Monday, October 29, 2007

I can drive!!!

No, I am not referring to the fact that I know how to drive or that I have a license. Since my surgery, I have been under doctor's orders to not drive. I can tell I live in a community where driving is paramount, because if I lived in NYC or Chicago, the fact that I haven't driven for the past week would not register at all. But here in good ole, Greenville, SC, we drive everywhere, probably far too much and definitely too often for unnecessary trips and by ourselves. We need to learn to combine trips and car pool, you know, 'save the planet and all'. Anyways, I have not been happy with no driving. I dislike bothering other folks and asking for favors. Today, in my first follow-up visit to the surgeon's office, the restriction against driving was lifted with the exception of long trips.

Unfortunately, that was about the only restriction that was lifted. I still can't lift anything over 5lbs, can't bend at the waist(which none of us probably should do), no twisting at the waist(and I was going to enter a Chubby Checkers contest...jk) or raise my arms over my head. Looks like work will be out of the question for the next month. The most frustrating restriction is that I am still not allowed to sleep on my stomach. I always sleep on my stomach, but not for another month. I must look funny when I sleep, because in order to avoid rolling over onto my stomach in my sleep I have placed a bedspread rolled up in the middle of my bed and I have woken up on more than one occasion laying on my side, like I am spooning the bed spread. No, I don't need a woman!

Friday, October 26, 2007

War, huh yeah, What's it good for?

That's the way Edwin Starr's anti-war song begins. The song decries war, protesting that war is never good, that it only causes pain and suffering. I can't say I completely agree. There are times when a nation needs to defend itself and this leads to war. I will agree that we, as humans, are far too eager to solve problems with our fists, guns, bombs, and any other tool of suffering we can conceive. Tonight I heard a song by the country duo, Big and Rich that memorialized a sad day in our military history in Vietnam: the ambush of the 173 Airborne division. As I listened to the song, I remarked to myself how many songs we have that honor war time events, our military, and wars in general. That thought was followed quickly by the sad realization of how unreal war seems to most Americans, esp. the current one. It is easier to blindly support anything related to our military or mindlessly protest anything war related. We are told that we can not shy away the killing of human beings, because that means we are unpatriotic and uncaring about the dangers facing our nation. We are also told we can not wish for success of our troops, or the final defeat of the terrorists because that means we condone killing of innocents and condone the attitude that might makes right. Both positions are wrong. We need to view war honestly and be less eager to kill, but more determined to fight for what is right.
One week of recovering!

I made it. Pain removed, strength zapped, lessons on being less than independent being learned, all in all a good week.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What a weakling!

I pushed a dust mop SLOWLY around one of my buildings last night. I wanted to get a feel for what shape I was in. I am a wuss! Ok, not really, but doing that little bit drained me. It is amazing to me how surgery can wipe you out.

I still have a little pain, mostly achy pain. Thank the Lord, the pain from before is completely gone. I can't explain clearly enough the joy I feel for this relief.

When I started posting about my pain and surgery, I had this grand idea that I would have a captivating series of posts about the medical journey from debilitating pain to complete recovery. Well, you see what I got instead is some whining about pain, some interesting observations and then boring posts like:"I have less pain today." Oh well.

This experience and some reports of others who have had to address serious medical conditions without insurance has made me rethink my ideas about our health care system and whether a government run system is the right idea. I'm not yet ready to embrace Uncle Sam running my medical life, but I am firmly convinced that something has to change. I am going to be working on ideas about how to improve our health care system, doing some research and then trying to get others to work with me to see that we can try to change things. I know, us little guys, can't fight "city hall", but if we don't try, nothing is going to change and too many people are going to continue to fall through the cracks and in a country who's history is replete with examples of ingenuity and resourcefulness, that is not acceptable!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Day Three - recovering

So should I continue to give y'all a daily report on my recovery? Well, there really isn't a whole lot to talk about on that front. The pain is getting less each day, and I'm immensely happy with the positive change.

I've walked around the complex a few times since getting back from surgery. It's kind of funny watching, because I walk so gingerly and slowly, someone said they thought I was still under the influence of the pain medication. These past two days have been great for slow strolls. It has been warm with a soft breeze. Tomorrow, I'll get my first trip off the property. My friend is going to pick me up and take me to church.

If y'all are not nodding off yet, I applaud your stamina in the face of boring conversation. Maybe the rest of my posts will be more stimulating.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Day Two-recovering.

Dr. Mina warned me that I might still have pain in my right leg and might even have pain in the left. The Doc knows her stuff! My right leg is almost without pain, but the left leg felt left out over my attention my right leg received, so it decided to join the party. I know now without a doubt that work would have been out of the question if my legs had decided to be a duet in pain. I won't complain about this pain today, because overall I am feeling better than I have in over 6 months, and being able to sit down is a blessing. My recliner felt neglected and has welcomed me back with open arms.

It's good to have friends. Many of the people in my life have been jumping at the chance to give me a hand. I'm truly blessed to have friends.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pain, a thing of the past!

Ok, so my pain is not completely gone. I even have some new pain, but the exhilarating feeling I experienced as I was wheeled out of the hospital, SITTING DOWN, rode home, SITTING DOWN, and while I type this post SITTING in my recliner, is indescribable. As you may have noticed, sitting was the position where the pain was most intense.

This was an interesting experience. As I lay on the gurney in Pre-Op. I realized that my biggest fear was fear of the unknown. Once I realized that, everything was less scary. I even got to enjoy ease dropping on a couple of nurses discussing the pros and cons of Red Lobster's 'Shrimp Night' My conclusion? I think I'll go to Texas Steakhouse.

When the nurse was wheeling me into the operating room, she warned me that the room would be cold, bright and filled with a good size group of people. The room was cold, bright and had one other person in it. I told her that I was disappointed, because I was really looking forward to being a star. :)

One minute I am inhaling "oxygen", the next, I am groggily waking up in a room, not so bright, not so cold and full of people. It was disconcerting to realize that surgery was over and I didn't remember a thing. I knew this is what was going to happen, but it still was disconcerting.

It would not be an episode in my life I didn't make life a bit more difficult. I spent little over an hour in recovery and was feeling fairly good. The nurse checked my blood pressure one more time, giving me a thumbs up and then gave me some privacy to get dressed. I stood up and started dressing, but began to feel light headed and nauseous, so I grabbed hold of the bed. The next thing I remember is thinking, "Why does that nurse look so tall, and why are all these other nurses in here asking me if I hit my head. Apparently, I passed out, and fell to the floor, making a good deal of noise by kicking a tray around. I missed making a shelf pattern on the side of my head. My blood pressure had dropped significantly low and there was concern that I might need to be admitted, but another half an hour with some water and grape juice and I was as good as new.

Dr. Mina found something that wasn't supposed to be in my spine, but that had served to prevent me from experiencing even more pain. I mentioned in an earlier post that Dr. Mina was surprised that I did not have the same pain in my left leg that I was experiencing in my right. During the surgery, she discovered a bone spur that was blocking the herniated part of the disc from pinching the nerve that runs down my left leg. God is good. He knows that if I had the same intense pain in my left leg, I would not have been able to work.

Well, that's enough for now. I thank God and Dr. Mina for the relief.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

T-minus 1o hrs, 12 minutes!

My surgery has been pushed back 2 hours, so I get to sleep in a little later. I will be going under the knife around dinner time...hmmm, why do I keep thinking about turkeys and Thanksgiving?

I am so ready for the surgery, well at least for the promised relief. I haven't been as nervous as I expected. I think two things have worked to reduce my fear. One is the seemingly vast numbers of folks going under the knife and coming out satisfied with the results. If this we 1907, I might be a tad more worried, but it seems that surgery has become common at the same time as it has become less invasive. The other reason for my reduced fear is that I am confident that surgery is what God wants and either He will see me through it successfully or He has other plans and He will make it work out for my best.

My employees were ruthless today as we worked to day. One of them asked me on the way to the job, "Eric, if you knew you had 24hrs to live, what would you do?" I said I didn't know. Then he asked, knowing that there were 19 hrs until the surgery is supposed to happen, " What if you had 19 hrs to live, what then?" The night followed the same theme, with them teasing me about dying, but I got a good one in. I asked one of them if he felt like getting me some supplies and he, jokingly said, "No." I replied, " Come on now, is that any way to treat someone with only 19 hrs left to live?"

Well, here goes. I will check back after Doc Mina puts me back together.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Just a thought

With just three days left, it has occurred to me that all I have been talking about is my surgery, like nothing else is going on. I guess I could be an anchor for one of the 24 hr cable news channels, except for the fact that I like to think.

I have been having a discussion with a woman who is from Europe, but is currently going to school in Canada. We have been discussing Congress's recent decision to pass a non-binding resolution to label what the Ottoman Empire did the Armenians in WW1 genocide. What I have found is that it appears to be ok to call out the US for any failings on our part, but not ok to mention when someone else is wrong, or at least it is not ok for us to do it. Now don't get me wrong. I know my country has done some awful things and I readily acknowledge them, but is it necessary to bring up our failings every time we mention a wrong committed by someone else. I mean the genocide of the Armenians is a significant evil.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Great news!!

I am ecstatic today. I mentioned in an earlier post that a friend offered to loan me the $2000.00 down payment required by the surgeon in order for me to have my surgery. Today, he informed me that he was not loaning me the money...he was giving it to me. What a generous gift! I could not thank him enough. Yesterday, at my pre-assessment visit, Dr. Mina's office gave me the estimated bill for her part of my surgery: $4600.00. Now I will only have to pay approx. $2600.00. What a relief. God is definitely good.

With 4 days left, I have a few things to do to prepare to be inactive for about a week. I have a pile of laundry the size of a large dog, because I am waiting until Wednesday to do laundry, so I have enough clean clothes to last until I can carry a basket of clothes to the laundry room.

My fear or nervousness about the surgery has diminished, I think in part to my belief that this is what God wants and my trying to convince the irrational part of my mind that it should listen to the rational side. I am certain, I will be nervous when I am sitting in the hospital waiting, but I am sooo ready to have relief from this pain.

Friday, October 12, 2007

5 days

So I am a bit disappointed, my pre-screening for surgery was far less scary than I expected. I only had blood work and a urine sample, so no big deal there, and the anesthesiologist sounded like a 3rd shift convenience store clerk: bored and wanting to get back to his nachos and Us magazine. Now, I'm not saying that the anesthesiologist left me and went on a junk food binge. Actually, I think he was headed back into surgery to knock out another patient, which I think might be more interesting than asking the same questions that he asks probably 20 times a day and giving the same instructions that he could probably recite in his sleep. I did get a toy with my happy meal...I mean my pre-screening. I have a plastic devise that I am supposed to suck air into about 1 x an hour after surgery to reduce my risk of developing pneumonia. I did not know that this was a possibility, but the nurse explained that patients, esp. smokers, often do not breath deeply after surgery and this can lead to pneumonia. I learned something new today.
My surgery is scheduled for 10:10am on Thursday, so I have to be at the hospital at 8:10am. The surgery itself should take 45 minutes and I could conceivably be home shortly after lunch time which sounds good.
My mother surprised me with a care package today. She sent me a box of Cortland apples. I have not found Cortland apples around here and she knows they are my favorite apples, so she wanted to do something special for me since she can't be here for my surgery. Don't I have just the greatest mother!! 44yrs old, but still getting goodies from Mom!!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

God is good.

I received some great news today. St. Francis, the hospital where I will be having my surgery, accepted my application for financial aid. I will be required to pay $1,437.00 over a 1 year period for the hospital expenses. Anything above that amount, the hospital will cover through their sponsorship program. This is absolutely a blessing because I am certain $1,437.00 will not be the final number on my bill from St. Francis. The icing on the cake is that I will be able to make payments on the $1,437.00 for one year. I almost forgot...this deal includes any future hospital costs for the next year, like follow-up visits, etc. So I have the initial surgeon cost covered with a loan, the hospital is taken care of, payment plan and financial aid. The only thing left to cover is the anesthesiologist.

This whole experience is making me evaluate health care reform. The money that I have spent, am spending , still owe or will owe is staggering. Let's itemize to get a better view:
1). Regular Physician costs: Appx. $500.00 paid
2). Physical therapist (for repairing ripped ham string and first hint of disc trouble): $200.00 paid, $550.00 owed.
3). Medications: Approx. $100.00
4). Orthopedist: $305.00 paid
5). MRI: $100.00 paid, approx. $400.00 owed.
6). Surgeon-initial visit: $225.00 paid ( from a short loan) $225.00 owed.
7). Surgeon's charge for surgery: $2000.00paid (from 10 month loan) , ? owed
8). Hospital charges for surgery: $1,437.00 owed.
9). Anesthesiologist charges: ?
Reading that list almost makes me forget my physical pain...ALMOST!

7 more days!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

9 Days to go

I ended my last entry with the confidence that God was going to provide the $2000.00 I need to give Dr. Mina's office as a down payment and you know what? I was right. Today, a friend loaned me the money with a liberal payment plan, so I am now cleared to be sliced and diced. Well, I am clear to be poked, prodded and given a cup to fill for the lab, so the hospital can be certain that I am fit to be dissected. Friday I go to the hospital for my pre-screening. Once, I have a clean bill of health and have been thoroughly freaked out by all the necessary warnings about anesthesia and surgery, I will be ready to be fixed. Wait, I don't like the way that sounds, I do not need to be fixed, Fido might need that, but not me.

I am making all sorts of plans for my recovery time. Plans for work, plans for how I will function in general with limited mobility and great caution. The funny thing is, I am making plans with absolutely no point of reference. I have never had surgery before. I have been sick very seldom and it is very infrequent that I miss work for illness or injury. I am committed to following the doctor's orders in m recovery because I want this surgery to be my first and last and I want it to be a permanent success, but I am not big on doing nothing, esp. when it comes to work, so we will see how things go.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The countdown begins!

Twelve days from today, I am going to willingly lay down and allow one stranger take away my personal control (and consciousness) and another stranger take a knife to my back. See what pain will do to a person. I told the office manager for the surgeons office today, that normally if a person told me that they were going to "cut me!" I would run away screaming...:0 I guess it helps that the stranger wielding the knife reminds me of my early childhood Sunday School teacher (she would never hurt me).

Actually the surgery is far less invasive than I expected. I was envisioning a big ole gash in my back, but instead, there will be two small incisions where they will insert tubes, so the surgeon can remove a small portion of the bone of my spine, so she can reach my herniated disc and remove the herniated part and any loose debris. The whole surgery should take less than an hour and I will be going home the same day. My surgeon was surprised that I was not experiencing the same pain in my left leg as I am on my right. She said the disc is ruptured on both sides, pressing against all the nerves. She described the disc as having a "blow-out", lovely image.

I am trying to keep my irrational fears of losing control of myself and of being cut in check. It does not help that the first possible danger to the surgery that Dr. Mina mentioned was death from the anesthesia. I know the risk is minute, but it adds fuel to my fear.

I am seriously angry with all those folks who have decided that not paying for the surgery that made their life better was the best way to demonstrate their gratefulness. The increase in the number of ungrateful patients is sharp which has led to Dr. Mina's office to start demanding more cash up front from us "no insurance" patients. I have to have $2000.00 next Friday when I go for my pre-screening. Can you guess how much of that I currently have? Let me give you a hint: lint is the most frequent occupant of my pants pocket and my wallet is merely a small photo album. I do not have a clue where that money is , but I am confident that God will provide it.

Surgery, here I come.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

So that's what's been causing all my pain!

Good disc

Bad Disc

These are just a few of the lovely photos that the orthopedist showed me as he cringed and announced that surgery would be needed, two different types actually: a partial laminotomy and a diskectomy. My pain is so persistent and intense that the thought allowing someone to slice me up is not as scary a thought. I have an appointment to talk to the surgeon Friday, let's see if I am still as eager for the knife afterwards,