Monday, December 24, 2012

The BIG day and the challenges thereafter

On December 4rth our family entered a big day.  After years of chronic, daily, often debilitating pain, my husband decided to have back surgery.  We were all so thrilled with the prospect of easing his pain and improving his daily life!  But also, I was a wreck on the inside.  It's never an easy day when you know a surgeon will be operating millimeters from your husband's spinal cord.  We both talked briefly about the dangers, but prayed and followed what we felt like the Lord wanted us to do in spite of our fears.

Andy had a big handful of things wrong with his back.  He was born with spondelolesthesis.  It causes the very bottom vertebrae to be malformed.  He also had several herniated discs.  His spinal column shifted and had a piece of floating bone in the middle, due to a car accident several years ago.  He also had places where the spinal column narrowed and really compressed on nerves.  The doctor said that he has an unusually think spinal cord, and because of it, he was able to walk without dragging one of his legs. 

This past fall has been the roughest time for him, physically, ever.  He had many episodes where he was laying flat for over a week.  It became obvious to us that something needed to be done, and we shouldn't put off surgery any longer.  So we visited several neurosurgeons and found one that we trusted.  As impressed as we were, it did not make the weeks between scheduling the surgery and the big day any easier.

The day of surgery I was blessed beyond my wildest imagination.  The children were cared for for a couple of days by my parents, and life went on as usual for them.  I was able to be at the hospital for the first 48 hours without the children missing a beat.  And it was a good thing, because Andy needed extra care.

The surgery was supposed to last 2-3 hours.  But it was a 5 hour surgery.  When the doctor asked to see me in a private conference room, after a long 5 hour wait, I almost became sick to my stomach.  My brother in law went in the room with me to receive the news.  Thankfully, it was great news.  The surgery went very well, and all was repaired.  I was so thankful for the company of Andy's parents and brother, his cousin and uncle and aunt, and our dear elder and pastor from church.  Looking back, the good company was literally the presence of God for me, as I was really nervous and uneasy. 

Before picture, ready to roll!
Andy's recovery was difficult the first two days.  The first night his lungs had trouble waking up after so much anesthesia.  So his pulse ox dropped into a dangerous range all night long.  There was talk of putting him in the ICU.  But instead, I watched the monitors and reminded him to breathe and rubbed his chest all night long.  He needed reminders about every 5-10 minutes for the first 12 hours.  Once we got past that obstacle, he began to run a fever.  His fever lasted for the first 3 days, even after we went home.  We don't know if it was from the "trauma" of the surgery or if he had a virus.  But I am sure that trying to recover from major surgery with this fever must have been miserable. 

Once we got past the fever, he recovered so nicely that first week.  He was walking before leaving the hospital.  He had virtually no back pain, just residual leg pain, which is normal.  Unfortunately, we got the stomach bug the week after surgery.  So the week of the 10th we all were sick except for Joshua.  Poor Jackson had it twice!  Because this was such a set back for us, we stayed with my parents the first two  weeks of December.  Finally we got better and came home on the 14th.  Jackson missed 3 days of school in December and I missed 5!  But in the end, I found wonderful substitutes and he made up all of his work.  No harm, no foul.

Oh, one more thing about recovery....when it came time for Andy to have his staples removed we were all a big mess of sickness.  So I removed them myself!  It was one of those moments like when your baby has an explosion diaper or vomits on you that you just pretend like you are somewhere else, suck it up, and get it done.  I HATE to care for wounds.  Oh, I hate it.  I would make a better rocket scientist than doctor.  But I googled it, found the tools, and did it with no problem.  Learn something new every day, right?

During the week before Christmas we were at home.  Thankfully we had decorated the house for Christmas during the Thanksgiving break.  Unfortunately, we had very few Christmas presents and we were all completely exhausted.  But somehow we finished school that week, celebrated my brother's birthday, and went to three family Christmas parties between the 17th and 25th.  Of course, there were school and faculty parties, too.  For most of these parties we were stopping on the way to buy and wrap gifts.  We were burning the candle at both ends trying to keep up with all of the festivities.  And just when it was all over on Christmas day, we came down with the flu.  Golly bum!  I am sure we were just really susceptible due to lack of sleep, busyness, and poor diet.

No matter, we were home and it was time to rest, any way.  December was a challenge!  But good, too.  And blessings always abound.  Looking back, I think I probably did many of these events with the flu, unknowingly.  How can you tell if you have the flu when you are that busy and exhausted?  But this Christmas break will finally bring a full night's rest and some down time. 

We are so excited that the surgery is behind us!  Andy has worked his way up to walking 1.5 miles a day.  His goal is to be at 2 miles by January.  His back is really healing perfectly and we have hope that he will be able to maintain all of his regular activities in a few weeks, except with less or no pain!  It was a rough month, but so worth it!  We are home now, getting well, and he is healing with a "fixed" back.  What a blessing!  Ready for January!

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