As many of you already know, I had surgery 6 weeks ago and finally finished bed rest 2 days ago. The surgery was female related and I will not go into detail on here. If you are curious, you can contact me PRIVATELY!
I have been dealing with these problems now for over 3 years, so as much as the surgery and recovery have been awful, I am beyond excited to live without pain again.
The surgery was in New York City at a surgical center next to Wall Street. There are only two doctors in the world that perform this surgery. The one I went to is based out of New York and Washington DC. The other is out of Tel Aviv, Israel. Obviously I opted to get the surgery done in NY, since it is the closest to my house in Philly. I am beyond lucky to live so close to these cities because I cannot imagine having to travel so far just to get a surgery done.
Since the surgery was at 7:00am, we stayed at a hotel in New York the night before. I was put to sleep for the surgery and honestly I do not remember much of what happened while we were at the surgical center. I do remember that the blood pressure machine was broken, and at first my pressure read numbers that would have declared me dead. They figured out it was broken after a third try.
Right after surgery, a nurse checked my vitals and the doctor suggested that we drive me home while the pain medicine was still going strong from the anastesia. I could not walk or wear pants. My dad pulled the car up to the center while my mom got me into a dress and used a wheelchair to push me towards the car. There I was in the middle of Wall Street, watching the business people in suits, as I was wheeled out, half awake, blood running down my legs. I wonder if anyone noticed, or if they just shrugged it off because you see much worse in NYC.
I am so glad that we got on the road home when we did. Mid-way through the car ride, the pain meds started to wear off and I could feel every stitch. I usually have a very high pain tolerance. For example, I recently got stung by a jellyfish and laughed. Blood and needles do not freak me out. This was the first time I ever was in unbearable pain and actually screamed.
The first 24-72 hours were the worst in terms of pain. Really it was not until the second week, that the pain dimmed down enough for me to go off pain meds.
The bed rest period was 6 weeks long. During these 6 weeks, I was not allowed to separate my legs, since it could risk breaking the stitches. Also, I was not allowed to sit up (like in a chair or on the couch), since I could break the stitches by putting pressure there. This meant my only two options were to lay down with my legs together, or stand up with my legs together. I am sure you are probably curious about a couple things upon hearing this, I know I was too during the pre-op.
So, here goes, hopefully your questions are answered below:
Since I had to keep my legs together, walking normally was out of the questions. Instead, I did more of a shuffle. (Yes, everyday I’m shuffling) I moved extremely slow. For the first week, I was completely bed ridden and the only time I would even move, was to go to the bathroom 4 times a day.
I was not allowed to use the steps for a week. When we first arrived home after surgery in NY, my dad physically lifted me by the shoulders up each step. I spent an entire week only seeing two rooms in my house (my bedroom and my bathroom). To go down the steps, I had to go backwards while keeping my thighs together. Sadly, insurance does not allow you to get that chair that goes down the steps like the movie “Up.”
I will let you use your imagination here. I had to use something called a “sitz bath.” You can look it up if you are that inclined. Also, that time of the month as a girl was the worst. It happened twice during the bed rest period. I was not allowed to wear anything, so it was just a complete mess. It is crazy to think that girls in third world countries do not have access to tampons or pads. I could barely last two months not using them.
Showering does not require that you move your legs apart. I stood in the shower and had help. Remember to appreciate the fact that you can shower yourself.
Since you cannot eat or digest food while laying down, eating became a difficult task. For the first week, we propped a pillow behind me so that I could attempt to semi sit-up. After that, I just stood up to eat. While everyone sat at the dinner table, I stood at our kitchen counter a couple feet away. This was actually one of the hardest parts for me. I so badly wanted to just sit down in a chair and eat normally with my family.
I had to keep my legs together while sleeping. If you want to know what that is like, trying laying flat on your back and keep your legs together straight. After about 5 minutes, you will start to feel shooting pain down your legs. After a week, I was able to maneuver onto my side, while keeping my legs together. No matter what positions I was in, my knees would have sharp pains. It is safe to say that I did not get much sleep during the 6 weeks.
Majority of my days were spent watching TV. It was hard to do pretty much anything else, since I could not sit up at all. Everyone kept telling me how jealous they were that I got to relax all day watching Netflix, while they went to work. I have to say, first of all this was not “relaxing.” My knees and legs would stiffen from not moving. My neck and back would constantly ache (scoliosis and whiplash did not help with that). My eyes would hurt from staring at the screens and I would get headaches constantly. Also, watching TV and laying down is great for a day, but soon all you want to do is leave the house.
During the 6 weeks, I could not leave my house. The most I was able to leave was a quick shuffle onto the porch and back into my living room. After week 2 of bed rest, the simplest outings sounded like a dream. I would have given anything just for a trip to the grocery store or bank.
Some days were just awful. There is not a light way to put it.
It was sometimes the strangest things that would get me through the weeks. The first was the Bachelorette, which I watched every Monday. It was a good gage of how much time had passed. Every Monday, it was exciting to say that I made it through another week. Plus, dramatic TV is a great way to forget about your own struggles. I watched every single episode of Game of Thrones, which was great. Still confused as to where Gendry is, but other than that it is one of my favorite TV shows now!
I watched the entire Republican and Democratic National Conventions. Soon I became obsessed with politics. I am guilty of posting a myriad of political articles to Facebook. Typically, I hate people that do that, but when I was so bored, it seemed the only way I could keep myself busy. It was nice though to have some time to really research politics. If you want to have a heated debate with me over candidates, I will be more than happy!
Speaking of politics, I am not going to go off on which candidate you should support, but I do want to bring an issue to your attention. This of course is female health care. It has been a debated topic and some politicians want to defund places such as Planned Parenthood.
As I mentioned earlier, my surgery was female related. The issues I had have nothing to do with promiscuity and more to do with genetics and nerve endings. I want to emphasize that because a lot of times people do not want to help women with these types of issues because they assume that it is because of their promiscuity or the fact that they are a “slut.” THIS IS NOT TRUE!
For me, I am very lucky! First of all, I have a very supportive family, who were open to talking to me about any issue. My parents were willing to put their lives on hold to take care of me. This surgery requires that you have full time help. I could not shower by myself or make food. For the first week, I needed help just walking to the bathroom. Most people do not have parents, family members, or friends that can take off work to help you.
Second, I just graduated college with no job. I did not apply to any jobs on purpose, because I knew no place would hire me knowing that I could not start for at least 2 months after surgery. For a lot of people, taking 2 months off of work is impossible. This is not a surgery where you can return to work with ease. You need at least 6 weeks to recover and a lot of times, women must decide between getting surgery and keeping their job. Some women with my condition will live with pain their entire lives because they will never be able to take enough time off work and keep their job. Taking 6 weeks off, probably unpaid, also leaves most people in a very bad situation. Again, I was lucky to be living at home and not having to worry about paying rent during these months.
Third, I have the financial means. This surgery, like most female surgeries like it, was not covered at all by insurance. Of course the male version of the surgery was covered, which I could rant about for days, but I will spare you here. This was not just the $10,000 out of pocket cost to get the surgery, there were also the travel and medicine costs. The cost of gas to get to and from NY as well as the parking, hotel rooms and doctors appointments can add up. I was able to have help from my grandparents and parents so that we could afford to get this surgery and everything that needed to be done for recovery. Most people do not have that kind of money to lay out.
As I mentioned earlier, there are only two doctors who perform this surgery. I learned throughout this entire process, that there is little to no research done on female health care. Most of the time, I was taking trial medication, because there was not even a known cure yet. Thousands of women struggle with the same issues everyday and sadly do not have the same opportunities as myself. When politicians want to defund places such as Planned Parenthood, you are taking away the opportunity for a women to live a pain free life, who may not be able to afford the initial visit to the only specialist in New York. There is so much research that needs to be done and so much sexism and bias that surrounds the issues.
My hope is that one day, after more research, women like me will not have to take trial medications for 2 years with awful side effects. Maybe women will be able to heal quicker after surgery or a cure will be found that does not require surgery.
My post-op was on August 4th. It was my first time walking, sitting and leaving the house after a month and half. The only problem was that I was still in extreme pain. It turns out that I was the lucky one whose dis-solvable stitches did not dissolve. They were painfully plucked out with tweezers before I could even say the words “pain meds please!”
After that, slowly, but surely, things have gotten better. For starters I am able to walk and sit upright. There is still some pain from the stitches, but each day there is less pain. Hopefully within a week, I will be pain free.
The other problem is that I am exhausted. My leg muscles especially are having a hard time adjusting. I have to laugh at myself though. Earlier today I tried putting a shirt into a lower drawer. As I bent down my entire leg gave out and I toppled to the floor. Always a fun way to start your morning.
Now I wait to slowly get back on my feet and after about 3-4 weeks, I can start physical therapy.
Just want to take a moment to thank my family and friends who have supported me through the entire process, especially my mom, who put her life on hold to take care of me for 6 weeks straight!
After everything is said and done, I have really learned to love everything that you do in a day. This includes simple things, like going out to eat, or walking around Target or even just taking a long shower. Things are starting to get better. They always do.
Until next time, please enjoy this photo of me enjoying the great outdoors while on pain meds…