Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Hugs to Larry, the BEST Husband, Dad and Grandpa. You make us laugh and keep us motivated to be the best we can be.

Judy, Scot, Robyn, Mitch, Jess, Laura, Kent, Mackenzie and Alexandra

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Blog


I wish I had found the above cartoon to post earlier. It captures
one's true feelings following back surgery.

More signs that I am getting better

1 - I can tie my own shoes.

2 - I can pretty much shower and soap myself.

3 - I can sit much longer, up to 60 minutes at a time.

4 - I started wearing regular clothes rather than sweats.

5 - I can get in and out of the car OK.

6 - I have been off any pain pills for one week.

7 - If abandoned, I can wipe my own butt.

8 - I am making great progress (5 pages/day) writing a book.

9 - I spent 4 hours standing and sitting at our Christmas party.

10 - I am sleeping at night about the same as pre-surgery,
and the post-surgery dreaming has tapered off.

The only down side is a 3-4 pound weight gain; this seems to
be manifested in a slight swelling in the ankle area.


p.s. You did click on the link didn't you ?
It is another sign that I am getting better !

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bad Weather - I Couldn't Go Out Anyway

I am getting stronger and staying upright longer.

A week ago I cut back from 2 to 1 Tylenol per day. This week I stopped the final Tylenol. This is the first time in two years that I have not taken at least one pain pill every day.

It is clear that I can now sit for periods up to one hour without feeling any pain. Then when I lay down, I seem to recover in 10-15 minutes.

I do have some imbalance in my hip muscles, likely caused by favoring my back when I walked before surgery.

Walking around the house is getting mighty boring, but we don't care to travel in this lousy weather and holiday shopping traffic.

My current project is to figure out how to publish all my past blogs into a single document. Any ideas?


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Real Cost of Back Surgery

While I still have not received any formal statements, the 'bills' are piling up.

First there was the new car. Both our older cars had in excess of 150,000 miles, and Judy needed something reliable to transport me around. The local dealer was begging for you to take them off his hands and if your credit is good, you can still get a loan.

Next are the home 'improvements'. Beds, toilets, showers and chairs all have to be modified. This was not a big deal or cost for us because my previous hip surgeries had taught us what worked.

Next there is the cost for having someone do the 'heavy' lifting, the climbing and most routine home maintenance. It is easy to see why people move into a housing arrangement where all of that is taken care of by someone else. The frustrating part for me is that I would gladly pay a teenager to do some of these odd jobs, but there are none to be found.

The first snow pointed out what the wife has been hinting for years--that we need an electric start snow blower. Sure enough, the first snowfall came and Judy was not strong enough to pull-start our old snow blower. When our macho neighbor couldn't get it going either, I knew the time had come. My other neighbor, who recently had extensive heart surgery, was way ahead of me. He bought his wife a Toro last fall, and when we saw how it operated, we bought one the next day. (It turns out our old snow blower, which I had acquired for $25 some 5 years ago, had a cracked head. I ended up selling it, cracked head and all, for $25 on Craigslist in one day. I had previously made a private sale of my third car on Craigslist, so I highly recommend that method of cleaning out the junk from your house and garage.)

But the really big cost is for a full-time nurse, cook, housemaid and all around gofer. If you don't have a mate who can perform these tasks, you can't have the surgery. These bills from my mate are piling up, and she says I will never be able to pay them off.

So go ahead and have the back surgery if you need it. Between Medicare and private insurance coverage, your out-of-pocket expenses won't be too bad. But be ready for those 'incidental' costs. They are the costs that keep going and going and going!


Monday, December 8, 2008

Top 10 Reasons I'm Getting Better

1 - Today is day 42 following surgery; I feel good.

2 - I find myself standing much more.

3 - I find myself walking much more.

4 - My right hip is sore, probably from lack of walking.

5 - My back is still sore, probably from lack of walking.

6 - I cannot move quickly as yet without causing back pain.

7 - I find myself reading more.

8 - Judy has given me responsibility to take my own pills.

9 - I can get in and out of the car by myself.

10 - Today while Judy was out shoveling snow, I actually felt a little remorse for laying around on my back!


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Standing Beats Sitting

It is amazing how much more productive I have become since I raised my two computers, as shown in the above photos.

My doctor's staff made the suggestion a couple days ago. I had tried both of the lap trays shown, but I used them as they were designed--for my lap while I was laying down.

Frankly, I don't think I have been strong enough to stand for any length of time until the past week or so. One can see some uneveness in my walking and standing, mostly due to an apparent muscle weakness in my right hip area. From now on when I write an email, I will not have to close with my usual phrase ...'my 30 minute sitting time is up.'

Another innovation in my recovery procedures was the purchase of a remote control for the lamp next to my living room 'bed'. We had tried various timers, but I never could reach them at 3 am. I saw the holiday season for Clap ON-OFF, laughed at it, and then realized they now sold a remote verson. So for $21 I gained one more degree of freedom.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Doctor Roth 3, Piper 1

Today was the one month followup appointment. This was the first time that Dr. Roth (and his PA, Nonie) have seen me since discharge from Beaumont Hospital 35 days ago. The score above represents my recovery time: the doc says I have two more months to go (for a total of 3), and I have completed one month--hence 3 to 1.

The items we discussed, somewhat in order of importance, are as follows:

1 - I am healing OK; the X-rays he took today confirm that diagnosis.

2 - When I asked how bad my back was, he answered, 'pretty bad'. But in the next breath he assured us my back was fixed as well as someone whose back had not started out as bad as mine.

3 - Two more months of same-old, same-old; no bending, twisting, or lifting; 30 minutes sitting time every two hours; do all the walking that I can tolerate. The next appointment in Feb 12.

4 - I can return to pre-surgery level of all pills--which I had done--as well as drop all iron supplements.

5 - I should experiment how I am wearing the back brace. Try it upside down as well as remove the front panel.

6 - Hold off on a scheduled prostate biopsy until six months.

7 - My current level of pain pills--2 Tylenol a day--is good (acetaminophen). No NSAIDs (ibuprofen) like Motrin.

8 - Try working on computer and reading while standing by raising work areas about 12".

9 - When I return in two months, he will allow me 'a little driving'.

10 - Question not asked: What will I eventually be able to do.

11 - Butt wiping time frame not given; it will happen when it happens.

12 - On why he doesn't use bone loss prevention stuff like Fosamax, Actonel, Boniva: it interferes with the fusion process.

13 - Implied in all the above conversations: continue to wear the 'choke collar'.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas Modified But Not Forgotten

So where is A.C. Gilbert when you need him? You may recall Gilbert as the inventor of the Erector Set (1913) and many other toys. However, it was his unofficial title as 'the man who saved Christmas' that I wish to call upon here.

In the summer of 1918, with the U.S. in the full grip of W.W. I, a War Board with nearly dictatorial powers and little Congressional review, declared that all U.S. manufacturers should redirect their efforts into producing war materiel. The fact that most toys were already made in Germany meant that alternatives were not available. Gilbert and other U.S. toy manufacturers gathered up samples of their toys and paid a visit to these men. In no time the men were down on the floor playing with the toys, and once Gilbert said they could take the toys home, the toy industry got an exemption, toys were produced for Christmas and hence the above title.

Now my predicament is not nearly so critical, but the effect could be similar. With our living room effectively turned into a hospital room and with our inability to get access to all the Christmas boxes filled with decorations, our home will have to forgo its traditional role as the family gathering location. Judy and I formally acknowledged this concession to my healing a couple days ago; wouldn't you know that simultaneously one of the children stepped forward to volunteer their home and decorating time.

This whole issue might have passed unnoticed had not I received an out-of-the-blue email yesterday informing me of an article written in my hometown Indianapolis Star about my Mother ( ). The article's subject was holiday traditions, how they are fading and how my Mother was a keeper of traditions. I always knew this, but somehow when others say so, it drives the point home. Now baton has been passed (27 years ago). At first my sister and now I have taken the responsibility to carry on this Christmas holiday tradition.

I will eventually heal and concessions will be made to tradition, but Christmas will be saved in 2008 in the Piper household.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Corner of the World

Five weeks down, how many more to go?

What you see above is our living room, modified for my lifestyle. What you don't see is the 46" TV at the opposite end of the room. Now having the TV is a mixed blessing--I can hear it OK but I can't see it (while I am laying down) without pulling down my bifocals on my nose. So the thing that hurts most is my nose!

I am still on the same schedule: 30 minutes siting every 120 minutes with maybe 10 minutes of walking thrown in. I sleep about 6-7 hours each night plus about 1-2 during the day. My pain pills for the last couple weeks continue to be two Tylenol a day. I did twist my back while sitting about a week ago, and I was sore and non-mobile for the next day or so.

I see the doctor in two days for my one month checkup. I know what he is going to say, but I will save that for another blog when I can report the full details.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Betting With Doctors

Tommy Lasorda is supposed to have said, 'Never argue with people who buy ink by the gallon.'

To this aphorism, I would like to add my own version: 'Never bet with doctors who control your medications.'

This will be a trivial blog to you, but at the time it was very funny to me. Also it was a lesson in humility to me that doctors are right more often than they are wrong. (Ted Turner, who is about 3 days difference from my age and hence a default hero, allegedly uttered one of my favorite sayings, 'if I had some humility I would be perfect.')

Anyway, on his second day visit (Wednesday) my surgeon suggested two things: remove Freddie Foli and take the pint of blood I had previously donated which had not been used in surgery. I wasn't excited about doing either, and I explained my reasons--the first due to past urinary problems following surgery and the second due to emotional issues. I really doubted either would have much effect, and I more or less bet him they wouldn't help. But, after reminding myself which of us had the medical degree, I agreed to both.

Let's say they were both wildly successful. Instead of bladder blockage I had a good flow and no infection. The blood transfusion was like a shot of adrenalin--I got up and walked the halls, moved my bowels and in general I was ready for release the next day.

Now here is the funny part, at least to me. That evening, after my bladder was working like a Swiss watch, the nurse came in with my pills. Only the bladder pills had been doubled. Always vigilant for possible drug errors, I told her I only get one bladder pill in the evening. She said the doctor ordered the change. My immediate reaction, as I took the double dose, was that the doctor was hedging his bet to guarantee I didn't have any bladder problems!

As for the blood reintroduction, I learned he always keeps this pint in reserve to give back to his patients because past history has shown him that it does have remarkable recuperative powers. (As a student of athletics, I always knew 'blood doping' was a legitimate and undetectable way for athletes to get an edge, and now I know it really works.)

Finally, I have two quick blood donation stories. While I have often donated blood, I have never received any before this surgery. When I asked the nurse how long it would take she said four hours. I was surprised, and I told her it only took 6 minutes to donate it. Now nurses are great, but this one, bless her heart, said 6 minutes was impossible: I would have passed out in that short of time. The reason I knew it was 6 minutes was I asked the technician who took the blood what the record time was for donation. He said he had seen all the way from 4 to 15 minutes for a pint. Being competitive I joked I would try to break the record--which I missed.

The other story came 20 years ago when I had to donate 2 pints prior to hip surgery. When I asked the normal inquiry about the effect of donating 2 pints of blood so close to surgery, the technician gave the response that, quite to the contrary, the body works extra hard to make up for the lost blood, and that one actually gets a 'boost' over the next couple days. That sounded OK to me, but what came next has forever been my second favorite golf joke. Now I was giving this blood, known as an autologus draw when it is for personal use, at the Ernie Wallace Blood Bank in Midland, MI, where I live. Everything is free, no payment for your blood, and presumable no cost if you ever need blood in the future. This has been going on for a long time. I know this because about once a month the local paper publishes the names of the top donors. Lots of names and lots of blood--5, 10 even 15 gallons. Now I will help you with the math. A sign on the wall says you can donate every 56 days, so that works out to a little over 6 times or 6 pints every year. That is equivalent to 3 quarts. So a 10 gallon donor has given 40 quarts. That requires 13+ years of clockwork-like structure to your life--always in town, never sick, good veins, etc. Here's where the joke comes in. It's only natural that a number of these blood donors are golfers. With our short golf season, one tends to play in leagues to have a regularly scheduled golf time. And some golfers are very competitive. Throw in the analytical nature of our engineer-heavy population in this company town, and you have an overlapping Venn diagram just waiting to happen. Sure enough, the blood drawee said that some donors actually schedule their regular blood donation a couple days before a big golf match in their league, hoping to get that little extra 'boost' to win.


Sunday, November 23, 2008


Yesterday, Saturday, Nov 22, is our traditional Piper family Thanksgiving celebration meal. This frees both my children to have their own celebration on the 'regular' Thanksgiving day, and it certainly avoids any arguments about which parent's home you will go to each year.

Often one or more of my siblings or Judy's siblings drives up from Indiana to celebrate with us. This year's celebration was being held hostage by my recovery progress. As late as 7 days ago I announced to my son that I didn't think I would be able to make it to the dinner this year. But then the next day I changed my mind. So with 5 days lead time the Piper women huddled, plans were made, duties were assigned and we pulled it off. We had to sacrifice the Indiana families but they understood. Their places were replace by the second and only other living grandparents. Grampa Greenfelder, who recently has been through more hospital time, pain and need for caregiving than myself, was also able to make it to the dinner, which indeed made it a day for giving thanks.

Now our Thanksgiving dinner is always proceeded by family pictures--which each family then uses for Christmas cards. We have discovered the secret and ideal photo location. It is a stairs, and that allows us to squeeze 8-10 people into a small location. With some practice I managed to sit on the stairs and still keep my back straight. We even managed to find time for the youngest to have her birthday party.

With my 30 minute sitting limitation, I had to periodically disappear to the upstairs to relax my back. The 4.5 hours, 270 minutes, which we were gone from home was: 45 min car, 40 sit, 30 lay down, 10 pictures, 30 eat, 60 lay down, 10 sit, 45 ride home. This is a little more sitting than I should have taken, but I was not sore that evening or the next day. Also, I continue to be at two 500 mg Tylenol per day (one every 12 hours), which I think is very good for 27 days post-surgery.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Beaumont, Brahms and Bills

Beaumont (Troy) is a 296 bed hospital, although it is easy as a patient to loose track of that fact when you are confined to a 12-patient wing on the fourth floor orthopaedic wing. However, four items helped me to keep my personal pain and problems in perspective with the 'big picture'.

First, Beaumont--and I suspect many other hospitals--have changed. They are incredibly quiet. No phones ringing, no nurse call bells, no clattering of carts because of carpeting and no paging of doctors--like the obnoxious PA in K-Mart--"PRICE CHECK IN AISLE 3". Also, better control of visitors has cut the background noise.

Secondly, your roommate usually has his own problems. In my 4-5 major hospital stays, I seem to have always drawn someone who was in much worse shape than I. I felt this stiffled any supportive conversation between us. On one occasion I actually had two roommates who were simply drunks, and were in the hospital to 'dry out'. And on another occasion my roommate died--fortunately after I had checked out.

That leads to my third observation. In the 3+ hospital stays I have experienced plus three more from my immediate family, we always knew we would be coming out alive. But such is not the case for many patients. Waiting rooms are a mishmash of people and emotions. While the doctors do a great job of privately speaking to family members, some individuals, particularly those with access to cell phones, seem to need to announce their problems to the world. Regardless of one's empathetic level, it is tough to hear of an expected death.

But I saved the best for last. As Judy walked around Beaumont, she would occasionally hear faint bells playing 'Brahms' Lullaby'. When she asked why, the answer was simple: 'Another baby has just been born'.

As I write this blog, 25 days post-operation, I have yet to receive any bills. We'll see how my perspective changes once the bills start rolling in.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Catching Up on My Progress

Larry here again.

On Nov 16th (21 days post-surgery) I created a 'recovery timeline' using an Excel spreadsheet. This will ultimately allow me to put all the events into perspective.

On Nov 11th (16 days PS), I ventured out. We stopped at a couple stores for 5 minutes while I stayed in the car. But I did walk into the Midland Community Center--my second home--where I met the 8-9 guys who play paddleball every Tuesday night. It was great for me and VERY educational for them. But that 15 to 20 minutes sure set me back for the next couple of days.

Also around Nov 11th I began listening to something other than music on my mp3 players. (When you are lying flat on your back 22 hours a day, there are not many options for things to do. I would love to have a ceiling-projected TV.)

So here is a plug for TTC, The Teaching Company. They have created educational courses for students of all levels and interests. Our local library has many of their offerings, and I have long ago adopted the habit of listening to one 30 minute lecture every day that I work out on the stationary bike or treadmill. (I'm sure books on tape would serve the same purpose for other patients.)

This ability to listen to and comprehend these somewhat boring educational tapes sends a very big signal--not only is my body healing but my brain is also back!

My 30 minutes sitting time is up.


Pain, Pills and Piper

Sorry for the missing days--we've been busy healing. Also, the writer has changed her priorities, so blogging fell to the bottom of the list.

Henceforth, the writer will likely be Larry. That means I can now sit up for almost 30 minutes at a time, and it means my typing skills are beginning to return.

Let's talk about that four letter word PAIN. First off, that is why you have the operation in the first place. But one has to get past that first few days, and the drugs of choice are Vicodin and Valium. Now the actual pharmacy cost of these two V's are dirt cheap. I left the hospital with a prescription good for about 5 days. I did stretch the Valium to 10 days, but I elected to have it renewed going into my second weekend at home. Nonie, my guardian angel nurse, suggested I would want to get off Valium first. One only has to read about Valium's side effects to understand why. Most of my pain has always been in the muscles the surgeon had to cut to get to my spine, and Valium did help that pain.

Without referring to the extensive notes that Judy has been keeping on everything that goes in and out of me, I think the Vicodin was essentially dropped after 15-16 days--in favor of Tylenol. A couple days at 1500 mg (3 pills a day) and now 1000 mg a day has brought me to 21 days following surgery. Since I was on 500 mg/day of Tylenol for nearly a year prior to surgery, I figure that is very good progress.

Now my dreams are another story! That will have to wait for another day.


Saturday, November 8, 2008


The Zen of Healing: Bone, Muscle, Mind and Attitude *

Bone healing, short of compound fractures, seem to take four weeks. The doc says keep on the cast on for six weeks (that falls under the CYA category), and you are good to go. Hell, some bone injuries aren't even casted these days.

Now my surgery, while it involved bone reconstruction, seemed to have its own recovery schedule. Dr. Roth cut some bone away from my spine--the part that was pinching the nerves, then added some donor bone and finally retrieved some of my own bone marrow (presumeably with a LONG needle. Us chemical engineers would call this bone marrow a catalyst, but I'm sure the medical community has a much more esoteric name. This 'paste' was then plastered around my vertabrae to stablize his work. No screws or other instrumentality was used--because of the strength of my bones. The healing time of this bone paste is definitely much longer--in the 'one size fits all' mentality of the medical profession, I cannot get an answer of less than 90 days.

Now muscle healing seems to be an entirely different story. Modesty prevents me from giving you specifics--let's just say that I have more muscle strength in my back than you, and likely more than anyone you know. But it was a surprise to me that between 9 and 11 days after surgery, I had zero muscle soreness. Those first 9 days, however, did cause strange reactions with the Valium.

The mind recovery did come back much faster than I expected. I have always found that loss of cognitive function (due to anesthesia) has always been the biggest and badest, side-effect of any of my surgeries.

Now attitude is up to you. The hospitals, nurses, doctors and friends can all prepare you, but ultimately how you feel about recovery is solely up to you.


* The opinions expressed here are those of the author. Of course I could be wrong.
Also, my blogging technique consists of typing the rough draft into WordPad and then cutting and pasting the result into

Friday, November 7, 2008


The cost of hospital stay has risen so astronomically that the preferred method for treatment is to get you in and out of the hospital ASAP; i.e., baby delivery used to require a five day stay, now only one day. Twenty years ago, hip replacement required 10 days, now only three.

To make up for that difference, you are under the care of nursing staff (visiting nurses, home health care nurses) approximately twice a week. They show up with all their high tech gadgets, measure your vitals and report these back to the appropriate doctors. Technically, these nurses are there for home-bound patients, so their range of services could be very wide.

These nurses are competent, pleasant and a welcome break in your day. Usually the first time you see a nurse-evaluator who determines what level of care you need, then you see a regular RN twice a week.

From a technological standpoint, these nurses are far advanced from what hospitals use. Each one carries a PDA upon which they write notes that in turn are automatically synched to all other PDAs carried by their service and any of the appropriate doctors.

Time for an editorial……In my case, the medical community are just ballistic when you take a blood thinner like coumadin. (I will expound on this at great length in the future but the bottom line is to avoid taking coumadin at all costs.)

Two final comments about HHC nurses, (1) they are programmed like robots to give you standard answers and never give you an opinion, and (2) HHC nurses and nurses in general are perhaps the greatest source of selecting good and bad medical doctors. How you get this information out of them is a real art. So take a nurse to lunch – make a nurse a friend.

Oh yes, we made a private sale of our old blue van so we will not have to juggle three vans in our garage and driveway any more.

When I sleep, Judy sleeps. Good plan.

Dictated by Larry (Attila the Hun)
To Judy the Motivator (Nag)

Thursday, November 6, 2008


This blog was originally begun to report Larry Piper's Progress in surgery and at Beaumont. Not having posted anything for the last few days means we are very busy making "progress" at home. So now this blog will be switching to progress at home. As one of Larry’s surgeons told him….”95% of successful recovery is the patient, only 5% can be attributed to the surgeon.”

He has now cut down his drugs by half (Vicodin and Valium) which means he sleeps less. The physician's orders say he can go down and up a flight of stairs once a day when he feels ready. Yesterday he went 3/4 of the way down and back up. Today his plans are to make it all the way down to his precious computers. Now let's see if I put the commode down there along with some water and maybe a PB&J sandwich, I might keep him down there for the day. :o)

His biggest challenge right now is his inability to sit for more than 15-20 minutes at a time. His limit for sitting is supposed to be 30 minutes but he hasn't made it that long yet. His concern that he would "lose his marbles" from the anesthesia hasn't really been a problem. He remembers his passwords; he just can't sit long enough to use them.

Remember the phrase from our childhood "Every day in every way, I am getting better and better." I know you all will find this a little hard to believe but he has been a very good patient, following the rules. The desire to get back to his real life is a terrific motivator.

Now if I could just figure out all the nuances of this darn blogspot, I would be one happy camper. Maybe with time and some help I will be able to add pictures where I want them, add some sidebars, make a personalized header……..oh, the list goes on. The other member of Team Piper is still not yet ready for consulting.

Coach, Nurse, Chef, Cheerleader

Monday, November 3, 2008

Random Thoughts and Updates

While Larry is sleeping, I thought I would bring you all up to date on his thoughts and progress.

Larry's sitting is confined to 15-20 minutes max (primarily due to pain) 3 times a day plus a couple more. He's still taking his pain meds full strength after 4 days at home -- vicodin and valium every 6 hours.

He is not ready to receive visitors yet. His endurance is short lived at best right now.

Things are "going in and coming out" on a regular basis -- which is good.

He thinks he is less than 5% thru the recovery process. I think it is truly amazing what the body can do in just one week.

His brain and mouth pretty much haven't ever stopped. Illustration......his latest riddle......What is 10" and white? His decompression laminectomy scar.

Today 28 staples were removed, so now he is held together by steri strips.

Judy for "The Commander"

Thursday, October 30, 2008


After meeting all the goals for being discharged from the hospital .... pass gas, BMs, walking the hallway on your own, eating real food (not jello), the doctor and his physician assistant told Larry "Get out of here before you catch something serious." So by 12:00 we were on our way home.

By 2:00 we were walking in the front door. We've already made even more modifications to the living rooms and bedrooms but each day the getting up and down from the bed to sitting to standing will get easier. He discovered today when the dressing was changed that he has 27 staples and an incision 12-14" long. Impressive. The surgeon said in all his 16 years of surgery he had never seen such strong bone. Glad he is such a great surgeon.

You will not hear much from Larry on his computer for a while. Sitting is just too painful. He will be doing lots of sleeping and walking with his walker to regain his strength. BUT he will be telling me what I should write...........he's always more analytical with the information than I am.

Thanks for all the emails wishing him well. Home never looked so good!


Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I arrived at the hospital this morning at 8:03 to find Larry sitting on the side of the bed and in good spirits. His pain pump had been removed. One line down.

True to form, Dr. Roth came in to see Larry at 7:29. Larry was a bit anemic from blood loss, so he wanted Larry to receive his autologic blood that was not used during surgery. (That took 4 hours.......15 minutes to donate it but 4 hours to get it back.) The dressing was changed on his back and he discovered he had 27 stitches (staples). Wow!

Finally, at 2:30 all his lines and connections were out. Larry being Larry, on his first walk outside the room he walked the entire length of the orthopedics hall in both directions. Great effort.

With all his parts working again, he has high hopes of being discharged tomorrow. The Superman on his chest has begun to return gradually. Home will make recovery much easier.



This is going to be short since the WiFi here in my room at Beaumont is about two words per minute. I'm detubed -- ah freedom!


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

DAY 2 -- OCTOBER 28, 2008

Today was a tough day. The wonders of the surgery drugs had mostly worn off and Larry was in a lot of pain all day. He did sit on the side of the bed for lunch (jello, broth and juice) and several other times. Also he was able to walk with help 20 feet and back. A lot of sleep during the day helped him to fight off the surgery insults.

Tomorrow will be the first day on the road to recovery. A couple of pictures of Superman posted on the window remind him that the "S" will be reappearing on his chest soon.

Thanks for all your emails with good wishes.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Day of Surgery October 27, 2008

I'm writing this at 10:15 p.m. It has been a very long day. The alarm went off at 5:00, check-in at the hospital at 5:45. After the long pre-op meetings with nurses, anesthesiologists, surgery nurses and surgeon, surgery finally began at 8:29. The surgery was completed at 1:25.

Then began the even longer wait. Because the orthopedics floor was full, Larry was kept in recovery until 8 p.m. He and several other orthopedics patients had to wait til some medical patients were moved and rooms cleaned. Scot and Laura kept me company and finally agreed to go home after seeing Larry in recovery.

The surgery went well. They did not have to use his blood that he donated ahead of time. The surgeon said that there was lots of bone (very hard bone) in his spine impinging the nerves. He used Larry's bone, some donor bone and some bone marrow taken from his hip to fuse L1, 2 and 3 but no rods or screws.

Larry seems to be doing well. He is on a pain pump and hooked to miles of tubes so tonight may not be too restful. I am surprised and pleased to see how good he looks after such a long surgery. The doctor said we will probably get to go home Thursday.

Thank you all for keeping Larry in your thoughts today. Goodnight.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

12 Hours To Go

Sunday, October 26, 2008 -- 8:00 p.m.
Today was Larry's last day to drive for 3 months. From now on I will be "Driving Mr. Daisy." This hotel will be my bed and breakfast for the next few days.....only 3 miles from the hospital.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Almost ready - 33 hours to go

Everything is high--expectations, bed level, toilet seat level ... you get the idea.
The weather forecast looks terrible, but who cares. We will be inside until it warms up to 60 on next Thursday-Friday.
This blog came in from email as a test.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Be Prepared

On Oct 7 we made another trip to Detroit to kill 4 birds with one stone. Me and my 'coach' got the final instructions from Nonie, Roth's surgical nurse. Then we went to PT (physical therapy) to learn mostly what we COULD NOT do following surgery. OT, occupational therapy) then told us how to do what we must do--eat, sleep and crap. Finally, a gave 4 vials of my high test blood.

I recently created a test for back pain. It was inspired by the Cleveland Clinic hip test, which converts ones physical and emotional capabilities into a numerical score. I failed this hip test prior to hip surgery, but I aced it every time I returned for checkups. You can download and take this test yourself at: Hopefully, I will be able to 'convince' someone in the back surgery business to adopt something similar. This whole concept of having surgery to improve one's 'quality of life' needs some quantitative measurement, especially when financial costs are considered.

Oct 8 was a flu shot day--not a problem this far away from surgery--and as a bonus I asked the nurse who she knew who already had this type back surgery. Although she sounded enthusiastic, I never heard back from her. This was the first of many times that I encountered this 'obsession' with patient privacy.

Oct 14 is autologous blood donation at Ernie Wallace Blood Bank in Midland. This brings back memories from 20 years ago. Unfortunately, all the people were new and none could verify my 'war stories' about blood donations.

Oct 16 I had a feedback appointment with Dr. Leslie Schutz, the one who discovered my spinal stenosis and referred me to Dr. Roth. She told me I would do fine, but she did notice I was developing a limp. It helped me to hear, again, that this 'one size fits all' approach to recovery doesn't apply.

Oct 17 was the final clearance from my personal physician. Since I wasn't sure what Beaumont wanted, I placed a call to their pre-op anesthesia person. I finally reached Kathy that am. It took about 30 minutes for her to get my entire life history. She also faxed their check sheet to my physician. So, when I saw him in the pm, we had all the paperwork to fulfill their requirements.

I disturbing side effect of the above checkup with my physician was the frank discussion about the necessity of my continuing to be on coumadin. This may be the ultimate benefit from my back surgery.

Oct 20 is the date to halt all blood thinning agents. I now have zero concern about this requirement.
I also attempted to get some detailed pictures at the Midland Community Center of proposed rehab possibilities. Unfortunately, this patient privacy issue reared its ugly head again, and the 'pool police' halted these efforts.

Finally, on Oct 21 I did contact Ann H. who is also considering back surgery with Roth. When I heard about her living arrangements--she has no one to help her recovery--my own problems, perceived or otherwise, vanished.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Getting Ready

The check list is diminishing.....straight back chair, bathroom modifications, checking off final doctor and dentist appointments. 14 days to go.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Getting Ready for Surgery

Oct 27, 2008, is D-Day !

Technically, the diagnoses is spinal stenosis with spondylolysis. The surgical procedure is called decompressive laminectomy with fusion, including instrumentality.

As of today (19 days BS) most pre-surgery details have been completed. That includes such things as: extra iron for 6 weeks, cardiac clearance, acquiring a back brace, occupational and physical therapy classes and a pre-op exam by the surgical nurse. Other items scheduled but not completed include: autologous blood donation (1 unit) and family doctor clearance. Since mobility and travel will be SEVERELY restricted for 3+ months following surgery, other items that have been completed include: flu shot, absentee voting, dental cleaning, any other minor medical appointments, winterizing the outside of my home and fixing the living quarters for a limited-mobility patient.

The surgeon is Dr. Herbert Roth, Jr; he operates out of Beaumont Hospital in Troy, a suburb of Detroit. Both Roth and Beaumont are world-class by any and all standards. Therefore, my confidence in the outcome is as high as any surgery I have previously faced.

I have had numerous opportunities to get answers to every one of my questions--and there were many--from Roth's surgical nurse, Nonie P. While I never agree with all the choices that surgeons and hospitals make, I do understand the reasons behind their decisions.

My main concern, as always, revolves around the anesthesia. The general anesthesia, administered for 6 hours in this case, always plays havoc with one's bowels and urinary functions, and I seem to be particularly susceptible. (Maybe that perception is enhanced because PAIN in never a factor in my approach to surgery.) My second concern is the pre-surgery administering of 'relaxing' drugs that mess up one's cognitive functions for days, often long after all the pain is gone. As the saying goes, 'a mind is a terrible thing to waste'. My third concern is uniquely mine--a skin sensitivity to tape. I always break out in a rash where any tape is applied.

I should balance these concerns with my feelings about the two biggest concerns with any surgery: infection and surgical/hospital errors. I truly belive these factors are nil in my upcoming surgery. My mathematicial side would describe these risks as 'asymtotically approaching zero.'

Next time I will bloviate on my present feelings on post-surgery recovery. I hope to form a network of other patients with similar surgery, and get the facts from the other side of the knife.


Tags: surgery, back, spinal, stenosis

Monday, October 6, 2008

Start of Surgery

This is the initial blog.