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Spinal Cord Disorders Message Board


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Hi everyone, Happy St. Patrick's Day (top 'o the mornin')! What are the best things I can do to ready these next 3 & 1/2 weeks prior to my ACDF surgery (C5-6, one disc)? I do have a booklet from my neurosurgeon that goes over some things and have read the 'recliner chair' sleeping arrangement here on another thread, but thought I'd check here for more --get the 'best advice'. The booklet suggests some things that I think are only in reference to lower back surgery, not neck, so I'm not sure how much I'll really need to ready for neck surgery (for example, the booklet says to get an over-the-toilet commode to make the seat taller, making it easier to sit down, get up, but I figure that's for low back, not neck --also, it suggests a walker for recovery, but I figured that was for low back recovery, too, not neck --am I right??). Also, any suggestions on how many days I should line up helpers (how long I might need assistance before managing the rest of recovery on my own)? My family has offered to help where they can so my husband does not have to take a lot of time off work. My surgery is a Friday; we thought my husband would take of that Friday and the following Monday, then have some helper for the rest of that first week --or if we're off base in that plan, he'd take off 'til that Wednesday and we'd line up helpers Th/Fri and then into the next week, Mon-Wed. Obviously, if I have any complications or a rough recovery, we'd adjust, but if all goes well, do either of those sound workable? I do know recovery can take some time, although my surgeon has said, all going well, I should be feeling better in about 2 weeks (but not be able to drive for 3 weeks). I will have to line up drive help past my 1-2 week mark and I do know that much. He did tell me that 'short-term recovery' is 6 weeks (which is when he wants the 2nd surgery --that hubby and I have been rethinking timing on) and that 'full recovery' is 4 months (barring complications). I am assuming it takes the 4 months to fuse. What can I do to aid this? The booklet said to make certain I take pain pills from the get go to avoid feeling the pain and ensure that I can get up and move around, which will aid my fusion and recovery, but I'd read here that I should avoid pills and rest more than move?? I may have misread one or the other (and I will check with my surgeon), but thought I'd ask that, too, in this thread. It seems significant, after all.
Also, we are making appointments out of town (2hrs away) for our son with his hepatologists in San Francisco (and his GI dietician as long as we'll be there --we always double or triple up when we head to SF for him) for about 2 weeks post-op. Our son is having his annual liver check (MRCP -liver MRI) and his next liver labs/blood work 4 days before my surgery and is due to see his heps to go over results and go from there (if everything is ideal w/ his results, I'm sure they would do this over the phone for us, same as his local Dr). Is a long car drive and half-day out of town for doctor appointments workable about 2 weeks out? I would be in a hospital when not in the car. (And, again, if complications arise, we would have to change this around, wouldn't 'push it').
Thanks in advance and have a 'luck 'o the Irish' day today! (I'm only a wee bit Irish, but feel it more so today).
Meghan
I've had two ACDFs, and the post op experience was a little different each time, so part of the answer is 'it depends'. Here's a couple more ideas:

- find out if you are going to have a collar post op, or not. If you are, see if you can get it before your surgery, and try wearing it to see how it feels - try sleeping, showering, see what clothes will work or not, etc. It's easier to figure out these things before you're doing it 'for real'.

- For taking pain meds - it makes sense to take them the first few days, whether you think you need them or not. The idea is that the meds are more effective if the pain doesn't get too bad before you take them. After the first few days, then start decreasing the dose by going longer between taking them, etc.

- Getting in and out of the car was a problem I hadn't anticipated. Try getting in and out of your car, pretending you can't lean your head to the side, to see how that is going to work. Sounds crazy, but I had trouble getting into the car for the ride home. If you have more than one car, see which one is going to be the best for you.

- The first couple of nights for me were miserable for sleeping, and that made everything else seem worse. Maybe ask your Dr for some sleeping meds to have on hand.

- The absolute worse pain I had happened when I sneezed - another thing that sounds crazy, but the motion of my head and neck moving was terrible. I found it helped to have a soft pillow handy to hold against my face when I felt a sneeze coming on, it kept that motion to a minimum and lessened the pain.

- Others have mentioned this too - be reasonably active. Getting up and moving around is important, and it doesn't have to be a lot to start, but when you get home do something every hour, just for a few minutes at first, and as you feel better try to walk a reasonable amount each day.

Best luck for a positive outcome!
Bob
Great input to help me out already, thanks everyone!
Thanks, Greg for letting me know my instincts were right, and even more for sharing a bit about your great recovery. I know mine could go any-which-way, but I'm hoping for something like yours --of course.
SpineAZ, thanks big time for the tip about your hubby putting things you would be using w/i reach. I've been told to buy a 'grabber/reacher', but having things 'handy' sounds even better to me. I could even prepare some of that myself, too. We'd like my husband to take very little time off b/c of all the rest we have coming up throughout the rest of the year (w/ all 3 of us). I found out tonight that hubby's boss offered to let him take 1/2 days for a full week w/o any ding (won't count as sick days, vacation days, or no-pay days). His boss offered it as comp time b/c of how much my hubby does (how consistently he works overtime, being in management --'past' comp so to speak). My husband won't have to make the comp time up later. THAT was a nice offer and should help out a lot.
I won't be alone even after my initial 'helpers needed' recovery. I homeschool our 13 yo son and he'll be with me for most of everyday --so I'm not exactly getting time off 'work', but I'm prepping ahead of time right now so everything is as smooth and easy as possible. When I have helpers, they'll be working w/ my son at home w/ his schooling and home PT and also taking him to the few classes he takes through our charter-homeschool program. They'll also be taking my son to his weekly PT and any minor medical appts he may have (usu has 1 or 2 every other week). Our son has some physical limitations also, but will be a real help to me when I'm past the more difficult early recovery. Driving my son all over for his weekly medical and on-site classes is where I really needed family and friends to help out --past early recovery time. I'll take over the homeschooling after 2 weeks and from then on (there's no real vacation or sick time for a homeschooling mom), but still need (and will have) 'drivers' for the 3rd week.
SpineAZ and Bob, walking and standing are my real problems of late, but my neck surgery is first. Are there other activities that 'count' as much? I bought a stationary pedal stand today that I'm going to use (starting tonight --during Dancing w/ the Stars) as 'exercise' since walking doesn't last long w/ me. Will this be helpful in recovery or not be as effective? I CAN walk, just not for long or far (i.e. I can walk from car to store, but then a scooter inside the store, then can walk back from store to car; or I can do a short market stop w/ cart to push or cane). I do have/use a cane that has a 'handy seat' attached, so when I hurt too much, I can stop, pop the seat out, sit and rest for a bit, then continue. The seat is small and hard, so if that sort of sit/rest is very short-term before I need to find a real place to sit and rest for 'real'. It is a GREAT assist (although, it's not height adjustable and is too short for me, so it's better for the handy seat then the cane function). So, after all my chatter, does the pedal/bike stand count or should I 'just do it' w/ the walking even though it's my big problem area?---or is there another activity I could do, too? I will push the walking if it is truly beneficial, but am nervous b/c I hate the pain of it.
And, Bob, thanks for all the tips; med one jumps out at me to pay keen attention to. I like your idea starting from the get-go, but beginning to taper down after a very short period. That sounds like a great plan.
The car tip --woo! I'm glad you mentioned it b/c my car is a funky thing to get in and out of even now (big ol' boat of a car, Dodge Intrepid --5 body trunk car). I'm going to practice that beforehand, for sure (and maybe have my sister transport us in her car instead... husband's car is too scary to even peer through the windows of, let alone sit in).
All of your trips were great, actually and I'm going to use every one. That sneezing one -I remember that from my cesareans (laughing, too, made it rough) and you are so right on the mark. I wouldn't have thought of it ahead of neck surgery, though --thanks for that.
My surgeon said no neck collar when he went over everything w/ us, but I'm going to ask 'why' when I call in later this week. Is it a good sign that he said I wasn't getting one or should I ask for one?
Again, huge THANKS. Everything shared here helps A LOT.
Meghan





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