BS2018 – RD23 The Return to the Gym

Category: Gym / Weighlifting Workouts, Injuries

I can touch the floor. Now when I drop something I am able for the most part to pick it  up… Slowly and carefully but all the same I can do it…

Yesterday I did the 5th of my 5 day gym rotation finally sealing my first set of workouts since the surgery. It took more than 5 days and there was some mixing of body parts but I think I did OK. I have been testing my leg strength every day and before I went into surgery I had 10% of my leg strength, that is to say I could do 120lbs on the leg extension with my left leg and only 10 with my right. Also, I was only able to do about 3 reps and that was all. I am happy to say that the strength is coming back slowly even if the stamina is still extremely poor. I was able to get up to 25lbs for at least 3 reps the day I was supposed to do legs, and then spent the rest of the time trying to crank out as many 10lb reps as I could but my max was about 3 or 4 in a row until I couldn’t straighten my leg any more. I tested again yesterday and although I didn’t do much I was able to get above 30lbs for a couple of attempts. The rest of my workouts are basically just trying to reactivate the muscle and get my active tissue back so I can burn more calories. The long term plan is to try to reduce my weight to around 220lbs from my current 235 where I have been for the last 10 years. I think if I can get down to 220 for a year or two then I can try to push lower as time passes. You don’t see many 275lb 70 year olds around but you do see some that are pushing 230 so I feel like I am not on the endangered species list any more.

As for details I was able to bench 185 without any pressure on my back but I had to do all my back workouts standing using cables rather than on the lat machine sitting down. Shoulders were done not sitting but standing and laying on an incline and traps also done with cables standing. These are not ideal but are getting me back to where I need to be which is active in every area of my body. I think I am going to have to add a day of yoga into my schedule also this year. I recall doing the Tony Horton Fountain of Youth yoga was something that I really enjoyed and had significant benefits for me. I wasn’t enamored with it at first but once I had it as part of my schedule and got 10 sessions or so under my belt I really started to enjoy it. Of course Tony describing the benefits and advantages to you while you work also seeps into your brain after a while and that’s not a bad thing. So I think with my leg workouts sadly lacking that maybe leg day will turn into leg and yoga days for the time being. Of course there is extreme stretching for the lower back involved with which I will have to be microscopically attentive.

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BS2018 – RD16 – Pain with a side of pain.

Category: Gymnastics / Bootcamp

So the last 3 days have been a real shit show, please excuse the language but honestly I can’t think of a more appropriate description. It is the pain. It has been so bad I have resorted to being back on painkillers to function and although it is only temporary it really bothers me. the problem is the increased mobility in my back. It has been almost 8 weeks since my trip to the hospital and so a very long time since the fine and gross motor muscles of my back have had anything to do. Anyone who has ever broken anything and spent weeks in a cast can attest to the pain that accompanies the first few days of use. The problem with your spine is that every single thing you do from breathing to putting on your shoes involves your back. Last surgery I had issues with my hips. The pain was excruciating and kept me from sleeping for several days at a time. This time it’s the muscles of my lower back that are the issue and the pain is just as intense as the trip to the hospital. In case you are wondering just how painful that is imagine being in so much pain you beg someone to knock you out. Imagine the worst toothache you have ever had (since that is often nerve related) now multiply that by the ratio of your body to your tooth, or approximately (since the average tooth is 1g) 100,000x. It is for all intents and purposes impossible to imagine. Since having my staples out I am able to use the heat which has helped but still the pain comes in ever increasing waves each time I go from one position to another.

On the upside I know the pain is from an ever increasing degree of ability, the more I can do the more everything hurts but it’s now Sunday (day 19) and after spending the day at a gymnastics competition yesterday I am happy to report that the pain is starting to subside. Not only that, it’s 5 degrees today which is a welcome change from the cold and snow we have been having and it also means that next week I should be able to resurrect my walking schedule. But first let’s talk about what all this mobility means in real terms. I can now put one sock on by myself. I can actually do both but the left foot is a real challenge and getting the sock on straight is a pipe dream. Getting into the car is a lot easier now, I don’t have to go bum first any more I can go one leg like a human. I can’t really reach the floor yet. I have tried but unless what I am reaching for is pretty tall it is just not happening. Which means that when I drop anything in the kitchen it’s immediately dog food. Standing for long periods is tough as is sitting but since I managed to pick up a VR headset for black Friday I have been able to do both with regularity and it helps to move between positions as often as possible. So generally speaking things are improving steadily once again. I do have to be very careful about twisting too much and of course with little pain I forget to reach for things with great care. But as I often tell people I am less than 3 weeks out of surgery and I am almost completely functional again so I really can’t complain too much. I haven’t had the chance to go back to the gym to do legs yet because I am waiting an extra week to sit and do the extensions that will tell me just how much strength has come back into my leg. I fear that the answer is very little.  After the impingement I was down to less than 10% and right before the surgery I was back up to 25% but now I am not sure. What I do know is that the muscles themselves are nowhere near back to normal, the nerve pathways are still inactive and the muscle is all but useless without those signals. It will take a while to come back, I just hope it’s not a permanent situation like the first surgery was. As for the feeling in my leg it is slightly better, I get some feeling in my quad and knee now which is good but the sensation is very far from normal as of yet.

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BS2018 – RD14 Milestone Completed

Category: Injuries

Pain 4 Mobility 7
Pain is up due to staple removal, mobility is up because I can sit!

Today I got my staples removed at the walk in clinic. The doctor was surprised at the number and the size of the incision until I explained to hm that I had 2 discs taken care of this time. The removal was not enjoyable in the least. Each staple sounded like it was cut for some reason and then removed however now I have had a chance to look at a couple of videos I can see that the noise isn’t the staple being cut just the sound of the staple being folded back against itself so that the ends come out. That said, each video I watched claimed that the staple removal was painless which is typical medical bullshit. The procedure feels like someone digging the staples out with a knife. It’s not painless at least not in your spine and it’s not something I would suggest you look forward to. However, the upside is that I can now use my electric blanket to help with the intense soreness in my lower back and after last night using it I feel a lot better this morning.

It has been snowing for 2 days here so walking has been out. I have been walking at the gym and standing a lot but it is just not the same as a long purposeful walk and I think part of the soreness is due to that lack of lengthy mobility. I will be going to costco this morning in the hopes that a walk around the giant store will serve as some good walking practice. So I am 2 weeks from surgery, I am now officially allowed to sit again and take a bath but their suggestion was that I don’t drive until my first follow up with the doc. That is because of the issues with my leg but since the issues (except the mass) are no longer chronic I think I am good to get out and drive about a bit. Lets hope the snow stops before the weekend and I have to drive to Orangeville …

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BS2018 – RD12 – Reflections and Plateaus

Category: Gymnastics / Bootcamp

Pain 1 Mobility 6

I was checking back over my 2002 surgery recovery journal and even though I know I was terrible in my execution of my rehab I had forgotten just how badly it went due to my own idiocy. Not only did it take me 11 days to start walking outside but the first 2 months were rife with relapses. I had forgotten just how many times it happened but as I read back it appears as though there were at least 5 incidents where my nerves were impacted during my recovery. Not only did this make my recovery so much longer but it also ended up impacting my long term recovery in a very negative way. I know that in comparison I only had 2 such incidents during my 2013 recovery one of which was 100% avoidable and my own fault and that my restoration took significantly less time and was infinitely more successful. That said, both recoveries had a big plateau component to them which I am passing through right now. It isn’t that I don’t feel better it is more that my recovery is slowing down as I get better. The days of improving leaps and bounds are over and I am left with incremental improvements that are only noticeable 3 to 4 days at a time. I am also experiencing the usual muscular tightness around my incision and across my lumbar spine. This is totally normal but a real pain because it makes me more aware of the movements I am making and now requires attention to fix. Typically as you start to rehab an injury it takes a while for your body to adapt to moving again and as my spine flexes and twists more as the pain leaves so the muscles have to adapt and start to load up again causing soreness.

I had a rough patch this week, after stopping the painkillers on Saturday (Day 5) it took a week to get the shakes, nerves and emotional catharsis out of my system. For anyone who hasn’t experienced withdrawal from painkillers it’s not fun. Irrational emotional mood swings, cold and hot spells mostly overlapping and of course intense digestive distress together with a headache that feels like someone is driving a car over your face. Yes it’s all fun and games until you have to stop…

As for the pain, I am starting to get more muscular pain ghte more I stand and move. I have been sitting a little and that has caused so much more pain while the muscles adjust. I am now at the point where I have extreme pain when I have been standing for a while and have to sit or lay down. In fact  it is painful no matter what I switch from and to and this is something I expected. I just didn’t expect it to be quite so painful.

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BS2018 – RD08 – Tiring

Category: Injuries

Pain 1 Mobility 6
Weight 225

I can’t actually justify going any higher with the mobility than 6 until I can sit and do something related to the gym. Woke up this morning on my side and really didn’t feel any worse for wear. This is great news knowing that I can actually sleep on my side not my back and have no ill effects. Other than that it has been 2 days of quite a lot of exercise (relatively speaking) and I don’t feel anything except a bit of lethargy. Yesterday’s treadmill walk was a chore, I had heavy legs and each step was harder and harder as the time passed. I also took the chance to go sit in the car and see if the seat was able to recline enough for my comfort and be safe enough to drive. The jury is out on that for now but it’s already been 8 days, my 2 week ban on sitting upright is looming and my sense of freedom beckons.


Pain 1 Mobility 6

My pain is fine, I have some tightness across the lower back from standing. I know this familiar feeling and unfortunately the stretches that help are not something I can really entertain at this point. However I have spent more time on my feet and plenty of walking so although I am not pushing too hard I am definitely past my comfort zone. It is supposed to be nicer today and since it was -20 yesterday that’s not hard but it does mean that tomorrow I should be able to make my long awaited trip to Tim’s. Medically my situation is still improving day on day but it is getting harder to tell since my mobility is OK and to the untrained eye I probably just seem sore from an overexertion rather than someone who still has enough metal in my spine to set off an airport detector. I am very stable on my feet although my leg still has little feeling, and it is my understanding that it can be up to 9 months for the feelings to return. My pain even when moving around is minimal, I haven’t had any additional painkillers since day 8 which was a week ago tomorrow with makes me very happy. Now the biggest thing I have to deal with is the small matter of the relapse. It happened after each prior surgery and I am going to do whatever I can to make sure it doesn’t happen this time. The problem with that is that the first time it took 40 days to happen and after surgery 2 it took 63 days. I remember a fall down the stairs at some point but I can’t seem to find any indication of when that happened although I am sure I once did. That said I am now aware of the fact that my relapses weren’t at the early stages at all but once I had been lulled back into a false sense of invincibility. I did discover that I had been doing very light workout tests at this point last time which I am already partly way through again. I was able to bench without pain yesterday if only to prove the mechanics not the tolerance for any weight. I was able to do some band work at the gym yesterday again only to prove my mobility not my capacity and it was just fine. Last time around it took me around 2 weeks to venture back to the gym and as much as I feel like going today I won’t, it’s just not a smart choice.

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BS2018 – RD7 – It’s been one week…

Category: Injuries

It’s been one week since you looked at me
Threw your arms in the air and said you’re crazy

– Barenaked Ladies, One Week.

Pain 2 Mobility 6
Weight 226

Some people may have looked at me last Monday and thought I was crazy to be going in to surgery but if there is one thing I have learned over my lifetime of back issues it’s that knowing when to wait and knowing when to act are absolutely critical to prevent permanent damage. I learned the hard way that poor judgment both pre-op and post-op are truly a recipe for disaster. My quality of life since my first operation was severely compromised and the long term effects of waiting too long for surgery and then being far too timid in my recovery are things I am still dealing with to this day. But enough counting regrets I was convinced in my decision this time around that without surgery I would be one more impingement away from potentially permanent inability to feel almost my whole right leg. Although not having any feeling below my knee has been barely noticeable at times, not being able to feel my whole leg would be unacceptable. Not only that, I was concerned that the next time any involvement of my bowel and urinary system would potentially mean a lifetime of adult diapers and as much as having drop foot was frightening I am not willing to accept the potential of this particular side effect. The simple fact is that this particular nerve root was more central, much closer to the “saddle” nerve bundle and a much higher likelihood of affecting that particular system.

Anyway, today I woke up fine. Getting out of bed has been a deliberate and methodical process since the surgery but today I felt more fluid and flexible in my ability to go from laying to standing. Since those are the only 2 things I am permitted to do at this time the transition between the two is a major concern. Two days ago I attempted to sit on the Lazy boy and was greeted with what can only be described as a major breakthrough although getting in was fine, getting out was to be a painful and excruciatingly slow process. Fast forward to today and I am able to get in and out of the recliner with relative ease and getting in and out of bed is more of a formality than a challenge. Daily activities are becoming more mundane which is a great thing but the pain is a constant reminder of just how careful I need to continue to be. I was concerned that last night at the gym would have been a bad decision but this morning I don’t feel any worse than I have done any other day and although that is a good sign, I think I was pretty close to my limits.

Today is Tuesday and I got weighed this morning. I am down about 10lbs from before surgery and am looking both small, frail and old. Of course my relationship with the mirror is as distorted as what I see so I am sure other than looking a bit smaller I look the same. I will continue to monitor my weight and body fat so I can track my progress. This will be especially critical once I start going back to the gym to work out (and no I don’t mean slinging hundreds of pounds around). I do need to reactivate my body in the way to which it is accustomed, which means specific work for specific muscular systems in order to maintain the support my spine needs. Truth is that any weakness of the body transfers a majority of the load directly onto the spine. Having weak arms or shoulders will directly affect the load on your spine and that is exactly what I need to avoid.

Which brings me to my next thought. What to do about my workouts now after my surgery. I would be reckless to imagine that my workouts have had no effect on me. It’s stupid to assume that shrugging 500lbs or shoulder pressing 250lbs isn’t going to affect my spinal load. Those days are officially over. I am going to have to limit myself to bodyweight movements only and by that I don’t mean no weight, I mean limiting my weight to my bodyweight. Only benching 230 rather than my PR of 415 won’t be a big deal but not deadlifting at all, no squatting heavy and shrugging with tiny barbells will most certainly eat at my ego. But it really depends on if I want to struggle with my ego or my ability to walk. I think it’s time for a change.

Today’s facts. Feeling in the leg is the same, no strength changes that I can notice. Incision pain is about the same, a little itchy but no redness or swelling. My mobility is better in the house, and despite buying a nice new pair of winter boots I think today will be a treadmill day rather than venturing out into the -4 weather and freezing my ass off.

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BS2018 – RD6 Monday

Category: Injuries

Pain 2
Mobility 5

I managed my first outing yesterday by car, Nicole drove me to the gym so I could spend a few minutes with my girls and all in all it went pretty well. I am stable on my feet mostly due to the fact that my leg was already improving before I went under the knife. That said, my stamina is in the toilet and I am not sure I could spend more than an hour on my feet at this point. Other things to note, the pain is very localized to the incision but can still hit the pain meter at a respectable 5 or 6 when I move awkwardly. However, when I am standing still like I do to write these posts there is barely a perception of pain other than a dull ache across my low back and my leg. I still don’t have any feeling in the medial side of my leg from mid thigh down to the ankle. The strength is coming back very slowly but it’s hard to push it at all when I have to be so cautious. These are the dangerous days though, the times when every day brings big improvements and my confidence in my ability starts to build again. These are the days for supreme caution.

On the technical side of things these posts aren’t making it to facebook and I am not sure why. Twitter is getting them no problem but for some reason the connection to facebook isn’t working. I managed to fix the issues with the gym facebook link, maybe I just need to update the plugin here too… After some digging around I find that Facebook has disabled direct posting from wordpress. Thanks jerks.

It’s still early, 1045am and I am thinking of trying to reach Tim’s today. It is about 2.2km away and after yesterday doing almost 1.5K I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility. It is day 6 and after surgery 2 I made that trip (albeit in the sunshine and warmth) on day 5 while still dealing with the remnants of drop foot which is probably the most scary thing I have ever encountered from these issues. Not being able to control my foot was terrifying to be honest and something I would never wish on anyone.

It is now 220pm, I went for a walk in the +4 balmy afternoon sun and although the terrain was a little iffy at times I managed a healthy 1.8km. I opted not to go to Tims although I walked very close by so I am firm in my conviction now that getting there tomorrow should be a piece of cake. The snow is melting which makes for a treacherous outing in places but once I can get out to Walmart to buy a new pair of winter boots then I will be all set. I know I should have probably done that before the surgery but it was the one thing left on my list. I will be visiting the gym again tonight, something that as a habit I need to reinforce even if I can’t actually work yet. There is nothing worse then allowing yourself to plateau or become complacent in your recovery and although I don’t mean to overdo things I also want to keep my foot planted gently on the gas pedal and ensure that my recovery and my stamina are increasing on the daily. My walk today was as fast as usual which is to say requires a calendar more than a stopwatch however I was not as fatigued. In the evening I decided to venture out to the gym to see my girls and see how my body would stand up to, well, standing up. I spent a couple of hours on my feet ambling around the gym talking and observing and at the time it felt OK. It was tiring I must say that, but it wasn’t too painful and moving around even across the uneven surfaces was just fine. My leg although weak in comparison to my other is still just fine for walking on and with the exception of sharp hip flexor pain occasionally when I stand, it seems to be working. Tomorrow morning will be the judge of whether or not this was a good idea. I am going on what happened last time and if I am right then tomorrow morning I should feel a little sore but just fine. Time will tell.

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BS2018 – RD5 Sunday – The Rollercoaster

Category: Injuries

You can live with dignity you can’t die with it.

-House, M.D.

A side note first. I am glad I worked in a hospital for 21 years. It has given me an insider appreciation for what the medical staff go through on a daily basis. Having major surgeries gave me an appreciation for the end product but having worked inside those walls gave me the knowledge that every person who comes into your room be they custodial staff or department heads is there for one reason only and that is to support you in your journey to wellness So many patients don’t fully appreciate the commitment that all the staff have you as a patient and the weight that they carry in the awareness of that commitment.

Yesterdays yellow alert had a very familiar feel to it, I knew I had seen and felt these symptoms before and after some diligent searching through my personal documents I found that indeed this had happened at almost exactly the same point after surgery 2. I had determined at that time that it was due not to the medication directly but to the fact that the medication had stopped up my system causing constipation and an inability of my liver to process enough waste. I am not sure that it’s the truth, but there must be a combination of issues when you have to lay practically motionless for a few days, not eating or drinking much and taking high levels of medication. The fact is that just as quickly as it was here it is now gone, I am a perfectly normal colour again today, not even a shadow of yellowing in my hands and I am equally happy to report that the bathroom is no longer an issue with things progressing fairly normally.

It is currently 139pm and zero degrees with clouds, so I went for my walk hoping that snow would stay away and I would be able to make my goal for the day of 1.2km. I am not really bothered about my speed at this point, my walk is more for the development of my nerve pathways and the strength in my leg than doing anything reckless. However I am acutely aware that the human body is designed for movement, from the most delicate hands of a concert violinist to the gross motor developments of the powerlifter the essence of the human experience is movement. There have been very few mistakes in my life that I truly regret, however one of those was the underestimation of my ability after my first surgery. In some respects I feel as if I may never have had to experience 2 and 3 had I not screwed up my recovery after number one. That said, I do have degenerative disc disease so maybe that’s an overstatement. But.. if there was one thing I could go back and fix in my past my recovery from surgery 1 would be high on the top 5 lists of things to do over.

My walk today was 1.33km surpassing my goal of 1.2 and at a blistering pace of 15 minutes per kilometre. My leg feels fine today although after the walk I can sense the lack of muscular development and the weakness sensation in my knee is something that will probably take a while to come back. However I am firmly in my seat on the rollercoaster now and the ups and downs are as close to any thrill ride you will find. I posted in my previous recovery (which, I am sure I have linked before but can be found HERE)  that day by day I felt like a new person. 2 days ago I couldn’t face getting out of bed to use the bathroom and yet today I was gleefully able to sit in my recliner and watch TV while able now to walk up and down stairs like a normal person using both legs. The rate of recovery is staggering but it’s also a double edged sword. In both my previous recoveries I have had relapses. One was painfully to admit my own fault and the other was an accident where I fell down and through the basement stairs tearing my leg up in the process. I am glad to say that I am firmly resolved not to have such episodes this time and I have resolved to maintain the mentality of a recovering surgery patient for the full 6 weeks until I see the surgeon again rather than behaving like someone who had a hangnail removed and can’t wait to get back to the gym.

I do have to say one thing here. This is my third surgery and for those of you who are concerned over my ambition to get better or my need to increase my activity I will say just this. Have spent my whole life being hyper aware of my body, be that due to being a fat kid or an elite athlete it doesn’t matter what does matter is that I know myself all too well. Yes mistakes happen and judgements are sometimes off course but believe me when I say I am more than familiar with what it takes to get through recovery successfully. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the concern because I do, but trust in me when I say that there is nothing more valuable to me than my health and the thought of one day being able to walk down the aisle with my beautiful daughter rather than have her push me there in a wheelchair. Of course I will be careful, of course I will take it slowly but I will also give my body what it requires as far as motion and nutrition in order to get me through this.

With that said it is time for a rest and some food so the dog and I will be on the couch with steak if you need us.

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BS2018 – RD3/4 Friday and Saturday

Category: Injuries

Pain 8, Mobility 2
I woke up early, pain about the same and have already been ambling around the house trying to get some energy into my legs. It’s really hard when every move you make causes intense pain and yet your desire to get back to normal requires that you do so. I haven’t been doing much to be honest, I walked another 650m today but have yet to break 1km which I should already have done. Sadly I think I would have if it were summer and Tim Horton’s was my intended destination. That said, I am trying to keep going and plan on hitting that 1k before Sunday night. Friday was uneventful but I have scaled back on the pain killers since my biggest fear is a repeat of the addiction I suffered after my first surgery when I was given enough percocets to fill a Christmas Smarties container (yes the 3ft one). I was fortunate that I went to Australia but had to endure 5 days of withdrawal which in retrospect was almost as hard as the surgery recovery itself. I just checked and it was 39 days after my surgery that I went to Australia. That means I was on percocet almost constantly for over a month. That’s terrifying. In comparison to my second surgery where on day 4 I was already walking to Tims and testing out my ability to lift weights again (I know, probably not smart but one extreme to another seems to be how I do things).

I am not one to compare since this time I have had double the surgery as last time but on this day after surgery 2 I was feeling so good… well, this is what I wrote…

By the evening, I felt so much better that I decided to go to the gym to see the girls and have them explain in their own words what happened at competition. All I can say is that is went badly. Very very badly. A hard to swallow end to a very challenging day.

As a side note, this is a day that has lived in infamy with Liza, Elissa and me. It has been five and a half years and we still talk about that evening. We talked about their competition results and what had happened at the previous weekend (my only missed competition in 15 years coaching) and let’s just say it wasn’t a pleasant exchange of viewpoints.

Pain 4 Mobility 4

I am definitely moving around much better and I am happy to report that I haven’t taken any painkillers today and it’s already 130pm. The reason for that isn’t great because when I went to the washroom this morning I was shocked to see Homer Simpson in the mirror. My face and hands were almost completely yellow yet my eyes where still bright white. This is a very disturbing thing to see when you aren’t really awake and I decided I would check WebMD where everything is cancer to see what was wrong. Oddly enough I seem to remember this happening to me before but I can’t remember when. I am working with the assumption that due to lack of food and drink that my system is being overwhelmed by byproducts of my medications and the bilirubin count is skyrocketing. Although cleansing isn’t a thing, your body does require liquid to process anything through the kidneys and liver and I think that trying not to drink too much in order to avoid going to the bathroom wasn’t a quality decision. It is now after 130pm and I feel like my colour is pretty normal and even the yellowing of my hands is almost completely gone.

The benefit of all of this is that I am not completely disabled while not taking any morphine. I can’t say I am conformable in any way but the pain is manageable save that few seconds getting out of bed which is basically hell on earth. Here’s a fun experiment for you all, get someone to put 23 staples in your back and see how much fun it is to do some yoga..:)

I am going to try to get out and walk this afternoon, determined to hit my 1000m goal today but although my confidence is high my realistic expectation is that I will get to about 700 and call it a day. I did manage to make $500 on selling some old snow tires so today has been a good day in some respects and my mood is pretty good considering it’s a snowy landscape outside and I feel a little trapped.

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Back Surgery 2018 – Day 0

Category: Injuries

It is very odd going into major surgery feeling OK. Usually I am in agony on a gurney or at the very least struggling to be mobile enough to move around This time however things are different. The injury I sustained just 2 short months ago was serious enough that another incident will give me permanent damage in most of my right leg. So it is with understandable trepidation that I set off on this journey once again.

In reviewing my last posts about the surgery I find that it was too much writing and not enough fact. I am starving for details about how I felt and what I am going to expect in the coming weeks. So this time I will try to expand more on what I am feeling and how my progress is going.

I sat in the most bizarre waiting room in any hospital in the world, remembering that 5 years ago I felt exactly the same. If you have never been to the surgical waiting room at St Mikes it’s a mixture of baroque paintings and classical decorations that make you feel like you are on a set of a period film rather than waiting for surgery. As they wheel you down the hallways to the OR it becomes even more odd with pictures of small children petting cats and oil painted landscapes fit for a stately home. The waiting is the worst part, hanging about just napping and wasting time until the surgical suite is yours. I sent about 4 hours on a bed waiting to be taken but once they came for me that familiar feeling of the bottom of the initial hill on a rollercoaster comes to mind. There was no turning back, terrified or not there was no getting off the ride and as the car crested the hill the plastic mask went over my face and a tear rolled down my cheek.

The relief on waking was something I will never forget. This time I had been having doubts, probably from my advanced age, that things might not go OK but as the fog lifted from my brain I came to the realization that I was in fact still alive. I revelled in this miracle of a revelation for about 3 seconds until I felt the first hit of pain. It has been a long time since I have felt pain like that, and other than the nerve pain of actual spinal cord damage there is nothing quite as excruciating as the pain of a deep incision in your body. I lay very still for as long as I could stirring only to try to drink or to soothe my throat with ice. The intubation had made my lips and throat raw and the surgery had left me incapable of any movement without tsunamis of pain washing over me. I drifted in and out of sleep for the rest of the day with Alyssa the nurse managing my pain and my hydration for me. Nicole and Elyse turned up right after I woke and it was really nice to see familiar faces and eventually taste some real food and some coffee. My memory of the rest of that day are sketchy at best but I do remember being frustrated at not being allowed to try to stand or walk.

Recovery Day 1 – Wednesday
Pain 10 Mobility 1

Wednesday was discharge day and although things moved quickly it was a long and involved process to get out of the hospital. I had to get assessed by the physio who, by the way, was the very same lady as 5 years ago. My ability to walk confirmed and my desire to leave increasing I managed to get dressed and be ready for the long walk to the car. What I can say is that I am glad I was asleep for the surgery because the car ride home was probably what it would’ve felt like. Every bump, every swerve every turn and braking sent bolts of pain through me and it was an excruciating 45 minutes until we were in Aurora at which point I was able to look out of the window and see… snow. Seriously? Snow. The rest of the day was spent in bed or walking gently around the kitchen and family room trying to get my balance and strength back. Nicole was kind enough to go get me some supplies from the health store including a grabby tool and a bed bottle since it is still a very involved and excruciating process to get up from bed. Most of the day was spent watching TV in bed trying to get used to any position that reduced my pain and trying to remember not to cross my legs or twist my body at all. Let me tell you it’s hard to be still at the best of times… The basics are this, I can’t move my back at all, I have to remain straight and aligned at all costs. I can’t bend, twist, rotate, lean or contort in any direction otherwise I feel like my staples are going to explode. It is one thing to keep your back straight while lifting but it is a whole other game to remain completely still while trying to do things. The day passed in a haze of morphine and sleep but I am still waiting for the first dreaded trip to the bathroom. I haven’t really been eating so I am not entirely surprised it hasn’t happened but there are a couple of things at play. Morphine is known to cause constipation and as of yet I don’t have my stool softener which has me frankly terrified in case the need arises to go. So I am not eating. I don’t really need to since I am bed bound most of the time but that will pass and the details I will likely not share here.

Recovery Day 2 – Thursday
Pain 8 Mobility 3

I am definitely getting better at moving around. My confidence in my mobility is increasing and I am getting better are moving while not moving if that makes sense. The big news today was that I was able to get some pans on and go for a walk. Even though it was freezing cold I still managed about 500m outside discovering that I need new gloves int he process. The walk was slow and painful but I was happy with my progress since my last recovery journal (which was luckily in the summer) had me walking on day 2 also. Since this was a slightly more involved surgery I would expect to be a bit behind but if I can walk again on Friday I think I will be really happy. The walking itself is very slow and I took my cane although I didn’t need to use it. However by the time I got back home my leg and back were in pain and I was ready to get back to bed. It wasn’t bad for my first outing and gave me a lot of confidence in my recovery however I also know the past 2 surgeries I have had a relapse which I am desperate to avoid this time. So I will be sensible and cautious and move at a human pace in order to prevent any unnecessary injury. Nicole and Elyse have been out and about most of the day which is probably best since I have 3 furry guardians looking after me right now. I have everything I need, I just know it is a matter of time until I improve to a significant degree. I am optimistic but impatient…


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