Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Before and After

Many people have asked specifically what kind of surgery I had. I had spinal fusion. That is where they fuse metal rods to your spine to straighten/stabilize it. If you're wondering why I had to have this done, here's why:This is my spine. This is my spine all curved out of whack. Pretty impressive, eh? I had a 56 degree curvature, which is pretty severe. Looking at the x-ray, it's easy to see how I was having a hard time breathing and was in so much pain. It doesn't look good.

BUT, thanks to modern medicine, I'm pretty much as-good-as-new! I have a LONG way to go to recover fully, but once I do I should be back to my regular routine and then some. Here's the after picture:
Yikes. My spine looks like some weird Frankenstein experiment. They (my doctors) fused 2 titanium rods to 11 of my vertebrae. So I now have 2 metal rods and 22 screws in my back. The most commonly asked question is "will you set off metal detectors?" Haha. Answer? I don't know. We'll have to wait and see!

Until then, I'm just focused on resting and getting better. I have made it out of the house a few times, and hope to do that more in the next few weeks. Looking forward to a nice and relaxing summer! Thanks (again!) for all the well wishes!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

details details

Ok, so here it is. The long awaited "detail" surgery post. I'll try not to be too scatter-brained and random. Although, keep in mind that I am on narcotics so my mind is a bit cloudy these days! The best way to do this is to give you a timeline of sorts. Here we go:

Monday morning, 6am- we report to the pediatric surgical waiting area. I meet my admitting nurse Lauren who is a month YOUNGER than me. Awesome. They start an IV, we meet with anesthesia and my surgeon, etc. Around 7am they take me back to the operating room. I don't remember going back there, but I remember being back there and being scared. They calm me down and I go to sleep.

Monday, approx. 2pm- I wake up from surgery in the recovery room. They give me some cherry icee to drink and I keep telling my dad he can have some. The only other thing I say (as I'm told) is "it hurts." A few hours later they transferred me to my own room where I push the pain pump continuously.

Monday night- pretty rough. I was in a great deal of pain, but luckily a family friend (really more like my 2nd mom) who is a nurse stayed with me and she was a great advocate. She could tell I was uncomfortable and was on top of the doctors and nurses to get me some meds!

Tuesday- spent the day in a blur. I remember making my mom watch "Glee" with me, but I don't remember what the show as about. I have pretty much no appetite at this point. My blood pressure is also super low and they are keeping a close eye on my blood counts to see if I need a transfusion (I lost alot of blood in surgery apparently).

Wednesday- This was sort of the turning point. They managed to get me out of the bed and sitting in a chair which was excruciating. The worst pain I have ever felt. Upside of that day is that I had some visitors, which was great! Still not really hungry- I ate about 4 bites of chicken for dinner and felt totally stuffed.

Thursday- Thursday's goal was to get up and walk. I felt like they had told me "okay, now you're going to climb Mount Everest." But I did it. I only made it a few steps out the door, but I made it. And then I kept getting better and better.

Friday- by now, I can get out of bed by myself! I'm sitting up more, talking to people more and feeling better. Still in a ton of pain, but it is pretty well controlled by this point. I make friends with my 8 year old neighbor, B. He is super cute and always dances around his doorway when he sees me coming down the hall. Precious. Friday afternoon I'm even feeling good enough to walk/wheel down to Ben and Jerry's (on the 2nd floor of the hospital, score!) for some ice cream. But you know I'm not my full self when I can't even finish 1 small scoop! My appetite was still really small at this point, but I was starting to eat smaller meals more frequently.

Saturday- a pretty good day with lots of visitors! It wears me out, but I am so glad to have so many awesome friends who came to visit me. They help pass the time and keep my mind off the pain. My doctor comes in and confirms that I can go home tomorrow.

Sunday- my dad comes over first thing in the morning bringing donuts. I eat a whole donut! The appetite is about 75% back which is good. Discharge goes really well and we are home by 10:30am.

Whew! What a whirlwind. I have left out a ton of stuff, but didn't want to overwhelm you. If you have specific questions, you can post them in a comment and I'll get back to you. I continue to be in pain, but making some progress every day. There are surges and setbacks, but that is to be expected. I will keep you updated!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Goodbye petite section!

Hello regular section! I am officially not a "petite" woman anymore. Well, I made it through surgery! Today is post-op day 5, and overall I guess I'm feeling pretty good. My back is of course, VERY sore and pretty stiff. It is definitely an adjustment to go from being all curved and hunched over to being straight as an arrow. Positives? I grew 2 inches and my torso has never looked better. Definitely looking forward to rockin' my bikini this summer ;)

Here I am today:
Just chillin' in my room at the children's hospital. It is a really nice place and I'm actually glad that I've been here instead of the main hospital. The food here sucks, but everything else is bright, cheery and the people are great.

Here's a view of my life since Monday:
That's my bed. I'm sitting on the couch right now because I'm trying to get up and move more. I'll be posting more about surgery and details later, just wanted you to know that I'm here and doing pretty well! Thanks for all the prayers and well wishes!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Here we go

Well, in about 11 hours I'll be checking in at the Children's Hospital. Everyone keeps asking if I'm nervous. Duh. Of course I'm nervous. I'm also excited, anxious, happy, scared and all the feelings in between. Every now and then I get waves of reality, but it still doesn't feel totally real. That will soon change.

But, in honor of my new favorite book "The Book of Awesome" (more on that later), here are some awesome things about having spinal fusion:

-staying at mom and dad's house for free=saving money. awesome!
- tons of friends visiting and bringing me cool stuff. awesome!
- growing an inch and not being such a shorty anymore. awesome!
- having people wait on me hand and foot. awesome!
- hopefully meeting a cute resident and falling in love. awesome!

ok, I'm joking about that last point. But it could happen. You never know!! I'll keep you posted...

Friday, May 13, 2011

You know you've made it when...

Monday I had my "made it" moment. Remember when I took my kids to the science museum a few months ago? Well, this past Monday we went to the zoo. It made me remember going to the Georgia Aquarium last year with my mom and seeing all the school groups. I remember smiling at the children and giving a quiet smile to the teachers. Sort of a quiet, "I understand what you're doing and you're doing great."

Well Monday, that teacher was me. We were walking around the zoo and I recognized that smile except that this time I was the teacher and they were the other visitors. It was one of those moments that made me realize, "whoa, I'm a teacher." This is what I have wanted to do my whole life and I am doing it. And I'm loving it.

My kids LOVED the zoo. We have been studying animals so they were very excited. First up were the cows:
After the cows, we saw elephants, zebras, giraffes, lorikeets, a wild boar and an anteater. Then we went inside (it was SOOO hot) to cool off and see the fish. On the way out we passed by the flamingos. The kids know flamingos are my favorite animal, so they had to pose with them:
Are they not the cutest? They are standing like flamingos. Seriously, I love these kids. But I loved even more that the trip totally wore them out:
Let's just say naptime on Monday was a good one :) Anyone out there have fond memories of visiting the zoo in elementary school?

So long, farewell...

auf weidersein goodbye!! That was the song that was going through my head yesterday (Thursday). It was my last day of work before going on medical leave to have my surgery. I told my kids that we would have a going-away party on my last day, and they asked if they could bring snacks. "Sure!" I said, why not? Here is 1 cake I got:
***I blurred out my last name for privacy sake! It was NOT a cake wreck!

Here's the other one:
They also brought in 6 bags of chips, a box of Oatmeal creme pies, Oreos and cupcakes. Let's just say it was not a day of healthy eating. But we had fun! We danced, played on the playground, watched "Toy Story 3" (yes, I cried at the part when the toys almost burn up in the incinerator) and played on the computers:
I had to blur out their faces, but they are still so cute!! I'm going to miss these little kiddos so much over the next few weeks/months. But it was so sweet to get such a nice send-off from them and their parents. I had several parents come up to me and tell me what a difference I had made in their child's life, how glad they are that I was their child's teacher, etc. It just melted my heart. I love my job!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I have always wanted to have a surprise party. The problem with that of course, is that you can't throw your own surprise party. I sort of had one when I turned 10, but my mom told me about it a few days before.

Well, today I got my wish. My co-workers at school threw me a surprise "going-away/get well soon" party during our afternoon faculty meeting. I was SO SURPRISED! I passed the library earlier and saw a bunch of food laid out, but I just assumed it was because it was our last faculty meeting.

I was a few minutes late, and when I walked in everyone yelled "SURPRISE!!" I was so shocked and overwhelmed. I felt so loved and it was so great to know that everyone is thinking of me. It was so sweet. Everyone had contributed something small for a gift basket:
It has a coloring book, crayons, crossword puzzles, sudoku, playing cards, bubbles and more! Lots of things to keep me entertained when I can't do anything physical. I am so grateful to work with such thoughtful people.

My last day of school is Thursday :( My kids have decided to have a party. We're going to have pizza, watch movies and have fun. I'm not looking forward to leaving them but I am looking forward to having fun with them. Tomorrow is field day so I'm sure that will be fun also.

Thanks to everyone in blog world who is sending good wishes! I appreciate it!!

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

They gonna cut you??

So my surgery is in a few weeks. If you don't know, I'm having spinal fusion to correct/stabilize my worsening scoliosis. I went to the doctor today and my curve has progressed from 45 degrees to 56. Yikes! Not good.

I told my students on Monday that I would be leaving school early to have an "operation". They know that my back hurts and I told them that the doctors were going to fix it. I asked if they have any questions. One was "They gonna cut you?" Yes sweet child, they gonna cut me. Thanks for easing my fears about this whole thing. In all honesty, I don't think they really understand much of it. I did read Curious George Goes to the Hospital to give them some understanding. We'll see how it goes. I have 7 school days left :(

Today was my pre-op appointment. We went here:
That's right. Children's Hospital. Since my doctor is the one I have had since I was 7, there is no sense in changing doctors. He knows me, I know him, he knows my medical history, it just makes sense. And since I teach Kindergarten, I totally don't mind being in a kid's environment.

My mom enjoyed herself in the waiting room:
She had a lot of fun playing with the magnetic table. To be honest, I did too. Those things are cool!! They whisked me away to do all sorts of tests and x-rays, then told me I needed to go downstairs to talk with anesthesia.

When we got there, the people told us that since I was over 13 I had to go over to the main hospital. Ok, no problem. We walked over to the "big person" hospital to be told that since I didn't have an appointment they couldn't do anything. A few phone calls back and forth straightened it out luckily. Apparently I am a very unique situation in that I'm a 26 year old adult but having surgery in a children's hospital.

The upside of a children's hospital? Cool band-aids:
It's a dog on a surf board. Would have been better if it was Hello Kitty or a Disney Princess, but I'll take it. The best part of the day came when I saw some crayons and coloring book in the waiting room. I went over to get them and then they immediately called my name. "Damn!" I said under my breath. My mom reminded me that since I was in a children's hospital I probably shouldn't swear. Guess I'll have to watch myself.

So I report for surgery in 12 days. Any advice? Any good movies I should make a point to watch while I'm recuperating? Thanks in advance for prayers and support!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

When life hands you lemons...

Ever heard of the phrase, "when life hands you lemons, make lemonade"? Or some people say, "when life hands you lemons, add vodka"? Either way, it's about making a good situation out of something crappy. This phrase has come in handy recently since there are several things that I can't do these days because of my back.

This past weekend was the Country Music Marathon. Here I am with my friend Katie at my first time doing the race in 2009:
And here I am in the finisher's tent last year in 2010:
And here I am this year:
I couldn't run the race this year (turns out, running is the WORST sport for someone with scoliosis!), so I volunteered to help at a water stop. This is me and my friend Kelly (seen in the above picture from 2010) in front of our water table. We filled almost 1000 cups with water and passed the out to the runners. It was SO cool! I was worried I would be upset that I wasn't running, which I was for about .2 seconds. Then passing out water and cheering all the runners, I realized it was ok that I'm not running this year. I will get back to running. It may take a while, but I will do it. I've already picked out my next race. Disney Princess Half Marathon in 2013 here I come!!!

Until then, I'm working on making more lemonade...