Oh my gosh. I guess I'm one of the lucky ones.
Surgery was 3/24/09... I stayed overnight, but was walking within hours of the surgery. Neurosurgeon said the procedure only took 35-40 minutes, but he was surprised that my stenosis was as bad as it was. Definitely glad I had it done! The pain and weakness in my fingers (left hand) was immediately gone and hasn't returned. No other pain has popped-up except the normal post-op muscle soreness.
First week wasn't anything like I thought it would be. I didn't have ANY problem with my swallowing... could even eat a chicken sandwich the night of the surgery! I had neck pain, but Vicodin did great. I found Valium too harsh, so I stuck with Vicodin and a mild muscle relaxant. slept a lot... but was able to walk right away. I also opted to quit using the collar after the second day. Even on the second day I was pretty much doing whatever I wanted... I couldn't lean over too far, but normal activities were just a bit slower. Showering, dressing, even cooking were not nearly as hard as I thought they'd be.
Now the crazy part!! Five days after my surgery, my boyfriend's lower back went out! So I ended-up driving him to the ER... taking him home, and being HIS caretaker for the next week. Wasn't really supposed to drive, but I hadn't taken any meds yet so it wasn't difficult. For the next week neither one of us could really do laundry, cook, or dishes.... We just pulled together and did what we could.
Two days after BF's is better and he's back to work, his son (lives with us) got appendicitis!! Back to the ER... and I got to be a caretaker one more time. Oy.
But the pain wasn't so bad that I couldn't function normally. I started walking everyday as much as I could... again without a brace, but was careful. I think I was walking 2-1/2 miles by the end of the second week.
I did have one set-back... fell asleep on our short loveseat with my neck all cockeyed, and woke-up with intense pain. Then my swallowing started to "click". I called the PA, who said this was normal. She prescribed a mild muscle relaxant, which worked great. Now (at 6 weeks post-op) if I sleep wrong I get the same pain. But I can usually exercise it out and take Tylenol.
Honestly, I could have gone back to work after 2 weeks, but decided to take advantage of the time. Besides, I had to take care of the rest of the darn family! So I didn't start back until 5 weeks post-op, and doing regular 8 hr shifts without a problem. I have restrictions -- can't carry over 10 lbs -- no lifting above my head -- get up every 90 minutes to stretch, etc.
I saw my neurosurgeon on May 6th (went to work May 7th), and he said I was already starting to fuse, and everything looked great. He didn't think I needed physical therapy (I didn't think I did, either) as long as I do the neck exercises throughout my 90 minute breaks. I don't go back until July 15, at which point he thinks I should be able to start bike riding again.
If I had to point to reasons why this surgery was such a success, I'd list:
1. Great training from the doc's staff (3 hour class)
2. Great doctor!
3. Being prepared with "props" to help get through the day. I have pictures if anyone is interested. (I donated much of it to the hospital a couple of weeks ago.) Things like a 22" shoehorn... a memory-foam collar with a removeable hot/cold pack... 25" "claw" to grab stuff...etc.
4. Being patient and not pushing myself during the day; getting lots of sleep.
5. Having my office ergonomic guru redecorate my office with a new chair, book holder, higher monitor, keyboard pad and tray, etc., so that my desk is a place of ease... not pain.
6. Getting the right pillow! And changing my sleep habits a bit.
All in all, I'm VERY happy I had the surgery. The first xrays were funny... looking at the titanium plate was strange. My boyfriend kept saying he thought the plate was supposed to be on the back of the vertebre! Don't know why he thought they'd do surgery through the front if that were the case, but whatever, goofball. Right now my only issue is my scar itching as it heals. I've started using Mederma per the PA's suggestion... and it seems to be working... just lots of nerve-tingling going on!