I just had my surgery on Friday, October 26th. I got home yesterday, Monday, October 29th. My surgery was using titanium plates and screws and a combination of my bone (not from my hip, but from the bone removed from my neck and grinding it down) along with cadaver bone. I am wearing a Miami J Collar and will be wearing this for a few months. I have a Bone Growth Stimulator. My surgeon considered a "cage", but when I moved my neck around, it repositioned itself properly and I didn't need one. (remember, every situation is so different. One person who needs a cage, may have very different symptoms and structure than someone who needs the plates.) Mine is all about stability of my neck and the cage was not going to offer that.
I will go through the things I learned and pass along what I am able since everyone here has been so wonderful in sharing their information. I hope it's helpful. I have never had surgery before, so at age 52, it is a learning experience for me. I am fortunately very healthy, other than the neck thing.
PRE-POST OP GUIDED IMAGERY AUDIO
First, let me recommend - even if you think it is hokey and silly and a bunch of hooey - download a pre/post op guided imagery audio recording onto your smart phone - start listening to it BEFORE you go to the hospital and listen to it post op, too. I bought a head set and listened to the audio recording as much as I could after surgery. It helped with anxious post-op moments and I have continued listening to it as I fall asleep. It also helped with my nausea while the hospital figured out my meds. I think it is helping with the speed of my recovery. And, although you don't know me, listening to these is not something of the norm for me. I downloaded one from Amazon for about $9 by Martin L. Rossman, MD. He has a voice that is amazingly calming and he includes some suggestions in the audio that are helpful.
I can only say that everyone told me - from my surgeon to the nurses, that I really prepared. I am on my own (other than friends checking in on me, so preparation was critical. I have the recliner, the dishes are on the counter, I have crushed ice cubes in the freezer. Soups, button down night shirts (so I don't have to put my hands above my head), I have the dry shampoo (because I cannot wash my hair for a week - ACCK), I have the Chloroseptic Max (although I have not needed it), I have throat lozenges - although I have not needed them. I have little bottles of water. I really have everything.
If you want to keep in touch with people (not via voice for this surgery, but via text, bring your smart phone with you to the hospital. It was really helpful since I did not have anyone at the hospital. Typing was my only form of communication with people outside of the hospital. Inside the hospital, I whispered.
My shower at home. For whatever reason, years ago, I put in shower heads that have a slider bar on the wall of the shower.; WHAT A BLESSING! Since I cannot get my hair and neck wet for a week, I have been able to slide the shower head to my chest and not worry about getting my neck wet while I wear that Miami J Collar during the shower. Especially if you are going to be on your own, I would highly recommend getting one.
My symptoms were a dull pain at the left side of my neck (at the base of my neck) and tingling in my left thumb, index and pointer finger. A little unbalanced walking from time to time. But, I was not in constant pain and I was on no medications or even aspirin whatsoever in the 2.5 years I have been dealing with it.
I asked my surgeon if I could fill the prescription for pain meds/muscle relaxers I would need at home BEFORE surgery so that I did not have to deal with it on my way home from the hospital. He agreed it was a good idea. So, I got it filled the day before my surgery.
THE EVENING BEFORE MY SURGERY
I decided to get a 1.5 hour massage. I knew it wouldn't remove all the stress from me, but I also knew it would be helpful at some level. I am so glad I did!
THE SURGERY - DAY 1
The surgery apparently went well. I can only whisper right now, but I was told that would be expected.
After surgery, they wanted me to try to eat something, but the morphine made me incredibly nauseous. I felt no pain in my throat whatsoever (and still do not), but I could not swallow anything of substance. Cups of ice chips were helpful. I had to really concentrate on small swallows otherwise I would choke. The choking didn't hurt and I quickly got the hang of it.
Once they got me off the morphine and switched me to the Diludad and let ME control when I needed it rather than it being automatic, I was much better. I was coherent enough to pay attention to the time to monitor the times I dosed myself, even though I knew I could not overdo it. I slept a lot, which was my personal goal. Swallowing was challenging and all I could manage was chipped ice, a little bit of chicken or beef broth, lemon sorbet, jello (bleck), mashed potatoes and cream of wheat.
The guided imagery audio I had on my phone was soooo helpful. Anytime I needed to listen to something, I turned on my smart phone and listened. It lulled me to sleep.
I was/am really concerned about my voice, as it is my business - something my surgeon knows clearly. He has been terrific through the entire surgery and pre-surgery. I go see him on Friday. I hope my voice comes back quickly.
THE MIAMI J COLLAR
UGH is all I have to say. It is uncomfortable, and with the warm weather here in Northern CA, I have found that the incision in the front of my neck (still in bandages) gets itchy. With my head propped against my recliner, I unvelcro one side to let air get in there. It really makes a difference. I do not move my head for those few minutes, then I velcro up again.
So, evening one at the hospital was uneventful. The nursing staff were wonderful. I cannot thank them enough. They listened to me when I was uncomfortable and did what they could to make it easier for me. I had few needs. The only drag is that every 15 minutes, they were checking my vitals. That is a pain.
10/26/2012 ACDF C3/4 C4/5 surgery
No pain; no pain meds - thank goodness!
04/01/2013 - 5 months + 1 week - FUSED
Doing some physical therapy for even better range of motion