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In house help after ACDF

gethealthyggethealthy Posts: 303
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:33 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery

I've been reading lots of your posts and am trying not to get too confused. I plan to schedule a 3 level ACDF tomorrow. I'm hurting pretty bad and just want to get this done. I've done lots of research and other than hoping on a plane to Germany and getting disc replacement this looks like the best choice for me.

I'm trying to get my house ready for this journey. My goal is to heal as fast as I can and get back to life.

Typically how much help will I need at home?

I have 3 little doggies as you can see. Will I need help with them?

My husband has many great qualities but "caretaker" is not one of them. He's never had surgery and is use to me being "wonder women".

My surgeon does this out patient so I'll be going straight home. Would it be wise to get a house keeper to come in once a week for a bit?

Is doing laundry and such out?

I really want to do my best to not screw this up. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!


  • Hi Lynn. Those are some really cute babies you have there. I'm raising a little Corgi pup named Wally.

    Anyhoo, I think I can help you with your questions because I've been there, done that. I also had a 3-level ACDF.

    You're really going to need help for AT LEAST the first week. I had help the first three, and it seemed a bit like overkill, but then it was my mom-in-law and she tends to overstay her welcome.

    The problem is that you're going to be restricted to no BLT (bending, lifting, twisting) for about a month after your surgery. The BLT restriction encompasses a lot of things, so you need to think about what to prepare beforehand to help you out, like putting things in easy reach. You'll also be on painkillers for a while and that can make it difficult to function, but you really have to take them as prescribed to stay ahead of your pain. If your pain get ahead of you it becomes difficult to control.

    You say you're husband isn't a caretaker, but when you get home with a collar (if you wear one) and that big incision on your neck, my bet is that he'll suddenly become Florence Nightengale. It'll be easy to realize that Wonderwoman is on vacation for a while.

    I have a very hard time grasping that this is outpatient surgery. A very hard time. A 3-lvl ACDF is no picnic and the thought of this being done outpatient really worries me. I don't mean to scare you, but I've never heard about spine surgery being outpatient.

    On my pre-surgery forms, it stated that during your recovery, it's NOT a time to catch up on or do household chores. In other words, you can't do laundry, dust, vacuum, wash windows, etc.

    Please feel free to PM me if you have any questions or want to talk. You're about to embark on major surgery and although it's really worth doing in most situations, it's major surgery nevertheless.

    Take care and please keep us updated.
  • Thank you SO much. That's a great photo of your dog. Obviously it's not Wally. What kind of dog is it? That white fur is amazing!

    I'll ask my doctor's office about the out patient surgery. I can't put the name of the center because that's not allowed but they're noted for doing non evasive surgery. Can I give the name out on a PM?

    Unfortunately I've had a few ugly surgeries before (not on my back) and my husband was not able to handle it. I had lots of friends to help out thank goodness.

    Are you pleased with your results? The doctor made it clear that the surgery is not for getting rid of pain but to prevent more damage from occurring in that area. Did it relieve your pain? That sure would be nice.

    We have the same spines it seems. Our cervical spines are the same and I have 2 bulging discs in my L 4 and 5. I've been able to deal with L4 and L5 with physical therapy and wiser lifting LOL. Good luck with that!

  • I meant minimally invasive surgery. I went on line and found some articles about out patient surgery for ACDF. It seems more are being done that way. I hope it's a good thing.
  • After my 2 level ACDF, I needed help for 1-2 weeks. I also had surgery at 7:00 am was out of surgery at 11:00am and was home by 12:30. I wasnt even fully awake for the car ride home. I think it has alot to do with insurance plans. Good luck.
  • I had a one level ACDF done 3/24/09. Mine was outpatient, as well. What really happened was the surgery took 40 minutes (which the doc said was short compared to others), and then I spent the next 20+ hours sleeping and walking around the floor. It was hard to walk without getting dizzy at first, but within a few hours it started to get easier. I stayed overnight, and went home the next day. It was still considered outpatient, as I was in the hospital 23 hours.

    Once I got home with a soft collar, all I wanted to do was sleep. That was mostly the medication talking. But I couldn't do much the first 2-3 days beyond going to the bathroom and watching TV. Again, I mostly slept. There really wasn't anything for my live-in boyfriend to do ... but he did bring me food which I had pre-made or purchased. I was lucky that I didn't have the sore-throat issues, but I remember getting relief with Snack-pak puddings and pasta dishes.

    Although my BF is a good caretaker, I'm a nurse and really hate folks taking care of me. So I prepared myself with a number of items to help myself. One was a really long shoe horn (18") and elastic shoelaces. I also bought an apparatus to put my socks on without bending over. I also got a long handclamp device to pick-up things from the floor.

    I made sure laundry and dishes were done before the surgery... and since you can't lift anything over 10 pounds for the first 3 months, laundry from then on was done in mini-bites. Carrying dishes from the dishwasher to the cabinet was difficult. Cooking was hard, too, especially if you need to use heavy pots/pans. Carrying a pot with water is out of the question.

    Showering and going to the bathroom wasn't difficult. Driving was uncomfortable, but not impossible.

    Again, a lot of the issue was with taking meds. If I didn't take them, it became pretty painful. Not the surgery site as much as the muscles around the site... they tend to spasm. But when I did take the meds, I'd either sleep a lot or not really "be there". Valium I couldn't handle, but Viacodin worked well.

    The first week was when I really needed the most help. On the start of the second week, my BF's back went out, and he couldn't get out of bed. So I ended-up being his caretaker. Or rather we did for each other. We have a housecleaner every two weeks, and that helped. What I found is that I could do small chores... but the more of them I did, the stiffer and more sore I became. If I did 3 loads of laundry, made lunch and did dishes... that was overkill for the day.

    Walking was a HUGE blessing. It helped and still helps tremendously. Sitting too long is the opposite... it really hurts.

    Good luck on the surgery! I'm sure you'll do fine. Mine was the best decision I ever made... so far I'm healing great!
  • Wow I just love this site!

    That's amazing Broskisr talk about a quick surgery! And you were okay at home?

    Moonbaby that was a very helpful breakdown. That's great that you didn't have a problem with the sore throat and swallowing. That scares me the most.

    I think I can do this.

    I love my showers. Can you take them right away? I heard somewhere that you had to wait 5 days?

    I went out today looking for a long shoe horn and the grabber to get stuff from the ground but couldn't find them. Where did you find those items?

    I love hearing how well most people do with this surgery. I hope to be able to share a happy story too.

    I can't say thank you enough. It really helps to be prepared for what's ahead.
  • I got my long shoehorn and elastic shoelaces (along with everything else) at a medical supply place. I live in San Jose, and went to this place: http://bischoffsmedical.com

    But you can google "18 inch shoehorn" and find other places.

    I took a shower on the 2nd day I was home, but was careful not to get my neck wet. I think I replaced the bandage then, too, and didn't wash that area for about 3 days.

  • That's impressive! How did you take a shower and keep your neck dry. Did you wash your hair? I'll have to practice that before the surgery so I'll be a pro when I get to shower LOL

    How long was it before you were able to exercise? I know walking is encouraged right away but I'm an exercise nut. I don't want to go back too quick and I plan on taming down on my crazy stuff but I'd love to know how long it takes most people to be able to go back to strength training and aerobic classes.
  • My husband is awesome helping out but he is not a good housekeeper (me neither). We ended up hiring help. She is a wonderful woman who has been helpful around house as well offering me emotional support. I felt guilty for having her but having a clean house does wonders for my emotional well-being.

    She comes once a week and does things like laundry, which I would have never done before with my other housekeepers.

    As someone mentioned, having someone do housekeeping like sweeping, vacuuming, unloading and loading the dishwasher, washer and dryer, putting new sheets on the bed...etc... (all requiring one to bend, twist, lift) was/is a gift.

    I, too, have dogs. My husband has been the pet caregiver since my back pain and surgeries. Now I can walk the dogs and pick their poopy but he still scoops out the litter box.
  • I'm 47 yrs, and was pretty active before my 3/24/09 surgery. So exercising is important to me, too. I was forced into moving 1 week after the surgery because my live-with boyfriend's lower back went out, and I had to drive him to the ER. Also had to care for him for the next week.

    So I discarded the soft collar by day 3. And I started walking once I was no longer sleeping all the time. I think it was about day 5. My first walks were just up the street until I started getting dizzy (and I did wear the collar for that -- which I still think was part of the reason I got dizzy). Within a few days I walked around the block. I tried to walk 2-3 times/day. But I was also walking in the house, in the yard, etc.

    The main thing was not to bend over or pick-up anything heavy. I even had to downsize my purse!

    I also took my medication right on time, so I never had a moment where I was in critical pain. But to be honest, I started weaning myself off the meds quite soon. OTC Tylenol was enough, and still is when I get an occasional muscle spasm.

    I started taking 1 mile walks by the second week. By the 3rd week, I was walking 3 miles ... and tried to do that 4 times a week. I usually started out with my collar, but took it off after 15 minutes.

    After my first visit back to the doctor (6 weeks), they said I could have been riding a stationary bike all along if I had wanted to. I didn't realize that, or I would have.

    Now as far as a shower... I put an extra bandage over the top of the wound site, and wrapped the sticky-style clear wrap around my neck the first time. And yes, I definitely washed my hair! When I took off the clear wrap the top bandage I put on came with it. Viola!

    Other things I did that I'm REALLY glad for: I arranged for my ergonomics guru to re-do my office so that I didn't have to look down all the time. She put my monitor higher, gave me a document clip board for right in front of the monitor, a new chair without arms and is adjusted for the right height, and a new keyboard sling arm for better alignment.

    I also crushed a week's worth of pills prior surgery to make sure I could put them in pudding... in case my throat was too sore to swallow them.

    I got my Advance Directive documentation done (hospice can give you a blank copy to use) and gave it to my docs, the hospital, and my boyfriend.

    I put a towel on my bedside directly after surgery. That way, I could put things like the remote a little further away, but still be able to pull the towel to get it closer to me. The first week it's hard to sit-up even to reach for the remote.

    Which reminds me! I got four new pillows: one of the heavy type with wings that you can use to sit-up and watch TV. Second was a medical cervical pillow which has a "wave" in the middle. That was a bit expensive, about $40 at Target. The third was a round cylindar pillow. I use that for my back along with pillow #1, or by itself when I need more support.

    The fourth pillow was the most important one. It was the type you see in airplanes that people use to sleep in their seats, and curves around your neck. Looks like a horseshoe. At Bed, Bath and Beyond they had cushy ones with a pouch on each side and a gel-pack that you can put the freezer or in the microwave. I used that pillow almost all day for the first 3 weeks. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that pillow... especially since I could switch it around and have hot/cold on the front of my neck, too. Very important for those darn muscle spasms! I think it was around $20-$24.

    Going back to exercising... everyone is different, but I don't think I could do aerobics or strength training until I had completely fused. And I fused really fast (I'm about to post about that). So for me, it was 3/12 - 4 months before that kind of excerising.

  • Had trouble getting this to post (see below)
  • I found a house keeper who will come once a week too. I hope that goes as well for me as yours did for you.

    The plastic wrap is a great idea! I actually thought of that myself after a 72 year old woman who had a four level fusion 9 days prior said she put plastic around her incision to shower.

    This woman was amazing! She had trouble getting her pain medication filled so just didn't take any and said she didn't need them. She was inspirational! I hope I have that experience.

    It's interesting how each person deals with this surgery. You were lucky not to have the sore throat issue Moonbaby. I sooo hope that I don't. Any thoughts on why you didn't?
  • :) Moonbaby read your "fastest healer" story. I wonder if that's because you had an out patient surgery, had to help your boyfriend, were in good shape before, started walking early and have a "get it done myself" personality.

    I'm so glad you are posting with me. I want to be just like you! I want to be my doctors fastest healer. I swear I'm training for it.

    I'm a fitness trainer and a martial art instructor. I'm doing all that I can do to be strong for this surgery. I changed my strength training to elastic bands only and do nothing over my head. My neck is so bad I can't lift weights anymore. I had to stop running and high impact moves too so now I walk big hills and ride my stationary bike.

    I had to close my martial art school and stop doing my fitness classes and DVDs. I was right in the middle of a shoot when my neck went crazy!

    I don't know if I'll ever be able to do the things I use to. I think I can find ways to do similar things just on a "tamer" side.

    Maybe I will be able to go back to being me. Your doctor gave you a "go for it" bill of heath after 4 months! Mine said full healing may take up to 2 years! He freaked me out. Sounds like your doctor believes in going back to your original life. I hope that's true for me.

    Thank you so much for posting about that!

    I'll be doing up dates after my surgery. I hope I'm as inspirational as you are!
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