Saturday, July 14, 2012

THE "LITMUS LIASON"

      Twas the night before takeoff, and all through the day I'd been dashing about looking for 'to do' lists the completion of which would be critical to our being able to 'play'.  The stakes - of the highest - will we find out during the dreaded/anticipatory nail-biting, three month follow-up visit with 'The Man'  whether his intense and complicated, surgical intervention had succeeded in transforming the twisted, serpentine, intermittently  disconnected spinal column I had presented - with oh such high hopes -

 to him into a reasonable semblance of 'the spine' which your average post-menopausal, female homo sapiens should possess.
      Just as with 'the Toni' (for you more mature readers), only 'time will tell' and it was 'time'.  The appointed hour was Thursday, July 12, 2012 at eleven AM.  I mention this because the only evidence I'd been able to find of THAT potential factoid was a clearly-printed notation on my over sized personal calender. 
      Based on this possible miss-information, my husband had made flight arrangements that had us leaving Virginia at noon Wednesday and arriving in Pittsburgh at roughly three PM.  A rental car - pre-arranged as well - would then whisk us through the afternoon traffic from the airport to downtown and the UPMC Family House well before the day's heavy, stifling end-of-workday hordes' "running" to home.
      At the last minute - compulsive wench that I am - I'd ventured a call to the Neurological Surgery Department 'angel-of-mercy-and-efficiency', Kathleen Brunetti, who confirmed the appointment and became immediately distressed about the failure of the computer system to automatically call patients - especially if from out of town (or touch) - to remind them of their arrival times and dates. 
      Thus it was that I instituted the frantic packing regimen sans 'to do' list fretting all the while about the news of the morrow.  I'd been quite diligent regarding ALL post-operative instructions and was even 'graduated' from "Home bound" physical therapy ten days ahead of schedule - such was my progress.
Pre-operative "back"
      Therefore, I had quasi-reasonable expectations of SOME improvement with the potential for ongoing progress.  After all, when 'going IN' to this risky procedure, one's back looks like it belongs to Mrs. T-Rex,  one is comfortable in at least thinking twelve hours of tedious manipulation and re-alignment would yield a spine the casual reviewer would tend to classify as 'human'/circa 21st century.
      I may APPEAR to be smiling but the rear molar, antiquated pound or so of silver fillings are dominating the maxillary imagery.  There was hardly anything to grin about - I was VERY into 'bearing' - when the only thing that seems straight on this x-ray is the outline of my metal spectacle rims.  That somewhat vertical undulation trying to  traverse the torso terminating just below the hip bones is the "before" of my dominant supporting structure.
      Somehow, we were out the door ON TIME and fate wiped THOSE silly grins off our faces once, ensconced with one bag and the walking stick I was going to present to my savior, we noticed water on the passenger side of the floor of our Lexus followed by confirmation of a doomed departure when the awful sound of NOTHING rang out upon turning the ignition key.
      "We're taking my car," from my husband fixed a permanent grimace on my visage.  He drives a Mazda Miata "Special Edition" two-seat, royal blue convertible - "The Electric Blueberry" - which ensures that one's derriere is at least eight inches above the road and, with knees covered with lip gloss, one's attempt to sustain any elevation from the machine's soft suede seat is totally dashed for lack of space.  So put the above-right picture in your mind, roll it forward - fetally - and begin the bounce-a-thon from driveway to airport.
      Suffice it to say, when nerves are permitted - due to lack of anchorage - to smack against their exit portals with abandon upon any movement, the pain receptor sites remain in high gear throughout the journey.  Boarding the plane was a relief - once again erect - but, alas, our Captain smoothly noted that due to the heavy pattern on this WEDNESDAY MID-DAY flight, we were ninth in line for take-off.  He therefore smoothly put her down at New York's LaGuardia at one PM.  Our connecting flight would begin boarding at 1:19PM.
      In that the aircraft in question was several 'zones', a bus ride and two harrowing speed rides down serpentine, downgraded hallways in a wheelchair powered by the sturdy legs and determined mind of an airport 'transporter', I sat crazed, holding a six-foot high walking stick all the while we hot-wheeled it to the 'now-alerted-to-hold-the-plane' check-in person.  We were given new boarding passes and catapulted down and aboard, acutely aware of the explosive slamming of the boarding gate door left in our wake.
      Once at our destination, we made the transition to ground transport in record time and motored along, with a 'Motown' escort to drown out the pounding in my head, to the waiting haven of Family House.  Early dinner, early beddy-bye and a night of toss-turn-turbulence (mental now) brought us to a sunrise greeted by heartfelt gratitude admixed with the anxiety associated with where we were - and why.
      First stop: Radiology.  Full back series.  Getting out of undergarments, body brace, overgarments and jewelry took 30 minutes but blessed Josh waited patiently, helping when possible.  Then four 'candids' of the 'handiwork' and back to the dressing room for a repeat 30-minute re-dress.  Ah, but there was time for a yummy omelet before our appointment.  Yummy omelet-man, meticulously cleaning his instruments, made it clear that once again, we could check the ole 'just missed' box.
      But really, who could eat?  We masticated on some-such, straining to listen to "Ellen" in the cafeteria.  There's a gal who can take your mind off of your troubles.  Finally it was time to turn in the trays and trundle toward what could be Trouble.  We checked in, took our seats and robotically solved crossword puzzles for forty-five minutes and then "Ms. Leavy?" (Again that question format.  Always sounds like, "Did Ms. X avert disaster and actually live to keep this appointment?")
      The Physician's Assistant was the very soul of brevity but I had typed up a log of my entire hospital stay as well as a summary of my post-operative course, so she thankfully needed only to collect these documents and present them to my surgeon.  (We actually had bumped into him and his clinical nurse on the way to the examining room and I'd thrown the walking stick to him.  He'd never heard of a Shillelagh.  I had used one pre-op but it 'walked' from the pre-op changing room.)
The Man,with New Stick & New Woman
      When he entered the room, holding his new stick, he was one big smile. The x-rays were apparently 'A-to-Z' victory signage.  He was both pleased and a bit surprised.  Experienced/specialized though he is, his work with 'vintage' material has apparently been somewhat limited.  (I guess there have been those who selected choice #2, "within eighteen months, you'll be wheelchair-bound, on a Morphine pump.")  We stood grinning like dolts for so long, my husband was able to capture the 'kodak moment'.  And soon after,


"AFTER" Back



we were all mesmerized by the morning's photo-op.  Adding to the DDS' silver, the gold earrings are brought to you by Saint Jude, whose likeness they bear and whose benevolence provided the talented hands and brilliant mind that was capable of effecting the remainder of the architecture in the picture.  The vertical meander is now an 'un-broken, solidly-aligned vertical', capable of weight-bearing and other activities of daily living which the next three months will either demonstrate or bring the bearer to her knees trying. (Most trying, at times, to be sure because THE BRACE HAS BEEN - FOR THE MOST PART - DISCHARGED!) 
       It's muscle-building time.  The mile plus walks will be solo; the cycling carried out without 'carrying on' about mean, old, nasty, super hot/suffocating BRACE.  This, unless/until body screams, "Halt!" by buckling its knees, delivering quivering poundage to the floor.  In such cases, BRACE-BE-BACK is the order of the day.
      Apparently, months one through three, is for healing from the surgery.  Months three through six is for building/adjusting/altering the size and shape of the muscles that have been accustomed to the architecture of the last seven years.  Without a doubt, they are 'testy'.  (In truth, they give 'pain' new and interesting voices - if Wikipedia is interested.)
      It's been a busy two days.  This one, dear readers, must bid you bon soire.  This because "sore" is the operative adjective of the moment and I shall acquiesce as the grand peeps will be a-callin' tomorrow.  It's been quite a ride.  (NOT highly recommended but worth every second.)  I'd say I'm glad it's over but can't because it's not.  Just MAY have an acid-tongued comment to throw out now and again.  I'm just sayin'.  Later,
Lorane. . . .
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