Thursday, February 14, 2013

Post-surgery update: tail end of flu; may need another MRI

The flu bug that has slayed me for three weeks is now on the way out of my system. It has left me with a few annoyances -- night fevers, incredible fatigue, vision problems (dry, blurry) -- that I hope will pass soon. The coughing has nearly ceased, but its effect has cost me in terms of my recovery from L5-S1 bilateral discectomy surgery on January 18.

I coughed so much the first week and a half that I had shooting pains down my leg again, suggesting I may have re-herniated somewhat and that's a big concern. I had to wait out this flu until I could make an appointment to see the surgeon. I go next Tuesday, he may suggest an MRI so we know what we're dealing with. Here's how it went:

Week of 1/28: flu hits full force; heavy, sometimes violent coughing from 1/30-2/9. Expected weakness, fever and sinus discharge (nasal/eyes). Pain and inflammation/swelling at incision.

* Coughing in some instances caused some shooting leg pain down left and right legs, worse on left.
* One spell caused increased numbness down left leg; bad tingling/burning
* Weakness in both legs consistent.
* Unable to do PT walking at all because of flu symptoms.
* Used Tylenol to reduce fever: two 500 mg, 3x/day.


There is soreness near the surgical incision (right), but overall the wound itself has healed really well over the last few weeks. All of the "krazy glue" used to seal me on the outside (he used dissolving stitches on the inside) has fallen off now, leaving a vertical scar about 2" long along my lower back.

Because he had to chisel out part of the herniation that had calcified, there was quite a bit or trauma to the surrounding tissue, and that caused a lot of bruising. That has gone away, but the area around it is pretty discolored and, well, unattractive, but this is my war wound. We'll see what clears up long term.

Of course if there is a re-herniation, he's going to have to slice me again, and the prospect of that is frightening, but it happens 10%-15% of the time, and my odds were probably a bit worse because of the calcification and more traumatic surgery.

Surgery recovery

I do have to say once the horrible fog of the flu has lifted, it's easier to tell what is going on with my recovery from surgery since it's almost a month out. Being crapped out by that bug takes everything out of you. So, given this is about the first day I don't feel completely wiped by noon, I can report what is going on re: the spine surgery.

* Minimal exertion causes extreme fatigue, and increased fever at night is worse with exertion (~100)..

* Back pain and stiffness is constant; but I am not taking any additional prescription pain meds, toughing it out. Stopped those about a week and a half ago.
* Sitting for longer than 30 minutes in a chair is really uncomfortable.
* Standing is OK, walking at length is uncomfortable (but no more left-leg limping!)
* Returned to doing PT stretches.
* Re-started some walking on 2/13. Tiring; calf/foot numbness was noticeable, no shooting pain.
* Numbness and infrequent twitching down left leg.
* Numbness and tingling on undersides of both feet, and on top of left foot, down outside of left calf.

So that's what I'll discuss with the surgeon. I am far behind on my walking, and this has delayed my recovery, but I need a few round of walks to see what is/isn't working.

Driving (test)!

The big news is I drove for the first time last Friday. The surgeon said I was OK to try it as long as I could comfortably get behind the wheel. I wore a supportive wrap around my back (left over from my hysterectomy) for support. Kate came with me and I drove about a total of 2.5 miles.

How did it go? Well, let's just say I will not drive much for a while. That short jaunt was useful in letting me know just which muscles you use to drive, and how mine are very weak post-surgery. This is not unusual, but the end result is I experienced tailbone pain (not good), and some bad soreness that lasted a couple of days. I had to pop the Tylenol and immediately nodded off for a 4 hour nap.

I guess that's progress, eh? I'll report that to the surgeon as well.

And it's a Happy Valentine's Day -- much love to my wife Kate, who has been right there for me during all of this, reminding me not to bend, twist, and lift, and helping to sanitize our way through this flu. She's managed not to get it from my by some miracle! My major output of energy is to cook her a nice dinner tonight; the first I've really had enough energy to do, though I know it will mean early bedtime for me, lol. Well worth it.

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