Like clockwork my resident Dr. C came to check on me at 5:30 am. I told him I felt less pain in my left shoulder as I moved my arm up all the way. Whether my pain was relieved because of the surgery, we were not sure. Dr. C told me they would keep me in the hospital that day to recover from the surgery and drain any excess fluid from my neck, then likely send me home the next day.
After being glued to a bed since yesterday afternoon, I yearned to get up to walk around. However my nurse Kathryn told me it would be best to wait for physiotherapy to help me get up. With nothing else to do, I went back to sleep.
Morning came and my breakfast consisted of regular food like toast, jam, and eggs… yet I believed I was supposed to be on a liquid diet after undergoing surgery just last night. My day shift nurse Rosemary, a Caribbean woman in her 50’s, confirmed that I was placed on a regular diet. Umm, okay. Taking my time with every bite, I ate my breakfast carefully as I didn’t want THIS to happen again. My throat still hurt and I had trouble swallowing, both of which were expected outcomes of the surgery that would eventually subside.
I passed the time that morning still glued to my bed, doing absolutely nothing. I couldn’t get up to reach any of my things – my eReader, my phone, anything.
10:00 am rolled around and my cousin Nicole came into my room. It was such a pleasant surprise to see her. Though she worked part-time at the hospital as a research assistant, I had no idea that she was going to visit. She is one of two of my best friends (the other being my husband) and was my maid-of-honour at our wedding.
She didn’t have to work that day but needed to study for her nursing board exam in two weeks’ time. Just when I really used the company, along she came. I told her how the surgery went and how I have to wear the Aspen collar for much longer than I anticipated. I was kind of over it by now after feeling so terrible about it the night before.
After some time my mother-in-law arrived. I wasn’t expecting her either! Her office was just a couple of blocks away from the hospital and she had some time to spare before a meeting at 1:00 pm.
Finally it was time for me to get up and moving when one of the physical therapists came to see me. Other than my right hip still feeling sore from the surgery (a small piece of bone was taken there as a bone graft for my neck), I had no issues getting up from bed and walking. Karina, the physical therapist, was a chatty, upbeat Filipino (?) woman in her 30’s. Her quirkiness really brightened up my overall mood. She told me that she had already seen me walking around the hospital floor in the last few days, and had no doubts that I would do fine. I was literally the youngest person on the Orthopaedic/Inpatient Mobility floor, a floor occupied usually by elderly people with hip, knee, etc. fractures.
We walked slowly to the physical therapy room where there was a short flight of stairs. We practiced walking up and down a few times. We walked back to my room while I told her how much I loved doing Shaun T’s T25 and Insanity videos (not totally random – she said that she wanted to exercise more!).
Back in my room Karina gave us a pamphlet from their department about living with and caring for the Aspen collar. She went through the pamphlet with myself, my cousin, and my mother-in-law. Information included getting up from bed and checking if the neck brace fits properly.
Already feeling so weak and tired, I slept until lunch time. My mom came for a quick visit during her lunch break and brought me soup. What a welcome treat that was – something I could actually swallow! I had my soup and slept again.
I woke up to someone saying, “Hellooo!” It was Dr. J, my neurosurgeon, coming to check up on me post-surgery. I told him everything was fine, except that I didn’t need such strong pain medication because I wasn’t in that much pain. I insistently asked him about taking cooking classes and French lessons and going to Québec City again, hoping that he would change his mind. “Come on, I don’t have anything to do!” I said (half-)jokingly. Despite his cheerful and friendly disposition, he stood by his decision and still said no to all those things. Anyway, he told me I could go home the next day and I would see him for a follow-up in three weeks.
I didn’t realize it but it was already 4:30 pm by the time I woke up. Though my body was still recuperating from the major surgery, I was also drowsy from all the pain medication.
My mom and brother saw me after they got off work at 5:30 pm. My brother brought me cake pops! I guiltlessly munched on a few, though caffeine and chocolate are (apparently) to be avoided when healing fractures. After some time, my cousin had to leave to catch the train and I thanked her for keeping me company that day.
Shortly after, my family plus my parents’ friends from church arrived. My half of the shared room was FILLED with people. Some of them had to step outside because there was no room for them. I counted 13 people in total! My roommate was probably annoyed at how noisy we all were.
By the end of the night I had quite the bedside table:
Kathryn was my nurse that night again. I told her I felt ten times better now.
It was going to be a good day. I was going home.
After I woke up, I went for a walk around the hospital floor and performed my shoulder exercises against some walls. How free I felt without having to drag my IV machine around! AND how incredibly light I felt with this new neck collar! GOOD-BYE FOREVER, HALO BRACE AND MINERVA JACKET!!!
I spent the morning reading and chilling out until I was called to get final X-rays of my neck and left arm. When I returned to my room, Rosemary told me a chaplain was available to see me before leaving the hospital. I had requested to speak to someone from the hospital’s spiritual care department to help me sift through all my thoughts and emotions. I met Jamie, an older Caucasian woman in her 50’s who honestly looked like a hippie from her choice of clothing. We made our way to a break room where we could talk privately. As I told her about everything I experienced, thought, and felt, she voiced understanding.
She told me that with everything I had been through, I may ask, “Where is God in all this?” I truthfully still don’t know.
As I cried I told Jamie how I have always found it hard to accept that all this is happening to me, when I should be really thankful that I didn’t die or become paralyzed from the accident. She hit the nail on the head when she said, “Though you didn’t die or become paralyzed, you still have deal with this, you know?”
She also advised that I try meditating, writing in a journal, or meeting with a spiritual or professional counsellor.
When I returned to my room, my mother-in-law had already arrived to pick me up to drive me home. Shortly after my mom arrived from her lunch break. We all waited for my nurse to come into my room to give us instructions on how to care for my dressings and then send me home. The only kicker was that I couldn’t wash my hair or shower fully until I had my follow-up appointment in three weeks. Ugh. (I could give myself showers hip down and sponge baths elsewhere though.) Hygiene continued to be insufferable in a neck brace.
After an unbearable cab ride downtown to my mother-in-law’s house in the west side of town, we retrieved her car and off we went to my home in the suburbs. On that ride I also felt so awful I wanted to throw up. Perhaps it due was due to my medication? My still recovering body? I didn’t know. All I knew was that I needed serious rest when I got home.
After I got home that Wednesday, I napped peacefully all afternoon.