Post-Surgery, One Week Later

Today is day seven after my back surgery. Things are going well. For the most part. There are the highs and the lows, as you might expect with any recovery.

Up High

As for the “highs,” it’s all about the Oxy. After two days of stumbling around in a drug-induced state, I went Roberto Duran on the meds, and said, “No mas. No mas.” (Reference to the Roberto Duran v. Sugar Ray Leonard boxing match on 11.25.80 when Duran quit the fight abruptly by saying, “No mas. No mas.”

I’m not sure how anyone can take such a drug and function well. I suppose if the pain is that bad, you have no choice. I chose to suffer the consequences of the pain than live in “Grog-ville.” Honestly, that’s been the worst part of the recovery. It took a couple of days to rid my body of the residual effect of the meds.

Down Low

As for the lows, it’s all about the boredom. The doctor said not to do anything, get as much rest as possible, and not to lift anything more than my Yeti filled to the brim with coffee. Praise God. I’m following his orders, though the temptation to do more is always within my reach.

Yesterday, (Sunday) I sat for three hours recording podcasts. It was okay. Sorta. The sciatic pain in my left buttock showed up again. It was the pressure of sitting. I’m not overly-concerned about it because the overall pain has mitigated substantially since the surgery.

Be Positive

On the positive side of things, I can roll over in bed–while sleeping–and there is no pain at all. None. I have not been able to roll over in bed for years without bracing my body and preparing my mind for the lightning bolt that shoots through me. That’s a wonderful thing. Sometimes I roll over even though I don’t need to. I do it because I can. (I’m a toss-and-turn sleeper, BTW.)

I can walk up and down stairs with no trouble. I can walk around the kitchen with minimal burning shooting down my leg. I’m not sure how much pain is real or phantom. Regardless, it’s real to me, but manageable from a comparative before and after surgery scale. I hope it all goes away, but if this is what I got, I can live with it.

I did walk around the block with Lucia. That was nice–the Lucia part, that is. Haven’t been able to do that with her in years without agony–the pain part, that is. The last time we took a turn around the block, I was going from trashcan to trashcan, propping myself up along the way, trying to bring relief to my back. I made a note to walk on Tuesdays with her because that’s when the neighbors have their garbage cans out to the curbs. It was a bit embarrassing: hard to tell if I’m dumpster diving or stumbling around intoxicated. (Unintended second reference to getting high. Suspend your suspicion. It means nothing.)

Family History

The toughest part of this recovery is not being with my family. They go places; I stay home. They have fun; I lay on my back. This season is the first time in our family history that we haven’t been able to do things together. I don’t like it. At all. I’m glad they are having fun, no doubt, but I have to take my thoughts captive about my lack of participation. It reminds me of all the shut-ins I visited through the years at all those nursing homes. I come in for a visit, leave shortly thereafter to enjoy my life, while they stay put. God is good at meeting me at this angst point.

And then there is the guilt of not being able to serve them. I don’t mind my family (and others) serving me, but I’m like a one-legged man right now. All the serving is coming my way, and I can’t reciprocate. A “balanced Christian life” is serving and being served. I feel my limitation. The upside is that I can do ministry stuff (when I’m not high). BTW, my apologies to any incoherent or just plain weird emails or social media posts I made last week. I blame that on the Oxy.

Two Conferences

Our biggest consternation this past week was making a decision on the two conferences I have in the Rockies this coming week and the next. One of the most fun things we do as a family is pile into our van for a multi-week (or multi-month) road trip. We love being together, and it doesn’t get any better than doing the “sardine can” thing in our van. It’s an amazing time of memories, adventure, and laughter. I cannot overstate how much fun this is, which is why it’s been hard to figure out how to get to Denver.

The problem is the “fear of God” monologs I received from the doctor, nurses, and, particularly, the discharge nurse about what traveling in a van for a long distance would do to my back. Yesterday, we finally decided to fly instead of driving. The fun of being in Denver together compensated for the disappointment of the decision not to drive. Nevertheless, I’m still sad we could not make this road trip together. I can’t overstate this: road trips are crazy fun.

The other upside to flying is that I can get four more days in bed, which will give my body more time to make a full recovery. One of the nurses said that the incision in my back is small, but my body is traumatized more than I can imagine. I believe her. Whenever you go into a person’s body and cut something out of it, the body is in shock, and you don’t want to speed up the recovery no matter how well you think you feel. It takes time.

What Do I Need?

As long as I’m laying down, there is no pain at all. Please pray that I can walk around with no pain. That’s all I want at this time. I’ll take what the Lord gives regarding the recovery, but since a few folks have asked, I want you to know that “my will” is for the pain to be gone completely.

At Home Update, Post Surgery

Thank you for your texts, emails, phone calls, and visits. I’m grateful and encouraged on several levels, and particularly stoked about my children getting to see what the gospel looks like practically. Pictures of the gospel are a beautiful thing.

I did a blog post and podcast on our ministry site about part of what happened at the hospital yesterday. The Lord woke me up in the middle of the night with some words. When He illuminates, I try to listen. You can read or listen to that here if you want to.

The surgery went well. Lucia and I arrived before 1 PM; I was in my bed by 1:03. A nurse came in and began the questions, which was a pattern with everyone working with me. I appreciated their thoroughness. I liked being “over-cared” for especially during surgery.

  • What is your name?
  • When were you born?
  • Why are you here?
  • Add ten more, and you get the idea.

They gave me a special “blow up gown,” which was nice. It was hooked up to a plastic tube that blew in hot or cold air. The gown puffed up like the blow-up guy in “Big Hero 6” (movie). I looked quite chesty until the nurses deflated me, both ego and suit. Birthday suit that is.

The “happy gas” man rolled me in around 3 PM. I like him. Too much. I was going to ask him what that cold feeling was crawling up the inside of my arm, but before I could ask, I went to Utopia. My final thought was that this must be what it feels like to get a lethal injection at the prison. Nice.

I awoke around 4:30 and waited until 10 PM before they could get me a room. There were a lot of surgeries, and many late discharges. They wanted all the spine and neck patients on the same floor, so I had to wait for a bed. Three nurse turnovers later, they secured one for me.

The upside is that my A-game was coming back to me because I accomplished nearly all my recovery in the recovery room, so by the time I got to my room, I was back fully.

Will was my nurse. He was a good one. He said I was peppy. Nobody says I’m peppy. I was probably high, the best I can tell.

Lucia stayed with me all night; that was a good thing. I think Will appreciated someone less peppy.

My Two Pains

I have surgery pain in my lower back currently. The pain is not bad. I’m taking Oxy to stay ahead of it, which is what they suggested. I’m not sure if the pill is working because medication rarely affects me the way it should.

Historically, pills have proven to be little help. But the Oxy may be keeping the surgery pain bearable, or it may just be bearable. Nevertheless, I’m taking it, plus a muscle relaxer/spasm pill.

A Side Note: My first nurse was shocked (literally) when she found out I don’t take any medications. I asked her if 75% of the folks she checks in take medication. She said, “No, it’s more like 95%.” We had a good discussion about this.

As for the sciatica pain, I just finished a podcast, which kept me standing up for 30+ minutes while doing it. It was painful, but nothing like the most recent pain. It was more like “five years ago” pain. So I’m curious to see how things go tomorrow.

I hope it’s less than my most recent history. I could not make it to the hospital from the parking lot yesterday. Twenty seconds is all I could do at a time without the pain doing that thing it does.

To stand up and walk around today was encouraging. I’ve missed the last two church meetings, and have been a shut-in for the past few weeks.

I’m sleeping off and on, working from the bed. Can’t lift anything more than my coffee cup, which is perfect, since I “may” have issues with coffee. You decide: I did change the lyrics to “in the morning when I rise give me Jesus,” to “in the morning when I rise give me coffee and then Jesus.”

I can lift my laptop too.

Confession of a Former Legalist

I’m obeying all the rules. Can’t mess this up. I have no intention of doing anything that will hurt me. Being a former legalist helps: I can follow a list of rules well. That’s my wheelhouse. A good thing.

It’s day to day.

  • No lifting.
  • No bending.
  • No driving.
  • No washing clothes.
  • No vacuuming floors.
  • No doing the dishes.

I specifically asked about these last three.

Rick’s praising God right now.

I do want to walk more tomorrow and the next day. They encouraged all the walking that I can take. It also reduces the scar tissue if I move around. They gave me a lumbar belt, which I wear when I’m not laying down in the bed. That helps, and I guard against becoming overconfident with the support.

They say a month of not doing normal tasks should get me out of the woods. I think that’s about it. If I can serve you or if you have any questions, please ask.

I think I can do about 75% speed on ministry things, but no more. I must rest, so I sleep as often as my body tells me to.