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Shemachinist 09-22-2008 12:30 PM

ACDF c5/6 - Surgery 9/23/08 ....I'm nervous
So, I'm having surgery on Tuesday. I have to report to the hospital Tuesday morning. I'm nervous, and scared. Only surgery I've ever had prior to tomorrow is my wisdom teeth removed..... And that was almost ten years ago, and seemed way less... scary.

My husband has been wonderfully supportive. He even posted here, looking for a list of things to have for me when I return home from the hospital on Wednesday. A wonderful list has been posted, which I'm so grateful for. He's at home now compiling the list to bring to the store so we can be ready for my homecoming. One of his top priorities I know is buying button down shirts so we don't have to pull shirts over my head. I think I own one at this time!

I'm worried about the surgery. I'm hopeful that there are not complications. I'm an active duty air force officer, who flies. If not for my flying career, I'd probably not opt for the surgery at this time. I'd probably just deal with it with medication. But since I am a flier, every time I take sometime over the counter, or heavier, I become DNIF (which means I'm not flyable). And I can't go DNIF every time this starts to bother me. So I'm having the surgery, in hopes this will make the pain go away, and never return. I want to finish about my Air Force career, at least 14 more years remaining, or longer if they'll keep me.

I'm scared about complications. I don't want it messed up, I don't want to made to never fly again because the bones don't fuse correctly, or something gets messed up, or more pain occurs.

I'm so grateful I have someone at home, my husband is a wonder. My parents are here in town, my in-laws are also here in town, and thankfully I actually like them. So I know I'll have lots of help. I just know how much I hate feeling weak, and useless. And now my job starting Wednesday afternoon after I'm released, will be to relax. Really..relax? Lay around and do nothing?

I want to get better right away, start walking however many miles they want me to walk because as soon as I am able I want to get back to running. I will only life the 5lbs I'm allowed, so that as soon as I can can I can go back to turning this fat back into muscle and lift weights again. I just want to go back to being happy, and healthy, and pain free, and doing everything I was doing a year ago before all this started happening..

So you'd think I wouldn't be so scared....and nervous...


Wymom94 09-22-2008 04:52 PM

Re: ACDF c5/6 - Surgery 9/23/08 ....I'm nervous
Hi Sonia,
First, I wish you well on Tuesday. Second, I hope I can help with some of your fears. I had my neck surgery in April and I was really scared beforehand, too. I toured the floors and wings of the hospital where my pre-op, surgery, and post-op recovery would be, met some of the nurses, saw the rooms, etc. I came away from that tour with a significant drop in my fear of surgical complications. It was obvious that the expectation of everyone involved, pre and post op, was that surgery would go off without any genuine complications. It was obvious to me that the norm there was for a smooth surgery or one with only minor complications. I was still aware that there were rare instances of serious complications, but it really calmed a large portion of my fears to SEE that it really was rare for something to go wrong. Also, my neurosurgeon had the surgery himself a year prior. He told me he chose to have it b/c he didnt' want to jeopardize his career as a surgeon nor his favorite pasttimes (guitarist and surfer). He knew the risks and chose it for himself, rather than another option. That also gave me a bit of comfort, that he elected the same surgery as his own course of treatment.
I didn't have any surgical complications, other than reacting to the anesthesia -and that didn't last. My NS had problems swallowing for a long while after his surgery, but no other complications.
I can't say whether or not the surgery will make you pain-free. I hope so, of course. I think it's very individual. I know that my neck, 5 months post-op now, doesn't give me any genuine pain unless I haven't been 'mindful' of it during the day. I do get achy by early evening and sometimes get that burning sensation (hate that). I ice my neck still -always will b/c it really helps. I'm not a good sample, b/c I do take pain pills for my back, so my lack of neck pain may be skewed. I haven't taken meds 24/7, though and I do feel I can say that my neck is in pretty good shape pain-wise. I just have to be mindful of my posture and how I use or misuse it.
Take care, good luck, and God bless,

BobM 09-22-2008 05:35 PM

Re: ACDF c5/6 - Surgery 9/23/08 ....I'm nervous
Hi Sonja
First thing - take a deep breath and let it out slow, and relax! While there are risks with any surgery, the vast majority of people recover from this surgery with no problems. Worrying won't help anyway. (I talk big, but I've had this surgery two times now, and I know what you experiencing).

Do you have more info on the procedure you are having - ACDF, are they using your bone or donor bone, will you wear a collar post-op, etc? And which levels are you having the surgery on, and how many?

One of the unavoidable consequences of having vertebrae fused is that your range of motion will be lessened, and how much depends on which levels, and how many. What kind of flying do you do - and will a reduced range of motion be an issue for you? I have an Air Force background as well (but not flying - I did missile alert duty during the Cold War), so I know how you are feeling about the not 'fit' for duty concern - like you don't have enough to worry about already!

Without knowing the details of your case, it seems the odds are in your favor for a good outcome, and you can absolutely make it through the post op travails. Big thing is to give yourself time to heal - if you are having a fusion, there will be NOTHING more important those first few weeks and months than giving your body time to heal - so don't rush back to duty too soon.

Best of luck - be sure an post after you're back home so we know how you are doing.

Jay Bee 09-22-2008 05:58 PM

Re: ACDF c5/6 - Surgery 9/23/08 ....I'm nervous
Hey Sonya.. I had the same thing - ACDF c5/6 - just this past Saturday morning 9/20/08.

It went as well as I could have hoped for. Have confidence. No reason to get freaked out tonight and tomorrow morning. Sounds like you've got plenty of support.. you just need to take it easy and heel. I have some pain, but its very manageable... I've got plenty of medications and I am just laying low.. Saturday after recovery I rested.. had some soft foods. Sunday morning (surgery was 9am Saturday) I was up and chowing down on sausage, pancakes, toast... and watching pre-game NFL football shows.. had some people over to help straighten a few things out yesterday and today... bendy straws are the key to all things.

I have been on the computer a lot today (maybe too much!!)... but, I plan to be working again fulltime on 9/29, not even ten days after surgery (Although I work a desk job). I'm feeling very good about things so far. Just take things easy in the near future and better days are to come. Good luck!!

PS - I had a very large herniated at c5/6, big time nerve compression... and fairly severe cord impingement.. looked like the disc was going to chop the spinal cord in half. Surgery went according to plan.. 'lotsa disc material out there' per the neurosurgeon. I'm wearing a soft collar for about 3 weeks, then after about 4 weeks will start in on physical therapy for 12 visits or so. Very happy to have gotten through the surgery and now into recovery!! You'll do great!

Shemachinist 09-23-2008 05:46 AM

Re: ACDF c5/6 - Surgery 9/23/08 ....I'm nervous
Thank you so much for your kind words..... My husband kept me busy last night, so no time to worry. Starting to feel.... nervous this morning. I"m sure it may increase as we drive closer to the hospital.

I fly a large plane, so not a fighter, and no ejection. So, if the surgery goes well, I should have no problem getting a waiver to fly again......

I'm getting donor bone, and I believe the nurse told me I'd be wearing a collar for six weeks, I don't know if it's hard or soft.. I'm sure I'll know a lot more today, or at least my husband will....

Thanks all so much... I will update when I return home, laptops are amazing...

Jay - I followed your post op after you 9/20, and glad to hear you're doing well. I hope mine goes the same!!!

See you all in a couple days......


Shemachinist 09-24-2008 04:26 AM

Re: ACDF c5/6 - Surgery 9/23/08 ....I'm nervous
17 hours after surgery. I'm not paralyzed, and I can talk, so my greatest fears didn't happen. Hurts to swallow, but I expected that. My husband has been amazing. Thank u so much for all ur words, I read the boards yesterday morning before the surgery.
Gonna try sleeping again. Thank u.

Jay Bee 09-24-2008 08:04 AM

Re: ACDF c5/6 - Surgery 9/23/08 ....I'm nervous
Awesome news, thanks for the update! For the first 24 hours or so I rated my pain going in between 3 and 5 on a scale of ten (I stay on the very low side..)... but, since 24 hours or so, hasn't gotten past the 3. Everything is manageable. My throat today (4 days since surgery) is noticably better.. but, again, after day 1 it wasn't that, that bad. You'll continue to do great!!

BobM 09-24-2008 06:40 PM

Re: ACDF c5/6 - Surgery 9/23/08 ....I'm nervous
Thanks for the update and welcome back!

Take things easy and stay positive - sounds like you are past the two worst parts - 1st is worrying about the surgery and outcome, and 2nd is waking up in recovery and taking inventory of yourself! From here it's just about letting yourself heal. You may experience some days better and some worse, but if your overall trend is positive, don't let the down days get to you - my experience has been that days 3 and 4 can seem worse - don't let that get to you!

If you find yourself with symptoms that you are worrying about - just call your doctor and explain what is going on. Usually things are typical - but don't lay around and worry if you have concerns.

Look forward to knowing the details in the days ahead!

Shemachinist 09-25-2008 06:59 PM

Re: ACDF c5/6 - Surgery 9/23/08 ....I'm nervous
I will keep days 3 and 4 in mind for possibly being worse, since I hit day 3 tomorrow. ;) Luckily, no majorly weird symptons occuring. Biggest thing I've noticed, and I assume it's because I'm drinking out of straws, is a large amount of burping. It's annoying, hurts only a little, but I'm a girl, I'm not supposed to burp. :) I know it'll decrease...

So, I've been home a little over 24 hours now. Active duty friends of mine have sent flowers to my home, they are so wonderful. My office sent me flowers today as well, so sweet! Makes me feel like people like me. Not that I didn't know I had friends, but it is so sweet to be reminded.

Only meds doc gave me a percocet prescirption. I'm taking two every 5 hours right now. Yesterday I tried spacing it out more, and only taking one, but was in quite a bit of pain so far as swallowing. Today hardly any pain with the increased dosage. Tomorrow I think I'll spread it out to 6 hours and see how well I do.

Took my first shower today, and it felt great. Also took the big bandage off my neck, and got my first look at the surgical site, not nearly as bad as I thought it'd be. My neck was furiously red from the big bandaid that was on it. Feels so much better now that it's off. My husband washed my hair for me, taking great pains to make sure he didn't move my head around. Was the first time since the collar was put on Tuesday that I had the collar off. My collar is a soft collar, not like a hard aspen. Still not what I'd call comfortable.

Saw a suggestion to get a silk scarf and wear it inside. Might look for one this weekend or something.

Walked about six blocks today. Was tired after the walk, and slept off and on for about two hours. I'm able to sleep on just one pillow, nearly flat on my back. I put a pillow under each arm and lay my hands on my chest. I'm surprised that it's semi comfortable. I am a huge side sleeper, so this back thing is very strange.

Let's see, what else. My next doc appointment is Oct 13th. I'm off work until at least then. Doc said we'd re-evaluate my return to work at that time.

I apprecaite everyone's thoughts and messages. Definitely learn a lot from this site, more than from what I heard from Doc, etc, even though he's very good. This personal experience everyone shares, has huge benefits.


Wymom94 09-26-2008 07:55 AM

Re: ACDF c5/6 - Surgery 9/23/08 ....I'm nervous
>>a large amount of burping. It's annoying, hurts only a little, but I'm a girl, I'm not supposed to burp. I know it'll decrease...

If you're at all bloated since surgery, the burping is good for you. Burp away.

>> Saw a suggestion to get a silk scarf and wear it inside. Might look for one this weekend or something.

Make sure your house it kept cool --you'll sweat in it (esp when sleeping).
I'm so glad your surgery went well, Sonja and I wish you a really good recovery!

>>I apprecaite everyone's thoughts and messages. Definitely learn a lot from this site, more than from what I heard from Doc, etc, even though he's very good. This personal experience everyone shares, has huge benefits.

Isn't this site the best! I had more help from here with my surgeries, too. We're fortunate that we found it pre-op rather than post-op.
Take care, rest easy, work up slowly, and recover well, Sonja.

Shemachinist 09-26-2008 05:59 PM

Re: ACDF c5/6 - Surgery 9/23/08 ....I'm nervous
Keeping the house at 75. Had been wearing a long sleeve button down shirt, but switched today to tshirt, was just too warm.

This site is definitely the best. Definitely resting, though it's hard! Want to do it all myself. Thanks so much Meghan.

Can't wait til I can sleep on my side again! Sleeping on my back sucks...

BobM 09-26-2008 11:03 PM

Re: ACDF c5/6 - Surgery 9/23/08 ....I'm nervous
Hi Sonja
Sounds like you are dealing ok with the worst part - so I just want to give you an encouraging note to stay positive. From here your trend should be positive, though you might experience times when it seems like you've taken a step back.

If you are getting sleep now you are doing really well!

Best wishes

Shemachinist 09-29-2008 04:55 AM

Re: ACDF c5/6 - Surgery 9/23/08 ....I'm nervous
[QUOTE=BobM;3742693]Hi Sonja
Sounds like you are dealing ok with the worst part - so I just want to give you an encouraging note to stay positive. From here your trend should be positive, though you might experience times when it seems like you've taken a step back.

If you are getting sleep now you are doing really well!

Best wishes

Doing not too bad I think. My neck is a little sore this morning, but I may have overdone it yesterday. Yesterday was my first day I went allday without any pain meds, I'll caveat that with taking two percecet before bed. I walked a mile yesterday, felt pretty good.

Today I still plan on walking again, but think I will rest up bit more. Don't want th neck pain to increase at all. Trying to go all day without pain meds again. I only have 2 pills left, so won't be using them to aid in sleep any more.

I'm doing better than I expected to be doing at this state. Yesterday I felt like I could have run a little, though I knew better than to do this.

This collar is annoying the heck out of me. I can't believe I have to wear this thing for five more weeks. I'm just glad it's the beginning of fall, can't imagine wearing this durng the hottest months of summer.

Sleeping is easier. I still don't sleep for more than an hour at a shot, before I wake up briefly and change positiion. But I am in bed for several hours at a time, so I am getting sleep. I miss sleeping on my side, though i can usually do it for about an hour without any discomfort, I keepmy head well supported.

...I'm trying not to overdue...but as I said, may be why my neck is little sore this AM. So will be nicer today. No problems with swallowing though, which I was concerned about first few days because it did hurt. No major headaches. Occasional muscle soreness in my upper back, kinda of like when I used to sit at a computer too long playing a game, only I haven'tbeen getting the enjoyment of playing the game. :)

But doing okay. I'm glad though I have two more weeks off work so I can truly rest up. I do get tired easily. I I don't like being in the car for more than three minutes at a time. Drove to the track yesteday to do my walk (I didn't drive, mom did) since there aren't a lot of sidewalks where I live. And yesterday my husband and I went out to eat at a local place, only a couple blocks away. Again, lack of sidewalks or we'd have walked. But driviing is definitely... bouncy and annoying to the neck.

Dinner was fairly easy, though I was tired after we left. Been trying to make sure my neck muscles do some work since they are wearing this collar all the time, don't want themto get overly used to being supported 100%...

That's all my ramblings today... just wanted to update. Been an intersting experience...and it's niceto share..... and read what other folks are dealing with in their lives right now....


Jay Bee 09-29-2008 09:56 AM

Re: ACDF c5/6 - Surgery 9/23/08 ....I'm nervous
Sonya -- no more meds?!?! Yikes! I have a ton left and am gunna keep poppin' em. The upper back/out towards the shoulders gets quite tense and sore.

I am totally with you on the overdoing it thing... getting more and more difficult to not. Tell me about sleeping on your side.. like where pillows are positioned??!?!? I can't get on my side without feeling like I am messing up my neck big time. Although I'd really like to sleep on my side.

I am at work.. just getting ready and driving into work... was kind of exhausting. Gunna work from home tomorrow, then back here on Wednesday.

Are you going to do anything different when you go back to work? i.e. different furniture or office setup? I am wondering what chair options there might be that would help my posture... my setup now blows. I don't want to be all whiney and asking for special furniture, but it probably makes sense to since work takes up much of the day...

My neck & shouldres are starting to bother me.. going to lunch in 5 minutes (cafeteria here). I am debating whether or not to take a percocet and be loopy but pain free at lunch!! I think I will tough out the discomfort for lunch, then maybe head home and work there for the rest of the day... it was good to visit work, but I think I will be more efficient and definitely more comfortable at home this week..

Shemachinist 09-29-2008 12:41 PM

Re: ACDF c5/6 - Surgery 9/23/08 ....I'm nervous
Yeah, no more meds. Suppose I don't have a choice, only 2 percocet left. Was only given 30, and the first few days I maxed 'em out, was having a veryhard time swallowing, and only thing that made it feel good at the time was 2 pills, every 4 hours. But yeah, only 2 left, so, will try not use them at all, no real point really, only 1 dose. My shoulders and upper back to get a little tense still, but then I lie back and put an ice pack on them, and it seems to help.

I can't sleep on my side all the time, but can sometimes get a good hour out of it. I actually have a fairly expensive matress, one of the few things I allowed myself to splurge on, mattress, bedding, and pillows. I only use 2 pillows, one underneath my head, and the other my right arm; I have only been sucessful sleeping on my left side, right side is too uncomfortabe/painful, and where the surgical site is at. I usuall also have my left arm underneath the pillow, sorta cradling my arm. It really seems to help breaking up the sleeping on my back. The pillow I use underneath my head is a down pillow, so it sinks down so that it keeps my neck very straight, directly in line with my back.

I can't believe you're at work already! Be careful, can't imagine driving. The 3-5 minutes I've ridden in a car are uncomfortable enough...

Um, when I work I will definitely be looking for another chair. Would like a high back chair so I'll be able to lie back on occasion and next the pressure off my neck. I know it feels good to press it against the back of the recliner and give it a brea. I would ask for something though, definitely, I've read sitting for long periods of time is our nemesis, so the times you are sitting you'll want to make it as comfortable as possible.

I think going home is a great idea. Try the icy hot patches, or a ice pack or heat packon your shoulders, they do help me quiet a bit....


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