First post-op visit.

Yesterday’s weather related euphoria rapidly dissolved in today’s cold, gray drizzle.  My walk was annoying, damp, and without any particular insight.  The pain in my leg cracked like a whip with every third step, and I had to stay very focused or get shocked.

In the afternoon I went to see my surgeon for my post-op visit.  He was late, so I studied the list of questions I had preparedand ran my fingers along all the models of the spine, discs, nerves that were tossed around the room like toys.  Dr. Tran burst into the room with the force and enthusiasm I have come to expect from him.  “Hello, Ms. Rachhhhellll,” he shouted.

Before asking me anything, he told me to stick my legs out in various ways.  I did as I was told and he seemed confused as to why I wasn’t moving faster.  He kept testing my right leg, my right foot, and finally asked me how I felt.  I told him that I was about 25% better than before surgery.  He looked as though I had slapped him.

He grabbed the laptop he had tossed onto the examination table and pulled up my file.  He clicked and mumbled and sat there in silence until I decided that maybe I was being to harsh.  “I can stand up longer.  I can walk to the end of the block.  I couldn’t do that before.”  He looked up, “That’s good.  But tell me about the pain.”

I told him about how it strikes like lightening when I turn in any direction, how it throbs when I try to sit still, how it forces me to move every hour through the night.  I told him my leg was still cold, my foot was numb, and my limp was still prominent (all things he’d assured me would be immediately gone after surgery).

He looked again at his computer.  “Here are my notes from your surgery, Rachel, and here is why I think your nerve is so angry.”  He explained that the extrusion (the amount of disc material that had ruptured) was so much larger than he had anticipated, that it had pressed the nerve hard into the bone, “I actually had to remove some of the bone to make more room for the nerve.”  He told me more about how much disc material he had removed, and admitted that it was possible he had not removed it all, that there might be some rogue pieces hiding in there, attacking the nerve when it’s supposed to be healing.

We briefly discussed more surgery, but I stopped him to ask, “Is it possible that I may just have to learn to live with this level of pain?”  He looked sheepish, which is not a look I particularly like to see on a surgeon, and suggested I try a new medication to “mask the nerve pain.”  I put the rest of my questions away.


3 thoughts on “First post-op visit.

  1. Oh Rachel. I’m so sorry. I was in a car wreck in May which ended with a plate in my foot to repair a broken bone. 8 months later and my foot still hurts. I’ve done physical therapy, crazy anti-inflammatory meds, and most recently an injection into my foot to “break the pain cycle” of what the doc thinks is a trapped nerve. Next up is a 2nd surgery to release the nerve. The hard part is, it only hurts a little bit. Maybe a 1 – but it hurts anytime I’m walking (and I’m learning, anytime it’s about to rain). Surgery seems so extreme for such minor pain, but am I really too young to accept that I might have this little bit of pain forever (as my mom insists)?

    Pain and aging is a strange thing. I sincerely hope you don’t have to learn to live with lightening bolts.

    1. Sarah, I remember that! I remember observing your recovery on Facebook. I am so sorry that you are still in pain! It is such a strange thing, not knowing how much is “acceptable”. I want to know because I want to adjust my expectations — as if that’s something we can ever really do in this life? Know how much anything will hurt and for how long.

      I am praying for you, that your nerve would spontaneously spring free!!

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