Progress Report! There is Progress!!

It’s been a very long time since I last reported progress, so I felt it was time to do so again!

Since I last posted I’ve had, and been discharged from, physiotherapy, I’ve been up to Edinburgh and seen my surgeon and I’ve started back to work. I’m now at 14 weeks post-op and the change in me is quite astonishing really.

I can now walk for a very long way without any problems, unless you count losing my sock and shoe in a muddy puddle. My hip/groin/leg pain has 99% gone. I still get a slight nagging right at the top of my left thigh, but nothing in comparison to the searing pain I used to get pre-surgery. I have a long and well-healing scar from my bra strap to my knickers – a reminder of where I’ve been, like a sticker you put on your car when you’ve been to Blackpool! I still have some ache at the site of surgery and I’m still a bit stiff, so doing ordinary things like getting dressed is still a contortionist’s dream. If I get down on the floor, I can’t get up unless I’m hanging onto a piece of furniture. Sadly I didn’t discover that until I was already down and then had to crawl to the nearest chair! You live and learn.

The surgeon was really pleased with my progress. He was happy for me to start doing more than walking and suggested pilates, swimming and cycling. But not running. Not yet. Until my bones have fused with the help of the rods and screws, and aren’t likely to be jarred by anything high impact, I can’t even think about running. I try not to, anyway.

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These are the bits of tin holding me together!

I started phasing myself back into work at week 6 post-surgery with an hour a day for a week, then two hours daily for the next week, then four and then, finally, six hours. It meant I could gradually get used to driving and being at work again. A few weeks later I still get really tired by the end of the day, especially ones which have seen me either spend too much time in front of the computer or too much time standing with customers.

Thanks to the advice of a friend, I was put in touch with Access to Work,  which is run by the UK’s DWP and is aimed at keeping self-employed people in work when they are struggling with a disability. Although I’m post surgery, my recovery will take a year and having some guidance about how I should be sitting, lifting, standing etc. is really important. Last week I was visited by an assessor and I’m waiting on the results of his report. I only wish I’d known about Access to Work before my op.

The biggest change has been in how I am feeling. I no longer hurt, so I look better. There is no pain etched on my face, where it used to be. We went for a weekend away recently and I could again go out for walks and appreciate the countryside from the pathways, instead of the car or the mobility scooter. I can even walk to the pub! And, because I’m mobile, I’m starting to lose weight.

It’s these small things, ordinary things, that are now so precious to me. Being able to walk hand in hand with my husband, being able to walk the dog, being about to do the shopping – these things were either an effort or impossible before.

My grey world has at last become far more colourful.

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The Bionic Woman

I grew up in the 1970s, watching such TV delights as Starsky and Hutch, Charlie’s Angels, The Six Million Dollar Man and its spin off The Bionic Woman. How little did I know, as a skinny ginger-haired kid, that I would too be bionic!

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I closed my gallery for Christmas on Christmas Eve and I was, by then, totally exhausted. I couldn’t stand for any length of time, and I couldn’t walk at all without pain.  I was hoping for a surgery appointment in the Christmas holidays, but with no date appearing,  I rang the Admissions Clerk a couple of times and explained that, as a self-employed person, I needed a date and an early one at that! Having been given (and then turned down) a date previously which fell in the week before Christmas, my by far busiest week of the year, I didn’t want to keep my gallery closed any longer than necessary. To their credit the date came through the fairly quickly after that.

I won’t bore you with the details, but watching this video explains the surgery I had.

http://www.spine-health.com/video/spine-fusion-surgery-video#vm_A_569b6008

Short story – I am now bionic. Fact.

I don’t remember much of the aftermath; I went from recovery to the high dependency unit thanks to low blood pressure. I do remember trying to focus on details of the room, which changed as more and more lights seemed to be put on around me, but I don’t remember much other than the constant nurse checks. Once my BP increased everyone seemed to relax!

I came out of hospital four days after being admitted. All I had to do was prove that I could walk to the toilet, go to the toilet and navigate the stairs. It was a little earlier than I’d anticipated,  my husband had even booked work for that day, but the junior doctors seemed happy.

People now seem split into two groups on discovering that I’ve had surgery; half think I should be in bed all of the time and the rest think that’s you fixed,  why aren’t you in the pub?

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Truth is, my recovery consists of walking, sitting and lying down. I am currently paying the price for over-estimating how much I can comfortably walk. I thought it was more, my body says no! So, without pain afterwards, I can probably walk a third of a mile without issue. I can sit down for up to an hour and a half in total, yes in total – in a day! The rest of the time I’m lying down. I might be doing abdominal exercises, I might be resting on my side, I might be posting on Facebook or doing my blog. I might be sewing, doing my diary or watching TV, but all of those things I can do lying down! What will change over the next few weeks is how much more walking and sitting I can manage.

Some things I’m not allowed to do at all, like anything involving bending. I can’t put on my shoes. I can’t hoover. I certainly can’t load and unload the washing machine, make a bed or put my socks away in the bottom drawer. I can’t drive. I can’t catch a bus. I can’t put the dog’s lead on, unless I can coax the dog to jump to a surface at my hip height!

This will all improve and by 8 weeks I should start physio again, appointments permitting. I should be starting back to work at that point too. By then I should be able to walk three miles. That’s a lot of shoulds.

My only worry at the moment is that besides the back pain, which is understandable, I also have nerve pain on my outer lower left leg. I can’t bear to have it touched, or for the bed clothes to even brush it. If I wear close fitting leggings or long socks, it’s bearable – but it’s there. It feels as if a layer of skin is missing and the nerves are exposed. I’ve got the same thing to a lesser degree to either side of the surgery site. I’m hoping that this is temporary. In any case it’s better than I have had and I’m grateful for that.

Does anyone else have experience of spinal fusion?