The Kt we loved

The Kt we loved
"I just might hurt you if you don't move that camera." — Kt

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Long Strange Trip It's Been

Spent the last two weeks recovering (somewhat) from spinal surgery to correct two herniated discs. I think I damaged these in 2007 when we took Katie to New York for her 16th birthday. We took the train, and there's one closet on each car for luggage, so you wind up stacking your bags on top of everyone else's. I was humping one of our suitcases up onto the pile and felt something let go in (I thought) my shoulder.

I didn't think too much of it, though I did notice over the next few years that occasionally that shoulder would ache something fierce. I thought maybe I had a minor rotator cuff tear, and even discussed it with a co-worker out in California who had just had rotator cuff surgery (aka "Tommy John surgery"), and it seemed to fit the symptoms.

Then one day last October I woke up in agony: the shoulder felt like it was on fire. I got in to see a shoulder specialist a few days later, and he immediately said, "It isn't your shoulder, it's your back/neck, see the neck guy. And meanwhile, have an MRI done." (Note to Canadians: I'm a big fan of the Canadian healthcare system, but this is one of those cases where I was definitely better off being here in the US with good insurance!)

The MRI showed that, indeed, two discs were herniated. They sent me to a pain management specialist, who injected cortisone into my back, using a fluoroscope (live X-ray) to position the needle, and within a few days the pain had started to ebb. In fact, it was during that time that I suddenly recognized the pain as the shoulder pain I'd had off and on since 2007—just much, much worse!

Anyway, after two of those cortisone shots, the pain was under control, but my right arm and hand were still partly numb, so the doctor recommended surgery. And that's what they did on the 11th. It's an interesting surgery if you're not the one having it: they go in through the front of your neck, moving your trachea and so forth out of the way; remove the discs; and then attach the affected vertebrae together using a titanium frame, plus some new-fangled artificial stuff that replaces bone (I call it "Silly Putty", but apparently it's somewhat more structural than that).

So for the last two weeks, I've been surviving on Percocet and muscle relaxants ("Livin' on reds, vitamin E and cocaine..."). Anita has been taking care of me, of course, and I'm healing nicely.

While I was in the hospital, I had a nurse the first night named Katie. She came by with my medications at some point in the wee hours and re-introduced herself (presumably having had many post-operative patients completely fail to remember anything from earlier!), and said "Don't forget my name, now!"

In my somewhat drugged state, I told her why I was unlikely to forget her name. Since it was the middle of the night with nothing happening, she sat down and told me that she'd lost a brother to suicide over seven years ago, and had a sister who had institutionalized herself. I don't remember much else about the conversation, but it was yet another reminder of how many, many people depression has affected.

I've had more Kt dreams than usual while on meds, and am thinking about her an awful lot as this strange spring proceeds!