest of that day. I also slept about 18-20 hours during each of the following two days. I thought it hadn't done me much good, but along came hormonal/monthly improvements that had been a problem for me the week prior to this visit. Besides, I realize that, if my body takes that kind of a sleep break, some internal healing is probably going on.

Second visit: I felt so good when my acupuncture visit was over at noon, I ran errands until 5:00 pm. I'd had a whole afternoon with no noticeable pain for the first time in a months. By 5:00 pm, I was done. Fatigue and neck pain came and hit me like a brick. My pain free/med free day was over. It was ibuprofen, muscle relaxer and a nap for me. I didn't get up until I woke the family for suhoor (pre-dawn breakfast) at 4:00 am the next morning.

Third visit: I told the doctor about my pain free day that ended in a crash. He said, "I should have warned you about that. It happens to so many people. You should't increase your activity so drastically, even if you feel good." Why is it that I have to be told these things? Where is my own common sense? Suss!... Anyway, after the third acupuncture visit, it rained for four days straight. Now, you may recall that stormy weather has been excruciatingly painful for me since my surgery. But, these days, I have only needed 1-2 doses per day of pain medicine as opposed to the every 4-6 hours I would take during previous barometric pressure changes.

So, while I'm still not too excited about acupuncture, I go for my fourth visit today. Ah, if only there were some relaxing spa treatment that yielded the same results. Until I find out about that miracle massage/pedicure/whirlpool, I guess I'm sticking to the point.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Two months out and all clear

It's been almost two months since my decompression surgery, and, this week,  Dr. W has given me the green light to exercise and increase my activity at will. I shouldn't have to worry about a leak this far from surgery, so the really scary part is over. My scar and range of motion got his thumbs up too!

As for pain, it has diminished greatly in the last two months. That is not to say I'm pain free, but what I feel now doesn't even compare to those first weeks. Mostly, I am like a human barometer. I get pain in my head and/or back before the rain and on really hot days (almost every other day in July!). The doctor assured me that would diminish over the next three months, hopefully to nothing.

Aside from that, it's a question of stamina. I am increasing my activities, kind of testing the waters and pushing myself to get back to a "normal" level of activity. I've been stretching and walking daily since the second day after surgery. Now, I'm picking up the pace and lengthening my stride and distance. I'm also doing more errands and housework, but I consistently find that I have to take rest for my neck midday.

I'm now off of prescription pain relievers, but I frequently take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain, sometimes enhanced with a low dose of aspirin. This week, I also went back to taking a muscle relaxer called skelaxin before the rain or when the forecast is over 100 degrees. I don't really understand why, but it worked for me before surgery, and I decided to give it a try to avoid taking any more codeine. With it, I'm able to function through the bad days.

In an effort to leave behind all the drugs, prescription or over the counter, I'm seeking some alternative health care treatments:

So far, I've got homeopathic treatments along with monthly cranial-sacral manipulation. Right now, I'm taking homeopathic treatments for headache and nausea. The nausea is much better since surgery, but returns frequently. It turns out, getting rid of the nausea reduces my urge to snack significantly. I sure hope this bodes well for weight loss!

I'm also beginning acupuncture. I got my first treatment a couple of weeks ago, and slept for most of the following two days. I begin bi-weekly treatments on Tuesday, so we'll see how it goes.

I went only to an initial visit with the Reflexologist/Reiki practitioner for Reflexology. I definitely noticed an immediate effect, and this may be effective going forward. However, I may be getting overwhelmed with all the poking and prodding. I think I'll put this one on the back burner until the jury is in on acupuncture. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Backtrack to 6/13 - Surgery and Recovery Room

5:00 AM Leave for hospital with David and Intisar, Mommy following by car.

5:30 AM Arrive at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

6:00 AM Begin getting prepped for surgery as Daddy, Ms. Dail and Sabrina arrive too.

8:30 AM Go to Operating Room (OR) by stretcher; mentally memorize OR setup before being put to sleep.
               The Anesthesiologist had already explained at this point that I would be put to sleep, turned over,
               and the surgery would be done while I'm face down.

Here's where everything gets fuzzy. I can add events from my limited memory of the remainder of this day, but I had absolutely no concept of time and very little judgement (to be trusted) at this point. I'll just give my exaggerated view of the time lapse and human interaction instead. Family, feel free to comments to fill-in additional information. I do realize that my memory of that day may leave a few gaps.

Seconds later, I awoke in a small recovery room with one glass wall facing the hallway. A nurse named Hazel (I think - a brown woman with short hair) was smiling at me. She asked me what my pain felt like on a scale of 0-10 with 0 being no pain and 10 the worst I could imagine. I said 10.

Seconds later, I woke up again, same room, same nurse, same questions. She asked if I could stay awake for a few minutes. I said, of course. My pain answer was the same: 10.

Seconds later, same thing. This time, she told me to try to stay awake. I said I would. Pain still 10. She asked me to turn over, but I explained why that would be impossible at that time. She tried unsuccessfully to convince me. She even threatened to turn me, but I warned her not to touch me.

Seconds later, same thing. Pain still at 10. This time, she told me she needed me to stay awake for a while. I asked for pain meds. She said she'd given me some, but I needed to be awake for more.

Seconds later, I awoke to the same pain! This time, Dr. Weingart was smiling beside me. He explained that it was very important that I stay awake so that they could give me a medicine pump to administer my own pain meds. I told him that I'd been awake (although that Hazel just wouldn't believe me). He also got onto the turning soapbox. I explained to him that would hurt too much. He said that I couldn't continue to lay on my incision. I promised I would turn (but didn't).

Seconds later, I awoke to Dr. W repeating himself. I asked why I couldn't have pain medicine. I told him I could probably turn if they would just give me the pain meds. He said that Hazel had been putting it in the IV, but I couldn't tell.

Seconds later, I awoke to my family standing around parroting Dr. W, something about staying awake. I wondered why they wouldn't just give me the pump. Why was I still begging for pain relief?

A few seconds after that, I awoke to Intisar reciting Qur'an, I think it was Surah Yasin.

A few seconds after that, I awoke to Sabrina standing to my left speaking in an infuriatingly soft, calm voice.

Seconds later, I awoke to Dr. Blanco parroting Dr. W again about me staying awake. Again, I reiterated that I'd basically been awake the whole time anyway. Maybe I'd dozed a bit, but I really didn't see why that would justify delaying the medicine pump any longer.

The next few seconds involved waking and sleeping as Hazel implored me to turn, intermittently giving me pain meds by IV.

Next thing I know, Dr. Blanco appeared again. He too wants me to turn. Exasperated and irritated, I told him that would be impossible. He asked me to rate my pain on a scale of 0-10. I told him 11. He wouldn't accept that as it was off the scale. I said 10. He told Hazel to give me pain medicine.

Next time he asked, I said 7 or 8. He was very excited about this answer. He turned to someone and triumphantly told them that I was now getting 20% improvement from the pain dosage, as if I'd arrived at some goal. If my voice would have cooperated, I would have screamed, "How is anything good about a 7 OR 8!" Instead, I went to sleep.

Seconds later, someone woke me up to do a test:
What is your name?
Where are you?
What is today's date?
Follow my finger.
Next came a bright light in one eye, then the other.
Lift your arms out and close your eyes.
Pull my fingers. Push them. Lift your knee and push my hands. Press the gas with your feet.

At some point, I suspect that night fell. A new nurse came and the family disappeared. She started in right away with the test and told me to expect more of them. She apologized for the "silly questions" but I was thinking of many more words for them than silly. Finally, just when I thought I might get some sleep, she brings up the turning AGAIN. I knew I'd have to turn, and I didn't want to heal wrong. It's just that I couldn't control my neck, and someone else moving it was worse than what I could imagine.

Then, she made a blessed promise. If I could turn my neck, she would give me an ice pack. She tried to help and I tried to stab her with my eyes. She called another nurse in to help. I told her I could do it myself. I first turned my legs to one side. Then, I grabbed my hair and pulled my head up until it was off the pillow. I then used my other hand to turn my chin to the other side. While I held my head up, the nurse inserted an ice pack under my neck. Then, I laid down to the cooling bliss of ice against my molten neck. I slept.