What I didn't know that day was it would return.
The surgery was a minimally invasive laminectomy and foraminectomy. I certainly felt as though I had surgery but I was so relieved from nerve pain that I felt like a million bucks. The day of the surgery, the neurosurgeon told my family that there was more damage and that at some point in the future I would need a more comprehensive surgery, but for now he hoped to give me some relief and see how it healed.
I felt so much better that I believed I would heal and get stronger every day. I walked and looked after myself and made a plan to keep exercising as much as I was allowed.
It didn't take long for me to feel there was something not quite right. It was maybe a matter of weeks when I would feel as though bones were moving within the vertebrae. It was a weird sensation that would happen randomly, even when I was lying down.
Then one day when we were out for a short walk, I stumbled. It was immediately evident to me that something more serious was wrong. My family looked to the sidewalk for reasons I would have stumble. I knew it was neurological. I was scared.
My leg started to pain again and gradually I was losing everything I had gained from having the surgery. When I went back for my follow up, tests were ordered and another follow up was set for February to give the nerves an opportunity to settle down. They did not. The pain returned, the immobility became a factor again. After careful consideration at the February appointment it was agreed that a bigger more comprehensive surgery was necessary to stabilize my back. Preparation began to start that process.
I had a full spinal fusion on May 27th, 2015. This is a big surgery for anyone but for someone with a previous spinal cord injury there is a risk of upsetting the nerves and the spinal cord in other areas. It was a risk that was well weighed, but the condition I found myself in was so severe that I needed the surgery, with all the risks.
I woke in recovery and could not feel my legs. It was not a good start. The one thing we feared was being realized. As the night wore on I became more and more aware that sensation was coming back. I then had complications with autonomic dysreflexia and spent five days in ICU before being moved to a Neuro floor. And eventually a rehabilitation center. It was a very difficult time for all of us. My family was by my side thankfully. The day we left the rehab center I felt like I had a new lease on life. I had work to do but I was very willing to do it. At home and at peace, the regime began to make me strong again. I walked daily and was in the lake regularly to strengthen my legs.
When I returned for my follow up this time I had nothing to report but progress. I felt stronger and well on my way to full recovery.
Having had an X-ray taken we waited in the office to see team, anxious to hear if there was bone growth or not. I knew it was early but I was so hopeful. That hope disappeared when I saw Dr. Fehlings' face. The X-ray showed the cage that contains the bone fragments had moved from between the vertebrae and was headed toward the spinal cord. It had to be removed. In fact the surgery or most of it would need to be completed again. And soon. Devastation was what we felt. It was hard to imagine all we had been through just to start over.
I had four weeks to enjoy what I could of summer and prepare for the fight of my life. I was drained, emotionally, physically and socially. I just felt done. My family felt the same. We dug deep. I had to be in Toronto for a night two of those four weeks for testing and a pre-admit appointment. We talked about how to make memories in the meantime to sustain us all and recharge our tanks. We did just that.
With the help of others I was able to get onto our boat and Barry drove it slowly in calm water in the Bay. We watched the sunset, we swam we picnicked and had fun, right up to the day before we left for the surgery.
August 26th I went under again. This time to discover I have osteoporosis and that is why the May surgery did not work. A vertebrae with osteoporosis Is not stable and will crumble. It had. It was news the Neuro team welcomed because it made sense to them. They had done nothing wrong. My body just couldn't accommodate the changes. They did a whole different surgery this time. One usually selected for seniors. It should work.
That news was not the only thing I had to contend with when I woke up. In the recovery room I had two irregular EKG's. They called in a cardiologist to follow me but after two days all was well and they couldn't find any reason for the incidents.
I spent two days in ICU and was cared for by the most wonderful nurses. I finally was sent to the Neuro floor to finish my week in the hospital. It wasn't an uneventful week, there were many trials and serious health issues and at one point it looked as though I was going to be going to rehab again. In the end at the seven day mark I was released to the Toronto area. The plan was if I was without incident for four days, I could leave to come home and see my doctor when I got here.
I'm home. It was a long difficult journey to get here and I don't mean the drive. I'm fighting with everything I have in me to stay positive and not be afraid of what's to come. I have lived my life with a positive attitude and it has worked for me. Negativity doesn't ever help, but being realistic does. In the last year I have adjusted a couple of things in my life to help me though. The one most important thing I started to do again is to meditate. I did daily, but have gotten away from it because routines have obviously changed. I will set it up for daily again. It helps keep worry away or under wraps. It also helps me stop dwelling on the "what ifs". I can live today in a positive way if I live for today.
The second most important thing I have done is to face reality. All of the positive thinking in the world is not going to mend my vertebrae. I know a lot of people who think they can cure many things with their minds and if it is their minds they are dealing with, I agree. You can't build bone with positive thinking. That being said, I can be positive about finding a clinic or doctor who can help me make the most of this situation. I want to be as well as I can be and I know I will be.
The third thing that is ever present in my life is thankfulness. I am always thankful, for who I have in my life, what I have in my life and what people do for me.
I want to end with one small example of that that ended up making a big change in someone's life.
In my hospital room the room was cleaned and disinfected daily. It was very necessary. Both patients had spinal surgery and had drainage tubes, catheters, and many other infectious things. My neighbour had many visitors and I always worried about the fluids being tracked around on shoes. Then I met Liz.
Liz came into my room early one morning and with a broom in her hand started to talk to me. She cleaned dusted, mopped and scrubbed as we chatted away. That woman did not miss a thing. She was back through the day to change garbage and clean down surfaces. She kept the place spotless. I wasn't sleeping much so she and I always chatted away while she cleaned. That was until the weekend arrived and she was off. Her replacements came in and were in our room fives minutes. The next day the same. We finally had to ask at the nursing station to have someone come and clean our floor as both drains were leaking and not being cleaned up.
When Liz arrived after her weekend off she stayed for a long time to get the room back to the condition she liked it. She she left that morning, I called her boss. I told him she was an exceptional person who worked very hard for infection control and I thought she was outstanding.
The next morning I had a personal card of thanks ready for her when she came in. She knew I had called. She had an assistant with her that morning. She said in the 27 years she had worked at the hospital she had never been given an assistant. It was a young girl she would train for a month. It turns out Liz has had cancer, and she wasn't sure if she was in the clear. Although she wasn't feeling well she was coming to work daily and had asked if they hired anyone, could she have them with her. She says my phone call made all the difference.
I think Liz made all the difference, and I'm so glad in the chaos that was my life, I took five minutes to call her boss.