Dear friends and readers,
Alot has happened over the last few months, since I last posted. I apologize for not keeping things up to date here, but at least I promise this: I'm not giving up on my blog! With email and facebook and all the other things in life that pull this way and that with my time and energy, it has crossed my mind to let this blog "go." But today, I made the decision not to do that. I need this blog for future purposes, which I will share later, and also for a place to do a bit of more personal venting (than I care to do on facebook), AND after all, this is the place where I publicly have shared the journey, the ups and downs, high and lows of traveling this road of post-catastrophic injury. How could I let this go?
Well, first of all, I had the surgery!! Yes, finally, on Feb. 17, a month ago, I had my surgery at OHSU in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Brian Ragel, my neurosurgeon, did an awesome job, and I have been doing well. It's hard for me to believe it's been only a month! And due to my brain injury, it's hard to remember a whole lot about the surgery and stay at the hospital, but I DO know that it went very smoothly! The staff did their best to help me with the pain, which was pretty bad, as expected. I was 100% happy with OHSU and Dr. Ragel and all of the staff!! Very good care, including post-operatively. And only a couple of hours away from home, very good indeed!
My husband, Pete, and I drove over to Portland a day early in order for me to undergo pre-operative testing. We stayed in a nice hotel not far from the hospital, called The Avalon Hotel. (If anyone else stays there, ask for the OHSU patient rate. It is only $109 a night, and the rooms are so lovely! Ask for a balcony room facing the river, it'll blow you away!)
Early the next morning, we headed over to the hospital. While waiting for staff to arrive, we visited with a nice couple from Idaho who were there for surgery on the wife. A nice, country/ranch type couple, just what we needed to feel right at home. I asked why they came all the way to Portland and was told it was because of the good reputation of the neurosurgical department of OHSU (Oregon Health and Sciences University). Throughout Pete's wait during my surgery, he visited with several families from out of the area, one even from Sacramento, CA, and when he asked why they had come so far, and received the same answer. I'm sure that gave him a lot of confidence and support.
The surgery was supposed to take 3-4 hours, and I think it might have taken a little longer than that, but not much. Two screws (transarticular) were driven up through the base of my C2 into my C1, carefully and purposely missing my vetebral arteries. I was later told that they also did a graph fusion using cadaver bone. My incision starts a couple of inches into my hairline at the back of my head and then proceeds down my back along the upper C spine, totalling about 8 inches. There are two horizontal incisions, one on each side at the base of the incision, and though I have not had a chance to ask what they are, I suspect they were for the shunts during surgery. I vaguely recall that someone came and removed the shunt(s) when I was back in my room.
On the neurosurgery floor, all rooms are private rooms. Yay! That made it really nice and so did the nice big window in my room. Dr. Ragel and his PA did come to my room a couple of times, very briefly, long enough for me to heap praises upon him. I can't express how happy I am to FINALLY have my broken C1 stabilized!!! Anyone who has been following this blog knows that this post fulfills a very long journey that started back in April, 2004 when I broke my neck, and I've been posting here since 2007, I believe, about so many thing: my trips to New York to unsuccessfully seek treatment for my neck. My trip there to undergo Tethered Cord Surgery in November 2007. My story of being "dumped" as a patient there when I was told that my C1 had "spontaneously healed" and was no longer broken; my subsequent trips to other neurosurgeons and the reactions and rude treatment I received from those doctors. And now, finally, the tale of finding Dr. Ragel; at first questioning if that was the right place and doctor for me, but in the end, realizing that Dr. Ragel is my gift from God, the right man at the right time.
I stayed in the hospital from Friday, the day of the surgery, until the following Wednesday: 5 days. The ride home was painfree and worry-free. Pete has been incredible in his care for me and doing household chores. What a guy! I am so blessed. I do not need to go back for followup until May. I went to my local, primary doctor's office in order to have the staples removed. The incision has healed with ZERO problems, no infection or difficulties with healing. Thank the Lord!
I received so many cards and well wishes online, and so many people praying for me made a huge impact, I know. Thank you so much for those prayers!!
I don't notice ANY change in my range of motion! What a blessing that is. I guess that shows the amount of ROM I'd lost following my injury, but what I take from it is appreciation and joy that I don't have to learn to live with even less! Praise God.
I have lots of restrictions for the first six weeks, which means they will be in effect for another two weeks. I have them pinned up on my bulletin board above my computer and they are very simple: No Bending. No Lifting, pushing or pulling greater than 10 lbs, and No twisting. Limit repetitive overhead work. (Great! No window washing! Works for me!)
I'm trying to abide by these restrictions and have done pretty well so far!
I think I'm being realistic in my "hopes" for this surgery. First of all, the most important goal would be to stabilize the upper Cspine, and with this surgery, I'm sure I can say confidently: "Mission Accomplished!" I am hoping that, as time goes on, I will see improvement in other areas. I hope that one day, I will be able to walk enough of a distance that will be a benefit to my health, but I realise that it's been so long since I've been able to walk that it will take months to get up to speed. I know and readily admit that my muscles are weak and I'm out of condition. But, with time, I hope I'll be able to walk a bit and then more and then more, eventually to where I can walk the dogs when we go camping and perhaps even be able to walk across the road from our house again!
Dr. Ragel told me that they are often surprised by how many other things improve after a surgery such as this. I have faith I'll be one of those examples, but I know it's gonna take time. It took me years to get to this point of weakness; it's going to take some time to get back into any kind of conditioning that will allow me to walk enough distance that makes a difference. I have faith; it will happen!
Thank you again, dear reader.