Monday, June 7, 2010

Recovery at the hospital

When I woke up from surgery I guess I was really loopy. My family told me of all sorts of funny things I was saying and doing. I really don't remember much, by the time I do remember, I had already been in the ICU for a while. I remember laying there in bed looking at the ceiling tiles. One thing I have noticed is that in every hospital I have ever been in, the ceiling tiles look exactly the same! You think they could put different patterns in there, or throw an occasional picture up there. I have been told that in places at the Primary Children's Hospital they have painted murals on the ceiling. I bet the kids appreciate it. I know I would. Looking around the room I noticed all sorts of equipment, wires, and monitoring stuff. I remember feeling heavy, and groggy. I can barely remember any conversation with visiting family, it is all kind of a blur. I know that my parents and siblings came and took turns staying overnight with me, I don't remember who was there and when though.

After the surgery I noticed that I had some strange numbing in certain areas. My Left pinky and back side of my left hand were numb. My right Forearm had no feeling, and the top left part of my thigh was numb. It was kind of uneasy feeling, why was I numb? Did something go wrong during surgery? Did they nick any nerves while they were in there? I didn't get answers right away but was told eventually that due to the way I was positioned on the operating table, I had some surface nerves pinched. Laying on my stomach my arms were positioned below me hanging naturally yet my elbows were resting on a hard surface, right where the nerve runs across the elbow is where they were resting. This pinched the nerves to the point of putting my arms to sleep. They were pinched in just the right way to effect the specific areas they did. You also have a nerve running over the front of your hip. The pressure of me laying on it for a few hours caused my left thigh to go numb. It feels like when you fall asleep on your arm, you wake up and can't feel a thing. I have that feeling in the specific places I mentioned. I was told that 95% of the time the feeling will come back. The worst part about it is that the whole process of waking up your arm isn't pleasant.

Think about the last time you fell asleep on your arm. It is annoying, then when the feeling starts to come back it tingles. Then comes the painful pins and needles, and the hyper sensitivity, where it hurts to touch it. After wards your feeling comes back and all is well. This usually happens over about 5 mins at most. Mine has been happening over the last 2weeks_so far! Right now I am at the hyper sensitivity stage. It hurts really bad. It is however least in my pinky and left thigh. My right forearm isn't doing much other than staying numb. There are times where I wonder if the pain in my pinky and thigh are worse than the pain in my back.

We were very pleased to find out that the surgery went much better than expected. Here is an excerpt from an email my mom sent out;
Chad went in this morning around 6:00 AM. We were told to expect a 5-9 hour operation with all they planned to do. They actually started operating after all the preparations about 8:50. By 10:50 AM we were told they were removing his Titanium rods from his last operation. Shortly aft 1:00 PM the Surgeon came out and met Amy and Debbie who were in the waiting room. Amy was shocked to see him so soon. He was beaming from ear to ear. After removing the rods, they inspected the T-3 vertebrae and the growth did not look like the previous cancer they had taken out last year. They scraped the growth off the bone, replaced it with some cadaver bones, replaced the rods and sewed him back up. The previous cages placed in the location of the T-2 vertebrae removed last year are fusing well and did not need to be removed. The T-3 was not removed.

They re-opened my initial scar and apparently they were able to get to all of the growth without having to tear into the prior fusion. They did however have to cut the right side rib that connects to the T3, so that they could get around the side of the vertebrae. In doing so I now have a floating rib, and a permanently severed right side T3 nerve root. They did the same thing the first time around. The T2 ribs were cut off from the vertebrae and both right and left side T2 nerve roots were cut and tied off. The T2 was then removed and the cages were placed. I was told that the T2-3 nerve roots are mainly supplying sensory nerves under my arms and across my chest. With out them I lack feeling in my armpits and across small portions of my chest. With the Addition of the right side T3 root being severed, I think I have my answer to why my right forearm is still numb without much progression towards any feeling. So total I have 3 floating ribs and 3 severed nerve roots! Oh and I guess I ended up with a small hole in my right Lung too, they weren't too worried about that though. Cool Huh?

I was very much looking forward to keeping any hardware they replaced, but It all stayed right where they put it the first time. I was truly blessed. I know that because they only scraped the growth off the bone instead of removing the vertebrae all together, my recovery will be as miraculous and as quick as was the surgery.

The Nurses needed me to get up and move, not only to get me going but I had to go down and get x-rays. The first time I stood up my legs started shaking violently, and I had to lay back down after just a of seconds of standing. Talk about painful. They then wheeled me down to X-ray and got me up again, they had me stand up by myself so I could get the x-rays done. I didn't think I was going to make it but somehow it all just happened, during the x-rays only a little while after I had first stood, I didn't shake or pass out, The Lord gave me the strength I needed.

The following days were no fun. I didn't feel like eating anything, Amy did get some Apple sauce in me though. She was so sweet. You just don't feel good and I apparently can't do narcotics very well either. If they are given through an IV, I seem to be able to handle it, at least my stomach can. My lower digestive tract just seems to shut down regardless if it is IV or tablet form. The minute they give me pills and take me off the IV's over! I tend to get SO SO sick! The nausea is unbearable and there seems to be no relief. They can give me all sorts of nausea meds and it won't help. Trust me they have tons of different ones, I think during chemotherapy last year they gave me every nausea med they had. Regardless, with the Narcotics nothing seemed to help.

Once again experience from the first time came back. The same thing happened last year. After many days of nausea the Doctors finally decided to change my meds from narcotics to prescription strength Tylenol derivatives. It was all sunshine and flowers after that. So this time we told the Doctors the same thing, and even gave them the name of the pain killer that worked for me last year. Of course Doctors always seem to know better and shrugged it off. We got to the point this time where we almost demanded to have my meds switched. I couldn't take it anymore. The doctor said the pain killer I was telling them about wouldn't be strong enough. We again told him of how well it worked last time. I can tell you, there is a surprising amount of pain you can stand when you feel OK. As soon as you are nauseated you turn into a big baby and everything is miserable. I would rather feel more pain taking the "lighter" pain killer, but having no nausea, than be out of pain but sicker than a dog.

Thankfully the pain killer was finally switched and I started to feel better. I say "finally" because we had a slight communication issue with the nursing staff. As good as the nursing staff was, and they were good, English was a second language to the majority of them. The last thing you want to have problems with when you feel like crap is communication. The Nurse didn't quite get what we were trying to tell her, when we asked to have my meds switched. She being the intermediate voice between me and the doctor, I guess things got lost in between. So the switch in my meds didn't happen for many hours, the majority of the day actually. Last year when the Doctors decided to switch my pain meds it took all of about 30 minutes and I was on the lighter stuff.

The next obstacle I ran into was trying to get my lower digestive tract back to normal. Anyone who has been through a big surgery knows that being immobile for days and having the narcotics do their number on you, you end up well.... plugged. There is no sugar coating here, it is not fun. They give you all sorts of stool softeners for days in hopes that it will make things easier to pass. All it does is turn the upper half of your digestive tract into a churning belly ache while the bottom end is blocked. Excuse the analogy here but it's like having a bullet train trying to pass an old steam locomotive. After about 5 days it gets so painful you will do anything to find relief. In my case a 4:00 am nasty concoction of milk of magnesia and something else, had me feeling much better by about 6:30 am. I'll leave it at that.

Monday after the surgery I found myself going crazy. A hospital stay is such a mental game. You have to try your hardest to keep it together. You can honestly watch only so much TV. You are stuck in a small room looking at the ceiling, trying to keep you mind busy so you don't stare at the clock for hours. There are times when that clock doesn't move! It stares back at you almost in a mocking manner, trying to push you to see if you will break. The worst is when you doze off and think you have slept for hours, when in reality you have been out for about 25 mins! You really have to learn patience. Maybe the Lord knew I needed to exercise my patience a little more. I remember the talk given by Deiter F. Uchtdorf, in the most recent General Conference about patience. He spoke of how it wasn't merely waiting. Here is what he said;

Patience Isn’t Merely Waiting

... I learned that patience was far more than simply waiting for something to happen—patience required actively working toward worthwhile goals and not getting discouraged when results didn’t appear instantly or without effort.

There is an important concept here: patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!

I had to learn how to endure it well. This seemed much harder to actually do than to just read about it. Yet through hope, faith and constant conversation with the Lord, he finally gave me what I wanted most; my ticket out of there!

The doctor came in and asked me how I would feel about going home today or tomorrow. I was shocked! I had my surgery on Thursday and Monday they were asking me when I wanted to go home. I was dying to get out of there but I wasn't sure I was physically ready. I got to thinking. OK I can either lay in bed here or I can lay in bed at HOME! It didn't take me long to make up my mind. I was going Home.

Actually we decided to stay one night at Mom and Dad Hirschi's in the Salt Lake Valley before heading up to our place in Riverdale. The best part was walking through that door to see my two little boys and having them scream Daddy! Talk about medicine, that was a huge dose of "get better quick". The following days hearing their giggles just mended my heart and soul so much more. It was good to be home, I needed to be home.

When I think about it, my hospital stay last year was from the 3rd of Feb until the 17th of Feb, with my surgery on the 7th. It was so much longer than this time. However this stay seemed to get to me a little more even though it was much shorter. Maybe it was because I had already done it once before and I knew how much fun it WASN'T. I mean really...who wants to be a human pin cushion?

I know that because of all the thoughts and prayers that have gone out on our behalf, this surgery was truly a miracle. It is amazing and comforting to me that the power of prayer can have such a great effect on the lives of all of us. Thank you all for the prayers and support you have given me and my family. I know God answers prayers. I am walking proof of it.

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