PART 2-Amy Eicher, My SIJD Surgery Story…
The following is a look into the life of one patient’s recovery…
The surgery: bilateral fixation of the Sacroiliac Joint Jan 13th 2011
The first 24 hours:
When I came to after surgery I found that both butt checks were very painful-everything felt swollen and it hurt to move. I was afraid to move! Heck I was afraid to breath! Shortly after coming around I realized I needed to use the bathroom and I was really worried about standing up. I was surprised that I was able to get up and use the bedside commode, but didn’t think I could walk much further than that. I felt like a new born colt – or Bambi in the movie where he steps onto the ice, Thumper says “ Kinda wobbly aren’t ‘ya!” The rest of the day was pain meds, nurses, blood pressure tests and meals. The staff was so kind and very professional, and the food was yummy too. Know that you will be in excellent hands once you get to the hospital.
Post op Day 1
I was able to take toddler steps with a walker about 40 yards or so with the hospital PT- I was unsure and moving wasn’t impossible, but it hurt. Getting into and out of bed was the hardest thing – engaging those muscles in the rear end that had been cut through was painful. I had random muscle twitches and slight pain down the left leg and my right knee kept twitching. I was worried that it wasn’t normal and that the surgery wasn’t going to help me. But then I remembered how I felt walking. Even through all that post-op pain it felt different. I felt solid as a rock when I stood. I might not have had the muscle strength to move my legs, but I felt solid for the first time in many many long years. I trusted that the professionals were right when they told me I would be ok.
I stayed 2 nights in the hospital and by the time I was released on Sat afternoon walking was much easier and my right side felt fairly normal – the left side still much more tender. We headed to the hotel and I mostly slept or worked on needlepoint. Please don’t ask if… it worked yet, because I have no idea. It feels like I went to war and lost right now- so I am holding out on a verdict until all the post op pain goes away. I do know that I am on A LOT of drugs, and that I plan to take them as I am told for pain and anti inflammation stuff. I can tell that I feel “right” when I stand- I can’t do it for long, but I can stand and walk and sit at this point- so I’ll take that!
The flight home Sunday night was uncomfortable but not unbearable. We had rented a car in Atlanta so my husband dropped me and the luggage off curbside. They came with a wheel chair for me before I got out of the car. They wheeled me inside to wait as my husband returned the car, caught the shuttle and came back to take me to the gate. I tried to be as airport friendly as possible – slip on shoes, no metal anywhere but in my rear end! (Ladies, may I suggest no under wire bras for the trip.) I took an anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxant, and 2 Percocet about 30 min prior to boarding and asked to be boarded last. Lying down was far more comfortable than sitting, so I laid down at the airport in an out of the way place. The lady at the ticket desk moved a couple from the bulkhead seats for us so we could sit there- it helped a lot. My flight was about an hour and 20 min and I was glad when it was over. If your like me your worried about the flight home – don’t worry about it, your so drugged up you will barely remember it in the end . I laid down in the back of the car on the way home from the airport. Some how I walked up the stairs to our bedroom where I will stay for the foreseeable future!
Days 4 and 5
I slept – no really that’s about it – I wake up for small amounts of food and drugs and then go back to sleep.
I actually feel pretty good. All things considered. The pain is easily managed with anti – inflammatory – muscle relaxants and an occasional Percocet- I need them far less now than I did 3 days ago 1 every 6 hours or so is good enough – I feel the pain more when the muscle relaxant wears off. The left side (my less affected side) was mucked with a bit more and that side is far more tender than the right. This morning was emotionally challenging – I can hear everything going on down stairs with the kids and my family and I can’t be a part of it – not real found of that. My stitches itch like crazy, and I think my left piriformis is tight, and I am a little bored I am in far less pain than I was pre-surgery but it is so hard to tell with all the meds though.
We have an elevated toilet that has helped a lot. I don’t need a walker to get around- I do sleep a lot, but when I am awake the pain isn’t unbearable. I am down to around 1 Percocet every 6-7 hours a day from 2 every 4 hours. The right side with only 2 screws feels quiet normal really- however he left side is still more painful to lay on and I can feel a muscle that is really tight – I think it is the piriformis since it feels good to be in that stretch on that side. I am able to sit for short periods of time – I sit up for 15-30 minutes several times a day. I can get to the restroom by myself, wash face, brush teeth – simple things like that. I tire quickly, and my stitches itch like crazy. Over all I don’t find the pain nearly as bad as the day-to-day SI pain I had. I really can’t stress that enough. Yes, it hurts, someone just cut into me and stuck screws in me, BUT it’s just not as bad as the constant burn of the SI pain. A little bit of ice helps the pain that I do have. I try very hard to stay on top of my meds- the pain increases a lot without the muscle relaxants and the anti-inflammatory meds to a very unpleasant level.
I still get random muscle spasms in both legs and I am pretty weak, ok I am really weak – think newborn cafe weak! I am at the point where I am starting to look forward to Physical Therapy, but I also worry that the left side doesn’t feel like the right, especially since I rarely felt pain on that side prior to surgery. I know it’s because more was done over there surgically, but I am anxious for all that to clear up! I really don’t want this to have gone poorly. I know I need to be patient and give my self time to heal, but it’s so hard not to worry about every little pain and sensation! After being in pain for so long it is really hard to tell myself that things are different now, and this is just the pain of surgery. I get scared, but I don’t want to feed into the fear, I want to stay strong emotionally too.
Most of the time I feel pretty positive about the surgery. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t always like that; moments before the surgery I was a weeping mess! I was terrified it wouldn’t work, that I would still be in pain, that there would never be an end to the suffering. It was like the entire 18 years of fear, panic, and doubt came pouring out of my eyes! The idea that I could go through all this to get here, to finally decide I was going to have surgery and have this not work was too much to handle at that point. It just had to work… I couldn’t go on… I just couldn’t… (They say hindsight is 20/20 for a reason don’t they!)
The isolation from my family is hard, but I love when my kids come in to visit. My hubby is still in the bedroom with me most of the time and that helps too, as well as my little Shih Tzu, Milo, who won’t leave my side! Worst part so far was the non -moving bowels – get a good stool softener and laxative ready to go prior to surgery – my gift to you all Surgery + opiates pain meds = no fun.
Right now when I worry it’s more about how long I will be this weak and need to be in bed and the pain in the left side and a little across the lower back… I am not real scared, and I am hopeful, as I am able to be more active that those complaints will disappear. A week from Monday I start PT and can’t wait. I am sure I will be singing a different tune once my PT gets a hold of me again.
Day 10 –
I just took a real shower for the first time since surgery; I have been sponge bathing until now. Still can’t bend over so hubby was kind enough to shave my legs for me. We have a shower seat and a hand held sprayer and I have to say I am very very very glad we have both those things, it made showering much easier and I felt like I could do it alone to wash my hair and most of me. I hope this isn’t TMI, but it is the real journey…. I am really tired after that. It took about 25 minutes. But I feel a bit more human! We are going to take a picture of the stitches before we take them out – discretely of course! They still itch and I can’t WAIT to get them out! Dr. Weiss told my husband how to remove them if I didn’t want to go see my primary care Dr to do it. I say let the hubby do it!
Had a HORRIBLE bout with gas tonight- like awful, with the crying and wanting to die kinda gas – considered having Hubby take me to the hospital bad… but everything passed and I felt better, but oh man that was awful! It’s not easy to walk around to help the gas pass when it’s hard to walk! He brought me the walker so I could pace in the bathroom…
I am increasing my up time – I sat for an hour today, editing pictures on my computer and then for another 30 minutes later when a friend came to visit. I feel fairly normal this morning, I can feel the muscles in my left side are tight and I am a little afraid to stretch or move too much. My knees also ache a bit- they feel swollen- maybe from all the laying down? That and a little ache through the lower lumbar – it’s not too bad, just big aches…
I have a Dr’s appt with my GP later; he’s the Dr. that has been writing out scripts for everything I have needed for the surgery even though he wasn’t really in agreement with me. I need to see him for a script to my PT for next week, and to stay on top of my medications.
I will say for now it’s nice not to feel that endless I pain! I haven’t even taken a pain pill this am!!!! I am trying to remember to take them not to do more, but to just kill pain- that’s so hard some times!
Day 13 pm
Tried to go pain med free today – made it until about 1 :00 just can’t do anything about the aches- then slept blah. Gonna try to put laundry away while sitting on the floor today so I don’t bend… could be comical.
Day 14 (2 weeks post op)
I managed to wander downstairs this morning after the kids had gone off to school – My parents are living with us so I can get better with out pushing too hard. Had breakfast at the table, did a few things, talked with the parents and then came back up stairs. I was timid and tired, but it was possible and really didn’t hurt- no pain meds since yesterday afternoon, we shall see how the rest of the day goes. I am hoping to get a shower in this afternoon – with the shower seat I am confident I can do it without help. For those wondering- laundry went fine from the floor
HUGE accomplishment today even while going through a little detox… went up and downstairs TWICE today!!!! Got dressed (well yoga pants and a sweatshirt count as dressed right!) – and mostly slept in between all those events, but it was nice to eat with the family and not in my bedroom “tower”. I can hear/feel the hip flexor popping on the right side – nominally annoying and I am figuring PT will address it, but it does hurt a bit right as it happens, I have heard this is a normal part of post op life… It’s pretty amazing how decent I feel all things considered! I look forward to seeing how everything goes once I start PT again!
(Hindsight warning: DO NOT QUIT YOUR PAIN MEDS COLD TURKEY… bad idea… use a step down approach you and your Dr. agree on, I looked and felt like I could have been on the TV show Celebrity Rehab!)