It has been a little over 1-week since my ACCF (Anterior Cervical Corpectomy with Fusion) surgery, and I thought it might be a good idea to chronicle my progress, as I found a few other people who did this after their surgeries and it helped me immensely as I prepared for my own.
Please excuse any typos or grammatical errors (this took awhile to write!).
The doctor who performed my surgery was an orthopedic surgeon. Sometimes a neurologist will perform this type of surgery too. I did get a 2nd opinion before deciding on surgery, and chose this doctor. He is the same one who did my husband’s back surgery a few years ago, and is very well respected. A few days before surgery, a couple of people I know told me that I should ONLY have a neurosurgeon do the procedure, so naturally I was a little freaked out, and wish they wouldn’t have told me all of this after I had made my decision.
DAY OF SURGERY:
We arrived at the hospital and I was prepped with a gorgeous hospital gown (not!), compression stockings and non-slip booties. The IV was started and started getting nervous. I had held up pretty well until now, but I was scared and crying. The anesthesiologist came in and introduced himself and assured me that I would be okay and completely “out”. My husband told him that I would like something to put me out before the OR. I can’t stand to see an OR and was afraid I might freak out. He told us he could definitely do that.
Then a Neurophysiologist came in, and this really put me at ease. He said that he works closely with my doctor, monitoring the neurological side of things and doing tests throughout to make sure that the doctor isn’t too close to something bad, etc. He was SUCH a nice guy!
There’s a long story in between but basically I was freaking out a bit while waiting to go into surgery. I did NOT want to be awake when I was wheeled into the OR. Something about the cold room and seeing everything is very upsetting to me. The anesthesiologist gave me a shot of something finally and they wheeled me off to surgery. My husband asked me days later what is the last thing I remember. I told him I remember saying, “I love you, honey”. He was relieved, as he had no idea if I was still awake in the OR, and he didn’t want me to experience that. After I was rolled into surgery the next thing I remember is being in my room. My husband later told me that I had a hard time in recovery (they had a hard time waking me up) so I was in there for about 2 to 3 hours. They then took me up to my room where my husband was waiting for me with a teddy bear balloon. The thing is, I don’t remember arriving at my room and I don’t even remember being in recovery.
Once in my room, I was hooked up to an IV with pain meds (Dilaudid) and I was given oral pain meds as well to keep the pain under control. I was pretty uncomfortable, and part of the reason was that my collar hadn’t been fitted correctly before surgery (that is a whole story in itself). I remember my mouth being SO dry, which made it hard to talk. They finally brought in, I think on Day 2, these little sponges on a stick that I could dip in water and move around my mouth. They helped tremendously.
I also remember having a hard time focusing. My daughter and son came in to visit me, and I was happy to see their faces.
Eating was kind of rough. My throat hurt and I had to take teeny-tiny bites of mostly tapioca pudding and jello. My husband brought me Starbucks, and it tasted strange to me along with ALL coffee I tried. Every type of coffee I tried tasted burnt and bitter. My daughter had brought in a beautiful cupcake, which I ended up eating (very slowly) in the middle of the night one night. Boy that tasted good!
The next few days were a blur, but I remember desperately trying to get some sleep, only to be interrupted by various things. Each morning at 5:00 on the dot, they would come in my room, switch on the light and take my blood. Super annoying. Then at 6:00 a.m. someone would come in and take my blood pressure. I also loved when Physical Therapy would come in while I was in a dead sleep, wake me up and make me get up while I was still groggy. Fun times! One PT session in particular left me with tears streaming down my face and in horrible pain.
One thing that is kind of funny, looking back (but not at the time) is the guy who came around to help me fill out my menu. Here is how it went each time (I was so tired):
Him: Okay, breakfast. Oatmeal, toast, white or wheat, jello, applesauce, blah blah
Me: Opening my eyes to see him staring intently on me, waiting for an answer. “What?”
Him: Do you want oatmeal, jello, applesauce, yada, yada, yada
Him: Still staring at me when I opened my eyes. “Ma’am?”
Me: Ummm Oatmeal.
Him: Okay to drink. Coffee, tea, milk, blah blah, yada yada
Him: What do you want to drink?
Me (thinking to myself): Please, for the love of God, GO AWAY!
This went on and on until we had covered all of the breakfast choices. I thought he would leave so I could go back to sleep, then he said, “Okay for lunch, do you want…” and the same scenario played over again. Then we did dinner. This happened the same way for two days worth of menus.
I had an awful headache most of the time, and on Day 2 (I think), when my doctor came in, I told him about this. He was almost 100% certain that it was the pain pump. I told him that I wanted them to remove it. What a difference that made! Not only did my headache disappear, but I wasn’t so groggy and could focus better (which definitely helped with the “menu guy”, as I so not-fondly referred to him). If I had to do this surgery again, I think I would request that either no pain pump be used and that we just try oral pain meds first, in hopes of it controlling the pain, or that they use a different med in the IV.
On Day 2 my catheter was removed, which was nice, but I was having trouble going to the bathroom without it. Finally I was able to go, and what a huge relief it was:) I was able to get in and out of bed (painful), and head to the restroom by myself.
One of the days, I think Day 3, a new nurse came in and was HORRIFIED at the way my neck brace/collar was fitting (or not fitting really). As she walked in the room, she said, “Oh my Gosh, your collar is loose!! Why is your collar like that?”. She immediately called the facility that had fitted me (fitted being a relative term here) and started inquiring into why my collar wasn’t supporting my neck/head. I had also puked earlier in the day and the pads in my collar were a mess. That shows how loose it was – it shouldn’t have gone in there! So she asked them to deliver new pads on Wednesday (same day), but they didn’t. Unfortunately when her shift was over, she told me that she was off for 3 days. One of the nurses called again Thursday morning for the new pads to be delivered, but again, they were not. My husband ended up picking them up the day after I was released from the hospital.
It was nice having visitors. I felt bad that I couldn’t talk much, but seeing familiar faces was always a good feeling. My brother and my good friend came in and my husband ran himself ragged going back and forth from the hospital, home, work briefly, and back. He was EXHAUSTED.
I really hate hospitals. I was fortunate to have a room to myself, and a fairly decent nursing staff, but it feels like after a couple of days you are just a thorn in their side. I felt like I was annoying them with anything I asked. I kept losing the remote/call button (maybe they hid it in my sheets?), and struggling to adjust my bed. The buttons for the bed are on the inner part of the railing and super hard to reach. Why wouldn’t they put them on the remote too, or at least on the top of the railing?
So there in a nutshell is my experience at the hospital. I was in the hospital from Monday through Thursday (I came home on Thursday). Thank you to everyone for your good wishes and for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers. It was inspiring having so many people pulling for me.
I will be posting about coming home next. Good times!