Spinal Surgery - L5S1 Surgery Day (a retrospective post)

Spinal Fusion Surgery – L5S1 Fusion Surgery Day

I’ve never really written in much detail about my surgery day and all the specifics about being in the hospital so I thought I’d spell all that out for anyone curious or wondering what it’s like.

My surgery was scheduled for 12:30, so I had to go to the hospital at 10:30. I thought it would be a LOT of boring waiting but those two hours flew by. I got weighed and tested and all sorts of things stuck to me. I got into my gown and compression socks. I had to do this crazy wipe down with antiseptic wipes and brush my teeth.

The pre op nursing team was pretty nice, one lady was kind of crabby. At the hospital I had my surgery at, it was this huge pre and post op area. I saw folks coming out of surgery, and that was weird and interesting and a little crazy. My husband and dad stayed with me until the last minute when I was wheeled off.

I was wheeled ALLLLLLL over the hospital…..apparently my operating room wasn’t particularly close to the pre op area.

I got to the operating room, which didn’t really look like you think. It was a totally enclosed, very white room with a ton of equipment. Like, giant machines. It reminded me of a very clean, very white auto shop actually.

There was a giant black contraption just outside the door and I asked “What was that for?” thinking it was from the previous surgery. The nurse replied “That’s for you!”. I guess it was the thing they rotate you on (I had front and back incisions).

But I didn’t really find out because as I was chatting with the nurse and moving to the operating table, the anesthesiologist had placed AND started my IV. I had no idea until I had this super sharp pain in my hand and I freaked out. That was annoying…….she should have told me. But she didn’t.
There were a TON of people in the room. None of them looked at me or spoke to me, and I didn’t see my doctor come in the room. That was a little annoying, in hindsite. I’m not a side of beef……I’m a person. You could at least say hello.

Anyways…….the last thing I remember was moving to the operating table.

I know my surgery was right on time (close to 4 hours) and that it went well. I, apparently, was taken to the post op to wake up. My husband was brought in after almost an hour, but I don’t remember it. I don’t remember being in post op at all, really. The next thing I remember clearly is being in my room. It was dark out by this point. I started to worry about when someone was going to come make me walk, because my doctor reiterated over and over “You’ll have to get up right away!” but no one ever did. I realized the next day that the Physical Therapists work normal 9-5 hours, and I got out after 5, so there was no one to make me get up that soon. Plus, maybe by “right away” my doctor actually meant “within 24 hours” but who knows.

I don’t really have clear memories until later that night. I remember my husband sleeping on the chair by my bed and I remember nurses checking on me around 11pm. When I was finally more coherent, I also remember feeling just overall pain. It was dulled, but I was groggy so not on top of pressing my button…..once my head cleared, I was better about that.

Day 1 was ok. I had a catheter, and I had to wear these air cuff things on my legs that basically air massaged my legs to avoid blood clots. So it was basically just getting help adjusting myself when one side or the other got sore. PT came in late that afternoon and I got out of bed. That was it. I was just barely able to scoot to the edge of the bed, hoist myself up (with help), put my feet on the ground, and then bear weight. I almost couldn’t at all. But I did that and that was my big accomplishment that day.

It was just shocking how hard it was to move my body and how unable I was to stand. It was mind blowing. One day you’re walking down the street like normal, the next day you need four people to help you barely move in bed.

Anyways….day 2 was more of the same but I had a SUPER evil PT person who really pushed me way too hard. She wanted me to walk to the doorway and about three steps in I felt faint, I felt incredibly nauseous, and it was agonizing pain. Just agonizing. It was scary painful. I don’t think it’s supposed to be that bad.

As a result, day 3 was pretty hard core with pain, at least in the morning. I remember staring at my little pain meds button waiting for the light to go on so I could press it again. The nurses gave me something extra because it got so bad. And I’m pretty hard core. But this kicked my ass.
I had a nicer PT person on day 3. And despite the pain….my day 3 pt session was a huge step forward.

The thing about this surgery I noticed is that day 1 is SUPER HARD to even move your leg, but I recovered exponentially each day. So day 3 I got to the door of my room fairly easy. And my catheter came out and I got switched to oral pain meds (which I found much more effective than the IV meds anyways).

Day 4 was more of the same. But the thing is that each day was exponentially better than the day before. So I was managing to get out of bed on my own strength. 

Then day 5 I was on my way home. I actually got up and walked down the hall on my own (with a walker) because the PT person was late.  It was still really hard to do, but not nearly as hard as the first day. My incisions were super painful. And I was super tired. But the ride home wasn’t that bad. I’d heard horror stories about the ride home after surgery…..but, really, it wasn’t bad at all.

My appetite was nearly nonexistent while I was in the hospital and I ate mostly fruit. The meds made my stomach uneasy and I just wasn’t hungry but I knew I needed to fuel to heal. So I asked for lots of fruit plates, and had my husband bring me some Larabars.
I’m pretty sure my doctor came by every day.

So, start to finish, that was my surgery and hospital experience. Mostly ok. I get a little irate when I think about how assembly line our medical system is , so I try not to think about that too much. Overall, it was good. Aside from the one evil PT lady, everyone else was nice. But it’s still not like home. Even though I had nurses on call at the hospital, it was really nice to get home and get into my own bed. 


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