Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Surgery - Hot Under The Collar
This is a picture of what my neck looks like as a result of the surgery I had for Atlantoaxial Instability. Bone was taken from my hip and screws were put into my neck to fuse C - 1 and C - 2 (Cervical vertebra). This condition was diagnosed after the first of those four surgeries in what I call "The Year of the Surgeries".
End of 2005 and 2006 - the wait for my surgeries was over. It was like calling Bingo, but with four being the winning number. I had a total of twenty weeks (five months) of down-time. Casts, collars, splints and restricted movement until bones fused together and tissue healed.
For those who are curious, I've included a picture of what my forefoot looked like post-surgery. Warning - graphic image at the end of this article! If you are squeamish, read no further!
It was after Surgery # 2 - reconstructive fore-foot surgery (image below) that my surgeon told me that he refused to do the other foot until my neck had been fused. He was concerned that the intubation would cause serious harm.
Without having this looked after, my risk of stroke, blindness or death was very high. Incidentally, these were the same risks that could be precipitated by undergoing this surgery.
With the neck fusion surgery, I needed to have a conscious intubation. This meant that they would insert the breathing tube down my throat while I was fully conscious. I was cautioned by the anaesthetist to continue swallowing as this was put in. I was told, "Do not fight, struggle or pull it out!"
I knew I wanted to make this as quick and easy as possible, so I used my stress techniques to help me balance my nervous system. This kept me from panicking, which is a normal response in this situation and one the surgical team would prefer to avoid. Afterwards, I was thanked for making their job much easier.
I've had people say to me, "I couldn't do it." The point is, when you have to, the choices are minimal. You can choose to be miserable the whole time or make the best of the situation. It's about accepting what can't be changed. (Interesting how some situations are more easily accepted than others.)
There were times when the heat of the walking cast or the surgical collar were unbearable, especially during the heat wave that we had at the time. However, I knew that my recovery was progressing and that each successive week was bringing about an incremental improvement in my healing.
Below, (not for the squeamish, remember!) is a picture of my foot, post forefoot reconstructive surgery. The pins are put in place to fuse the toes. I am thankful I've had these foot surgeries as I am able to walk further and mostly minus the feeling of stepping on marbles.
I believe that my recovery time and surgical outcome were improved by balancing my nervous system. In response to the stress of surgery, blood pressure rises, heart rate increases and a cascade of 1400 chemicals flood the body, preparing it for flight or fight. Except in this case, there is no where to go - except the Operating Room.
By practising these techniques, I was much better at pain management, as I learned to shift my focus. Less pain, meant less tightening of muscles, which creates more pain. I was also able to get by with less pain medication, too. That was important to me.
Wouldn't it make more sense to learn to control the body functions that you can control so that you have the best advantage possible?
If you are scheduled for surgery and would like to learn some techniques to help you transform your stress, I'd be happy to work with you. Please contact me at www.auntiestress.ca.
Related article: Surgical Success - Activating Your Control
Related post: Forecasting...Knives...