Monday, December 29, 2008

Before I Forget

A thank you note to Greg for his care-package.

I take the glucosamine-chondroitin and also a calcium supplement whenever I can remember. The Emergen-C is good also, we now have four boxes, luckily each is a new flavor. The book was fairly good. I finished it this morning.

The snow is nearly all melted with all the rain we're having. I'm still enjoying my time off, but each day I'm puttering around more looking for things to do.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Post-Op Follow-Up

Had a follow-up appointment with my Neurosurgeon yesterday.

He ripped the bandage off, looked at the incision, and essentially said "looks great, see you in 6 weeks." . . . I then went through my written list of questions.

I don't have to wear the foam neck brace anymore. I can move my neck in the full range. I was getting tired of the Frankenstein pose. Yes I do have a permanent o-ring shaped artificial disc. It is not absorbable like some. The center is where the bone graft is and will eventually be solid bone from one vertebrae to the other (C6-C7). The front is held together with a titanium plate and screws. The titanium does not preclude having an MRI in the future. I can go back to work with restrictions. I'm not to lift over 35 lbs, and not to do repetitive or extended duties which cause discomfort. He did remove the bone spurs. He also enlarged the foramen on both the trouble side, left, and the right side, so the pain Im having on the right is simply what he's calling "reffered pain". I can get renewals or any other pain med prescription I'd like, just call. He feels the amount of pain I'm having is normal.

I still have a fair amount of pain. In the neck, shoulders, and on the right in the shoulder blade and outer arm areas. It's the worst when I wake up and begin moving, after a night of the pain meds wearing off. I take vicodin or percocet, prilosec in the morning, sleeping pills at night sometimes, and sometimes the muscle-relaxant also.

I've taken off the foam coller and the bandage. Also the steri-strips have come off. There's still a lump under the incision area, about the size of a small baby-carrot. The bruising is beginning to diminish. I've started to get about and do things again. I've been shoveling snow (slowly) yesterday and today for the fun and excercise.

In 6 weeks I have another appointment and will get an x-ray at that time. I have next week off from work still and am enjoying all the time off. Today I have to pay bills and balance the accounts and see where we stand again (I've been ignoring that detail the last 3 or 4 weeks).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

I haven't posted in a while, but there's not much new. The neck feels more stable and I sleep better with less caution at turning over. I still feel more pain on my right side, but hope it will eventually go away with the healing process and not require more surgery. I have a follow up with the surgeon on Friday after christmas.

I spend my days pretty much taking it easy with at least one nap if not two. I've gotten out today and yesterday for a short walk in the snow with Beth and the dogs. Today I slipped on one foot and caught myself. No fall but a slight jolt up the spine. A good reminder that although my surgery was done short-stay/out-patient it still was major surgery by any other description.

If I go to bed early and sleep in, I wake up with considerable pain when moving. Like someone really beat me up good. The long time in bed means the pain meds have worn off. Another reminder that I've had major surgery.

With the kitchen remodel having the place torn up we have not done any Christmas decorating at all. I wrapped the couple of presents for Beth that I bought before surgery. It's short of what I would usually get her but haven't had the time or opportunity. With the surgery and the snow storm we've been home-bound and getting cabin fever.

Tomorrow we'll spend the day at her mothers as usual. We've got the chains on the 4 wheel drive and should have no problems getting there and back.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday morning

Friday morning. Four days since the surgery. It seems much longer and when I'm thinking I should be better by now I must realize just how short the time has been. I still have a fair amount of pain on the right side (The left side is what started this). I'm assuming it's just side effects and will go away. I have a paranoid fear that having fixed the left side and removing the disc, it's now compressing down on the right side and we'll have to go in and fix that also. I'm doing my best to say it's just side effects from the surgery in that area and give it a chance to have the swelling come down.

I'm doing better at sleeping. The turning from back to side is easier as the neck seems to gain strength and I'm less cautious about moving about. I spent all day Thursday in my pajamas. A few hours up and then back to bed. Tuesday and Wednesday were similar but with less frequency. Thursday I think I must have gone back to bed four times.

When I looked at the incision yesterday it actually looked worse. The bruising is turning lovely shades of purple and yellow.

I would love to go for a walk and get the blood moving and stretch a bit, but the chances of slipping on the ice and wrecking havoc on recent spinal work is too much.

I have my first follow-up appointment with the neurosurgeon next Friday, the day after Christmas.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion

Here's the lovely foam brace. It's hard to eat with it. It not only hold the jaw, but it holds the adam's apple and makes swallowing hard to do.
ACDF stands for Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion. "Anterior" means working on the backbone from the front of the patient. The spinal cord is behind the backbone and discs and so would be in the way working from the back. Also the back part of the vertebrae is where all the tendons and muscles attach. The surgeon said the disc was not just bulging but had ruptured. I still can't recall any traumatic event that caused it, just little things over time.
The incision. No stitches with thread nowadays, these are called "steri-strips", kinda duct tape for surgeons. I don't know why I was expecting the incision to be vertical. I haven't asked the surgeon if muscles were cut or not. When lying down I'm so cautious that I'm very paranoid about lifting my head. I usually place a hand behind my head for support to get up or turn from my side to back.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Health Status Dec 9

I'm back at work this morning. Monday I had called in sick. It's been a strange weekend of symptoms. I'll try to keep these explanations short.

The pain med narcotics have a side effect of constipation, that situation feels better this morning but is not completely unblocked or gone.

The irritable/painful bowels was only a brief flair up and was healed by sunday morning.

The acid reflux / stomach ulcer flair up of late sunday and monday is better this morning.

The back situation has changed over the last week and a half. I no longer have the extremely painful muscle spasm/knots, but still have some minor pains. The neurosurgeon prescribed Norco as a pain med. Norco is a version of vicodin, so this is a step down from the percocet I was taking, but since the muscle knots are mostly gone it's enough. Whether the decrease is due to some recovery of the bulging disc or that the nerve damage is going beyond that I can't say. I've had an increase is muscle tremor in the arms.

I had Flu like symptoms most of the weekend. Periods of clammy sweatings and episodes of teeth chattering, body shaking chills. Whether it was the flu or nerve related I don't know. This morning I've only had very minor signs of these.

Considering everything, I actually feel pretty good this morning. If I can actually get something accomplished at work I would feel really good.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

No Guts, No Glory Update

Well if things couldn't get worse. It finally dawned on me that my intestinal pain seems familiar. Oh yeah, I've had this a few times before over the last few years. Stress and bad diet lead me to essentially tear up my guts. I think the doctor's might call it "Irritable Bowel Syndrome". I can't remember when I last had it, maybe even a year ago. Anyway, bland diet and pepto bismo usually takes care of it in 2 or 3 days.

On a positive note, the back and shoulder are actually feeling fairly reasonable. The MRI doesn't lie and I'll still go through with the surgery. I've been using a tempurpedic neck-roll pillow I had in the closet. A few weeks ago it actually brought on more pain, but now it seems to be helping.

New meds

The neurosurgeon, Dr. Darrell Brett, has taken over my therapy and wrote my new prescriptions for meds yesterday. Norco (a pain killer), Zanaflex (a muscle relaxant), and Lunesta (a sleeping pill). I continue to take the Prilosec.

I was taking Prilosec (acid reducer for my now cured ulcer), Percocet (narcotic pain killer, a step above vicodin) and occasional Unisom (sleeping pill because narcotics lead to insomnia). I was also taking the unisom to help with my anxiety level of laying in bed thinking the worst. I still take the prilosec because all the drugs along with the pain and anxiety can be harsh on the tummy.

Yesterday Beth went to Freds pharmacy to get them, she picked up a percocet renewal (which I'll keep in reserve), the Norco, and Lunesta. The Zanaflex had to be ordered. Anyway, she got these and paid for them and had them home before I found out what the Lunesta costs. If I had known the price I would have told her to skip that one, after all it's just a sleeping pill. One script of Lunesta is $247 ! The others have generic counterparts and are reasonably priced, though I've yet to see the cost of the zanaflex.

No Guts, No Glory

The glory must be raining down on me this morning because I'm sure feeling my guts today. Painfully feeling them. The Percocet pain meds have a side effect of making a person constipated. I've been trying to watch things but yesterday was not a good day so last evening at dinner I took an Exlax along with my pain meds and what little dinner I felt like putting into my already bloated belly. This morning I'm having all sorts of painful cramping. I've had two movements but things still are cramping and painful.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Neurosurgeon

Went to a neurosurgeon this morning. He looked me over and reviewed the MRI images. We agreed the best course of action is surgery. He's going to see about getting me in within the next couple of weeks. He works out of Adventist Medical Center where Beth and her mom worked for years. The general consensus is the guy has a lousy bed side manner, but is an excellent surgeon. I did call a couple of other places, one had their new-patient scheduler on vacation with no one covering and the other could get me in for a new patient consult in say. . . March.

The surgery will remove the bulging disc in the base of my neck, trim away the growth of bone spurs that is also present and then fuse the two vertebrae together with an artificial disc and a metal plate with screws. Sounds fun eh?

At HP I have the full week of Christmas and the week of New Years off which will provide a nice recovery time without missing scheduled work days. I may miss a few days depending on when in the next 2 weeks I go in for surgery. It's bad enough not having insurance, but to be risking my position by taking too much time off.

The surgeon is cutting his fee in half for a cash patient. Everything on his side will be about $5000. However this doesn't include the "facilities charges", which is everything else other than the surgeon. The surgery room, nurse, anesthetist, etc., I can only guess at. I have two options for where to have it done; at the hospital with an overnight stay, or at the East Portland Surgical Center as an out-patient (3 hours in and out).

Beth's mom has had this done three times (different vertebrae). I'll start saving for the next time, and praying there won't one. I wouldn't wish this pain on anyone.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Just a little PMS

According to GenderAnalyzer there's a 59% possibility that I'm a woman (or rather that Fuzz Butt's blog is written by a woman).

I don't feel too bad, Gordon came out at 60% chance of being a woman (Zeta Woof).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Christmas Wish-List:

Dear Santa,

I would like to not be in pain.

Much love to you and Mrs Claus,
R.

I'm not squeamish, are you?

Below is a "reply/comment" to an article about the Mumbai terrorist's and their origins and reasons. I completely agree that this is one of the main differences between conservatives and liberals. I'm all for Reagan, white-hat-wearing, cowboy-style diplomacy.

The real problem is that far too many people around the world have become squeamish about killing the bad guys. Liberals are cowards at their core, and rather than simply acknowledge this and go on about their pathetic lives, they have to convince everyone else that their's is the correct path, and it's not really cowardice, it is "intellectualism", or civilized behavior, or some such nonsense. It is a very seductive argument, because who would not want to live in peace and leave the hard choices to others? In the mean time, the criminals, the psychotics, the terrorists, the barbarians, grow stronger and more plentiful.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Walther or Not

Mumbai Bobbies

The weekend's news story.
(photo is not of India's police, but a historical British "Bobby".)
Bapu Thombre, assistant commissioner with the Mumbai railway police, said the police were armed mainly with batons or World War I-era rifles and spread out across the station. snip

As the siege at dragged on, local police improperly strapped on ill-fitting bulletproof vests. Few had two-way radios to communicate. snip

But the National Security Guards, which largely devotes its resources to protecting top officials, is based outside of New Delhi and it took the commandos nearly 10 hours to reach the scene. snip

Even the commandos lacked the proper equipment, including night vision goggles and thermal sensors that would have allowed them to locate the hostages and gunmen inside the buildings, Sahni said.

What strikes me about this story is not that there's a country in this world with an inadequate and outdated police force, but that the same country has nuclear weapons.