All posts filed under: surgery

Dr. Death — IE, What Happens When Your Spine Surgeon has a God Complex

“I can fix you.” No doctor worth their degree says, “I can fix you.” It is a promise that no one can keep. The beginning of “Dr. Death,” a relatively new podcast from Wondery, speaks to that resigned place in the soul of someone weary with suffering, and this doctor said the words all pain patients are so desperate to hear. “Imagine. You’re struggling with back pain for months. No one can tell you what’s wrong. Then, you find a doctor, and the words that he said that I wanted to hear were, ‘I can fix you.’ Those are magic words. I was in pain.” — via Wondery My gorge rose while listening to the vivid details of a patient’s head literally being separated from his cervical spine by this surgeon’s sheer ineptitude. Another patient’s esophagus was cut and a sponge left inside to fester. Yet another’s vocal cords were destroyed, rendering her voice a strangled, raspy whisper. Nerve roots severed. Bone fragments digging into muscle and even the spinal canal. All of them suffering …

Pain News Network: Recovering from Spinal Surgery

Check out my latest column for the Pain News Network! For those of you playing the home game (i.e. following my blog), I’ve been recuperating from a cervical discectomy and fusion of C4-C5. That was February 19. I’ve been recovering in an amazing fashion, much faster than my first fusion of C5-C6. Just north of a month later, I also had thoracic injections at T-11 through L-1. I was far more scared of this procedure than the fusion — and I’ve had injections before, so it was nothing new. I knew exactly what was going to happen, but I didn’t know how my body would react. Why? Read on. My Abbreviated Back Story (No Pun Intended) My injuries have followed a strange road. When my mom’s car was stopped in traffic in 2004, we were rear-ended at 65 miles per hour. I was seventeen. I broke my spine in four places: T-11 through L-1, but also a facet joint that wasn’t found until a year later when it had calcified over a cluster of nerves. …

3 Weeks ACDF Post-Surgery Update

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. 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. “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 …

Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion… and Phlegmy, Phlegmy Mucus

That’s an ominous title, isn’t it? BUCKLE UP, BUCKAROOS! FIRST OFF: I HAD SPINAL SURGERY, AND IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT. My first surgery wasn’t quite the success for which I’d hoped. I tried not to hope for this one, because I didn’t want to get my feelings hurt. Well, boys and girls, this one worked. It’s like the first time they dug around in my neck, they only pulled out half a rotting tooth before stitching me back up. The second surgery removed the rest of that festering, pulsating monstrosity and cleaned it out entirely. So, was it worth it? Heck yes.  HEY HEY, I HAD SURGERY I am now a bit more than one week post-anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. I had the same procedure as I did two years ago (ACDF, levels C4-C5 as opposed to the earlier C5-C6). It was the same hospital, even the same surgeon, and yet so many things were different. Round I was March 27, 2014. I remember four things vividly: the feeling of funny juice speeding through my body right …

Let’s Talk About The TENS Unit

I’m a huge advocate of clothing camouflage. Loose shirts and cardigans are great to hide a flabby stomach or that back-fat area around a tight bra strap; however, I’m wearing them to hide both a back brace and a TENS unit. (And the bra fat. Let’s be real.) Here’s me in my extremely stylish office bathroom: I usually only wear the TENS on occasions when my back pain is truly escalating and refuses to level off. This week has been particularly bad. The TENS is keeping me at a functioning level, considering I am backing off the Lyrica. The electrodes irritate my skin after more than one use, which is unfortunate, but the only cost-efficient way to use the device is to reuse the pads until the gel wears down and the pads electrocute you. Tiny shocks to be sure, but electrocutions nonetheless. Side note on the electrodes: Don’t go through the supplier from which you acquired the actual unit. My insurance company holds the very ridiculous philosophy that while they will cover the device, they will not cover the electrodes. Tufts, you silly company, …

Word War Won: “Victim” vs. “Survivor” vs. “Thriver”

I was going to talk about different words during this edition, but Alexis got me thinking. We had a very uncomfortable session the other day during which she asked me how things are going now that I’ve cut out sugar and alcohol. It started last week when we had a Skype session and she saw my face. She said I needed to do a detox. Immediately. I felt slow and inflamed, my brain was foggy, and even my face looked puffy. I’d gone to a small law school reunion/memorial for my friend Andy and saw surprise on my classmates’ faces; the last time they saw me was thirty pounds ago. (Granted, some of that weight gain was necessary at the time since I was an anthropomorphic coat hanger, but do you know how hard it was just now to type “thirty pounds ago”?) My pain was worsening. I’d been gaining weight despite exercising every day, thanks to my medication increasing my appetite to that of a starving boat wreck survivor. I’d binge in the evenings after work, thinking I deserve this as I snatched …

5 Items to Get Through Painful Days

This weekend was very difficult for me. A small party Husband and I hosted on Saturday night celebrating two birthdays and an engagement ended up sputtering to a halt at 10:30 when I kicked my friends out of the house; I was in too much pain to hold a conversation. Super Bowl Sunday was a party Husband went to without me. I stayed home, high on Vicodin and watching the Puppy Bowl (the latter of which is a noble endeavor). My neck and shoulders have been seizing badly. I’ve always thought of it like Silly Putty. If you pull it apart too quickly, it snaps; if you yank it with a tad less force, it pulls apart… just managing to stay connected as it stretches. That’s what my spasms feel like: My muscles are giant wads of pink Silly Putty that spasm and then s-l-o-w-l-y stretch. So I have to arm myself with whatever I can find that has the ability to help me get through tough times. What are my go-to items? Cryoderm: I’ve tried a number of topical creams, everything from …

Yukon Ho!

For someone who has broken so many bones, I live in a silly part of the United States. For those who haven’t been playing the home game, I live near Boston. We kind of had Snowmageddon this week, the first real snow of the season. The weather always seems to run along a wide spectrum in New England, which can physically devastate me. My chronically-plagued body would do much better in the dry heat of Arizona or New Mexico. That’s partially the reason why I haven’t traveled to that part of the country since becoming perpetually injured; I know deep down that I would never, ever leave. So I live in a frozen tundra in the winter and a humid wetland in the summer. It’s the pressure changes that hurt the most, I think. Husband and I were mostly housebound during the storm, watching trashy television and eating food just because we could. He even baked a pie. We had a glorious time shoveling the almost-two-foot snow drifts — meaning he was shoveling and I was standing …

Inflammatory Foods and Chronic Pain

I had a very in-depth chat with my nutritionist last night. I’ve been seeing Alexis for more than two years now because of my eosinophilic esophagitis. She specializes in difficult and weird food cases, and she’s been there the entire time as I transitioned back to eating normal food instead of powdered shakes. I’ve continued seeing her both for maintenance and to come to a deeper understanding about the way I view food as both an enemy and a crutch. Among many other topics of discussion was the idea that America is addicted to sugar. I asked if I should go on a complete sugar detox, mainly because I’m in love with Cinnamon Chex and eat those crunchy, sweet carbs like I have ten rows of teeth. Additionally, at the time of this writing, I finished an entire bag of trail mix that had 15 servings. I mean, I ate some yesterday, but still! Show some self control! My train of thought was that excess sugar leads to inflammation, and inflammation is something I certainly do not need …

The Bold and the Bionic

Everyone’s talking about the newest thing in pop music, the exquisitely beautiful Viktoria Modesta. She is a below-the-knee amputee who dances with appendages like a lantern prosthetic that attracts a swarm of moths and a black ice pick on which seems to balance the entire world. “Forget what you know about disability,” the video says to start. When I watch her, I feel like I can do that. Disability has a huge mental component — not necessarily how it affects your mind (because it certainly does), but the way it changes how you see yourself and how you interact with the world outside your rebellious, traitorous body. Scientists are currently studying how chronic pain and other seemingly eternal conditions change one’s personality. It makes us less adventurous, more cautious, afraid to move for fear we will further injure ourselves. Every movement cracks the snow globes in which we live. Viktoria Modesta exploded out of the snow globe and has become this otherworldly symbol for life beyond disability. She chose to remove her leg at the age of 20 …