Thursday, August 16, 2007

Surgery Update

this is what a herniated disc looks like I emailed all of this to my mom, but here's an update on the surgery I'm having in 13 days.

My surgery is two weeks from yesterday - August 29th. I had my pre-op appointment Monday and they went over everything.

Well, first this horrible nurse talked to me. She was friendly but useless, and didn't talk to me like my surgery was a serious thing. She usually works for a different surgeon and she came in not knowing anything, and asked me what kind of surgery I was having and when. I guess it was lucky for her that I knew, huh? She told me some wrong stuff, like that I wouldn't have a bone growth simulator (I will) and that I shouldn't take ibuprofen for six months after - she denied that the other NSAIDS (aspirin, naproxen) were included in the ban, but my surgeon confirmed that they were later.

Then I talked to the resident who works with Dr. Patel (my surgeon) and he was cool.

And then I talked to Dr. Patel himself, and he went over everything again. And then to another nurse who actually gave me her direct line (unheard of at this place) and was pretty awesome.

Here's some stuff I learned.

I'll have a collar (brace) for six weeks after the surgery. The company that fits them will call me and arrange to come out and meet me at my house or whatever two or three days before the surgery, and I'll get the fancy collar then. I'm supposed to wear this all the time. But what Dr. Patel told me - which was really nice to learn - was that plenty of surgeons do this exact surgery and don't ask their patients to wear a collar, so it's more of a precaution than an absolute necessity. I'll wear it anyway, but this should cut down my paranoia about it. (I'm really paranoid about my head breaking off after the surgery. I mean, not literally breaking off, but the idea is for the bones to fuse, and I'm worried about that not happening. The resident told me that the success rate for healthy young people is 98% for this, so my odds are good. I wonder what the other 2% do wrong?)

I'll also have a bone growth simulator, which is like a shock collar that I'll wear a few hours a day for . I've been told that it does not hurt, which I assume is true.

I was worried that I might have to stop taking the gabapentin before the surgery. I don't really notice if I miss a dose, but if I miss two doses, I have really intense pain in my tricep for a while. (The tricep is the back of the upper arm.) I hate that a lot. But Dr. Patel said he wants me to take the gabapentin straight through the surgery, and continue taking it afterwards, and then wean myself off of it over time as the nerve heals. So that's good.

I couldn't get a consistent answer on whether to stop taking the Pill. (Ed and I use the Pill and condoms, so stopping the Pill doesn't really change much.) The only issue there is that it increases the risk of blood clots, and that's one of the major risks of surgery too. (I'll have special hose on after surgery and I'll wear those for a while afterwards - I'm not sure how long, but a week?) Dr. Patel said not to worry about it, his resident said I should stop taking it, and the bad nurse said I should ask my ob-gyn or gp. I'm going to stop taking it. We don't have that much sex and we do use condoms already anyway (not that we couldn't start if we didn't, but since we already do it's even easier) and I am really anti-death.

Having surgery is like having furniture delivered in this one way: you call the day before and they tell you what time to show up. They schedule a few for the same day and they can rearrange the schedule at the last minute. At least it's not a "window", though in practical terms I guess once you show up, there's no absolutely guaranteed time that they do stuff. You know how doctors are. (The bad nurse kept apologizing about not being able to tell me right now what time to show up. I wanted to say "It's ok, I'm taking the whole day off, it really doesn't matter.") I can't eat any food starting 8 hours before the surgery, but I can have clear liquids (including gatorade, water, coffee without cream, clear juices, etc.) until 2 hours before.

Mosch can go with me into pre-op, where I meet with the surgeon again, and the anesthesiologist, and get blood tests, and have an iv put in, and stuff like that. (This is the part I'm nervous about. Pre-op.) Then when they take me into surgery, he goes into the waiting area. They'll give him a pager so he won't feel like he can't leave. I'll be gone 2-4 hours, but the actual surgery part of the surgery only usually takes about an hour.

If I were adamant, I could theoretically leave the hospital the same day, but they like to keep you overnight to make sure you don't have problems with breathing or swallowing. (Since they operate through the front of the neck, there is a possibility of damaging your windpipe or esophagus, though the resident assured me that all of these things, including major nerves, are "in the same place in every patient" and so this is not too likely.) I'm cool with spending the night. I'm not that big a fan of choking to death at home. (Of course, just being in the hospital gives you some chance of getting an antibiotic-resistant infection or something too. But this is a very new and fancy hospital and hopefully they know what they're doing over there.)

Of course they want you up and walking around as soon as possible after the surgery - this is to help prevent blood clots - and the next day, you can go home as long as you are walking, peeing and pooping, breathing fine, and eating and drinking. I'm supposed to have some soft foods at home because my throat will be really sore, as though I had a tonsillectomy.

Mosch is planning to spend the night at the hospital with me. Ed is going to come with us (according to the current plan, anyway) and wait with Mosch, but Mosch will drive him home for the night. I hope Ed will come over the next day, when I'm home again, and help me if I need anything (while Mosch sleeps). I trust Mosch more at the hospital than Ed, because he has more experience being an advocate for a patient in the hospital and he knows me and my preferences really well. Also it's a lot to ask from a boyfriend of 3 months.


Sally said...

That was interesting about the brace - that it's a precaution instead of an absolute necessity.

I'm glad you'll have Mosch to shepherd you through this. Good luck.

Sally said...

By the way, I can't help but think of this as a medically-sanctioned excuse to eat ice cream, but maybe that's just me.

Tam said...

Madam, I like the way you think!

Jason Galbraith said...

Good luck, Tam! I know you're an atheist, but FWIW, you're in my prayers. Hope you got my card!