Sunday, February 25, 2007

Recovery Period

25 February 2007

Well, I'm into that recovery period from both surgeries. I've been keeping up emails with people, but just haven't kept up my blog with my progress. So I figured that I could cut and paste my status over the last few weeks into a blog posting. This should give you an idea of where I was at and where I'm at now. My first surgery for my bicep repair was on 30 Jan. You'll notice that I was using lower case as I was a one-handed typist for a few weeks after the surgery.

Friday 2/2/07
today is friday and the arm is feeling good, albeit itchy from being wrapped since tues. i have an appt on monday for the doc to unwrap and chk it over. from there, probably phys therapy. then in two weeks, the back.

Tuesday 2/6/07
saw the doc today. they took off the soft cast, which was basically a splint system with wrapping to keep my arm from moving around too much. had some irritation which they aren't sure if it is the beginning of an infection, so i'm now on 10 days of antibiotics. also told me to stop the motrin i was taking...seems to slow the healing down in tendon repairs.

so now the splint/cast is off and i just wear a bandage wrap to cover the stitches along with the sling. the arm and even the wrist are very sore, but doc says that's cuz they were bending, stretching and pulling the arm and tendons in all different directions...and it feels like it right now! doc also gave me exercises to work on 3x per day. also said that he wants my back operation pushed out one more week, so that won't be till three weeks from now.

hoping to be able to drive again after he pulls the stitches next tues.

that's all from this end except that i'm missing some of my friends there more than you might imagine. probly just need a good hug or a good cup of coffee. real starbuck's kind of gives me some kind of warm feeling, but it just leaves me sweaty and jittery afterward. :) maybe it has something to do with the temps the past few nights. sat nite -2, sun nite -8, and tonight is to be -10!!! wtf, over???

Wednesday 02/07/07

Trying to type with two hands, but the backspacing and caps are kiilling me! I have much better movement in my wrist and arm, but pain still. pronate motion is difficult like typing, but i will struggle thru. i'm a stubborn cuss like both my parents...we don't take hand-outs easily. we were always taught to struggle and that the payoff was far better even if less tangible, because you work hard for it. what a line of crock! well maybe not so much, but sounds good. Phil is here and helps me wash my hair and the left arm and pit and put on deoderant, but I can do most of it myself...even shaving left handed!

got a call from the back doc's office today. back surgery is on the 22nd. pre op appointment is the 19th, stitches out of my arm next week on the 13th. I just have a full sched now, don't I? still have swelling in my arm and have been staying away from the vino and rum & cokes because of the vicodins and antibiotics.

Forgot to tell you earlier. I said something in recovery that had the anastisiologist and nurse rolling, but didn't remember till I was in the car on the way home. I was just waking up and the nurse says to me, " this may hurt a bit" as she is ripping the sticky pads off my hairy chest and pulling up hairs with them. I then remembered telling her that in three weeks maybe she could put those over my nipples so that at least I could enjoy it when she ripped them off! I know, I'm a sick puppy, aren't I? But, I guess they've heard about everything in recovery though, huh?

Saturday 02/10/07

Nothing new going on here either. Just been healing and hurting. Still have that dull ache in my wrist, forearm and elbow from the doc threading the bicep/tendon through the lower arm. Don't know the details, but it still hurts like hell. I AM back to typing and writing. Typing really tries my pain threshold.

One of the good things of my stay at home is that I'm catching up again with the AFS program...foreign exchange (high school) age kids. I was a liaison to two kids before I left and helped to work out differences for the Italian girl who stayed just before I left. I went to her girls basketball game on Fri night. It was great to see her again. Tomorrow I go to the soccer game of the Chilean boy that I was also a liaison to. These kids are adjusting to the language and culture great. Giulia in fact, made the honor roll this last quarter. How's that for attitude! Two snaps to that Italian girl in the Prada shoes!

Tuesday, (if the weather holds, we may get a snowstorm) my stitches are to come out...finally. I'm tired of sponge baths...unless I had more attentive assistance...definitely would love to have a bit more hands on in this matter! Also Tues night, I'm supposed to go up to Huntley to interview an AFS kid (French) and see check in with him.

Friday I have my pre-op checkup for my back operation and then next Thurs (22nd), is the back operation. Still working with Workman's Comp to get the paperwork all straightened away for this bicep thing. More paperwork to fill out tomorrow for Monday mailing.

Honestly, I wish I were there. I'm bored silly and at least there, I had something to look forward to every so often, like cookouts at Ba Ba’s.

Thursday 02/15/07

I did get to the doc on Tues and had the stitches removed. I made Phil drive me 40 miles in a snowstorm! The storm was predicted, but when we got up in the morning it wasn't too bad. Some blowing snow over the tollway, but not bad. By the time we left the doc's office, it had started to come down pretty good. The stitches were itchy and ready to come out.

Doc strongly reminded me not to lift ANYTHING! He reminded me that I could rip out the repair that he did by lifting. He has me working on straightening out the arm more which can be a bit uncomfortable, but everyday I seem to be getting more movement and flexibility. Phys therapy should start next week just after the back surgery.

Tomorrow I'll go for the blood test that my regular doc wants. I have to fast for 12 hours prior which is proving very difficult for me. I'm eating everything in sight and am anxious to get back to running. I'm the same weight I was last year, but lost the muscle and put it on in the waist.

Everyone at the doc's office has said that it will be a good recovery for this type of back surgery. No, I'm not scared actually. I was more afraid of my recovery with the bicep surgery than the back surgery. I guess that I've spoken to enough people there and here that I just am not fearing this next week. As far as the sitting part, when my sciatica was acting up, the whole sitting thing is a big problem. It is hard to find a comfortable chair or position to sit for any length of time. So I'm sure the surgery is going to help that out.

Not too much happening around here. Now that the stitches are out, I'm allowed to drive and am going to get out of here for a bit today. You get to feeling trapped at some point when you don't have that mobility you're used to.

Friday 02/16/07

First off, before any grand thoughts of having me return on light duty are entertained, keep in mind that I am still on restriction and can not carry anything at all. I have little strength in my right arm and the bicep is still healing. The doctor is the one that determines light duty and what stress will be inflicted on my repaired bicep to make the required trip back to Baghdad...not HR.

The doc has already warned me that any weight on this arm could rip out the sutures and would result in the doc having to rip open the cut and reattach the bicep. I had 9 stitches under the forearm and 10 stitches in an L-shape in the crotch of my arm where the doc reached in and yanked the retracted bicep and torn nerve down. Good drugs, cuz I didn't feel a thing!

Secondly, my bicep has not healed to the point that they can begin physical therapy without causing damage. I think it is absolutely stupid that HR doesn't realize the seriousness of this situation. Hell, we can't even get a doc at Victory that knows squat about the true damage caused by the fall (60% actual loss of strength in the right arm vs. the 10% projected loss the doc on duty said the day of the fall!) let alone trying to have someone perform proper physical therapy in Iraq.

If HR (or any other management type for that matter) have any further suggestions and are still insistant on using their newly minted PHD’s in Orthopedics to further suggest treatment for this, please have them confer with my doctor...who will kindly tell them nothing due to privacy laws. Right now the biggest problem to coming back on even "light duty" is the inavailability of qualified physical therapy facilities. And those boneheads should realize that.

Hopefully, I'm not sounding too bitchy...which I'll blame on the Vicodin, Cephalexin and blood pressure meds that aren't working! Rest assured, I'm so bored to tears right now and I'd love to be back at work if I could. Believe me, I hate Judge Judy and Oprah and haven't yet been tempted to stoop that low, but this is trying my sanity!

Tuesday 02/20/07

I have been mostly just spending my time recuperating. Had my blood test last Friday and the doc doesn't like the glucose levels. So yesterday, the doc has requested an alc test. I may be pre-diabetic at this point too. Doesn't surprise me too much. My Mom was diagnosed at about my age now. Doc is also going to increase my Norvasc to try to bring the lower BP number down. The 2.5 mg did nothing. PT for the bicep will begin after the second week of the back surgery. Had the pre-op yesterday for the back surgery. Mostly just warnings of what probably won't happen but could. And a warning that about 10% of people who have removal of herniated disk parts have a new herniation within 4 weeks of operation due to overdoing it. Good warning and I will try to behave!

Thursday 02/22/07 (written in morning before going to surgery)

In my last, I wasn't meaning to be grumpy...per se. My wrist and forearm are still aching. I am off the pain killers, and will start physical therapy March 2nd, I think. Doc wants to make sure enough scar tissue has formed before working the muscles. He already hollered at me last week and said that he didn't want me ripping out his work and that if I did, he'd have to open it up again and reattach it! I never realized how interconnected all the arm, wrist and hand muscles are.

From what he was saying my last visit, I don't expect him to release me until mid to late April at this point. He wants six to eight weeks of physical therapy. The good news is that when I was in the office this week, they were happy with the healing progress that I've made so far.

I also found out that he is a highly respected orthopedic in arms and shoulders...so much so that he has the respect and counsel of other doctors in the Chicago area. He has been highly regarded by everyone I've mentioned his name, so I guess I was lucky to "stumble" upon him...so to speak. Wish I had better news for you. As I said before, I am bored silly and would rather be working than not. Catching up and having lunch with friends is nice, but I'm anxious to be working again.

And I will have to take you up on the arm wrestling, but it will have to be southpaw!

Friday 02/23/07 (written day after back surgery)

Just thought that I should drop you an email and let you know that the back surgery yesterday went well. I felt better right away as the doc had said. What they ended up doing was a microdecompression lumbar mircodiskectomy of L4-L5. I arrived at the surgicenter at 7:15, gassed at 8:00, in recovery at 10:30 and in the car on the way home at 11:30!

He made about a 1 to 1 1/2 inch incision on the left side of the spine and they removed a portion of bone in the spine maybe ¼ of the size of your little finger nail and then had access to remove the herniated portion of the disk that was pressing against the sciatic nerve. Doc told Phil that it with as much contact as this herniation had with the sciatic nerve, it was amazing that I was even walking. Maybe that's why I felt like crap all of October and November and half of December!

Basically, slice em, dice em, stitch em up and get the frick outta here! After the anastesia wore off, I felt great. Still have to take it easy for the next four weeks because they don't want me to herniate the disk again. Hard thing to do for me. If I feel good, I want to be active again. But I will try hard to behave. It might kill me!

Phys therapy for the arm begins next Thurs, see the back doc for post op follow-up on Fri and phys therapy the following week starts for the back. Then give me eight weeks and I'm ready to hit the road again. Maybe even hit the road with running shoes! Wooo-hooo! Yes, I'm feeling good again. I was a bit depressed before the operation...feeling like I was old and past fixing, but now I am feeling young again. What a difference a day makes, huh?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Surgery...2 for 1

01 February 2007

i hadn't made mention of why i was coming home till now. with as bad as my back was bothering me in oct and nov, i decided that it was time to have an mri and repairs, if necessary. back at the end of nov i made an appointment with my orthopedic doc to get an mri. all i had to do after that was make it home in one piece...which i almost didn't do!

Had my MRI on Friday the 19th,and heard back on the following monday from the doc's office. The mri tech said that it wasn't good...well, duh! But I told him that I knew that and that was why I came back when I did. I squeezed some info out of him, but I've got an appointment with the doc on Friday. Sounds like it isn't going to require fusing, but something up the line of a diskectomy (don't know if I spelled that corrrectly!) Anyway, when I asked how long till I could go back to work after something like that, he suggested 6-8 weeks!

got into the doc's office last fri, one week after the mri to discuss with him my options. He looked over the MRI pics and asked if I had taken another fall. He believed that he was seeing a hemotoma on my spine at L4L5. But when I told him no new falls other that at Christmas, he looked over the pics again and discovered that my herniated disk had not only herniated, but now has migrated down the spinal column, so it's L-shaped. Guess I know now why the sciatica has been giving me so much hell.

So we got to talking about what, when and how the diskectomy would be done and I brought up the tear in my bicep. I told him that the docs at the TMC didn't seem too worried about it, but I'd like him to have a look at it. He took one look at it and his eyes got big. You know you're in bad shape when an orthopedic's eyes get big! Supposedly he's seen it all, right? He then tells me to wait right there and promptly gets on the phone with their arm/shoulder associate. Both insisted that I go see the arm/shoulder orthopedic doc that afternoon.

Dr Saleem took a look and layed out all the options. The first was to leave it and deal with the 60% loss of strength in my right arm. That isn't an option. The TMC doc only said probably 10% loss of strength! Second option is to hopefully, cut an S-shape into the arm and pull the bicep back and reattach it. Unfortunately, with four weeks of scar tissue, that may be tough. His other option for repair is that if there is too much scar tissue to pull the bicep back into place, to reattach it to the existing muscle as far down as possible. At least I will get most of my strength back and it will look normal again instead of being bunched up at the top part of the arm.

Not good options, but I have to do it. The back doc will cut me in three weeks after I heal some with my arm. So I am in a real mess. Today, I had to go to my regular doc to get a pre-surgery check up. I caught this nasty head cold/cough thing in Kuwait on the way back and it is getting better, but I'm still coughing up a lung every so often. This visit with the doc also gave us the chance to talk about what to do with my BP. I'm just falling apart all at once here, aren't I?!!

surgery went well. dr saleem was able to make the repair as he described in his optimistic scenario. the whole arm is sore since the doc cut on the inside of the elbow, reached in and grabbed the retracted tendon down. then he cut under the forearm just below the elbow to stretch/reattached the bicep/torn tendon. my whole arm hurts, and the vicodin only gives so much relief.

first night wasn't bad since i had a nerve block going on. wednesday was all about vicodin. started on the motrin last night and am cutting back on the vic's today. feeling better, but still getting used to being a one-armed south-paw. more later.

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