I woke up at 0330 on Tuesday morning a week ago, and, at 0415, my son Jason drove me to Atlanta Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, where we arrived at 0530. I had gotten 2 hours of sleep on Sunday and only an hour on Monday, partially because I had a lot to do and partly due to anxiety. I was ready to be put to sleep.
Anyway, the normal things happened that precede a high risk surgery and I was finally wheeled into the operating room and was unconscious by the time we went through the surgery room door.
About 2:00 p.m. I awoke in recovery. Eventually, I was informed that the doctors had to do more than they had anticipated. I have had rather severe pain in my back, hips, and legs for several years until it became intolerable and life altering.
I received a laminectomy which is a type of surgery in which a surgeon removes part or all of the vertebral bone (lamina). This helps ease pressure on the spinal cord or the nerve roots that may be caused by injury, herniated disk, or, in my case, narrowing of the canal (spinal stenosis), or tumors. The affected vertebrae were L2 – L4.
The surgery was successful but there were issues. Due to a great deal of bleeding, unexpected, at least by me, a tube was inserted into the area around my spine and a suction drew this blood into a receptacle that had to be emptied several times a day due to the volume of blood being lost. I was prepared for a possible transfusion but that never came about.
What did come about was the revelation that my blood sugar was high and way above normal. I received about three insulin shots a day followed by three heparin shots a day. My 02 Sats were also low. For most people, a normal pulse oximeter reading for your oxygen saturation (02 Sats) level is between 95% and 100%. Under 96% can be problematic. Mine fell to 84% and I was put on oxygen.
On Wednesday, I was told I would be spending the night. On Wednesday evening, the post-op pain set in and got worse with each passing day. On Thursday morning I was told that I would not be released from the hospital. I was told the same on Friday. Finally, on Saturday afternoon, after I accidently pulled the tube out and made a bloody mess, I was discharged with a boat load of instructions and three additional medications.
When I arrived at home, Jason went to pick up the prescriptions and after he left, the pain was so intense that I literally cried. I am still experiencing severe pain, though not continually as I have been taking the meds, but I hope that situation will get better.
I have to admit that I had some dark moments this week but, Saturday night, I heard for the first time the song by Rascal Flatts, “I Will Stand With You.” I cried again for a different reason.
I can’t drive for 2-to-4 weeks and I cannot bend, lift, or twist without repercussions for eight to twelve weeks. I will be joining my congregation in church by turning to the Livestream for a while.
Right now I am wrung out, exhausted, my brain is weary, and I hurt worse than before the surgery. So, I intend to use this time, mostly alone, for a spiritual renovation of sorts. I will be in the Word, in prayer, and whatever else the Lord decides to do with me during this time.
I don’t have much of an opinion on anything right now to write about. Except this: The staff at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital was great. As a PRN Chaplain at Piedmont Fayette, I have heard lots of gripes against staff, most of it spoken from places of physical, mental, or emotional trauma. I was determined not to be that kind of patient and, hopefully, I wasn’t.
But whatever I was, I found the staff, from the docs, the P. A.’s, the nurses, the techs, the food delivery and pickup people, all the way through to the cleaning staff, to be upbeat, friendly, encouraging, and optimistic.
Maybe next week I’ll have an opinion on something (this IS an opinion column, after all). For now I am prayerfully looking forward to a life without chronic and continual pain and a brain addled by drugs that keep that pain at bay. And to quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I got to say about that.”
[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). Worship services are on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. and on livestream at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life). He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]