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...

13 comments:

  1. Oh man, Marianna, are those pins sticking out of your toes? Yes, stress can be a bummer! I talked about that very subject yesterday with my doctor. Since I've had to go into the hospital twice in one year for the first time in my life, it's playing havoc with my immune system. Before 2008, the most I went to the doctor was 4 times a year to let the doctor listen to everything before renewing my Bloodpressure prescription. You are having a rough time. I see why you do stress solutions.

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  2. There are times when I visit a post and find that I need to leave my footprint by acknowledging that I’d been here - that what you wrote made a difference. This is one of those times.

    You are amazing, Marianna.

    And your footprints walk gently in my heart.

    Thank you.

    ~C.M.

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  3. Judy,

    I can't partake in some of the activities I once enjoyed, but I feel pretty darn good, given my condition.

    I have to say that I'm doing well, thanks to the surgeries and learning and practising stress transformation. There is a connection with high levels of cortisol, "the stress hormone", and immune system issues.

    People often say it's "just stress". There is nothing "just" about it, as you're experiencing.

    I hope that you are able to restore your health.

    Casper,
    Thank you. You have such a way with words - "footprint walks gently on my heart" - lovely image!

    I think we all do the best we can given our situation. Fortunately, I've learned to do some things differently which has given me different results.

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  4. OMG!!! I think the tube down the throat while conscious was the worst of it all.

    Actually that's a very pretty foot in spite of the goriness.

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  5. You never gave any indication that you were going in for surgeries. I have been on the operating table on four occasions all for hip joint replacements and revisions and hope that I pop off before I have to get on top again ever. Your experience for the neck however leaves me totally stunned.

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  6. BHB,
    Thankfully, it was quick!

    Well, it's a first! No one has said that I have pretty feet! LOL!

    How is your shoulder?

    Ramana,
    I didn't because I'm not. Those particular surgeries took place in 2005/2006.

    If anything, the neck surgery made me realise how fortunate I am. A lot of those people on that particular ward were not walking out of there. I was!

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  7. My shoulder replacement is doing fine--except I caught a toe in the wide stretchy-fabric pant leg & fell.
    (So I made the pant legs narrower.)

    Ouch! Why must we fall with the arm outstretched to catch ourselves.
    I don't seem to have done any permanent damage. I just can't do the lifted arm exercises yet.

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  8. Your resilience and inspiration are amazing, Marianna.

    ~Jacqui

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  9. BHB,
    Oh dear...glad you didn't do any major damage or have to have surgery to reposition the prosthetic implant.

    I had a similar "incident", shortly after my hip replacement. Stepped on a rock, which rolled my foot and subsequently, my "new" hip out of its socket. May all joints stay in "location" from here on in!

    Jacqui,
    We all have it, we sometimes think we don't.

    Humans have an amazing ability to be resilient.

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  10. WOW just WOW! I am in awe of what you have done and handled with such grace and courage...as I await my upcoming surgeries I think of you and I know it will help me tremendously! thanks for the inspiration. I hope my feet look as good as yours!

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  11. Nan,

    Thanks for your kind words.

    It's normal to feel fear before the surgery. Having stress techniques in my "toolbox" has certainly helped me pre and post surgery and in my day-to-day experiences.

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  12. That's a lot to have done all in 1 year. I had one op this year on the forefoot. All the others were in the far past and mostly forgotten and glossed over in a haze.
    I thought the foot fix was a good idea now while I am "healthy" but it took a toll to stop my medications. I always feel like I can do anything I want to so it's a shock when things don't go my way.

    I bet your foot looks pretty good now.
    Annette

    Do they stop you at airports? Very interesting to see your neck. I have medium AAS.

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  13. Hi Annette,
    Both feet do look pretty, if I do say so myself. Which I guess I'll have to do, since no one else is saying it! :)

    How about your foot?

    Airports? Suffice to say I need extra time when I clear security. The hips are the noise-makers.

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