I think most of my life is spent expecting the worst. Maybe that helps me when things don’t go quite right. I don’t know, but I do know that my ACDF surgery went better than I expected. I am now 36 hours out so I thought I’d write up my surgical experience and then document the recovery as I go.
If you want to see the entire experience in pictures, I created a highlights tab on Instagram.
I got to the hospital at 7 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 18. Due to COVID, I was alone. Also due to the fact that we had no heat in our house because our system went down. I didn’t want my husband to just sit in the waiting room so I told him I was fine and he could go home.
I checked in and went back to pre-op pretty quickly. My nurses were fantastic. The nurse who did my IV and got me ready had versed on hand in case I got nervous. I watched TV, played on my phone and was ready to head in just after 9 a.m. The surgeon came in and marked my neck and we discussed my concerns. He told me he was listening to some hair-bands and some Led Zepplin in the operating room so I was in for a treat. We were waiting on some bloodwork to be verified so I think they said 9:39 when I rolled in the OR.
I was awake. I moved myself from one bed to another. I was surprisingly calm. My amazing nurse told me what all the people were there for, and there were a lot. I commented about how bright it was. Someone placed a mask on my face and it was blowing air, but it wasn’t doing anything. Then I asked about the music, they discussed a few things around me and then I was in recovery. Well, at least that’s what it felt like to me.
What happened in the OR
I only learned this information today.
My surgeon was able to get everything off the nerve root so he is hopeful there is no lasting nerve damage. I do have a numb spot in my thumb and he’s not sure if that will be permanent or if it could come back.
He said he moved things out of way and was able to get in and replace the disc. He had to use an 8 mm cage to space out the disc, which was bigger that we thought.
He also said that I’m only the second in the world to get this particular plate. He explained how it worked, but he lost me. I plan to get more information at my post-surgical appointment on Dec. 31.
Honestly, this surgeon impressed me. He said “God designed us like this…” and every time I’ve met with him, he’s left me with “God bless you.”
I woke up in recovery and two nurses were with me. I saw the clock was 12:30 and I wanted to make sure they had called my husband. They had. They asked if I was in any pain and I told them just my incision. They gave me something for the pain. I laid around with my eyes closed for a while before they gave me my phone and I was able to start responding to texts. I was so tired. The next thing I knew, I was heading up to my room. It’s nice when the bed just moves and I have to do nothing.
I got to my room and they assessed my pain again and asked if I was nauseated. I wasn’t, but they were going to give me Zofran anyway because of my emetophobia. God bless them for understanding.
I watched a bit of TV, went to the bathroom and about 4 p.m., I got my dinner tray or should I say my tray of water. I had some chicken broth, jello, italian ice and some juice. It felt good to have something to eat.
I watched a bunch of Christmas movies, dozed and played on my phone. I didn’t bring much to the hospital. I sort of wish I had brought something else to engage my mind so there wasn’t a lot of dozing. That was hard. A coloring book would have been good.
Nurses switched at 7 p.m. I was hungry but I didn’t really have any choices. Cindy, the night nurse, found me some ice cream. As a fall risk I had to call every single time I needed to use the bathroom or move. She talked me through my meds, pain and my psych drugs. We decided what to take and when to best manage my pain and my sleep.
I slept off and on most of the night but was up for the day by 5 a.m. The nurse pulled my drain tube, which was most painful than I thought it would be. They moved me to a chair at 6:40 and I finally got to put pants on. Yay!
Day 2 ACDF Post Op
My breakfast came and it was a challenge. My throat is very, very sore. Swallowing hurts, so does burping and hiccuping and stuff. I had scrambled eggs, cream of wheat and pears on my tray. I tried the eggs, but they wouldn’t go down easily. I opted for the Cream of Wheat with brown sugar and I mashed up the pears. It was actually pretty good.
I wanted out so I was trying to act completely normal and I also asked what needed to be done. I needed to see physical therapy and I needed to see medical and I needed to see my surgeon. Let’s do this.
Physical therapy came first. He made me walk the halls, do some stairs and taught me how to manuever with the brace. Then, he taught me how to adjust it, remove it and put it back on. By the time we were walking back, I was tired. Like so tired I just wanted to sit down. Still trying to keep it normal though so I didn’t tell anyone.
A medical doctor came in and cleared me some a medical stand point. My vitals were good all night and he felt good discharging me.
Next came a PA from the surgical team. He did some assessments and told me he wasn’t sure if my surgeon was coming in or not, but he’d call and check and get me moving toward discharge. Not much later, my surgeon was in the room. We had the above discussion and then he ordered up my meds. The pharmacy said they could have them in a half hour, so I told my husband to pick me up at 1 p.m. Perfect timing.
Do you have kids? Do you remember that first drive home when you weren’t sure if you should sit in the backseat with the kid and you were worried someone would hit you? Yeah, I didn’t know if I should hold my neck or sit back. I was very aware of every care around us. I was afraid someone would rear end us and my neck would move, even in the brace.
We made it home and I learned immediately that my family was pretty set on me not doing anything. Which is fine. It’s hard for me to stay down. My brain runs constantly. I came home, took a nap (PRAISE GOD) and then had a family Christmas Zoom. We were on for about an hour and about 30 minutes in, my eyes just wanted to close. The exhaustion was not what I was expecting. Moving around just wears me out completely.
I have had so many texts and messages and emails and love sent my way and I am so, so thankful to everyone who helped us out and got us through this. We are truly, truly blessed. Now, we move into recovery and hope things continue to go smoothly. And from now on, I will be your ergonomic czar. Poor posture leads to this folks. Get a good chair, don’t stare down at anything. Keep you chin up.