You Probably Don’t Want To Look At These Photos

It’s meticulous surgery requiring great skill and care in a critical area related to nearly all human movement. And you think your job has pressure!

I am about to post some photos you don’t want to see! Seriously, there will be a link at the end of this entry. Think twice before clicking. The photos are from last Friday’s surgery.

I know, most people don’t have photos of surgical instruments repairing their back. You just haven’t asked!

I broached the subject with my surgeon in his office. I reminded him as I was waiting for the Propofol&#185 to kick in. I came home with a CD!

As I understand it my surgery was performed within a hollow tube inserted in my back. The hole is a little larger than a quarter.

It’s meticulous surgery requiring great skill and care in a critical area related to nearly all human movement. And you think your job has pressure!

Anyway, the photos are bloody and gross so click at your own peril.

&#185 – Propofol is a short-acting, intravenously administered hypnotic agent used to put patients ‘under’ for surgery. It was Michael Jackson’s sleep inducer of choice.

And We’re Back

OK, so that’s the good. There is bad.

Attention HSR! There are a few things you need to change.

It has been, to say the least, an eventful few days for Helaine and me. I’m back home having undergone a lumbar discectomy.

A few weeks ago I was in horrendous pain. Two epidurals later it improved to terrible pain.

Now I have no pain!

Well sort of. Now I have different pain which I expect to quickly heal.

Wednesday’s trip to the neurologist brought a recommendation: surgery. Nothing else had worked, nor was it likely to.

Truth is this is what I was hoping for! After a few months of suffering my whole outlook had changed. My pain was pretty constant. There was little I could do comfortably other than lay on the sofa.

I felt sad for myself–never a good thing.

Chronic pain is a bitch. I was willing to take radical steps to effect a change.

Boom! We were off to the races.

An associate of our doc would perform the surgery Friday. He wouldn’t be available for a meet-and-greet for a few more hours so I hobbled my way to what had been The Hospital of St. Raphael&#185 for pre-op testing.

Blood drawn, EKG taken, questions answered and surgical consequences explained. They do this stuff every day.

We headed back to the surgeon’s office, met the guy who’d carve into me and scheduled my procedure for Friday. The plan was get there by 5:30 AM, hit the OR at 7:00 AM and walk out in the afternoon.

Yeah, right.

Thursday afternoon I got a call from the surgical anesthesiologist’s office. Something had shown up on yesterday’s EKG. I’d need to see a cardiologist at 4:00 PM. I sprawled myself across the back seat of Helaine’s SUV and headed to New Haven.

Hour-by-hour my leg was getting worse. I wore shorts and dock shoes in case I needed to undress for an exam. Long pants were too tough to deal with.

No one knows why Wednesday’s EKG had the data it did. Still, surgery is serious stuff. More tests were needed to make sure my heart was OK.

“I want you to go the the hospital now.”

And with that an ambulance was called and I was off to HSR.

Too much detail! Let’s cut to the chase. The tests were negative enough to allow surgery Friday. All outward signs say that surgery was successful. Yea me!

There are a few things I want to say.

I know nothing about medicine, equipment and facilities. I know people.

There are no kinder, more loving people than the staff at HSR. There was not a moment I was not bathed in gracious care.

I was under the influence of morphine. There are names and blocks of time I’ve forgotten. Bethany was my nurse in the ER. Upstairs in the SICU it was Julie, Kate and Katelin. I never doubted my well being was their first concern. They were assisted by a coterie of techs and specialists.

When the guy wheeling you to the ER is in a good mood it does make a difference.

I know, I’m the guy on TV. Trust me, that ‘thrill’ is gone in the first few minutes. Everyone gets the care I received. This staff is incapable of less.

OK, that’s the good. There is bad.

Attention HSR, there are a few things you need to change. Your rooms and systems are designed in such a way a patient can never get any rest!

My bed had a pump that ran around 75% of the time. It was a loud pump. I finally begged one of the nurses to turn it off.

I was going to be there a day. Was anyone really worried about bed sores?

If paper at the nurses station ran out, my monitor beeped. Thanks. I was afraid I wouldn’t always be up-to-date with expendables.

It’s an annoying sound designed to draw attention. And it’s persistent.

Were you expecting me to change the paper?

I was wired with electrodes for a continuously running EKG. If one lead disconnected (I am the first person ever with hair on his body) it set off another beeping alarm in my room.


No, really. Why?

I was trying to sleep with a blood oxygen probe on one finger, inflating blood pressure cuff on my forearm, intravenous line to my hand and at least a half dozen poking electrodes on my chest back and side. Quiet was the only thing I wanted.

I know there’s a lot the hospital can’t control, but you’re in charge of the noises in the room. You can fix that tomorrow. You can.

Other annoyances, like an automated blood pressure cuff which inflated every half hour as I moved toward deep sleep is pretty beyond your control.

No warning. No nothing. All of a sudden a pump started and the cuff expanded until my arm was ready to explode. I need an hour alone in a room with the person who invented that.

Thankfully my earlier heart scare got me some extra time in the joint, because I wasn’t lucid enough to leave until 3:30 AM Saturday when I snuck out of my room to hang with the nurses. My actual discharge came at 11:00 AM.

So, here I am again on the couch. There’s a deep hole in my back a little larger than a quarter that needs to heal. I have been told to take it easy.

My back hurts at the incision. That will heal.

My leg pain is gone. My hope is that’s permanent.

I don’t know exactly when I’ll return to work. Two weeks is everyone’s best guess.

I haven’t driven a car in seven weeks! Except for doctors appointments it’s been over a month since I left the house!

I am ready to reclaim my life.

Thanks to the doctors who diagnosed and treated my ailment. Because of you my future should be pain free. You have my gratitude.

&#185 – The Hospital of St. Raphael was recently folded into Yale/New Haven Hospital. It isn’t the Hospital of St. Raphael anymore, but I will refer to it as HSR for old times sake.

Under The Knife, Friday

I am scheduled at the former Hospital of St. Raphael Friday morning at 7am. The means ‘in-the-hospital’ at 5:30 am.

“That’s when I usually go to bed,” I told the surgeon, a triathelete who looks like one! This is going to be on his schedule.

Here’s today’s revelation: My next step is surgery.

That’s the decision we came to this morning at the doctor’s office. It’s the decision Helaine and I anticipated last night.

Over the last month and a half my life has been dominated by pain and pain avoidance. It’s a crappy way-of-life.

I am scheduled at the former Hospital of St. Raphael Friday morning at 7am. The means ‘in-the-hospital’ at 5:30 am.

“That’s when I usually go to bed,” I told the surgeon, a triathelete who looks like one! This is going to be on his schedule.

My surgery has come together quickly. Once the decision was made the world shifted into high gear. Blood work, urine, x-ray and a rapid fire boatload of questions and warnings.

The plan is a small incision in my back to allow trimming the herniated disk currently squeezing my S1 nerve. Very straightforward.

If all goes well my leg pain will be gone. The wound from the incision will be a bigger short term problem. Within a few weeks I should be ready to go back to work.

A Lumbar Discectomy is routine surgery performed every day… but it is surgery. I have asked lots of questions and am happy the right team will be in place.

I asked the surgeon if he’d save some images for me to put in the blog.

“You want a picture of the disk,” he asked with more than a little pride in his ability to take one?

Hell yeah.