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TMI Nurse Health Educator, “A Very Big Setback”

[additional-authors]
February 25, 2022

I might need surgery again. Soon. And this is maddening because it was so incredibly preventable. For those of you who skim my long posts and jump to conclusions, let me just say right away, THE SURGERY WENT PERFECTLY. The issues I’ve explained were about my bowels and bladder needing to wake up from the anesthesia, but the disc replacement done by the awesome Brian R Gantwerker and Rajeev Rao was perfection.

What is making me want to punch a wall? The emergency room visit the day after discharge. Depending on how closely you’ve been reading my updates, I explained that the day after my hospital discharge, I needed to return and be catheterized for my urinary retention problems (which I’m happy to say are almost fully back to normal again). BUT I explained that the ER did not give me ANY back support. They started me off in a triage room, and left me there for ALL. SEVEN. HOURS. This room had a horribly uncomfortable ER gurney-type bed, and they brought us a chair. This chair was basically a stool, because you couldn’t sit straight in it; it flopped back entirely. In other words, there was absolutely NOTHING WITH BACK SUPPORT. They were aware I was discharged just the previous day with a disc replacement. It’s basically Medicine 101 to ensure I’m sitting extremely secured and comfortable, with my back supported. But nope. Nothing. For 7 long hours. When I brought up my pain I was given pain meds as a solution, nothing more. Of course my chief complaint of urinary retention was addressed, but they forgot the basic tenet of nursing and medicine: see the person as a whole, not merely as a diagnosis.

(Before I continue I want to pause, take a breath, and point out something important. The sad truth is that these are the sorts of things that happen across the country when hospitals are overloaded. When we have too many patients and/or staff out sick because of COVID, or a seasonal flu for that matter. You end up being short-staffed and not enough beds, rooms, equipment, resources and personnel to help people in the timely fashion and quality that is needed. It is not justifiable that I was not given good back support in 7 hours, but it’s also symptomatic of what you don’t see behind the scenes in all hospitals when resources are outweighed by patients. If this could happen to me, a nurse in my own hospital, imagine how often it must happen across the country. I don’t forgive what happened as a result of my visit, but I do understand it.)

When I got home, my pain continued, and it got worse for days. The pain in my neck was stemming down my arms and legs, until steroids calmed down the worst of it. And this led to today’s MRI of my cervical spine, because clearly something had been affected. We hoped it was simply a nerve irritation that would go away on its own, but it turned out that it caused a CERVICAL disc (C7) to become herniated and compressed, causing a likely irritation of my spinal nerves going down my arms and legs. My doctor continues to be amazing. There are 2 neurosurgeons who all of my trusted doctors at the hospital consider the best of the best. Gantwerker and one other. He agreed to call the other and confer so I would have an immediate second opinion, and did so immediately. And then he talked to me and Adi very patiently. And here is what the new plan of care is:

  1. Medications continue as is, absolutely no driving a car for me yet.
  2. Brain and Thoracic spine MRIs for me. This way there’s no guesswork left; every part of my back will have been recently visualized fully. (The brain is to rule out anything ELSE causing it, but that’s extremely unlikely.)
  3. Neck brace pillow ordered for me to sleep with for now.
  4. Physical therapy for up to 2 weeks to see if there can be any immediate improvement.

IF there’s improvement, we will be cautiously optimistic and see if it can heal on its own. If it gets worse in the next 1-2 weeks OR does not see improvement in 2 weeks of PT, I will be hospitalized again, and require a likely cervical disc replacement.

The most likely scenario is the surgery, but we must at least try the conservative approach first, but not take too long with it. The bad news is obvious: I would start an entirely new surgery and recovery from scratch, while concurrently still continuing my long recovery from my lower back disc replacement, which hasn’t even begun its physical therapy yet. That all sucks.

But I always try to finish on a positive note. The GOOD news is that even if the surgery must happen, they have every expectation that I will have a full, complete, back to normal without limitations, back to work with my patients, back to playing softball and tennis for the first time in years, FULL RECOVERY. It will suck, and be 6 months of suck, but I’ll get there.

So PLEASE, I ask you as I’ve asked before, but with a renewed need for strength and prayers and help:

  1. Pray/daven for me – Boaz Yaakov Ben Leah Rivka
  2. Don’t reply with unsolicited medical advice nor critiques of my trusted doctors or medical decisions. There are enough cooks who know what they’re doing. And don’t let this scare you off of getting necessary procedures. This setback was caused by an extremely unfortunate emergency room visit, not my perfect surgery.
  3. Help Adi with the meal train that has proven invaluable, sharing it if need be:

https://www.mealtrain.com/trains/5r0lvw/

  1. I don’t mean to sound like a narcissist, but one of the main things that bring me relief right now is feeling helpful, while I feel otherwise quite helpless. So please help me retain some purpose, and watch this if you haven’t, give it to your work and schools and temples and organizations and ask them to distribute it. Every now and then a friend watches it and is surprised that they actually enjoyed it and learned a lot. Call me with questions so I can feel like I’m still a contributing member of the healthcare community:
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