Tuesday, 12 July 2011
Not too bad, thank you
So, I was diagnosed with a slipped disc seven weeks ago, and was told that it should get better by itself. It didn't, and I was in a lot of pain, despite lots of painkillers. It seemed as if someone had set fire to my leg, and this leg arsonist was not going to allow me to move anywhere. About 10 days ago, after three particularly debilitating days, I finally thought it was getting better. There was less pain and I could finally do something as normal as standing in the shower.
However, one of the danger signs my doctor kept checking for was incontinence, and numbness in the groin. Thankfully, I did not become incontinent, but I did get numbness in the groin, thigh and bottom. It was as if my bottom had gone to sleep after sitting in a hard chair for too long. So last Sunday saw us in the A & E department of the Bristol Royal Infirmary waiting for hours for a doctor to come and look at my bottom!
He said I needed a scan in the next couple of days, but the request got lost, and I didn't get the scan until Wednesday morning, when it was arranged for me to go A&E at Frenchay Hospital. Mr Kitsch was with me, and after the scan, we were told to go and wait in a ward, as 'they needed the bed in A&E'. I think they knew at this point I was going to have surgery, but the final decision hadn't been made. So, as I said in my previous post, the next thing was that I was told they had a bed on ward 2 and would operate that evening.
In the end, the op was the following morning. Apparently my slipped disc (it doesn't actually slip, but bulges out and presses on the nerves) was extremely large. "Huge", in the words of one of the doctors! As Mr Kitsch said, 'If you're gonna have one, have a big one!'. I also had (have?) Cauda Equina Syndrome, which accounts for the numbness. I was also pretty unique in having had the pain in one leg and the numbness in the other leg. How nice to feel so special...
The scary thing about the numbness is that there was a 50% chance that it would spread and make me incontinent, possibly permanently. Hence the emergency of the operation. I had to have a microdiscetomy and a hemilaminectomy to decompress my spine. (Again, probably best NOT to follow the link if you are squeamish!)
I am so grateful to all the medical staff for their prompt action. From my GP who made me aware of the danger signals to look out for, to the surgeon who performed the operation, and explained everything so well. I am very lucky to live reasonably close to Frenchay Hospital, whose neurosurgery department is excellent, and although I was only on the ward for less than two days, I was so impressed by how friendly and helpful all the staff were.
I was very grateful too, at having had so much hospital experience visiting my mum and my sister in the last few years. Although I'd never stayed in hospital before, I was used to what goes on and how things work, so I wasn't upset by all the weird things they have to do. So when a nurse came to give me an ECG at 6am, I could just relax and let her put stickers and wires all over me without worrying in the least.
In fact, I was surprised by how calmly I took it all. I think the speed of it gave me no time to think, and all I could do was concentrate on what was going to happen next. I think poor Mr Kitsch has had the hardest time by far. He had to dash to and fro across Bristol to get the things I needed, and then all he could do was to go home and worry.
And now I'm back home, the poor man has to look after me. I'm really only allowed to lie down and stand up, and walk to and from the bathroom for the next week. I've been up and down stairs for meals, but I have to be careful not to overdo it. I've written this blog post in many instalments over a couple of days, standing up. In the next couple of weeks I can start to walk a bit further, and sit for short periods in an upright chair. Yesterday was exciting as I had a shower, and was able to wash my hair for the first time in a week! Boy, that feels better!
Amazingly, I am in virtually no pain now. Keyhole surgery really is amazing, isn't it? I hardly feel like I've had a scratch on my back. Frustratingly, I still have the numbness, and this will take months to go, as the nerves have to regrow. The sensation might never fully return, but hopefully I will get rid of the 'numb bum' eventually!
I can only keep thinking about how lucky I've been, and how wonderful everyone has been to me. And of course, how lucky I am to have Mr Kitsch to look after me. He has had an incredibly difficult week, with other things going on, apart from my troubles, and he has been uncomplaining and cheerful, and ready with a cup of a tea at the right moment. Which is always Very Important...