Nov 27, 2007

I'm good

The surgery went well. I've been home almost a week, so I will recount as best as I can. They admitted me at about 10am last Wednesday, prepped me for the op and I was in. It went quickly and smoothly, and they sent me home with a dvd of the surgery in case you don't believe me. Nicole remarked to Dr. Lapinsky, that she would be interested in watching this kind of operation, and he replied well, we could tape it and give you a video. We haven't watched it yet, I imagine I'll get a bit queasy since I can still feel the hole in my back.

Speaking of which, almost all the pain I have is three places:

The incision, that itchy little spot in my lower back is glued shut, with some steri-strips, and a waterproof bandage to tarp over the whole thing. There are no stitches, staples, punctures, or zippers. The coverings should fall away at their own pace, and that should be it. It doesn't really hurt much at all, unless I lean on it or poke it with a broken pool cue.

The Former Pain, is pretty much all gone, except for some killer knots in my right but-tock and calf, and I have some twinges in the back where the muscles were pushed around, esp if I startle or trip on something.

...But the worst thing?

The Spot
, someone, somewhere in that hospital superkrazyglued something to my chest and then ripped it off. The scar it left looks like something out of Norse legend.

After a night's sleep at UMass (made difficult by the nurses' inattention to my roommate's excruciating pain), the physical therapist came by to pry me out of bed. I did a few laps of the fourth floor, and went up a flight of stairs. It was dreamy. My parents showed up for a visit and I ended up going home with them. Nicole was prepping thanksgiving dinner and I got home just in time to eat all the wonderful food for which I was told I'd have no appetite. It is of note that we also hosted Thanksgiving this year for about 15 members of our family. Nicole and I jokingly agreed before our consult with Dr. Lapinsky that I would take the soonest surgery date, even if it was on Thanksgiving, and she should still host it, she'd just send people up the street to visit me. So, when he offered to do it the day before Thanksgiving, we jumped on it. I can't believe how well it all came together, and all orchestrated by Nick. Thanksgiving dinner (including two turkeys), new couch delivery (thanks to Gabe and Pete), rearranging the whole apartment, delivering me my funnybook subscription. God forbid I get bored, what a baby I was asking for that! It was a great day and it was nice to be surrounded by family after the surgery, and not in a hospital room.

Sitting, walking, standing up, sleeping on my side, gripping things that are designed to fit my hand, I can again do everything that a He-Man action figure can. With physical therapy and time, I expect to be able to do anything a Cobra Commander action figure can. Just gotta make sure the rubberband in my midsection stays healthy.

I would like to say thanks to everyone who checked in on me over the last few weeks, especially Nicole who spent the last year babysitting a giant, nerve-damaged, whiny, zombie version of her boyfriend. -d

Nov 21, 2007

Nov 16, 2007


The following is long, boring and written mostly for my own self. You really don't have to read it.
So the big news this week is SURGERY. Wooo-hooo I'm getting SURGERY. The story is as follows. I've had some pretty bad back and leg pain for the last year.
I think the genesis of the problem began after I did the 24-Hour Comic last year. I got home around 7:30 am, after sitting at the comic shop hunched over my drawing board for 22 hours straight. I pulled up to our house in my bright red rental car (my civic had been bashed in by the ups guy), and saw the tires of my motorbike sticking straight up. Someone had tipped it over. Thankfully, it was covered so it wasn't scratched or damaged at all. I hefted the bike up and went inside to bed.
Pain, for months afterward. We treated it with chiropractic, flexion/distraction, hours every day of stretching, acupuncture, massage therapy. Without health insurance we sought anything we could do conservatively, non-invasively and affordably. I was afraid that even paying out-of-pocket for a visit to a medical doctor would trap me into an expensive medical system, incurring big bills and possible denial of health insurance, if and when i could afford it. In addition to the pain, my muscles in my ass, leg and lower back had begun to just exist in a continual, painful cramp. The pain would move erratically all over, unpredictably. Making plans began to get difficult. Impossible to predict when I would have a 'good day'. In fact, a 'good day' was nearly impossible, since the slightest stress would bring on a pain attack. For example, when I got an x-ray, there was so much pain from an attack that the radiologist diagnosed me with scoleosis, because my posture was so affected. Of all the treatments over the months, the one I responded to best was massage therapy. My massage therapist was able to show me how to turn off the impossible cramping. I was able to get about 2 months of relief.
On Sept 15, I put a table together for StArt on the Street (see below). In the week before the event, I put in a lot of hours at the desk and started to notice the pain coming back. No time for that, I'd worry about it afterward. I got the artwork together, got my prints made, postcards printed and sat out drawing my penny drawings. Fun fun, but the back started complaining about halfway through the day. I finished up, cleaned up my booth and helped haul some tables. That was it. The next day I could barely walk, pain down the leg and up the back. Relapsed so bad I couldn't believe it. The upper back pain went away after a few days, but the leg was worse than ever.
During the 'good' few months, I'd signed up for the MA state health insurance. I finalized the paperwork and got an appointment with Nicole's nurse practitioner, now our primary care physician. She set me up with painkillers and sent me for an MRI. The earliest MRI appointment i could get was 3 weeks away. Ugh. I bugged them every day looking for cancellations and got one within 3 days, persistence pays. It turned out that I had 2 herniated discs. One wasn't so bad, but the other I guess was pretty ugly. Most likely sequestered, which means the extruded disc material was somewhere between 'almost' and 'completely' separated from the disc. Another 4 weeks and I had a consult with Fallon's neurosurgeon.
When I say Fallon's neurosurgeon, I mean he may be their only one. Completely full schedule, completely behind schedule, completely rushed and inattentive, he performed a neurological exam through my jeans. Let me explain, the nerves in my leg are effed up. Right leg has less sensation than left leg. How much less? Who knows, who cares. The exam lasted all of 9 seconds. We'd heard good things about laser surgery and were wondering if it was possible, he brushed us off and told us it didn't exist. That he'd be using "good old knives". He also told Nicole I wouldn't need physical therapy (even though my calf is atrophied and my posture is italicized), and also that I'd need to wear a girdle for the rest of my life. I waited so long for this appointment, and there it was. The car ride home was pretty quiet.
We got home and looked it up online, the laser surgery did exist. Faith completely shaken, I looked up my list of friend-recommended surgeons and called my PCP. I needed a second opinion. After a few calls and some online research I got a referral for three affiliated UMass surgeons. 2 weeks later, we met with Dr Lapinksy, an orthopedic surgeon recommended to me by 3 separate people. Our consult with him went great. He was clear, relaxed, answered all of our questions, recommended phys-therapy, and explained that the laser surgery does exist but is relatively rare and not the right procedure for my specific herniation. He clearly explained the procedure he would perform, including how much bone would be removed. The neurosurgeon, by comparison, left me with the idea that he would be removing giant sections of bone.
What will be happening is a small half-circle will be cut out of the two surrounding vertibral bones, creating a circular access hole. The processes (bony spikes) will be left alone. This small hole will give the surgeon access to the offending material, as well as create a relief-space. If another hernia occurs, there will be some leeway so that it doesn't instantly press on my nerve system.
Also, the surgery should be taking place this wednesday...within a week of the consult. Luckily, turns out people don't usually like to have surgery before thanksgiving. I should be up and around wed afternoon, but I think I'll fake it a bit to get out of washing turkeyday dishes.

I've been laying, staring at the ceiling for about a year. Once this is done I want to do everything. I plan on partying like when Bender became human, but I'll try not to get so fat afterward. Maybe more like Slurms McKenzie. WOOOOO. WOOOO. WOOO.