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Spinal Surgery: Going Home

I want to take a moment and say thank you to my wife, Sheryl for how she faced and helped me overcome many challenges of going home after spinal surgery. People like Sheryl (as well as all caregivers), face the task of doing it all, with very little support. What follows is a recounting of the many difficulties Sheryl faced, and while my recounting is not an exhaustive list, one significant hardship needs to be added; she had to deal with a stubborn, sometimes unhappy patient. Even in the best of times, I can be stubborn, toss a high dose of pain on top of it, and things can get downright ugly. Something about being in bed almost 24/7 does that to me. So as you read how things went, remember to add a persnickety patient on top of the whole mess.

It started with an odd release from the hospital. I was released on March 7, three days after surgery to correct kyphosis and two days before the hospital received its first COVID-19 patient. At the time, it seemed odd that less than 24 hours after removal from heavy pain meds and while mostly unable to walk without assistance, the hospital was laser-focused on my release on a Sunday evening. But in hindsight, I came to understand why they wanted surgery patients released as soon as possible because of the coming rush of COVID-19 patients.

Getting home was just a start

When I got home, I piled into bed, which is where I stayed for the better part of two weeks. I had a catheter inserted just prior to leaving the hospital, and my immediate concern was finding someone to remove it. A comment I often made to my long-suffering wife who wanted it removed even more than I did. 

Usually, having it removed would have been an easy fix, but as doctor offices closed to in-person contact and the outpatient hospital clinics closed except for COVID-19 patients, I was stuck. Sheryl finally did find a home health care group to come and first evaluate me for services, remove the catheter, and then three weeks after surgery, remove the staples. It was a lucky break, since physically going to the doctor’s office was no longer possible except for emergencies.

The nurses who helped

This is where I have to take a detour and thank Nurse Rhonda at my Urologist's office and Megan at the spinal surgeon offices. Without these two incredibly helpful people, I have no idea how we might have made it. When a kind person helps you cut through the confusing noise, they are like gold, and both of them have been lifesavers.

I credit Sheryl for finding and getting the home health care group arranged. In addition to being my wife (not an easy task even on a good day), Sheryl had to be the primary care coordinator, family information provider, 24/7 nurse aide, and total nutrition provider. If I ever doubted how difficult it is to be the spouse of a person with a chronic condition, I saw the strain during the last 40 days that Sheryl had to bear.

It's more than one thing

Without Sheryl taking on the task of caregiver, I would have been in a rehab facility. The chances are good that if I had been released to a rehab facility, I likely would still there and facing the awful prospect of only visiting with Sheryl through a glass. I cannot even imagine how fortunate I am to have her support at this moment.

As I write this, it has been 40 days since surgery, and I am still wearing the brace, I mostly stay in bed and most of all I am still sad that I will not likely get to ride my bicycle until July at least. I do not yet know the full outcome of the surgery. Was my spine straightened in a  way to allow me to go forward without additional surgery? Only time will tell. But I can say I am happy at this moment I had it done. It has been a long rough road, but I see better days ahead.

The future is so bright; I can see a bicycle

So, for now, I rest and work on improving my stamina so that I will be ready for physical therapy in July.  Oh yes, and of course I am dreaming of riding my bicycle. Each warm day makes me desire riding my bicycle, which gives rise to my comments about riding my bicycle. Now I have not heard about it much as yet, but I will likely hear these words soon from Sheryl: Rick, be quiet about riding that bicycle when you cannot even sit up most of the day (or something like that). Oh us patients, we are so not patient.

Thank goodness for all the Sheryl’s, Rhonda’s and Megan’s in our lives, thank goodness for these in particular in my life.

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