Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Aftermath

First I heard beeping, and with a huge effort I opened my eyes.  Everything was blurry, but there were two nurses talking to me, telling me I was headed to ICU.  One of those nurses was Katie, the best ICU nurse ever.  I got to ICU (I'm flat on my back, no pillow) and was a bit more with it.  I told Katie (she was to be my nurse for the next 12 hours) that I wanted to play a joke on Jeff and when he came in, say "who are you?"  I thought it was hilarious.  She laughed, although maybe it was a pity laugh.

My family came in all together, my parents, Jeff, and my younger brother.  I didn't ask Jeff who he was because I was already saying hello to everyone, but Katie told them my plan so at least they knew I was in somewhat good spirits.

My family took turns staying with me so that I was never alone.  My throat was killing me (you were right, Heidi!) so my dad gave me ice chips which really helped.  I was hooked up to an IV with pain meds, and my other arm was hooked up as well.  Above me I could see the monitor with all my vitals on it, it kept beeping because my heart rate is so low.

My stay at the hospital is kind of a blur.  I was extremely well cared for in ICU, they made sure I always had my meds and was as comfortable as possible.  It was miserable, as time went on I got more and more sore since I was flat on my back.  Not only did my head hurt since it had been cut open, but my body ached from the position I was in.  My eyes were always heavy, but I didn't sleep as much as I thought I would.

After about 48 hours I was moved to a regular room.  I was still flat on my back, but at least it was more comfortable for my family.  Jeff had brought the DVD player, and I had magazines and various other little things to keep me occupied.  I never touched any of them.  Laying there made it impossible to do anything but stare at the ceiling or sleep.  

The nurses that cared for me now had many more patients, and my family had to go and tell them when I needed something.  At some point Dr. Heffez came to see me and I asked him something like, "How did it look in there?"  And he actually laughed and replied, "Looks like it needed to be fixed."  Those words were like music to my ears, it was so reassuring to hear that!  

Thursday morning the PA for Dr. Heffez came to see me.  She asked how I was, and asked how I felt about getting released.  Duh.  I was ecstatic, I wanted out.  I wanted into my own clothes, out of the cath, out of that stupid bed.  I desperately wanted out.  That afternoon I was released and my family and I headed to the Residence Inn where we would be staying until the following Tuesday when I was to see Dr. Heffez and get my staples out.

The further I get from that time, the more I forget.  I remember it was miserable.  I remember my family whispering because they didn't want to wake me, only for me to say quite loudly, "I'm awake."  It's all kind of a blur...  Although I felt totally with it while I was there, now that I look back on it, it feels foggy.

Here's an updated photo of the zipper.  That was right after my staples were removed and I was headed home to WA.  kind of gross, it actually feels more gross than when the staples were in.  When my hair is normal, you can only see a bit of the scar sticking out the bottom.  

Thank you for all of the support.  My recovery is far from over, I now spend my days lying down flat for most of the day.  There is spinal fluid that has leaked from the spinal cord and causes a great deal of pain if I am upright too long (this is normal, the spinal fluid needs to be re-absorbed which takes weeks).  

If you've read this whole blog, you really love me.  This was a long one.  Soon I'll blog exactly what the surgery was and what Dr. Heffez saw in there.  But for now, it's back to the couch to stare at the ceiling.  


  1. Did Heffez take pictures in there? Christmas card! How cool would that be! Glad your starting to see improvement. I can see the scene perfectly of your saying "I"m awake!" awkwardly loud. Get better soon!

  2. amy - i have really enjoyed reading your blog - i too have chiari and have seen dr heffez. i have been thinking about surgery but am still unsure about it. all of the information you have written about with the surgery has been extremely helpful and i look forward to following your recovery and other parts of the surgery that you remember. thanks for such a great blog.

  3. Jess -
    You are exactly the kind of person I am writing this blog for, and I hope it is informative and gives you a sense of what it is like to go through decompression surgery. Obviously this is my experience and yours may be completely different. Please let me know if I can answer any questions for you.