Post Surgery Update

Hey again everybody.

I’m a bit more conscious today than yesterday, and I’ve got myself in a relatively comfortable position here in bed (boy, does that sentence read bad), so here’s the official update on things. Thanks to Barney for posting for me yesterday in my drugged up stupor. I was hoping he would’ve just translated it instead of quoting me verbatim, but oh well 😉

Since this is going to get rather lengthy (or it could be rather short, depending on how long my pain meds last), read on below…

The hardest part of the day was actually figuring out where I needed to go. Since I wasn’t allowed to take any pain medication that day, nor was I able to eat any food, I was pretty damn weak and in a lot of pain. I was told I had to go to the pre-admit area at St. Charles Medical Center (SCMC) to check in. So I went there. They had no record of where I was supposed to go (they knew I was having surgery, but didn’t know which department was in charge of it), but they could at least verify all my information. So I sat down, in a bunch of pain, in their horrendously uncomfortable chairs. Verified all their info, signed some papers, and then they said I had to go down to the SurgiCenter.

Now, if you’ve ever been to SCMC and seen all the construction they’ve got going on lately, you’ll know that it’s not a short walk down to the SurgiCenter front desk. But I wasn’t completely buckled over, but by the time I got to that desk, I was. They have a waiting room right there, so I plopped myself on a couch, while my mom tried to figure out what was going on. SurgiCenter said “No, you’re in the main O.R. (Operating Room), not here.” So she calls Donna, the lady I just verified all my paper work with, and got everything straightened out.

And I had to go back to the admitting desk I was just at.

By this point, I couldn’t walk, so I had my mom grab me a wheelchair. It wasn’t much more comfortable, but at least I wasn’t walking. So my mom wheeled me back there, and I got all checked in, admitted, and tucked back into the pre-surgery waiting room.

In all my years of going to that hospital (my mom’s worked there for nearly 30 years), I had never seen this waiting room. It’s kind of tucked behind some offices and such, but they did have recliners for people like me who couldn’t sit in regular chairs. The nurse and my mom helped me into a recliner. I grabbed an old Sports Illustrated and Readers Digest, and hung out.

About five minutes later, another nurse came in, told me that O.R. was ready for me. Looking at my watch, it was still and hour before I was scheduled to go under the knife, so I took the magazines with me. She wheeled me back to O.R., set me up on a bed. By this point, I was in so much pain that I couldn’t get out of the chair without a few nurses helping me. Once I got on my back on the bed, I started to feel a bit better.

So I hung out there, reading my magazine, talking to the nurses, putting on the oh-so-flattering gown and compression socks, and trying to keep warm (’tis a bit drafty in those gowns). The surgeon stopped by to say hello, and I actually got to talk to her a bit about what was going to happen in there (since I really hadn’t had a chance to talk to her about the procedure). She also said that she’d talk to the anesthesiologist to see if he could cut me a deal, but to not hold my breath. She went to scrub down, the anesthesiologist came in a started getting an initial drip in me. He said “Usually we give you a little something to help you relax on the way to where we’re performing the procedure, but since you’re paying out of pocket and seem pretty relaxed about all this, we’ll just forgo that.” He also told me that I’d be getting a hefty bill from his billing service, but if you write them a nice letter, you might be able to get it so that you’re paying a little bit less.

So we were all ready to go, they start wheeling me down to the room. The hallways of the O.R. are cold and draft, and I was feeling a nice breeze up my gown — I wasn’t really comfortable at all, and was shivering. We get to the room I’m supposed to be done in, and there’s somebody else setting up in there. There were a few words exchanged between the folks, and I got put back out in the hallway. The doctor and nurses made a couple phone calls, and back to the SurgiCenter I went. There was a room there that the procedure could be done in. It wasn’t ready, but they could get it ready if I just hung out a bit longer. So I got wheeled down to the SurgiCenter.

For those that have lost count, this is my third trip down the length of the hospital.

It wasn’t until we got there that my doctor was able to explain what happened. There was a motor vehicle accident earlier that day that caused the Emergency Department to have to use the O.R. — and, needless to say, they get priority over everybody if they need a room. What that did was bump the schedules of the surgeons who were scheduled to do procedures in there that day. When my doctor showed up to do hers, the person that was in the room had seniority over her, so she got bumped. Many times when you get bumped like that, you just reschedule for the next day, but she knew that I wasn’t going to go through all this again, and got me in at the SurgiCenter.

So I hung out at the SurgiCenter while they got my room ready. Five minutes later, I was getting wheeled down to my room. I saw the room, saw all the doctors and nurses, saw the strange-looking apparatus they were going to put me on to do the surgery, saw the MRI films, and saw the anesthesiologist. He told me “You’ll begin to feel a little tingle in your face, just close your eyes and relax.”

That was the last thing I remember.

About two hours later (I don’t know exactly how long I was out, as I don’t know what time I made it into surgery), I woke up back at the O.R. in their recovery area (so they apparently wheeled me back, still unconscious). That was trip number four. It was about 6:15 when I looked at the clock. My throat hurt like hell, but that’s bound to happen when they put you under (damn breathing tubes). My leg didn’t hurt any more, but boy, my back sure did.

The woman who did the surgery came by and told me a bunch of stuff I’m glad she had written down, as I still wasn’t coherent enough to understand what she was saying. From what I understood, it was a quick surgery, she was able to get to the bulging disc and slice off the excess rather quickly and easily (the bulge was bigger than she thought), and that I should be completely functional again in a few weeks.

The nurses and doctors all knew I was paying out of pocket, so they said, as long as I’m not feeling like I’m going to puke (from the anesthesia), that I could go home — which I did right around 7:00 Wednesday night.

The next day, I had Lydia help me out of bed, and I was able to walk and stand under my own power for the first time in a long time. My back still hurts really bad, but that’s mostly because of the surgery. The worst pain I had before was in my legs, and they feel fine now (other than occasionally falling asleep from being in bed all the time). I’ve got a good pile of pain pills (some Percocet and Robaxin) to help me out, and I’ve been trying to just take them when I need them.

In theory, I should be able to drive again in two to three weeks. They said I could probably do it in two, but because of the way the drugs affect me, it wouldn’t be a good idea to be behind the wheel (especially considering I have a 30 minute commute). I’m supposed to get up and walk around every day, which I have since Wednesday. Lydia has to help me up and out of bed so I don’t twist at all (which would be very bad right now). But I’m able to walk around fairly easily, once I’m upright, which is much better than I could do before.

The best part about this? My doctor told me that, after a couple months, I could start running again. I’ll have to do back exercises for the rest of my life as it is, but she said as soon as I could walk three miles easily, then I could start running, and she actually encouraged it to keep my strength up. I think I’ll start in the swimming pool, just to play it safe, but you know I’m certainly not going to let this happen to me again.

Thanks again to everyone for their support. I have gotten a few donations and your help has been great and appreciated. I’ll be up and blogging more soon, but I just plan on relaxing a couple more days. Thankfully I have wireless networking equipment now, so I can work from the bedroom (I’m posting this from my bed right now), and my laptop’s got a DVD drive, so I’ll just be chilling out in here, getting up when I need to. Thanks again to everyone, and, if I forget to say anything sooner, happy holidays!


Barney says:

Nicely told, Jake! So maybe you can ask the doc if I can do a story about this sometime? Or does Lydia think it’s a good/bad idea? Charitable doctors, now there’s front page news;-)

I’ll email you with the doc’s info. It’s entirely up to her. I’d rather her not get swarmed with people asking her to fix their backs, etc… . Besides, while she was free, everything else wasn’t, and I’ll still be paying several grand for all of this. If I could’ve, I still would’ve done physical therapy, but my problem was too far gone.

Jon says:

Sounds like a bit of a hullaballoo. Glad you made it through it all, though, and I hope the holidays are good to you.

yoleen says:

Jake, I’m glad you are up and about enough to blog. I’m also glad that Barney gave us the timely update, and posting you verbatim was much more amusing than translating. No more pain in your lrg. My thoughts are with you, and my offer to help Lydia with errands, etc. stands.

i am glad to hear things went as planned. what a great holiday gift! (the surgery, not the bill)

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jenny says:

You poor kid. Glad things turned out alright. One thing you want to do is find out what network the doctors are part of. They will bill you DOUBLE what is standard and customary. Once you get back on your feet, start telling them you’d be willing to pay what is STANDARD and customary. If they are part of a network they are supposed to bill everyone that amount. I just had surgery (but have insurance – look into Celtic Insurance – about $100/mo, and pays in full. saved me $50K)…anyway, the anest. billed me DOUBLE what he agrees to get from the ‘network’. So ask them for a discount for cash. What they bill you is double what they standardly get paid.
Also look into Yoga. It ain’t a whimpy thing and will help your back GREATLY. Just make sure you start slow and if you can, find someone who knows Yoga how to do poses that strengthen your back. While you have a chance, check out and check out the poses that are for backs.
best of luck. hope you get to feeling better.

I checked out Celtic, and they don’t cover very well in Central Oregon, but thanks anyway!

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