Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Final Chapter of the Path to Being Pain-Free

Am I pain-free? Mostly, just as long as I don't overdo it. Am I as active as I want to be? Sadly no, but give me some time!

The Hip Arthroscopy, or Hip Scope for short, is known as a minimally invasive surgery and typically has a faster recovery than full-on hip surgery, but even so, I gotta tell you it ain't no picnic.

Taken from the Latin words "arthros" (joint) and "scope" (to look inside), arthroscopy allows physicians to make tiny puncture wounds (I got three), then insert a pencil-sized optical device which has a camera attached into one hole, and surgical tools in the others. An image is projected onto a large video monitor in the operating room, showing the surgeon exactly where to go to correct the problem.

My mistake was to go online the night before the surgery and look at some youtube videos. That was really stupid. One that I saw had to do with making the holes and sticking the tools into them. It really freaked me out. Needless to say I didn't sleep very well. And on the morning of the surgery I came close to calling the whole thing off, but better judgement kicked in and made me stay the course.

Upon arrival to the hospital, I was able to meet with the anesthesiologist to discuss my surgery preferences. At first I was really nervous, because she reminded me of the Irina Spalko character played by Kate Blanchett in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. God only knew what she was going to do to me! I had important business with her, and even though her accent was freaking me out, I just had to get over it.

There are some really unnecessary drugs out there that are typically used by anesthesiologists and I didn't want any of them entering my body. Versed is one of them. It is a forgetter drug and can actually cause long-term amnesia.

Armed with my list of "no-go" drugs, which also included benzodiazepines and any psychiatric drug derivatives I met with her to also discuss my religious preference for a "silent" or near silent surgery. What I learned is that when you claim your "religious preference" in a hospital they can be very accommodating. So at least I could breathe easier about that.

The first thing she did was give me a nerve block. Although she stuck a needle straight into my spine, it wasn't as painful as I thought it would be. Over the next hour the upper part of my leg became completely numb. Definitely a strange feeling. Next was surgery prep and placing the IV. Can we say "dislike!"

When I first entered the surgical room at Broward General Hospital--and shortly before they put me under--I thought I was entering a sci-fi movie and was going to be operated on by aliens or something. The room was huge, and the equipment was so sophisticated and hi-tech looking. I hadn't seen anything like it anywhere. But there was really no time to admire it and soak it in. Within minutes they had me on this strange table that wasn't even a table and put the oxygen mask on my face.

The next thing I knew I was in a different location. When I came to (if you could really call it that since I couldn't see straight) all I knew was that my foot was in incredible pain. WTF? I thought I was having a hip operation, not a foot operation. I tried to communicate this to the people standing around my bed (who I couldn't really see) but apparently I had bit my tongue during the operation which was now very swollen and I couldn't talk!

So here I am trying to find out why my foot is in such pain and no one could understand me! All I remember next is someone saying we are going to give you some morphine. Joy.

Next I wake up later in the evening and I'm in a different room. The doc comes in and asks how I am. At least this time I could manage some words out of my mouth. I told him I feel really out of it and then asked why my foot hurt so bad. He told me they had it in a traction device and that it isn't uncommon to hurt after surgery. Note that my foot hurt more than anything else for more than a month post surgery. My feeling is that someone might not have properly placed my foot in that damn device. Who knows. It is better now though, thank God!

Over the next 18 hours my condition improved and I was let go the following day. Before I left the doc gave me some details about the surgery. He had discovered (and removed) extra cartilage that was floating around in my joint. According to him this was highly unusual and he had never seen it before. It actually excited him because he wanted to publish something on it. OK, whatever.

Also he told me that there was a tear in the tissue. He tried to repair it, but two hours into the 4-hour surgery he realized it was beyond repair and decided to take it out and place cadaver tissue in my joint instead. So now I have some "gently used" tissue. It's much better than the stuff I had before, that's for sure. That dull inner-ache that I couldn't get to by massage or any other means is gone.

The next 24 hours were probably the worst part of the whole ordeal. My leg was still numb and it felt like I was carrying a "dead" leg. I was on crutches and it felt like I had to drag the leg along just to get anywhere. What was worse was getting in and out of bed. I'd get one half of me on the bed then have to pick up my leg using the brace that I had to wear and lift it up on the bed. I couldn't bend over at all. There were so many little things that we take for granted that I just couldn't do. At one point I broke down and cried.

My saving grace was that I had help from my father. He was my hero. He was there for me the whole time. It was like I was a little girl again and daddy was taking care of me!

As the days went by it got easier. The physical therapy sessions made a huge difference. After 10 days I didn't have to wear the brace anymore and I didn't need to use the CPM machine. But the three-week point was a major milestone. That's when I got my stitches removed and was told I didn't need the crutches anymore. And, I was able to take a proper shower. It was like "Hallelujah!" I still had to wear those uncomfortable compression stockings for another week, but that would soon be over.

During the next few weeks I had even more improvement and was even able to start bike riding again. Something that helped facilitate my initial speedy recovery was the customized nutritional supplement I was taking from BioTech Solutions (sorry, but there's no website). The nutritionist creates a customized water-based formula for each individual's body. And it's all from a hair analysis. What's wild is they can do it from across the country. It's pretty hi-tech stuff. Not only did I have a lot of chemicals in my body from the surgery, but the analysis also found I was deficient in quite a few minerals. By taking the formula I felt much improvement in my overall health. I think that my formula may also be the reason I didn't have a need for pain meds up to this point.

What I learned is that even though I felt really good, I couldn't overdo it physically. Probably the biggest thing with recovery is you are bound to have some muscle compensation going on. That's why physical therapy works. It works to get the strength back evenly. Unfortunately for me my insurance had ended (it was a temporary policy) and I wasn't able to continue my physical therapy sessions. And then, by doing too much, I managed to re-injure myself and go back on crutches for another couple weeks.

It's much better now, but I am taking it slow. Full tissue recovery takes from 3-6 months. That may mean I miss the whole snowboarding season, or won't be able to ride my motorcycle for a bit, but eventually I will heal.

And when I do, watch out! Adventure-Seeker-Lisa has had way too long of a break from the more serious adventure seeking.