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Controlling the Dread

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,900
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:24 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello ALL! :H

I have an upcoming 360 Fusion and I feel the dread and terror starting to build. :SS :SS Slowly but surely as the days pass and the time gets closer I am getting "the feeling" it seems a little more each day.

I had a TLIF last year 9/07 and in pre-op they thought I was gonna stroke out. Seriously considered postponing the surgery. Once the sedative kicked in I was OK but leading up to the sedative I was a wreck. I was perspiring so bad, the nurse had a terrible time putting on the compression stockings.

I was wondering what I can do to help get this feeling somewhat under control. If anyone has some suggestions on what I can do to lessen this feeling, I'm all ears. 8> I'd hate to go through the same thing again this time.




  • Hi Kevin, I know what you are going through. What it did to me was gave me anxiety attacks :SS . I took xanax to get me through the week before surgery. Perhaps you should contact either your surgeon or PMD and get a something to calm you down. Xanax or valium seem to be the most common. Other than that, I think just talking about it helps, but not enough. Also when you get to the hospital maybe you can ask for something right away. They wouldn't give me anything because I needed to talk to anesthesia and he was in another case. If you haven't had your pre-op yet, tell them as well. I hope you are the first case of the day so you don't have to wait. Good-luck, and keep coming here for support. >:D< Sue
  • Hi Kevin,

    I understand that you are experiencing fear as your surgery is approaching, it just shows that you are normal. We all did, some of us more, some of us less. What helped me was trying to think positively, reading statistics emphasizing the positive, not that there is a 1% chance for complications but rather that there is a 99% chance for success. Listen to soothing music, try meditation or just doing things you enjoy. And under no circumstances should you talk to people who are pessimistic and imagine the worst. Ask your friends to tell you jokes, laughter is the best cure for anxiety. If all else fail, ask you doc for a mild sedative. And remember, most people get through spinal surgery, and the majority will be happy they went through, especially once some or all of the pre-surgery symptoms disappear. I know that I am really happy my surgery is behind me and now I can go on with my life.

    Best of luck, and THINK POSITIVE!

  • When I got scared before my first cervical surgery, I sat down and talked to my NS. We had been through 7 lumbar surgeries together, so he knows me well and knew that if I was scared he needed to address it. After having a good discussion about it, I was able to manage a lot better.

  • I also agree to get something to relax you like a sedative. Also trying relaxation and breathing excercises. Sometimes to say a parayer light a candle then pray and then blow it out knowing you've asked for help beyond yourself. Thinking healing thoughts for you. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Haylie. Everything that she mentions is great advice for reducing anxiety. I also used these techniques before my surgery and they really do work.
  • The weeks before my surgery (microdisectomy) I was in so much pain that I was having nightmares about being paralyzed. I started having panic attacks when I've never had them before. At first I thought it was a side effect to the pain meds, but they continued even when I switched. The days leading up to the surgery were the worst.

    You are already doing the best thing you can, and that is reading this site and getting up to speed on the facts. You also have reached out for help, and believe me we are all here for you! Sometimes talking (or writing, in this case) helps, and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes the best thing you can do is distract yourself completely. Anxiety can be like a migraine headache; sometimes no matter what you do, nothing seems to help and you have to just get through it. In those cases, it is best to distract your mind completely. Work crossword puzzles, watch gameshows on tv, or even color in a coloring book (as crazy as that sounds, it can help). There is no logic involved when you are going through a panic attack. Self-talk can help sometimes, but for those times when it doesn't work, please try self-distraction. Try to name in your mind all your favorite tv characters and tv shows. Do multiplication tables. It's like your mind can out-run the anxiety if you get it busy enough.

    The moments leading up to the surgery, when they are putting on the stockings, try to keep your mind blank. You will already have done what you can to prepare yourself, so plan on that last 30 minutes to clear your mind of all material thoughts. Focus again on favorite tv shows, and know that you are in good hands (Say a prayer and know that God will get you through the surgery). Don't let yourself think about the surgery or recovery or anything else involved. That's what I did, and it worked well. I was polite to the people that came in and answered the doctor's questions, but I refused to think about what was happening or was going to happen at that point. If you run out of things to think about, think about all of us here who are praying and pulling for you! You can even try to remember as many of our names as possible.

    Regarding medications, I think it is a good idea to plan on taking something in the days leading up to the surgery as well as when you first get home. Valium is said to work well with muscular and nerve issues, and Xanax also is popular. You can also try Ativan (Lorazapam), which also helps with anxiety and is easier to get off of than Xanax. Don't hesitate to tell the doctor you would like some in the recovery room after the surgery. I have read where others did that. A psychiatrist told me it is a physiological reaction to surgery to have depression and anxiety. He also said this means it will go away more quickly than your regular old depression or anxiety not associated with surgery. Even the psychiatrist I was speaking to had experienced depression and anxiety when he went through a recent surgery, so it can happen to anyone.

    Can I ask what your deepest fears are? Sometimes addressing those specifically can help. We can go over them as many times as you need to in order to feel better. Please also send me a Private Message if I can help. I've just gotten off the anxiety rollercoaster ride myself, and I want to help you if I can. :)

  • I did puzzles, read books and even crocheted a blanket for my daughet 2 weeks before my ALIF! I even finished the blanket the night before at 1am, and left it on her for when she woke up!
    I also took some ativan to help relax me a couple of weeks before. I took it sometimes at night to help me relax and sleep and then when I felt like I was confused about the surgery and wanted to back out! Also handling family, especially with my kids, it was good to take to keep "my head up" for their sakes.
    Find something that would interest YOU! Something that you can do that's easy and fun but maybe time consuming too, so your mind is on something else.
    Mind me asking, but why now a 360?? What happened?? Sorry if i missed a post where you told us.

    Kim >:D<
  • Bless you for your candid honesty & thoughtful post. I also "knew what I was in for" having had some priors, as you have. I talked to my NS & he RX'd Valuim PRN, which helped tremendously. As did staying positive, just "going" w/ the panic, trying not to fight it yet knowing it would pass. I also had a lot of "lead-time" & I think that was counterproductive; it was a long wait (4 weeks) from the DX to the surgery, so I had too much time to think about it. I came real close to cancelling it also, so don't feel bad about those thoughts either.. I finally calmed down about a day b4 and surprisingly, I was very calm & relaxed the day of. (Even b4 the meds!) I had my surgery team pray w/ me b4 they started & reminded myself that THEY ALSO wanted the best for me, would be gentle with me & careful, etc & that all would be fine, which it was. When I woke up in ICU, the nurses prayed w/ me again (I had some prayers in my gown pocket!) and I slept comfortably that night, my pain was bad, but controlled & I figured I was in the safest place I'd ever be in my life, with everyone around me watching & caring for me, etc.

    As was suggested, it's a "mind game" and that's the tough part. I would just get calmed down, talk to myself about all the benefits,etc...and then *zap* a panic attack would come out of nowhere....so that's what the PRN Valuim is for. Or whatever you & your doc decide.

    Think of it as a type of "joyful misery" coming up---you'll hurt for awhile, but the procedure will help you lead a better life. Now, at 10 months, I still think back to January & that particular day...but I am very glad I had my fusion, it's helped me be able to teach again & the anxiety abates as you heal, as you recover, when you experience the return of some normalcy in your life, which I assume right now, is missing. Ponder those things: the gifts modern medicine can afford you that 100 years ago you would have to bear w/o relief.

    Kevin, you are very brave! Remember that! Do what you must to get thru until your date, then "let go" (give up, almost) to the surgery team & go onto an "uneventful" recovery, as they say!

    Stay here! We're all here for you!


  • I will tell ya the second time around is easier. It was on me anyway. I knew what was going to happen, what it was going to feel like etc.

    Yes they will give you something to take if you ask in advance. OR if you were like me I started getting a headache/nausea. So they rushed me back and gave me MEDS MEDS MEDS whew was lovin that one.

    This time I awoke with only burning pain in the incision and nausea. I remember everything from the time of recovery through the whole night.
    The year before I remembered nothing at all the first 2 days.

    I straight out told the nurses DO NOT touch me, I can roll out of bed myself!!!! Yes I grabbed on to their arm . But let me tell ya I walked all the way down the hall etc.
    My post op pain control wasn't half as much as I had last year.

    So basically discuss this with the anthesologist etc.
    I told them I have a very low pain tolerence. I have super high anxiety after they wake me up etc. Well they must of took care of that before they woke me. I was not crying or anything.

    So relaxxxxxxxxxxx. You did it last time you can do it this time!!!
    See last yr you had no clue what this surgery was going to bring pain wise etc. Now you know for this one ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;)

    GOOD LUCK <:P <:P <:P <:P <:P <:P
  • Before my surgery, my doctor prescribed Valium for muscle spasms. Of course, it also helped in reducing my anxiety. But in addition to this, I found that pampering myself helped tons. Similar to what Kin suggested in an earlier post, I listened to classical music, enjoyed cups of hot decaf tea, and I burned aromatherapy candles. I meditated, and was mentally prepared by the day of my surgery. I would definitely discuss your fears with your doctor.

    Good luck,
  • Thank you guys so much for the encouragement and suggestions.

    Yesterday I went in for my pre-op registration and blood work. Believe it or not I was a wreck then. :SS I don't think it would have been so bad but the nurse taking the blood couldn't hit a vein with an "insert needle here" sign on it. L) #o After the 2nd or 3rd try it started to hurt like hell. ~X( Another nurse tried and got the needle in on the 2nd attempt. She succeded on a vein in my forearm (never had blood taken from there before).

    I don't think its gonna be as bad this time as it was the first. At least I hope it won't. I have a better idea what to expect, have some Valum and Lexapro (perscriped for anxiety not depression) which I was OK'd to take prior to surgery. Luckily my surgery is the 1st one of the day (I have to report to the hosp. @ 05:30) so I won't be waiting for an afternoon spot. Bet I won't sleep a wink the night before though...

    I know my biggest fear on the last go around was not knowing what to expect. Thinking that I may not wake up for some strange reason and actually feeling the pain during surgery (saw something on TV a few years back where people say they were out but not all the way and could "feel" everything going on during the operation but were paralized and could do nothing). Pretty crazy I know, but I have a very active and vivid imagination. Its funny how the mind plays tricks on you.


  • better about the experience. :) I am having the same thoughts. The good news is, you have control over your thoughts. It may not feel like it sometimes, but you do! I too have worried that I might be "awake" during surgery, I saw something on 20/20 about a woman who felt everything, etc. That is why TV is bad. So anyway, when I get like that I turn away from the condition and turn towards what I do want. I don't think "I don't want to be nervous." I do think "I want peace, I want serenity, I want calmness and gentleness". This way I am focusing no energy on the things that I wish to avoid. Without energy, they have no power.:)
    Let us know how it goes (perfect I am sure).

    One Love,

  • Kevin,

    have a read of snoopy's post, very afctual and helpful post op report just this week on 360.

    Your stress as you know is going to add to your problems.
    If I can give you any advice, it is this...
    trust in your doctors and nurses and your own body.
    I am amazed at how resilient and clever our human body machine is.
    After my second operation I didn't feel too clever. But I listened to body, rested and reported all my symptoms. Stopped drinking caffine (weird but made me feel sick) and relaxed into the situation.

    I had no control over the operation or any strange body responses. I tried to keep my fight, focus and head. I did not want to add stress in the mix.

    I wish you well. speak with your doctors, as the others have said, they may be able to give you meds to help calm you down.

    I did my own triage thingy...one - if I die then I won't know. 2 - If i become paralysed I am no longer in pain!! and 3 - if I get this far (as in to number three), I am alive, moving my legs and will get on with living with the bloomin pain. Anything outside of the 3 - BONUS!

    Mentally I am on top of the world.
  • I am not the OP, but I want to thank everyone for their responses. I am also getting very nervous about my surgery. I also think I have the problem that it was scheduled so far out from diagnosis. But I have a good reason for it, the week before my surgery I am going to Disney World with my family over Thanksgiving. I know that with my back, I probably won't be able to do everything. But, I am so excited about seeing the majic of my daughter's first time there, the warm weather, etc. Now I am really glad that I have this to focus all my energy on and distract myself from the surgery. I asked all three surgeons that I saw if it was ok to go and they strongly encouraged me to do so. I now am so glad I have the trip in front of me.

    To the OP, I can sympathize with you! I have had back surgery before so I know part of what to expect (not fusion), but in my case that is making it worse since I had an infection and bad depression after my first surgery. But, this time I am seeing a therapist and I feel a lot more prepared. I am really trying to focus on what the surgery can do to help.

    Good luck with your surgery!!
  • Today I had an appointment with my Primary Care Doctor to get refills on my blood pressure meds and the Lexapro. While I was there I told her about my upcoming surgery and how I was starting to feel about the whole ordeal. She told me the Lexapro may help some but she wanted me to start taking a low dose of Alprazolam. .5MG every 8 hrs until the surgery. Of course I need to check with my surgeon 1st, but my primary care assured me that there should be no problem with taking the Alprazolam. Hopefully it'll do the trick. =D> =D> =D> <:P
  • Hi Kevin, good to hear you are getting on something to help. I too take lexapro and xanax(alprazolam). Just make sure you don't take the valium and the xanax together as they are from the same drug class, very similar. Valium is known to be a better muscle relaxant though. Good-luck, it will all be okay. It is so great when it is over! >:D< Sue
  • My primary care doc prescribed .5mg Alprazolam/Xanax every 8 hrs to help control the anxiety/fear/dread/what ever you want to call it of my up coming surgery on Tuesday. Scheduled series of alprazolam to start immediately. The only problem is, is that 30 minutes after the dose I'm asleep on the couch. Is this normal? Do you think it should be recommended that I continue the Alpraolam? I must say I am extremely mellow right now. Desired effect? Needless to say I haven't driven since Wednesday.
  • Sweetie...better to be snoozing on the sofa than to be getting all tensed up about the surgery! Enjoy!!!

    All the best to you on Tuesday...you will be just fine! Most of us on here have been in your shoes, so we know what you are going through.

    God's peace to you today!
  • Hi Kevin, I take 0.25 mg and it doesn't knock me out. But hey, if it does that to ya you,ll get a good nights sleep before surgery. Hang in there, it,ll be over soon, and you'll be on the other side with the rest of us. >:D< Sue
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