I remember hearing voices but I couldn’t open my eyes. All I felt was numb and it felt like someone, my parents, were trying to wake me up in the middle of the night. But it wasn’t dark, in fact it was very bright, I could see the white flourescent light shining through my closed eyes. Somebody asked me if I was cold and I think I might have replied, “Yes” because within a few minutes a warm blanket was placed on top of me. That was the last thing I remember until everything began to move.
This is what I remember minutes, possibly hours, after I woke up from spinal fusion surgery to correct the curvature in my spine, nearly 18 months ago. According to the doctors and nurses at the hospital, most patients are more awake in the recovery unit but because my blood pressure dropped at the end of the surgery they had to increase the amount of anesthetic I was receiving rather than decrease it.
After being moved from recovery to the intensive care unit, nearly everything for the rest of the day remains foggy. I remember being really thirsty but besides that my entire body felt heavy and numb. Probably around 9 or 10 pm the same day, I finally began to feel somewhat more aware of my surroundings and I remember watching the IV fluids and my own blood (from the cell saver during surgery) drip into the tube.
The next afternoon was probably the worst day of my one week stay in the hospital. I was still in the ICU but it was the first time I would be visited by the physical therapist. That day, the goal was to sit up on the edge of the bed and possibly stand only 24 hours post-op. The thing that nobody tells you and that is very difficult to find online is what it’s like to sit up with 30+ staples in your back. Everything feels tight and every movement that pulls even slightly on your back hurts.
After being moved to the regular surgical floor, the days gradually grew easier and it really helped to be visited by my cousins, relatives, friends, and PE teacher who had become a family friend. Towards the end of my stay, I got the chance to work with one of the outpatient physical therapists who quickly made me laugh and seem like the pain walking caused wasn’t so bad. After being discharged, we decided that I would continue my physical therapy with her.
I finally got to go home on the 7th day in the hospital, which turned out to be the 4th of July. The car ride home wasn’t fun but once I was home, my own bed and real, familiar food was well worth it. The road to full recovery is long and, quite frankly, still not over but the people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had, and of course, a nearly straight spine (with 2 inches!), were all well worth it.