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‘So, how are you doing?’

Posted: July 3, 2014 8:44 a.m.
Updated: July 7, 2014 5:00 a.m.

The title of this week’s column is the oft-asked question I’ve received since my surgery back on June 13. The polite thing to answer, of course, is “Oh, I’m fine.”

I’ve always found that -- while certainly polite -- to usually be a shade off the truth. So, my answer the last few weeks has been “I’m hanging in there.”

Surgery doesn’t automatically cure whatever ails you. As I’m sure many people who have had surgery of whatever kind can tell you, not only does it take time for whatever was wrong the surgery meant to correct to heal up properly, you end up with having to recover from the surgery itself.

Think about it: your body has been traumatized. In my case, a surgeon cut open the space between the right side of my neck and my throat, scooped out a couple of bad discs a couple of levels above where my neck joins the spine and put in a plate -- with screws! -- to hold those vertebrae in place.

Then he sewed me back up again.

So, needless to say, I’m not “fine,” but I am on the road to recovery.

As I mentioned in a column I wrote prior to my surgery, I am wearing a collar to keep me from inadvertently whipping my head from side to side. It affords me some movement up and down, but I try not to overdo it. I also have a soft collar I wear while eating or just when I’m relaxing around the house.

As usual, and also as I’ve mentioned before, my pain medication (a hydrocodone/acetaminophen mixture) can make me itchy depending on other circumstances that I have yet to quite pinpoint. That’s caused a few restless nights here and there. Luckily, the surgeon is in the process of weaning me off those.

The medicine is necessary and for a pretty weird reason. The 1-inch incision itself doesn’t really hurt. It does itch, I’m guessing probably from stitches. So what about in my throat? I had a little trouble swallowing for the first few days, but was able to eat pretty regular food pretty quickly. The problem was that my neck and upper back were still hurting. Or, rather, they were hurting because of the surgery.

There’s this thing called pain transference or something. There’s apparently no real pain in my throat, but the surgery still caused that trauma I was talking about. So, it transferred the pain right to the very points we’re trying to “cure.”

Aggravating, but it does seem to -- slowly -- be getting better.

What’s really annoying is my right index finger. Again, due to the surgery and, supposedly, this will dissipate as I heal, but it feels like someone has tightly bandaged the upper half of that finger. It’s numb, tight and hurts as I do the one thing I love to do: type and spend time on the computer.

I spent only one night in the hospital (that was enough, thank you very much -- I’m a bad patient, to be honest) and then the next almost 10 days at home. On the couch. Going crazy.

Let’s just say that as tired as I was, I was ready to go back to work on June 23. I was not, however, quite up to going to cover meetings. Thank you to Gary Phillips and Tenell Felder for covering for me at, respectively, recent KershawHealth board and Camden City Council meetings. I’m pretty much back on track in that regard and should be at the hospital board’s next meeting on the 14th and, as it is skipping its meeting tomorrow, city council’s meeting on 22nd.

I watched a lot of movies, spent a lot of time browsing the Internet, but even more time sleeping at odd times.

The surgeon saw me for a follow up on June 24 and cleared me for driving. Now, that’s been interesting. I, of course, have to wear the hard neck brace. That, in turn, if you’ll pardon the oncoming pun, means I have to turn my entire upper body as best I can to look left and right. So far, no accidents. I’m trying to take as many right turns and going to lighted intersections to avoid crossing lanes of traffic.

So far, so good.

I’ll be seeing the surgeon again at the end of the month. Hopefully, by then, the stitches may have come out on their own. If not, I’m sure it’ll be more than time. I also hope I won’t have to wear the collars anymore. By then, the hope is that my neck will have strengthened enough to not have to use them.

I also hope the pain I suffered from my accident last August will be truly gone (and that my right index finger will have stopped misbehaving). It’s been a long time and to have put up with various medicines, physical therapy, interventional radiology using steroid injections and now surgery, enough is enough.

So, how am I doing?

I’m hanging in there and getting better every day.

Hearing an old friend for the first time

As part of my self-therapy in proving to myself that I can go out and do things on my own while recovering from my surgery, I decided to do something I’ve never been able to do: hang out at a local restaurant and listen to one of my favorite people play a few tunes.

I spent most of a recent Saturday afternoon at a local eatery listening to former C-I staffer Jim Tatum and new friend Ed Grossheim play a nice long set of originals and covers.

I’ve known for years that Jim can play and sing, and that he’s played in various combos at various venues for years. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to go see him perform until the other day.

I’m glad I did. I had fun, hung out with some other friends and got to hear an old friend sing for the first time. Cool beans!

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