tricks of the (fused) trade...

Last night, just for the fun of it, I went back and read my posts from the first month of my recovery. WOW. That is some rough stuff. It's amazing how I've forgotten some of the difficulties that I faced. But it was awesome to compare how hard it was initially to how well I'm doing now. It's like night and day, and every bit of that pain was worth it to get to where I am now.

I am terrible at keeping this blog updated, but I LOVE getting all the emails from you ladies considering surgery, or the post-op's who send me their messages as well. I get a lot of questions, and one of the most common ones is "what is life like for you now?" And I always answer with the's awesome! But I remember what it was like before I decided to have the "big" surgery, and wanted more than a vague answer that doesn't give you any specifics to hold onto when you're making the biggest, scariest decision of your life.

So, I have tried to come up with a few things that I do a little differently now that I can't bend or twist the way I did before my spine was fused. Because while I can do most things most people can, I may do them differently. I have found a few ways to work around that fusion, and a few things that spare my back extra strain. I will try to come back and add to this when I can, because the "list" is growing the longer I am post-op. Really, most of things are not what I would consider necessities, except for the first one. They are just handy things I have found along the way that work well with the challenges my fusion has presented.

1. I think one of the biggest things that has helped me on a day to day basis, especially now that I'm a mom, is having a handicap parking permit. I've shared this tip on the Preparing for Surgery section of my blog, but it bares want to do anything you can to spare your back from unnecessary twisting. Having that extra space around your car makes sure you don't have to twist to get out of your car when the car next to you parked too close. Immediately following surgery this is vital, and walking far is very difficult. I actually just had a reminder of why this is so important recently when I went to a local farmer's market where they don't have handicap parking, and there are no lines in the dirt to mark individual parking spaces. When I got back from walking around for a few hours, I found that someone had parked so close to my car that I couldn't get into it. I happened to have my 2 year old with me that day as well, so it was pretty upsetting when I realized I couldn't get into my own car! Thankfully the farmer's market is within 10 minutes walking distance from my house, so I just walked home, and sent my husband back to get my car, but if it had been anywhere else it would have been a nightmare. So, parking is a big deal, as it's something we do almost every day, and it's a pretty basic need to be able to open your door wide enough so you don't hurt your back. Handicap parking also makes it much easier to see around you, so when you backup it's safer for you and people behind you.  Long-term, you will always need to protect your fusion, and my surgeon gave me a permanent permit because of that issue.

2. This tip is a "would be nice" if you can get it...not a necessity. However, they are becoming more and more common, and if you are in the market for a newer car, I highly recommend ponying up for a backup camera. Since you're not able twist, this gives you clear idea of what's behind you, and even if you're not fused, it's so much safer! I am happily driving the newest version of the Toyota Highlander which features a nice big backup camera, with the added feature of animated projected path lines. It also has several other features like little alerts if a car is in your blind spot, or something is behind you. Driving with your new back is sometimes a challenge, but the newer cars seem to be built with us in mind!

3. At over 3 years post op, I STILL use my grabber on a daily basis. My 2 year old son leaves trails of toys everywhere, and it's just nice not having to stoop to pick them up every day. It also comes in handy when something falls behind the couch, under the nightstand, or in-between the wall and the entertainment center. So I would consider this a necessity, and since they are relatively easy to find, and cheaply priced, they are well worth having around.

4. Here is something that works for me, and I wouldn't consider it a necessity, but definitely makes my life easier: a wall unit oven. At our old house where we lived when I had the surgery, I had a traditional oven that sat on the floor. As I went through recovery, and started cooking for myself again, I found that I really struggled with getting food safely in and out of the oven. It could be done, but it was awkward, and I was always worried about burning myself. When we moved about 8 months into my recovery, the house we are currently in has a wall unit oven. It is high enough off the floor that I don't have to bend at all to get things in and out and I must say I appreciate it very much. It's safer, and easier on my back. But like I said, I don't think this is something you would have to run out and spend big money on, but if it was an option for you I would highly recommend it!

4. Having a bed that has a slightly higher bed-frame has made changing the sheets MUCH easier for me. When I had the surgery we owned a low platform style bed, that basically sat on the floor. It was impossible for me to change the sheets. So we started searching for a new bed-frame, and actually measured beds to make sure the mattress would be at a height that would be easier for me to change the sheets. I would mention this is still a task that is kind of hard for me, but I have found that buying sheets with EXTRA deep pockets has helped make it easier.

5. For those of you having babies post-op, I highly recommend reading this blog post I wrote a while ago about the wonderful crib that I swear was designed for people like us: check it out by clicking here.  Along those same lines, I found when Jude was little, using a regular pack'n'play when we traveled was impossible. So after doing a little search online I found that newer versions of pack'n'plays have a bassinet that sits in the upper level so you don't have to reach so far down to lay the baby down. Check out one version by clicking here. I would definitely say this is a necessity if you have a baby post-op.

6. I keep a chair in the shower. Not very posh, but a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do to get her legs shaved. It's just safer to sit, and not risk slipping. We have a standard old-lady shower chair, nothing expensive, and for the money I think it's worth having to prevent any accidents.

7. In keeping with my "old lady trend" I also keep a small push cart in the garage that folds up. I pull that bad boy out when I get home from the grocery store, and load all of my bags into it so I can make ONE trip in and out of the house, and I don't have to carry the heavy bags. It's much easier on my back, and it saves time too! This is definitely not a necessity, but it's just a little way to save your back, and make your life a little easier at the same time. They aren't that expensive, here's one on amazon that you can check out.

8. A side by side fridge may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of things that can help you post-op, okay, probably not even the 55th thing that comes to mind. But I LOVE mine. I know the new thing is having a giant bottom drawer on a fridge, but for me that is not ideal. I like the side by side because things in general are higher up. And the higher they are up, the easier they are for me to grab. I'm sure I wouldn't starve to death if we had one of the fancy new fridges with the giant ice drawer on the bottom, or a traditional one with the large fridge on the bottom, but it definitely seems to be easier on my back to have a side by side.

Okay, well that's all I can think of for now. But I will definitely add more more along the way! If you have any tricks or suggestions, please feel free to send them my way and I can add them!

P.S. I wish I was a paid spokesperson for ANY of these products I mentioned...but I'm not. (Heck, I'd have settled to have gotten a discount on any of them!) So you can rest assured that these are all genuine recommendations from someone who has actually used them, and found them beneficial. I'll be sure to let you know if I ever become wealthy beyond my wildest dreams by promoting items on my blog ;)