05 December 2010

surgery and pain

Success! That's the first and most important thing I want to note.

On Nov 19th I had surgery: abdominal reconstruction and revision to my residual limb (sounds gruesome, but those are the technical terms). Both surgeries were planned, and I was lucky to have them both done the same day. Three days later, I woke up (the day before Thanksgiving). As usual, I have dim memories of very bizarre dreams during that time. Anaesthesia seems to do that to me. Discharged on Nov 30th, I've been home for five days already.

Recently I participated in a study about chronic pain (actually, the study continues; I've completed the first portion of the study) and it has made me think more deeply about living with pain. Over the past two years, I had become accustomed to living with a certain degree of pain. Largely controlled by medication, my pain level ranged between 0-3 (on the standard pain scale of 0-10, where 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain imaginable). If it reached 3, that usually meant that I had forgotten to take my meds. But now, recovering from surgery, it's different.

Every morning, I feel like I've been beat up. Everything is sore and achy and my surgery sites are particularly sensitive. Two percocet, one neurontin and a cup of coffee later, and I'm ready to move around a little -- enough to get myself bathed, dressed and fed. But my movements are limited, both by pain and by doctors' orders. I'll be ok with this for a short while, but I can't imagine living with pain for the rest of my life, as do some people. Already I've learned my limitations: pain impacts my ability to concentrate, to plan for the future, to maintain an upbeat frame of mind. Luckily for me, the pain will recede as my body heals.

Also, I try to keep meds to a minimum. They dull my thought processes and reduce my stamina. (I'm trying to get some work done!) I read about the success of acupuncture for treatment of phantom limb pain. Once I'm recovered from these recent procedures, I'm going to give it a try.

Best wishes to all for a pain-free year!

1 comment:

  1. Brenda, I was thinking of you and Cristina this week - the anniversary that will always link the two of you together in my mind. I'm glad you found me on LinkedIn because I had no idea you had a blog. Reading through your first "self-concious" year as an amputee, I am inspired by the strength you must summon to stay upbeat. Sadly, part of my heart hardened after my sojourn in Mali, and is only now re-softening. Keep up the hard work of simply living each day and importantly, keep writing about it. If you find yourself in Boston, please be in touch ---