person with clock on head with a scalpel as a clock hand

Kyphosis and My Spinal Surgery Part 2: Scheduling

Editor's note: read part 1 here.

Sheryl (my wife) and I met with the surgeon, and we have decided to move ahead with the surgery to correct the kyphosis that I have previously written about. The facts of the situation are fairly straight forward. If all goes well, I will have surgery on March 5. I started the prep work with a doppler check of my carotid artery, and the doctor has requested cardiac, neurology, endocrinology and rheumatology clearance. The scheduled surgery was set to accommodate the infusion schedule and the operating room is booked.

What to expect

I am told to expect up to a 6-hour surgery/recovery room visit, and four to seven-day hospital stay after the surgery. The surgeon reminded me that this was the first of what might be up to three surgeries, this one being the significant bite of the apple, and bite two and three would be scheduled when and if it is necessary. In short, the clinical part is set.

Waiting and worrying

Now I wait, wonder, and worry about the procedure and the outcome. Waiting is the time I hate because I run the decision to have surgery over and over again in my head. I am told to expect to be in a restrictive brace for ten weeks post-surgery. That means I am likely giving up two events I love. I will probably not be able to ride my bicycle in the Indianapolis night ride which is about a month after I am scheduled to shed the brace, and the Indianapolis Tour de Cure which is about three weeks after I get out of the brace. That makes me so sad because I love each event.

Thinking about the risks

But beyond not participating in these events, I worry about the procedure. I know the surgery is safe, but I also know the terrible risks that surgery causes. For me, the first worry is blood sugar. Managing it while under anesthetic is the responsibility of the anesthesiologist, and while I know they are well trained, they are not well trained in managing my blood sugar. After all I have had 45 years of practice and the anesthesiologist will have me just a few minutes before she/he administers the drugs to put me in the state of unawareness. My research showed that diabetes and sleep apnea are listed as two of the risk factors for poor surgical outcomes.

My diabetes changes things

The second thing I am concerned about is the hospital stay. I know that sounds strange. It is once again because of diabetes. While in the hospital, blood sugar management is a shared responsibility of the patient and the nursing staff. Typically, nurses will allow patients to do their blood sugar management, but sometimes, the nurse wants to dictate blood sugar management, and this inevitably leads to not the best results.

Again, I have been at this business of my blood sugar control for 45 years; the nurse likely has seen few patients with pumps (they always ask really uninformed questions about the pump) and nurses tend to want to run blood sugar higher than I like. So at the start, I have to remember it is their house their rules. But still, I do a pretty good job of managing my blood sugar without their help every hour of every day. So giving hospital staff control is difficult.

The recovery looms

Finally, of course, is the long recovery. I am told to expect to be in that brace for ten weeks post-surgery. That is ten weeks of giving up a good deal of my freedom of movement. I will be giving it up to Sheryl who is also giving up her freedom during my recovery. It is a big sacrifice, and with the physical therapy that will likely ensure it is a long time.

Reflecting

I have a lot to live for, and even at 62, I have things I want to accomplish. It has been 62 years of leaning forward like I am going into the wind and I have to remember the outcome. Is it worth it? Sitting here typing two months out, I can only hope so. Of course, I would never have started down this road unless I thought it was worthwhile. I have to hope that the disruption now is worth the eventual outcome.

I also know that no one can tell the future. Sheryl and I have been taught a lot over the years, including open-heart surgery, repair of a broken sternum, hip replacement, RA, AS, diabetes complications and a host of other things that Sheryl never bargained for 41 years ago when she said I do. I do not fear Sheryl’s loyalty, but I do wonder how much a person is expected to put up with. Yes, this is a ten-week commitment and maybe some additional time after that depending on how the surgery goes. But it is not only ten weeks. Instead, it is one more in a lifetime of new things to worry about. We are but mere mortals, the question is how much can mortals, even those that love you, can put up with? I pray I never find out.

What are your best strategies to handle pre-surgery jitters?  I could use some ideas.

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