The first three days after surgery day (which they called, “day zero”), I was on an epidural catheter for pain management. My legs felt heavy, but they weren’t completely numb. I could still wiggle my toes, but couldn’t move my legs much. I was to stay on bedrest, only permitted to elevate my bed 45 degrees at the most. I had to be turned every few hours, but I found myself wanting it more frequently than that. I kept feeling an awful, really bothersome pain in my heels. I had experienced it back home too, so I knew it couldn’t have been because of the surgery. I suspect the heel pain was being caused by a pressure point, which illicted a sort of burning, irritated sensation. I was sure to be vocal to my nurse, and we tried several different things to try and alleviate the pain, but it didn’t go away completely until “Day 3” and afterwards.
Being on bedrest was not easy, and quite frankly, it was quite boring. The first two days, I couldn’t tolerate big bright screens or reading because they both gave me a headache. So, I was left with my phone for entertainment. At least I was able to update loved ones on my own through messaging.
I actually spent nights alone, as my mother and I agreed prior that she would spend nights back at the hotel in order to have restful sleep so she could better care for me. In the mornings, I would constantly check my phone for the time, waiting somewhat impatiently for my mom and boyfriend to walk through the door and keep me company until the evening. My whole face lit up with glee when I finally heard their voices and saw them. It’d only been a night since seeing them last, but it honestly felt like it’d been forever.
Days and nights were unfortunately equally tough, as my roommate happened to be an inconsolable infant. I’m not exaggerating; this baby would not stop crying, which obviously made it hard to rest. It has to be common knowledge that it’s almost impossible to rest adequately in a hospital anyway, but put a crying baby in the mix…goodbye, sleep!
Not to worry; I was eventually transferred to another room on the floor with a different, far quieter roommate. In my new room, I was in the front by the door, which meant I could partly entertain myself by watching different hospital staff walk by in the hall and guessing what their job was if I didn’t already recognize them.
When Day 3 arrived, I was already up by about 6:30am. By then, a doctor whose name I don’t remember, but whose face I kept seeing, came to remove my epidural catheter. Lots of sticky tape, he said, as he peeled something off my back. It’s out.
“Thank you,” I said, and soon the doctor was gone. I was left to lay there with my thoughts. I knew there was no way I was getting any more sleep knowing the catheter was eventually going to wear off and thus the pain would really set in.
By 9am, my physical therapist, the same one who had done my pre-SDR PT eval, entered the room. When I first met her the day before my surgery, the trust appeared immediately and we got along extremely well. So in other words, I was happy to see her. Luckily, my loved ones were already in the room with me. I say luckily because this was my big moment: after three days of bedrest, it was time to get me out of bed and into my wheelchair. Fortunately, this also meant I could finally get out of that hospital gown and into my own set of comfortable, comforting clothes. “I can wear my own clothes!” I rejoiced.
“OK, are you ready?” she asked me after my mom helped me change. “You’re going to log roll to your left side, put your arm around my shoulder as though you’re hugging me, and I’m going to very gently, very slowly, swing your legs to the floor. Sound good?”
“OK,” I agreed. As I log rolled to my left to begin the maneuver, I tried very hard to breathe in and out. It’s often so easy for me to hold my breath during moments like this; not sure why. My physical therapist reached down toward me, and I put my right arm around her neck.
“Now, you count down.”
Three….two…one…. I realized quickly that she was counting down with me. When I slowly sat up 90 degrees for the first time in three days, my back was on fire. The pain was so bad that literally all the color left my face and I almost passed out right there on the bed.
Yet, somehow, I didn’t. All I could manage to say was, in one whisper, “…This really hurts.”
Breathe, my physical therapist said. Just breathe. She reached up and brushed a stray curl from my forehead. Look at me and just breathe. I followed the sound of her voice and tried to concentrate on anything other than the pain in my back.
When I transferred to my wheelchair, the pain didn’t subside all that much. We were to take a little stroll down the hall. As I finally made it out of my room, the above hallway lights were so bright that I was getting a headache. “Can we go back now?” Seeing as we made it a respectable distance, my physical therapist agreed, and I headed back to bed.
By discharge day, I had done some gentle, light exercises with my PT, and the back pain had gotten slightly easier to manage. I was getting better and better at transferring to and from my wheelchair and to and from a commode.
When we were given the green light to leave the hospital, I remember being especially thrilled to be able to roll through the hospital’s front entrance and into the sunlight.