I have been observing this site since shortly after my 1/2/07 surgery, and it has been VERY helpful - thank you to so many of you that have been brave enough to share your own experiences and feelings.
Here's my story: had severe cord compression and my NS wanted to do surgery as soon as he could after my initial visit with him on 12/20/06. I was experiencing numbness in my right arm and muscle weakness. He put me on disability leave right away, as I work in an insurance agency and cannot function without the computer - that seemed to be the worst thing I could be doing - sitting all day at the computer.
So, I had outpatient surgery on the 2nd. My father-in-law died on the 4th, and my DH had to fly out to WA for a week. I had some church family coming in to help out for the first week or so while he was gone. Since then, my DH had class in AZ, so we flew out together; we stayed with relatives, and I was able to get along at my own pace. Last week, I drove myself 8 hours to 3 days of class for my own continuing ed. I seem to be paying for that now. I still have ALOT of pain in my shoulders, along with that famous knife in the middle of my shoulder blades. I had stopped taking vicodin 4 days after surgery, but have found more recently, that I really need the relief as I have tried to become more active, and all my helpers have disappeared.
I have seen my NS twice since surgery. On 2/2/07, I told him I could work somewhat comfortably on the computer for about an hour, and so he has kept me on disability leave.
I'm 6 weeks post-op now, and I guess I thought I would be further along by now. We don't have a treadmill, and walking outside has been out of the question. I try walking around our little mall, or the Wal-Mart, but my visits have become too costly!! I need to lose some weight, but obviously at this pace, it isn't going to happen. My lower back has been bothering me a great deal now - I'm guessing it's from the lack of core strength with the extra weight, and/or compensation because my neck is weak.
My main issue right now is, when do I go back to work? I am starting to wonder if my co-workers think I'm just "milking it", since I am collecting disability now. My Christmas decorations are still up, and now that's getting depressing - my husband is grieving his father's death, and trying to minister to others, while dealing with me and my depressed, angry moods. I feel guilty. Like I mentioned, my church family has pretty much up and disappeared, except for asking my husband how I'm doing. It's caused me to be much more aware of what people's needs are post-surgery!
I really didn't know it was going to be this hard after surgery. I started PT yesterday - she's a wonderful gal I had seen a few years ago, too. I felt like she is the only person I have talked to that understands that while I can go out and look okay, I'm still recovering and walking around in pain alot of the time.
I'm looking for your input on what I should do about work - and I need a safe place to talk about my feelings. Again, thanks for being here!
I am 5 weeks post op today and I couldnt be doing half the things you are doing. It really seems like you are doing way too much, too soon. The driving alone could really make you spasm. I had the exact same surgery as you, and I am not doing even close to what you are. Is there any way you can slow down now? I am 51, so maybe that has something to do with it. Today I am going to do a light grocery shopping and that is IT. That's a big day for me. I am not even sure I should be doing even that much. I have a liberal Dr. who lets me do anything. (that bugs me). I pay a big price when I over-do. I am a teacher and take continuing ed. I could not imagine sitting there so long right now. No way. I hope you lighten up soon because you will feel better if you do.
THANK YOU! I needed that! Permission to slow down, that is. I too, have a liberal doctor, who has given me very little direction. I wore the soft collar for only two weeks. Pretty much told me, that if it hurts, then don't do it. I'm 45. Are you still off work?
While I realize everyone recovers at a different speed, some faster and some slower, the amount of activity you describe over the past six weeks is just mind-boggling. Air travel, driving, shopping, attending classes, even just sleeping in an unfamiliar bed - I honestly can't imagine how you've done it.
REST is a huge part of the healing process and it doesn't sound as though you've been getting much. It's great that you've felt up to doing stuff, but it really is important that you do everything in moderation for a while. Small doses - do a little bit for a little while, rest, repeat as tolerated.
The anxiety, depression, "guilt" - I think everyone here knows what you're talking about. It is nearly impossible to impress on someone who hasn't had the surgery the tremendous physical and emotion toll it takes on you. As well meaning as friends and family might be, all they see is a little scar on your neck and probably do think, "Geez, what's the big deal?" Well, YOU know what a big deal it is, so don't let the assumptions or judgements of others decide your action or lack thereof.
I did a LOT of hand-wringing over how I thought friends and family perceived me after the surgery. But I finally just got stubborn and decided I was going to do what was right for me regardless of what anyone else thought. I'm not saying I didn't still let myself be talked into or "guilted" into doing things that were too much sometimes, or that I never got caught up in the idea of what other people thought I "should" be able to do, but I at least got to the point where I was able to swallow my pride and ask for help most times when I needed it and to not feel so bad when I said "no" to some things.
As silly as it sounds, one of the hardest things for me to do was ask for help in the grocery store - lifting things, taking the cart out to my car, etc. I knew I looked like a perfectly healthy, capable woman to everyone else, but I also knew how I felt and how much I'd pay in pain later on for doing those thing myself.
Only you know what you need and only you can communicate those needs to those around you. I'm sure your husband is feeling emotionally overwhelmed and is probably not able to be as supportive as he might be under different circumstances, but try to explain to him how you're feeling. I know sometimes people have spouses, etc., read through some of the posts here.
Most surgeons have the attitude of, "Hey, I fixed it; you're all better." Well, no, it's just not that easy.
It'd be nice if, in a perfect world, we could just lay back and get all better while the world went on around us, but I know that's just not possible. Just try to take a few things off your "have to" list and let them slide to "later".
As for the work question - I believe the standard return is six to eight weeks after surgery, but it really depends on each person adn their own unique set of circumstances. Unfortunately, being on the computer can be a big pain trigger. (in fact, I think it's how a lot of us ended up here...) Maybe talk to your employer about returning for a couple of hours a day and working your way up from there. In the meantime, try to take a step back from all that activity! You can still get through your daily life and responsibilities, just do them a little more slowly when you can. And rest........
Thank you Ember! I so very much appreciate ALL your insights. It helps a TON to be able to talk to someone who has been through it. I have pretty high expectations for myself and for others, and I am trying to adjust them, especially for myself right now. I keep reminding myself that this "time off" is for healing, not for getting projects done around the house, or to fill it with things I would enjoy doing that I never have time for when I'm working full time. I'm such a multi-tasker, that even my healing time has to have more than one purpose!!
I will heed the advice though - to rest as much as possible. I don't see my NS until Mar 2nd, so I have a good 3 weeks in which to do so.
I really dont know when I will return to work. I am an elementary school substitute teacher and I will be on my feet all day. I cannot fathom that at the moment. When I do return (prob. in April), I will be starting with half day jobs, for sure. Its a pretty stressful job, besides the standing most of the day, and I dont want to end up with alot of spasms from the whole thing.
SKZ: how was your V-Day dinner out? My dh and I stayed in, I just didn't feel like going out, so we did take out chinese, which was fun! Hope you managed ok.
I guess I thought I would be back to work already...I may start going in to do about an hour of computer work at a time...my boss has been so good to me, I feel like I need to make some effort to help out a bit.
I never made it to the Valentine's Dinner!!!! It was snowing alot and there were accidents galore all over the highways. So instead of being stupid, and me stressing out over the possibility of getting hit after a spinal surgery....we went to a Mexican place down the road. haha. C'est la vie. What can ya do?
Sounds like a good decision! Living in northern Michigan, we usually get hit with TONS of snow, but most of the storms have missed us - we only have inches on the ground right now. Nice to celebrate life and love anyway, eh?!