On the Flip-side of A Cervical Fusion

I survived. But, I’m not gonna lie. It sucked. At least for the first two days. After that, it was smooth sailing.

So, on the morning of Wednesday, February 6th, I woke up at 4:30 am a nervous mess. I was scared and anxious, and just wanted to put the cervical fusion behind me. Dutifully, I didn’t eat or drink, and showered using the hospital-provided antibacterial soap. At 5:00, I woke Frankie, and got the girls up a half an hour later. Yes, we keep them home from school. You tell two terrified girls they have to go sit in class while their mother is having spinal surgery. Yeah, that wasn’t happening. Besides, I wanted all my people there with me.

I’m a sap like that.

We were in the car by 6:30, and on our way to the hospital for my 8:30 procedure.

My nurse was waiting for me when we arrived. I was whisked away from my family only minutes after we got there. After I was led to the pre-op area (which resembled a standard emergency room), I stripped out of my T-shirt and sweat pants, and donned a lovely hospital-issued gown and skit-proof bodies.

I have to say, the two nurses who prepped me were absolutely incredible. They treated me like royalty, and put up with my endless, nervous rambling. They gave me a heated blanket since I was shivering, and started an IV. Afterward, my neck was cleaned with iodine and wrapped in a blue towel. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to use a hair tie, so my hair was all over the place and totally in the way. It’s very long, and very thick. They had to use a piece of latex glove to haphazardly hold it back so it wasn’t in the way.

Before I knew it, Frankie and the girls were allowed in just as my anesthesiologist, Dr. Ho, arrived. With my family (finally) with me, I calmed down a bit and stopped being so scared. Jesse cried, which broke my heart, and when my surgeon, Dr. Kubek, came in, he answered each of Tyler’s 2,956,501 questions.

When Tyler started crying, Dr. Kubeck assured her he’d take good care of me and that I’d be just fine. I love that he took those extra few moments with us. It put us all at ease.

With the formalities out of the way, I was given a sedative. Honestly, I have no memory of what happened once that medicine kicked in. Apparently, I was waving to Frankie and the girls, saying “goodbye family”. I also gave Frankie metal horns as he snapped a picture of me being rolled away.

I do have a hazy recollection of being in the operating room. Dr. Ho was coming at me with an anesthesia mask. I vaguely recall her telling me it was oxygen, and to take deep breaths. I’ve since learned they say this so as to not scare the patient. Me, being me, I remember laughing and telling her she couldn’t fool me because I knew it was the “good shit”.

It was lights-out after that.

Waking up in Recovery was there worst. I was cold and groggy and the muscles in my shoulder ached so bad, I had to hold back tears. But, I struggled to stay awake because I wanted to get out of there. Frankie and the girls were waiting for me in my room. The sooner I left Recovery, the sooner I’d see them. So, I forced myself to remain awake, and less than an hour after I reluctantly opened my eyes, I was on my way to my room—which, by the way, in the hospital I was at, was private, so yay!! Most importantly, I was on my way to my family.

I missed them, and I needed to see their faces.

And there they were—my gorgeous people—smiling at me as I was brought into my room.

I gotta note here that I’ve had a similar surgery five years ago and bounced back immediately. I also wasn’t in too much pain directly after the procedure. This time? It hurt like hell. Like, for real. The incision stung. The drain was annoying. My shoudler muscles hurt so bad, it took my breath away. The back of my skull felt like someone smashed it with a hammer. And I was starving. Everything about this fusion sucked for the first twenty-four hours.

Thank goodness I’d left my modesty at home, because let me tell you… It felt like the entire world saw the crack of my ass. Seriously. It was absurd. I couldn’t close the back of my gown, so every time I had to sit up or get out of bed, it flapped open and there was my fat ass on display. And, of course, I had to pee. A lot. So, I was constantly getting out of bed. The first million times, I called the nurse to help me. Sometime during the night, I gave up and figured out how to unplug my IV stand so I could take myself to the bathroom.

Frankie and the girls arrived bright and early the next morning. Thank goodness. I hardly slept the night before, for obvious reasons, and the night crawled over me, with each minute feeling like an hour.

Eating was the next challenge. Not only was my throat sore, I also now had titanium plates fused into my cervical spine. Even now, over two weeks out of surgery, swallowing still feel funky. Likely throat is smaller. But, I managed to eat slow and take super tinyl bites, and got through breakfast like a champ. I was still achy, uncomfortable, and a bit groggy from he after-affects of the anesthesia, by totally ready to get the hell out of there.

When Dr. Kubeck arrived to check on me, and discharge me, he also pulled out the drain. Look. I’ve never had one. I didn’t know what to expect. I’m also no stranger to pain, and have an oddly high tolerance for it. But that? Holy hell. Worst. Pain. I’ve. Ever. Felt. In. Forty-Five. Years. No exaggeration. And it felt as if the longer he pulled on that tube, the more tube he still had to yank out. What was probably only seconds, seemed to last forever. I also, apparently, turned so white, Frankie and Dr. Kubeck feared I was going to pass out. But, I didn't, and it was finally over, and I never—ever—want a drain again.

Like, ever.

Thankfully, by 10:30 am, we were on our way home.

The first two days were…irritating…because I wanted to snap right back like the last time. But, I’m five years older than when I had the first procedure. This one was also more intensive. It took me longer than I’d hoped to get back to feeling like myself. I tired easily, that even the simple act of showing left me rung out and in need of a nap. But, a week later, I was fine. In fact, I only took one Oxycontin, and that the day after the surgery. I also took only two valium. One Thursday night, and the second Friday night, because my shoulder muscles still ached, and it was difficult to fall asleep in the neck brace. beyond that, I didn’t even need a Tylenol. So, I have to say I had pretty damn quick recovery.

I actually heal so fast, and have such a high tolerance for pain, that Dr. Kubeck remarked on it during my follow up exam two weeks after the procedure. In fact, he kept reminding me that even though I fell fine, I had a major surgery and my body needs to heel—despite feeling great.

I’m still slowly getting back into a routine, mindful not to sit too long or do too much. My job is computer-based, so it’s noting strenuous, and I was actually thrilled to get back to work. I’m not a sit-around-and-do-nothing sort. The whole rest and relax thing was driving me insane. I need stuff to do!

So, the surgery was a success. I’m out of pain, and I feel amazing. If anyone comes across this post because they’re facing this procedure and they’re scared, don’t be. It’s not as bad as it seems. The worst part is that once you’re up and about, you still have to keep the brace on, and that’s annoying as hell. Especially when it comes to sleeping. But, if I can get through it twice, and I’m a picky sleeper, in that I have to snuggle down in a certain way or else it takes me forever to fall asleep, you can get through it, too. Just prop your head and shoulders up on a bunch of pillows, and find your comfy position. I promise you, it’s not that bad, and once you’re on the flipside, you’ll laugh at how needlessly terrified you were going not the surgery.

And now for some photos….

The first two are x-rays of my neck two weeks post-surgery. You can see the original six screws from the first procedure, and the plates(s) added during the second. The next photo is the incision three days post-surgery. The last two are fifteen days post-surgery. The glue peeled away from the incision, so that’s what it looks like now. I also included a picture of the brace so you can get an idea of just how awkward and uncomfortable it is to have to wear the damn thing 24/7 for four weeks. But, I’m trying not to bitch too much. Some people have to wear it for six weeks. I also wish I can say my chin is swollen, but nope. That double chin is purely the result of lots of Five Guys and pizza, and not working out since October. The pimple? I blame on the surgery.

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