Tuesday, January 29, 2013

SPINAL FUSION - 4 months into recovery

I had no idea what to expect at four months.  The home nurses and home visit PTs told me the stiffness in the legs would go away.  It comes right back if I sit even a bit too long at this hard chair at the computer.

 Today I walked the whole Logrun Circle and a bit more with the cane - but didn't need the cane. No weakness in the legs. 

I still get very tired sometimes -- especially after a session of re-learning to drive. (And this is in a newer car.)  I haven't driven alone since July because the spine problem really messed with the nerves to my brake pedal leg.  The doctor and that nurse I met in the market both warned me about good days and bad days.

I can get things out of the bottom drawer or out from under the bed by getting down on my knees.  Usually I know I can get back up.  And I always do get back up. 

I get a lot of things out of the dishwasher or washing machine by squatting to avoid bending, and I have real fears of what this is doing to my not-young knees.  The grabber is indispensable to cut down on squatting. 

The last few days I've been able to lace my walking shoes without Herculean effort and without thinking I've done myself damage.

Of course, there's the psychology of looking so old with the cane. . . ego.

Remember:  this is only one person's experience.  Others at four months after fusion may be out chopping wood for all I know. 

I wish you all well.

Friday, January 25, 2013

SPINAL FUSION - Not your brother's arm workout

Same old:  ask your doctor first.  You can pretend you're in the gym if it helps.  Just pretend no one else is there yet, so you don't have to be macho with these moves.  Morning and evening reasonable is better than macho. 

PS.  You really can do the bun squeeze (not fiercely) almost anytime.  (Maybe that IS part of your brother's workout.)

I also do something a white-haired yoga teacher taught me:  squeeze the tummy muscles 10 times but NOT after eating dinner.

PPS.  I do other balance stuff waiting for the water to heat or whenever:
Just stepping from side to side like a new dance step the others haven't heard about. 

Now the arms:  I still get out of bed the hospital approved way:  Starting on my left side (that's the side where I can get out of bed) using my left elbow to push up to a sitting position as my legs go over the side so I don't twist at the waist.  Many mornings the left elbow is positive it can't do this, but it usually can. 

Then plastic bottles of shampoo & conditioner and into the back support chair.  Your physical therapist has probably told you how many ounces for each hand.  I gently swing the arms from the shoulder, back and forth ten times.  Rest.  A few deep breaths.  10 more.  Then extended arms up and down gently.  Not too high at first. 10 times. 

Then at shoulder height, "rowing" in and out.  Ten times.  Rest. Breathe. Again. 

With your back supported, my secret "imitate moving your wheelchair."  Ten times may be plenty. 

CLIMB:  No matter what the PTs taught me, I do NOT go down stairs without a railing.  But, fresh out of rehab I went up some outside stairs to a restaurant I needed to visit to feel human again.  There was a good railing, and someone behind me in case. I also go up the stairs in the library (good railing and my cane.)  I do NOT come down stairs there.  Falling up may break my glasses.  Falling down may break everything.

Monday, January 21, 2013

SPINE FUSION - hospitals challenged

Oops.  I believe NBC news article is actually called Still Sick.

After you read it, I'd welcome your comments.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

SPINAL FUSION: not your brother's workout

 Here's that disclaimer again:  This is only my workout as taught by physical therapists in three different programs.  Ask your doctor (no really, ask your doctor) before any exercises.) The other disclaimer:  my fusion is LUMBAR.  These exercises may not be for you.

 In the mystery books, the heroine always runs a couple miles, then works like a dog for 12 or 24 hours.  We are going to be gentle and split it up during the day as much as possible.   

First: My surgeon always said WALK from the first day I was diagnosed.

His assistant said:  Too much time at computer.  Vary Your Position:  sit, walk, lie down, sit in support chair.  Walk more.


When I open my eyes:  After I was first diagnosed, I woke up, said my prayers, turned on the coffee and dived for my rigid foam exercise mat.  Now since surgery, floor work is discouraged (at least so far.)  What I want to start doing instead, or at the start of my nap:

Three or four exercises are to do lying on my back in bed.  Eartha Kitt once wrote that she exercises before she gets out of bed.  If I do that for 100 years....never mind.
First:  bun squeeze.  Just contract them ten times.  When wearing a coat, I can also do this in the doctor's waiting room.  Or the checkout line.

Second:  lying on my back, sideways move.  I don't have a pillow under my legs for this.  Just move one leg to the right, center, then to the left, then back to center.  10 times.  Then the other leg.  Supposedly even doing this lying down will help my balance.

Third:  Bend knee and, pressing heel to mattress, bring heel back toward my buns.  10 times.  Then the other leg,. 

I was also taught to do these in a chair that supports my back.  I had an ottoman, so I could also do:

A leg raise on the ottoman (sit in support chair) when the PT says you're able.  Rest legs on ottoman.  Gently raise one leg an inch or two above the ottoman and lower, ten times.  Then the other leg.  Repeat

A knee raise.  Foot on floor if you can reach it, or I put a slim cardboard box under feet for this.   Lift knee two or three inches; then lower.  10 times.  Then other leg. 

Look for a couple of pill bottles or the grabber or cane.  Have them ready for the arms and my secret arm exercise

Apologies to you who already saw most of this on an earlier post.

I noticed in rehab that moving the wheelchair by hand worked some arm muscles that have always been neglected.  So I reach over the arms of my posture chair, and with a small bottle of lotion in each hand, I duplicate the motions of moving the wheels.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

SPINE FUSION - wish list rooms, essential tools, etc

Even before rehab, there was the no-bending rule.  If something fell on the floor, it was lost for a time.  I knew this would be tough at home, and learned to fasten the brace securely to the walker.

On to my rehab room.  Below the tall glass area was a room-long ledge at hip height.  I could reach books, the tools like sock-putter-oner, and presents and my plant. I was wishing there was such a ledge at home.  At least I had a shelf set where I could reach a couple top shelves.

Why do you care?  At home, some things can help you.

A Do-able Safety Must
  For instance - though I didn't get to use it, the bathroom in rehab had a no-boundaries open shower area with a place to sit.  If you're reading this, it's a bit late to install one at home, so. . .the "telephone shower."

Even the cheapest motel I ever stayed in had a hand-held shower.  Easy and cheap, it's a safety miracle so we don't have to turn constantly and try to grab for support with soapy hands.  One in my bath in the valley would have made the shower chair so much more useful.  Once, my daughter actually installed a hand-held shower into the old wall-mount hardware in my apartment in the hills.  Someone can do that for you. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

SPINAL FUSION - Just going to the hospital or already there?

If you can get to a computer or tablet or a visitor has one, read the SICK AGAIN article on NBC news, especially the findings of the Yale doctor.    Ask your doctor if he's read it.  Tell him you will need your sleep and maybe something to eat. 

I was one who left the surgery hospital lacking sleep and having eaten very little.   A large multicolor screen for meds and other records flashed in my eyes all night every night after surgery.  The door was left wide open to the over-lit hall even by people I had asked once not to leave it open.  I could not sit up enough to get to most of my food, and I was too tired and medicated to realize how little I ate.  A friend fed me a few bites one day.  Someone brought the trays,  then split. 

This was a well-known local hospital.  We deserve to go on to rehab or nursing home rested and fed as well as we can tolerate, don't we?

Monday, January 7, 2013

SPINE FUSION - advice I love!

Since this is for educational purposes, I think I'm allowed to steal this one wonderful idea from Jean Rexford, Connecticut Center for Patient Safety in AARP Bulletin:

"Bring a big bottle of hand sanitizer and put it beside your bed to remind you and the staff to keep  hands clean."

There were moments when I would have put the bottle right on my dinner tray or taped it to my water pitcher, but I didn't think of it.

Thank you Ms. Rexford.  I've been writing everywhere there's a blank space even on Facebook that


SPINAL FUSION - have you just said yes to surgery?

What I wish they'd told me:  And what I wish I'd done:

"Here is what you will be able to do in three to six months, probably. . . "  I didn't get that much info on my future.  I wish I had asked but it's natural to be in a little shock when you get the news that you need surgery.

Pain medicine can make you nauseous or have other side effects.  I should have known, since one N-said table had made me nauseous in the past.

Not being able to lace your own walking shoes is annoying and feels like you're an invalid.

Spine fusion recovery can be like having a temperamental car - sometimes everything works fine, other mornings you don't think the whole contraption will even start.

Ask lots of questions.   If you're going to rehab, ask questions beforehand and ask more questions after you get there.  When I saw other people with worse braces wheeling down the hall alone, I should have reminded people that I could do that if I had a wheelchair that I could unlock.  Or if someone had unlocked it for me.

The only thing my family doctor told me was that I'd be in pain for a year.  Actually he said one guy was pain free in 9 months.

I didn't know about the huge brace I would get.    If women put it on over all their clothes, they can't go to the toilet.  I needed plenty of presentable elastic waist pants for walking in the halls.

If you are going to a rehab facility, ask if they have laundry service. 
No laundry facilities in my rehab unit.  Had to wear the same pair of elastic waist knit pants every day. 

The nurse I met in the market said, as I've mentioned:  One step forward, two steps back.  Translated for my experience that has meant:  This recovery isn't an escalator; it's more like a roller coaster.  But the not so good days scare me--make me think I'm doing something wrong.  Luckily, the surgeon is a very kind man who reassures me about where the little pains may come from.