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Passing a thin needle into the disk to verify its location (C5-C6 disk shown here)
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Drilling the plate and screws (check out my breathing tube!)

You may view my final X-ray here.

I woke up in the recovery room. I wasn’t wearing my Minerva jacket anymore, but a new Aspen Vista collar. Without any padding on my upper body, I felt my back against a bed for the first time. I was in a haze. My throat and my hip hurt. Soon a male nurse named Kevin attended to me. I told him I felt incredibly thirsty, to which he said that it was an effect of the anaesthesia and he was going to get me some mouth swabs and ice chips for now.

Fresh out of the operating room, Dr. J came to my bed to see me. He told me how it went – straight up:

  1. The surgery took five hours, instead of the one and a half to two hours he estimated previously.
  2. He took a good look at what was going on in my neck (since I can’t get an MRI with the metal in my body).
  3. He was surprised to see how incredibly damaged the ligaments in my spine actually were.
  4. So extensive was the injury to my neck that I was truly on the borderline of paralysis.
  5. The surgery was a success with no complications. They just had to take an additional bone graft was taken from my hip to act as a starter for the artificial bone.
  6. The outcome of the previous surgery was so futile that I really only needed one surgery of this type (i.e., ACDF).
  7. I have to wear the Aspen collar for three months, instead of the six weeks he told me previously.

Crushed by the news that I have to wear a neck brace for a little while longer (AGAIN), I was on the verge of tears.

I asked him, “Umm, can I take cooking classes?”

He laughed and said jokingly, “Come on, are you serious? You’re not just sitting there eating! No, no, not for now.”

Okay.

“Can I take French classes?”

He didn’t allow that either. Nor travelling to Québec City, where I was to move into my new apartment with my (also new) husband after our wedding.

I thanked Dr. J profusely for all his and his team’s hard work in finally fixing me up. He then left me to rest and went to the waiting room to tell my family how the surgery went.

I chewed on ice chips thinking how extremely long three months in this cursed neck brace would be. Of all the things that went well – undergoing a successful surgery and escaping paralysis – I focused on that and that alone. So narrowly focused were my thoughts that I began to cry out of disappointment and despair. Instead of recuperating from a major, major surgery involving my SPINE, my mind went in circles around negative thoughts, like When am I ever going to go back to my life? Why is this taking so long?

My husband soon came to see me. It was already 6:00 pm and he really had to hit the road to drive eight hours to Québec to go back to work the next day. Ever-so-positive, he told me, “Good job!” I was so happy that he stuck with me until the very end of my surgery. Yet still disheartened by the news, I expressed how uneasy I felt about spending another three months in a neck brace. He understood my plight and consoled me, “It’s okay, it will just be three months.” With that we bid each other good-bye. I didn’t see him until a month later when he drove back to Toronto.

Again, as I lay on my hospital bed, I wallowed in despair. My nurse came back to check on me. In tears I asked, “Hey Kevin, have you taken care of a paralyzed person before?”

While fixing all the different tubes connected to me, he said, “Yes, and it’s very sad.”

Though that helped me gain some perspective on my situation, my pity party continued. I told him I got into a car accident, had to wear the dreadful halo brace, then a Minerva jacket, and now this collar. For an extra few months I still have to live with a neck brace… and everything just sucks.

He voiced understanding but didn’t say anything more. What would you have said to me, right? He allowed my dad to come in the recovery room to see me. (Normally only one visitor was allowed per person for a few minutes there.) I was bawling my eyes out as my dad and I talked… I really couldn’t accept it.

When he left, I told myself to snap out of it and get it together. I took deep breaths and ate ice chips. I attempted to relax and rest from the surgery. Though I tried my hardest, the negative thoughts kept coming back.

After some time, Kevin told me that I was going back to my room. I was wheeled out of the recovery room and brought to my room where I met my nurse for the evening, Kathryn. Kevin wished me all the best as he told me, “Before you know it, those three months will fly by.”


As I write this, I realize that he was right. I’m already half-way through those three months!

Three weeks after my surgery, I went to the hospital for my follow-up appointment with Dr. J. I gave thank you cards to those involved in my treatment at St. Mike’s. I couldn’t remember Kevin’s name for the life of me, so I called him “my unknown nurse” and left the card with someone at the nursing station. She told me that male nurse whom I described was, in fact, named Kevin.

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