:Preparing for Scoliosis Surgery & Why I Had It Now:

Preparing for this surgery can seem like a mammoth task. Here is a list of things I think are MUST-Haves for recovery, as well as a few blog posts about my frame of mind as I prepared for this surgery. Feel free to email me any suggestions or additions, as the more people who contribute the more we can help others!

-Here is a somewhat abbreviated form of that list: Click Here to view and print. Scroll down for the entire list.
-Here are some Pre-Op questions for your surgeon: Click Here to view and print.
-Here are some random things I wish I had known about pre-op: Click Here to view
-How to survive the post-op constipation: Click Here to view and print list of suggested "helpers."
-Here are some tips that are just for the Ladies: Click Here to view.

I have also provided my biggest reasons for why I decided to have the surgery. Deciding to have the surgery can be a very difficult thing, (it took me about a year to finally decide to do it) and it helped me to see why others had decided to do it before me.

Pre-Op Blog Posts:
Tomorrow I'll Be Taller (from the night before my surgery)
Here are the reasons I decided to have the surgery now:
1. I was continuing to progress.
My curves had increased to over 50 degrees, and seemed to be progressing at the rate of about 1 degree a year. After learning that the curves can be affected by pregnancy, menopause, or simply increasing without any reason (that is the hardest thing about scoliosis!) I decided I would rather deal with the problem now before it got any worse. The larger the curves and the older you are, the less correction you can get, because your muscles stiffen as you age.

2. I had insurance that would cover it.
This is a very big deal, as this surgery costs around $350,000.00. I don't know if I will always be covered for this, and I didn't want to risk NEEDING to have the surgery, and not being able to afford it.

3. I was healthy enough to have the surgery.
Another big deal, as who knows what will happen to me later on in life? Health is not always in our control. Again, I was concerned about NEEDING to have the surgery later on, and not being able to do it because of some sickness or other extenuating circumstance. Also, being younger has its advantages. You generally heal faster and the recovery process can be a lot less painful as a result.

4. I hadn't had children yet
Having children to take care of, of any age, at ANY time is a taxing job. But when you can't even take care of yourself, taking care of young children becomes next to impossible without a lot of extra help. I was concerned since my curves were large already, that my curves would become even worse due to the pregnancy hormones. I didn't want to have a baby and then immediately need to have surgery. I have to say, many women I spoke with on the forum had to do just that, and they all managed it somehow. I am in awe of them! Most of them did say however, that if they could do it over, they would have had the surgery first if they could have. I also spoke with many women who had gotten pregnant after the surgery, and they said they had no problems, and some said the pregnancy was easier after the surgery because their backs were straight and they had that extra stability.

5. I had support
My mom and husband were prepared for this surgery, and able to take care of me. My Mom stayed for over 2 weeks, and took care of me around the clock. We also had friends in the area that were able to bring us food, which was a huge help in the initial month and a half when cooking was out of the question for me, and my husband was too exhausted to do more than he already was!

6. I could work from home.
This is a rare situation, and I feel extremely blessed that I had the option to work from home. It allowed me to return to work sooner than I would have otherwise, since I didn't have to sit at a desk.

7. I had a surgeon that I trusted, in my city.
He is an experienced, caring scoliosis specialist, and he happens to practice in my town, 20 minutes away. I didn't have to travel to have the surgery, and that was a big plus, as I know many people have to fly or drive miles from their home, get a hotel rooms, and so on. It is worth all that trouble if you don't have a great surgeon in your town. But like I said, I was very thankful I didn't have to!

My List of Things to do and buy before Surgery:

For the House:
  • Give it one last REALLY good cleaning: I will not and be able to do any toilet scrubbing, floor sweeping, or mirror wiping for at least 3-6 months. After my last cleaning, I then resign myself to watch the dust bunnies grow and eventually take over the corners of my home. Hopefully they will be nice, friendly, cuddly dust bunnies.
  • Memory Foam Mattress and/or Topper: I highly recommend getting any brand of the many memory foam mattress that are out there. They keep you from sinking in, they are neither too firm or too soft, and they keep you from having any pressure put on one area of the body. I already have this, but I think it is a wonderful thing to have (even if you DON'T have back problems!). We got ours from Wal-Mart by ordering it online. Worth every penny!
  • Re-organize my closet and chest of drawers: Anything in low drawers or high in my closet is taken out and put on the three shelves in my closet I can get to without reaching up or down. Since I'll mostly be wearing sweatpants and pj's, I don't need a lot of room. Shoes also are very tricky since I won't be able to reach my feet, let alone tie shoelaces, so I get all slip-on style shoes and place them in a line on the floor where I can slip into them easily. While doing this, I remember to thank Jesus I was born in, and currently still live in a state that has about a week and a half of winter, and flip-flops are worn virtually all year round.
  • Re-organize the kitchen: Any pots, pans or cooking apparatuses (such as my trusty crock-pot) are taken out from under the counter and placed where I can reach them easily. I also put anything I eat/drink a lot of, like my organic milk, on the middle shelf in the fridge. Again, everything should be at a height I neither have to reach up to or down to. I won't need this right away, but once I'm feeling a little better, I won't have to ask my hubby to do it for me. Note: Bendy straws are very helpful, you may want to buy a few bags of them.
  • Get the raised toilet seat out of the garage. yep. I just said "out of the garage" because I already have one. 
  • Put a stool in the shower: It's good to have a place to rest in the shower. It's amazing how tiring standing is after surgery, and showers are actually quite exhausting. Having a place to sit down minimizes the risk of falling. If you don't want to buy a stool, a great substitute is the raised toilet seat, (as long as it has legs).  It can be brought into your shower, if it's big enough, it's nice and high, and has handles. 
  • Buy a grabber, or two: These are another post-op MUST HAVE. It is incredibly frustrating to drop the remote, have it three feet from your hand but out of reach because you can't bend to reach it. What I would like to figure out though, is what to do about getting the grabber off the floor when you've dropped it.
The Must-Have Grabber
  • Set up a mini-pharmacy/mini-fridge next to my bed: I clear everything off my bedside table and replace it with a bin full of painkillers, crackers, applesauce (to eat with the medicine) a note pad to keep track of my doses, water bottle, and alcohol wipes (they help with nausea).
  • Ask friends for any and all DVD's they will let me borrow: I won't be able to read because of all the heavy painkillers, so TV is essential for helping me get through those boring and painful days. Set them on a buffet where I can access them easily. 
  • UPDATE: Ok, so after this surgery I have discovered Netflix. Now, I already knew about this service that delivers DVD's directly to your home, but I had been unaware of a wonderful new option that I highly recommend getting for this recovery. That is, Instant Netflix. If you use a laptop (like I do) you can watch DVD's instantly online, any time day or night. And it is VERY cheap. I opted to get the home delivery and the instant, as some DVD's are not always available yet for Instant. We also ponied up and bought a DVD player that connects wirelessly to our internet service, so I am able to watch movies instantly on there as well. It's nice to have it available on your laptop though, for those early days when getting down to the couch may be too difficult or uncomfortable. I would put my laptop on my stomach and hit play, and voila, I could watch hours of documentaries, PBS shows, newly released movies and so on without (and this is they key) having to sit up. For around 12 bucks a month (or as low as 8 for just Instant Netflix), you really can't beat it. It really helped me pass the time, and having so many different things to watch was wonderful. And seriously, when else are you going to have the time to watch every single episode of LOST in order, or all of Ken Burn's The Civil War? Do it. You won't regret it!
To Bring to the Hospital:
  • Freshly laundered Bathrobe: This is a MUST. Unless you like walking down the hallways, hospital gown flowing in the wind...
  • Slippers with a good rubber soul: Traction is very nice, and your own comfy slippers are much better than the socks they give you.
  • Underwear and socks
  • Deodorant: You're not showering for a good 5-9 days, and will be smelly. Yuck. At least try to mask it with deodorant. If you are even aware...which you probably won't be. So ask whoever is there with you, like your husband or mom, to not let you stink up the room.
  • Face wipes/baby wipes: These are great for in the hospital, because like I said, you'll be stinky. They are also great for at home, because you won't be able to wash your face in the sink, because you can't bend that far. These are a MUST if you like having a clean face. And I still use them!
  • Hair clips/ponytail holders: If you have longer hair, it's nice to get it out of your face. Again, after 5-9 days with no shower, it will be a rat's nest by the time you leave. But at least you can keep it from getting in your eyes!
  • Chapstick
  • Cellphone and charger, though I don't think I used mine. But if you end up being there longer than you expected, or if you don't have someone staying with you in the hospital, these are good to have.
  • Your own pillow, with CLEAN pillowcase: I can't sleep without my memory foam pillow, but I have heard that after this surgery in particular, I will need to be careful about not propping my head up too high. We'll see. I'd rather bring it, and not need it, than wish I had it. It's also nice to have pillows to cushion you on the way home.
  • Earplugs: I started sleeping with these when I got married to a man who saws logs while we sleep. But they are also great in a hospital where there is constant beeping, bumping, humming and various other noises. They help you drown them out just enough to get much needed naps in-between all the vital-sign checking and whatnot. 
  • Contacts/Glasses: If you wear contacts, they make you leave them out for the surgery. If you're blind like me, you will want to put your contacts in as soon as you're coherent. 
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • ipod/mp3 player: I am planning on being in the hospital at least 7 days, so having something to make the time go by can be helpful. I remember I listened to music when my pain was really bad after my last surgery and it was helpful. I will also make sure my favorite podcasts are ready to go, as they are a great way to pass the time. I think this depends on each person and each recovery on how helpful this will be, as you may not even be coherent enough to know you're listening to music.
  • Comfy clothes to wear home from hospital: I.E. loose, stretchy pants and tops that are easy to get on. Jackets that zip up the front are great; hoodies that you have to pull over your head, not so great...
  • Bucket to throw up in on the way home: Just sayin'......No but really. Those meds mess up your stomach, and depending on how far/bumpy the drive is you may feel very car sick even if you've never been car sick a day in your life. There's nothing more stressful than feeling like you need to throw up, being in a ton of pain, and being in a car driving down the road. Just having the bucket there will make you relax a little knowing you won't get it all over whomever was nice enough to give you a ride home...
  • Wedding rings and other jewelry I usually wear. It's not worth the risk of getting lost or stolen at the hospital.
                                                  For Myself:
  • Get one last haircut. It'll be around 6 months before I get another one.
  • Trim toenails. Won't be able to reach them for quite some time.
  • ASK FOR HELP: Having friends who can help with laundry, walking/feeding the dog, running to the grocery store or pharmacy, or can give you a ride to post-op appointments are awesome. It never hurts to ask! And asking people to help you with specific things is important. People probably have no idea that you won't be able to put your own shoes on, let alone reach the dog-food in the pantry...UPDATE: Here is a great website you can use to set up a schedule of meals to get you (well, mostly whoever is taking care of you, since you'll be feeling pretty sick the first few weeks most likely) through the first month or more. I had amazing friends that brought us meals for the first 2 months post-op, which turned out to be a life saver. The entire time I was on the heavier drugs, cooking was just impossible, and dangerous. I don't know what I would have done without them! Anyway, this website makes it very simple to keep track of who's coming and at what time: http://www.takethemameal.com/
  • Ask your doctor/surgeon about getting a handicap parking decal. It is very, very helpful especially in the first 3-5 months when driving is necessary, but still uncomfortable. It allows you to have ample space to open your door, so you can get in and out without twisting. You should be able to get one for at least 6 months.
  • And finally, have your Mom come stay with you. Cause really, who doesn't want their mom to take care of them when they don't feel well? Having a mom that is medically trained is very helpful. Try to have one of those if you can at all manage it. I highly recommend it.