For those who have come here because they're about to have the surgery or similar and want to know what they're getting into, I offer you a few tidbits.
1. Plan & pack accordingly. There were a few things that I purchased for my home or brought with me to the hospital that were very helpful
-- my file with all of my diagnostic tests and images (I don't go to any appointment without it)
-- my own ice packs because the ones at the hospital sucked (my room had its own freezer; get two so one can be chilling while the other is in use)
-- external batteries or an extension cord (most hospitals have outlets that aren't in convenient places for people with back injuries) for phone/ipod
-- flushable/disposable wipes (I couldn't shower for 3 days and these helped to feel a little more human)
-- 3/4 length bath robe with pockets (long enough to feel covered, short enough to not trip) and some easy-to-put-on, loose-fitting clothing.
-- sleep mask (you'll want to sleep as much as you can, whenever you're not eating or walking)
-- slip-on slippers with good treads
-- if you plan on using a cane (like my folding/adjustable one), bring it so you can practice with the physical/occupational therapists.
-- a fitness/step counter (trust me on this one -- not only did it motivate me to get me out of bed, but it also helped me measure how much was too much)
-- box of chocolates for the post-anesthesia care unit nurses in case you throw up on them (I didn't ... this time)
-- Zero Gravity Recliner (unless you already have a fancy one, this is an affordable alternative -- and it's about the only thing I can sleep in)
-- Reacher/Grabber (you will use this all the time)
-- Toilet Seat Riser (the one I linked to is easy to put on/take off -- if your toilet is in the middle of Siberia, you may want one with handles)
-- Shower Seat (showering can be exhausting and sometimes it's just nice to sit down and take a break)
2. Your posse is everything. Recovering from surgery is a lesson in humility and I learned that the first time I had to ask a friend help me take a shower, or feeling like an asshole for asking a friend to clean my cat's litterbox. Let people help you, let people love you. Surround yourself with all the people who show interest in either helping you physically (I used a Google Spreadsheet to coordinate visitors/helpers) or mentally/emotionally (I have a Google Hangout with people who are dedicated to keeping my head in the right place). You will need their strength on the days you don't have any.
Don't go it alone -- you will need someone with you at home for a few days/nights as you're still dealing with pain and instability. This person needs to do a few main tasks: (i) keep you hydrated (toss a little Miralax in whatever you're drinking) (ii) keep you medicated/on schedule (if you wait until you're in pain, it's too late) (iii) keep you fed (you'll need the strength) (iv) kick you out of bed (get up and walking every few hours).
3. Spine surgery rehab is non-linear. You'll have good moments and bad moments, good days and bad. Some of it is predictable, some of it is not. Try to focus on your progress and make adjustments as needed. If you focus on tiny setbacks, you will drive yourself bonkers. And if you find yourself going bonkers, lean on your posse.
4. Have a good sense of humor. Like I said above, this can be a really hard recovery both physically and mentally/emotionally. Everything you do will be affected by the surgery (and it already has been by the injury) and it will take time to recover. Take the smiles when they come, seek them out if there aren't enough. And with that in mind, I present to you, the many faces of Lord Squigglesworth, II:
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