Many people who need back surgery refuse to have it. The back is the main support of the body. It is where you do many of your movements like bending, twisting, lifting, reaching and so on. When the back is messed up, it affects the whole body. A lot of people would rather suffer then have surgery on their backs. It’s also tricky to heal after surgery. Recovering from back surgery is a bumpy road that takes a lot out of you physically and mentally.
While I was on antibiotics, the stuff seeping from my incision turned red. I left a message on my MyChart app for Cleveland Hospital to my doctor’s office. A nurse called me and asked me several questions about the leakage. It wasn’t yellow or green and it didn’t have an odor. It was just like the color of blood. The nurse called me every couple of days. After I was finished with the antibiotic the leaking should have stopped, but it didn’t.
On a Tuesday, the nurse called, and said, “The Physician Assistant wants you to come in Friday to have a look at your incision.”
I called my husband at work and told him. His boss gave him a personal day for Friday. I worried myself sick. Now what could be wrong? Haven’t I had enough problems? Did I do something to screw up my surgery? I followed all the instructions from the last visit: limited bending, no twisting, and reaching for only light stuff. I used my reacher a lot; a long metal pole with two claws at the end and a button at the top to press to make the claws close. It worked well for somethings and not so well for other stuff. My husband Lou wouldn’t allow me to do much. I spent a lot of time watching Christmas movies and woodburning.
That Friday we arrived at Hillcrest Hospital, Cleveland Heights Ohio, a little early. We sat in the waiting room in socially distant chairs playing with our phones. When a nurse came my husband stood up with me. The nurse told him he couldn’t come back. It seemed like I was waiting forever in a room when a Physician’s Assistant came in.
She checked over my incision. “It looks like your incision has come open, but I’d like to have a doctor look at it. I’ll be right back.”
Oh no, something is wrong! A doctor has to look at it. It must be bad. I screwed up my incision. What did I do wrong? I thought I followed all the doctor’s orders. I mostly lay around because the antibiotics made me feel sick. I did do wood burnings, but I sat with pillows behind me. Maybe I moved wrong. This had to be all my fault.
The Physician’s Assistant came in with a doctor. They both looked over my incision.
“The incision is open in two places. Do a wet dry bandage and get her in home wound care,” the doctor said.
The Physician’s Assistant explained that this sometimes happens when fluid builds up from the surgery and a nurse would be scheduled to come into my home and do wound care. The secretary of the office would call me once a nurse was scheduled. The next week was Thanksgiving week so the assistant wasn’t sure how soon a nurse could come. She sent me home with supplies to treat my wound and showed me what to do. I went home with gauze pads, bandages, and syringes of saline.
It wasn’t until the day before Thanksgiving the nurse could come. I had only a couple of bandages left. The nurse said she’d order me more and they would come Friday or Saturday. She wrote her number down on a folder. She told me If the bandages don’t come by Saturday and I run out to call her and she’d bring me some. She seemed nice and showed Lou how to care for my wound on days she would not be able to come. She told me that she or another nurse would come three times a week.
Friday came and no bandages arrived in the mail. I had one left. I called the nurse’s cell number and waited for a call back. By Saturday, no one called back and still nothing came in the mail. I called the nurse’s number again. I waited an hour and still no reply, so I called the number for the place the nurse works for.
An operator answered and got my information. “The on-call nurse will give you a call within an hour.”
I watched television with my husband. He reminded me an hour and a half had passed. I called the number again and was told the same message. I continued to watch TV with my husband. Another hour went by and no call. I called again and Lou had to go to bed. I was getting frustrated and mad.
I texted my friend Cheryl. She told me to get bold and tell them if they don’t get me bandages, I’ll call the medical board, but I wasn’t that brave. I barely ever swear, but I typed out a lot of swear words to Cheryl.
It was the weekend and the holiday weekend on top of that. There were no medical stores open. The kind of bandages I needed couldn’t be found at the local Walmart. I didn’t want to wear a dirty bandage all weekend and get another infection. If I got another infection, it would be all their fault and I would yell and sue them.
Finally, by 9:00 p.m. the on-call nurse called and promised someone would bring me supplies the next day. Sunday, after breakfast a nurse brought me two bandages, gauze, and tape to hold me over. Lou was finally able to change my bandage.
Monday a male nurse named Mike showed up. I told him the whole story. After doing the wound care he called the medical supply company, using the speaker on his phone so I could hear. The woman on the other end never received an order for bandages. So, he put an order in for bandages, saline syringes, and gauze pads. He gave me an exceptionally long bandage I could cut in half until my order came in.
I was so furious the bandages were never ordered. Later that morning I called my physical therapist and told her my incision was open. She told me to stop doing the at home exercises. She said I couldn’t follow up with her in a month unless my incision heals. Another bump in my road to recovery. Now I couldn’t work on building up my strength and work towards going back to work. Everything seemed hopeless.
I went to my room, lay down on my bed, and covered up with my blanket. I started sobbing into my pillow. I cried for a half hour. Everything was going wrong. It was hopeless to even try. I might as well give up. There were too many bumps in the road. I would just lie in bed and pretend the world stopped.
Lou called on his way home from work. Our phone connects to our car so he could talk hands free. His soft voice filled the phone encouraging me to keep fighting, telling me everything would work out and I would get better.
“Baby, go to the bathroom wipe your eyes and get your shoes on. When I get home, were going out to dinner. You need to get out of the house,” he said.
Getting out of the house helped, having a supportive husband, and journaling when I got home also helped. He told me I’m not a quitter and he was right. I just needed a good cry and then I needed my husband to help me pick myself back up.
Facing bumps in the road is rough. Just remember you don’t have to face them alone. That is why a support team is important. Your support team can be friends, a partner, a relative or a therapist. Remember when you feel like giving up turn to them to help you find your courage to fight. Then fight.
I will continue to strive to reach recovery from my surgery. The bumps in the road and mental illness will not stop me. In time I will be healed and standing stronger than ever in the light of recovery.