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Friday, September 23, 2011

Oh. So, THAT'S Why My Back Hurts... (Photos)

Yesterday, I was in excruciating pain.  The pain level had really amped up from the days before.  Previously, I had been at a constant 9, even with a steady stream of Dilaudid and Percocet.  When I woke up yesterday, my pain was at a 13.  It stayed at that throughout the day.

I spoke with my surgeon's office on Tuesday, and was told that it was OK to remove the dressing from both my back and front incisions.  I could also start showering and getting those areas wet, as long as I wasn't soaking them.  So last night (Thursday), we removed the bandages.  Almost immediately, my back started bleeding.  It wasn't gushing, but enough to start running down my back, my cheek, and freak the fuck out of my wife that it might get on the comforter.

We called the hospital.  They told us that they couldn't give any medical advice over the phone, and to reference my discharge paperwork.  So, we read my discharge paperwork.  10 pages.  Four pages dedicated to diabetes management.  Not one sentence on what to do in the event that you are fucking bleeding after surgery.  We called the nurses' station on the floor I was on at the hospital.  They advised that I speak to my doctor.  Keep in mind that this is all happening at 9PM.  We call my surgeon's office, and get the after hours operator.  The on-call doctor calls us back.  He advises us to clean up the blood with alcohol swabs if we have some, re-bandage the incision, and wait a few more days before trying to shower.

He was actually the doctor that assisted during the surgery.  He said that, considering the difficulties they had, the incision still bleeding 9 days after the surgery is somewhat to be expected.  He told me to "lay off on my exercise". LOL.  Guess my training for the Ironman is going to have to wait.  Exercise?!  With the exception of turning onto my side every two hours, the only exercise I get is sitting up and walking ten feet to the bathroom twice a day.  Other than that, I'm flat on my back 24/7.

My doctor is known for pioneering a procedure called the "ship in a bottle" technique.  It's one where he makes an incision that is an inch or less on either side of the back.  He inserts glass tubes under the muscles of the back, and is able to reach everything in your spine through the tubes.  It's one of the most minimally invasive ways to do spinal surgeries in the world.  When I had my discectomy in June, I had a single 3/4 inch incision, where many people would have a 6 inch incision or more.  When I woke up from my surgery in June, I had zero pain.  I was walking again within two hours.

When planning for my surgery last week, I was under the assumption that I would have a 1 inch cut on both sides of my back.  When the bandages were removed last night, I realized the scope of what I had undergone.

Note:  CD is for scale.  It was not removed from my back.

After having a lengthy "WTF" conversation with my wife last night, it was explained to me that most of the "complications" that my doctors keep referring to involved having to figure out, on the fly, how to operate on me.  At my post-operative consultation with Jessi last Tuesday, he explained to her that he had to elongate the side incisions, and finally make the huge center incision, simply because his tools were too short to fit into my back.

He stressed to her that it wasn't a matter of weight.  He had never seen a spinal structure that large before.  Even after making the center cut, it had to be opened even further, so a second set of hands could get into my back and move things around.

Keep in mind, my surgeon is the team spinal doctor for the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Cardinals.  I am not the first "big guy" that he has operated on.

They had to have tenderized me like a side of beef in that O.R..  It's no wonder that I am bruised from the waist up.  They manhandled me.  And, I'm going to have some sick ass battle scars to prove it.


Rachel said...

Good to hear an update, I'm sorry you're still in so much pain! How awful! I hope it keeps getting better!