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3 Weeks ACDF Post-Surgery Update

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I had my first follow-up on Friday with my surgeon. Up until that point I’d been in my pajamas with a hard neck collar, buzzed hair, thick black-rimmed glasses, and obviously no makeup. There wasn’t anything close to “hot” in “hot mess” here. But hey, buzzed hair = barely shampooing = don’t knock it ’til you try it, because trying to shampoo your hair after neck surgery is a wench.

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This was taken mid-February. We’ve come quite a long way in a short amount of time, folks. Now the hair is basically a pixie cut instead of the Furiosa.

My latest foray into the outside world before seeing my surgeon for the all-clear? Chasing my damn cat, Fattie, who decided that the cold muddy day of the week was the perfect time to sneak past me out the front door while I talked to a woman across the street. She made to leap from the front steps straight onto the muddy ground and then — after shrieking at me for grabbing her tail — gave me a furious look like the mud was somehow my fault.

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You are TR-8R.

“Excuse me a moment,” I said before scrambling after the cat, socks in the mud while my poor neighbor just stared at me (thanks for the help!). This simple trek around the house literally exhausted me to the point that afterward I had to shower. (One lovely side effect of all the narcotics and withdrawing from them? SWEATING. OH MY GOD. THE SWEATING. I’ll fold laundry and start sweating. It’s absurd.)

Anyway, my house has a giant fence around it that Fattie is either too scared to scale or too stupid to realize that it’s something over which she can jump. She has a set route that takes her around the house and around again in circles, forever, until you catch her. I got her maybe 3/4 of the way through by bribing her and her traitorous, muddy paws with food.

Anyway, I had an original point. My first surgical follow-up. Yes. My mother came to take me to the appointment, and she kept saying how much better I look. I even sound different, apparently. I sound better than I did before the second car accident. She’s not so scared to approach certain topics, like “But you look so good! You must be feeling great!” We even managed to make our way through Nordstrom to pick out dresses for my cousin’s upcoming wedding. I’d warned Mom that I start to sundown around 2 or 3 pm. My appointment was at 2. We were informed, upon arrival, that an emergency at the hospital had caused my doc’s previous day’s patients to be shoved to the next day, meaning it was another 1.5 hours before I saw anyone of the medical variety. Got my X-Rays taken, had my questions written down — I was ready to go. I was actually feeling relatively okay, energy-level-wise. I mean, I’m on Percocet, but still. Weaning off those now. Hence the lovely sweating.

So check out this double-fusion, boys and girls!

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This is J. W. Kain’s C4-C6 fusion. Don’t none of y’all pretend it’s yours! That’s MINE!

So check out the right picture. The dark vertical tube-ish area next to the plate and screws is my esophagus. See that pocket-looking thing? I was super concerned that it was like, you know, a real pocket. Things have been getting stuck. Remember the mucus? (Oh yes. Yes, you do. That post is a scar upon your mind that doesn’t go away.) That hasn’t gotten much better. I’m still on a mostly-liquid diet. I’ve lost 15 pounds. Doc said that it’s a ton of A.) scar tissue from the previous surgery and B.) inflammation from this surgery. So yes, in effect it’s forming a pocket that’s preventing me from eating food that hasn’t been chewed within an inch of its life. I asked him how long it should be before that goes away; he said maybe six weeks. Given my weird esophagus, I am skeptical.

Side note: Here’s all you need to know about my weird esophagus and how food and I have a weird relationship: I am “allergic” to wheat/gluten, dairy, fish, and peanuts because of an autoimmune disease called eosinophilic esophagitis. This means my body thinks certain foods are the enemy and go into a histamine-sort of response, my throat gets super irritated, and I toss my cookies, or, as they probably say in France, tercer tes biscuits. Google translate’s saying mélanger vos cookies. Not sure. There ya go. 

Doc cleared me of the hard cervical collar and said the soft one isn’t even a necessary transition point, which it definitely was last time FOR MONTHS. We just skipped that step this time! I can wear the collar if I feel I need to, but even if a f***ing fire cracker suddenly explodes and I whip my head to the side to see what the hullabaloo is all about, I will be okay. “I haven’t seen too many people have their head fall off,” Doc said. Comforting!

I can drive. I’m able to start physical therapy. I can basically do whatever my body allows me to do. He even took the stitches out. Right now it’s a bit gruesome, and it’s joined the previous scar to look like one continuous murder attempt that will eventually soften into the natural lines of my neck. My brother said it looks pretty brutal, like I’ve survived assassination. Like I fought off a scimitar. I was checking it out in the mirror and realized I kind of like it. It tells a story. It says I was stronger than whatever happened there. I didn’t want to get too close to it with the camera because it is still pretty raw. But here you go:

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In all seriousness, it’s not too bad. And yes. That’s me. Hello. Makeup and non-pajamas for the first time in almost a month.

My energy levels are up. I’m not napping hardly at all, and while I am only taking Valium at night, I’m on halves of Percocet every five hours or so. I’m still waking up at 5 in the morning when the meds have definitely worn off and I need another dose. Doc wants me to move down to Tramadol and then eventually to Tylenol. I can make that happen. My friends came over this past weekend; I was able to hang out with them sans cervical collar and sit through both VHS versions of Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back (pre-special edition, so they hadn’t been destroyed by George Lucas yet; we got them for a dollar each at the library book sale). I am kind of able to do simple yoga if it’s from the shoulders down. I am cleared, the stitches are out, and life is looking great! I am even able to finally start to get back to work (as I feel up to it, my surgeon stressed).

Future posts? Back to work! I’ll be discussing the transition to working from home, tax implications for freelancers (oh yes, you heard that right, it’s going to be FUN TIMES ALL AROUND), and how to make the jump from the working world as safely as possible. In the meantime? I’m healing. I’m coloring. I’m meditating. I’m exhausted. I’m feeling happy. Things are great, and I hope today makes you as happy as it’s making me.

 

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3 Comments

  1. swymer says

    You are rocking your battle scar, my friend. Glad to hear you’re recovering well. I’m excited to read about your transition to getting back into work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I adore you. Thanks so much!! 😀 Also, your blog has left me astounded. You really need to write more because you have a hell of a voice. Now I want to visit South Korea so bad!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Pain News Network: Recovering from Spinal Surgery | Wear, Tear, & Care

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