Hi everyone! I am so thrilled to say that I am now approaching the six week post-op milestone. Over the past two weeks, I have seen a total shift in my recovery in the best way possible. The first four weeks were really, really tough. I had a hard time motivating myself to get out of bed because I felt dizzy and weak 90% of the time. My constant headaches kept me from being able to focus on reading or watching TV. And I was reliant on pain medication to keep my symptoms at bay. But at the end of week 4, I was experiencing a lot less pain and discomfort, so I was able to wean myself off of the Oxycodone. Before the surgery, I completely underestimated how much the narcotic medication would affect me. It just completely wiped me out and I was not at all motivated to recover. Even my physical therapist was surprised that I was having such a tough time those first few weeks, because typically younger patients bounce back from the surgery pretty quickly. But once I was able to get off the Oxycodone, everything changed! Suddenly I was able to stay awake throughout the whole day. My dizzy spells decreased in intensity and frequency. And most importantly, my motivation returned! By week 4, I was leaving the house to have lunch in nearby restaurants, walking around the supermarket with my mom, and spending a lot less time sitting in my living room. It felt good to wear normal clothes again (the first few weeks I was only in pajamas to stay comfortable) and to be outside of my house!
My beautiful scar, five weeks out! It's continues down to my lower back.
During week 5, my mom and I started thinking about apartment decor for my future apartment in Cincinnati. We decided to spend our days in furniture stores because it's a fun activity, and if I get tired there are plenty of couches for relaxing! This has been a good way for me to get out of the house and get some activity in without overextending myself. We did venture into IKEA last week, which was probably not the best idea considering it was overwhelming and crowded. That hurt my back a little bit, so I'm going to hold off on more IKEA shopping for a couple of weeks.
Yesterday, I had my follow-up visit with my surgeon, Dr. Cunningham, at the Hospital for Special Surgery. This was the first time I had seen Dr. Cunningham since leaving the hospital on June 25th. The goal of the check-up was to make sure my spine is fusing, that the incision is healing, and to ensure there are no other issues.
All of my appointments at HSS begin with x-rays. I used to dread this part of the visit because I always knew how twisted my x-rays would look, and I would always worry that the curvature of my spine might have increased since my last visit. This time, I was SO excited to take my x-rays! The technician I worked with actually said I was the happiest patient he'd seen all week! You can even see I'm smiling in my x-ray.
Before, a 55 degree curvature. After, basically no curvature at all. The titanium in my spine weighs about a pound, and it acts as a frame to help my spine fuse and stay in place.
Afterwards, my parents and I met with Dr. Cunningham. Every time I've had an appointment with Dr. Cunningham in the past, I would be super nervous because I was always so afraid of having to get this surgery. To be honest, I'd always be teary-eyed by the end of the appointment because I'm emotional and surgery is terrifying. We'd talk about things like, will my curvature get worse? If I have the surgery now will I have to have it again when I'm older? Will my back pain ever go away? What are the risks involved? It was terrifying having to make a decision that would impact my health and physical abilities for the rest of my life. But Dr. Cunningham always assured me that I was going to be okay.
We took a look at my x-rays and Dr. Cunningham told us that everything is healing perfectly! Right now, my bone is about 70% fused, and the rest of the healing will take place over the next year. This means that I am still limited in my mobility and there are certain things I can't do, like ride a rollercoaster, go golfing, or bend, lift, or twist. But, he gave me the okay to start physical therapy next week, and once that starts I'll be able to work on building some core strength to support my new spine.
I've had Dr. Cunningham explain the surgery to me about 100 times, and I understand about 20% of his explanations because he's brilliant, but fortunately my dad is great at translating medical jargon into regular terms. After reviewing my x-rays, Dr. Cunningham took a look at my incision and cleaned it off a bit. He graciously answered my family's hundreds of questions (everything from when can I start driving again to how should I be tying my shoes?).
The artist admiring his work. Dr. Cunningham cut such a perfectly thin and straight incision down my back. He said as it heals it will fade lighter and lighter. One thing that prevents the incision from healing is excessive exposure to UV radiation, so I have to stay out of the sun for a little while longer.
After my appointment, my parents and I went to the spinal recovery floor of the hospital to say hi to the nurses and staff who took care of me during my hospital stay. My mom made a batch of her famous sugar kiss cookies to thank the nurses. Luckily, my favorite nurse from my stay, Cassandra, was right at the front desk when we walked in! She helped me through some of my most difficult moments while I was recovering, and she couldn't believe how much better I looked just 6 weeks later! It was amazing being able to see her and give her a hug and thank her for everything she'd done for myself and my family.
After my 2 inch growth spirt, my favorite chambray dress is a bit too short on me now!
I am really amazed by the progress my body has made in just 6 weeks. I am nowhere near finished with my recovery; I still walk like a robot, get back pain after being active for an hour, and feel exhausted by the end of the day. I'm definitely still adjusting to my new body and my new height. But, I feel really good, and I'm really happy I made the decision to have this surgery. I think back to how horrible and painful the first week of recovery was, and even with all the complications I had to deal with, I still think it was totally worth it, because I'm so happy now. Yesterday I got to tell Dr. Cunningham that he is my hero because he worked such a miracle on my spine! I am so thankful to have had him as my surgeon and to have been able to go through this experience with the caring and exceptional staff of HSS. When I look at my before and after x-rays, I still can't believe that they're real. Everything about this surgery is a miracle to me.