Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Day After Jim’s Surgery

Jim had a good day today.  The third day, tomorrow, is frequently a bad day.  Something about rates of inflammation, blah de blah de blah.  The surgeon gave us an acronym for it, which of course I can not remember, nor the explanation of why that is.  The older I get, the less recall I have.

Here is Jim walking out the door with his Physical Therapist.  She told us that 75% of people having this surgery go home with a walker.  The walker helps with balance and unloads the surgical site just a little.  At this point we don’t know if we’ll be buying one or not, but she indicated that Jim is a good candidate for not needing it.  Jim also walked up and down the four step stairs they have in the occupational therapy room.  That orange band is a strap that they grab if the patient starts heading for the deck.


This is Jim’s new hardware.  See the screws in his vertebrae? The screws hold the vertebrae in place with proper spacing.  There is cadaver bone acting as a spacer.


One of the things we’ve learned is that the spinous process is removed during the surgery.  They take the bone and grind it up.  It’s put back in to the space freed up by the removal of the disc.  The presence of the bone dust tricks the body into thinking there is a broken bone.  That results in the production of new bone cells in the area.  After about a year, the space between the vertebrae is full of new bone.  The screws become unnecessary, but they are never removed.  They’re buried in bone. Click on the screen scrape for more clarity.


The other thing you can see in this x-ray is the fix to Jim’s pelvis from 2006.  He has 17 screws from the surgery that rebuilt his pelvis after the crash.  At this point, he’ll probably never be able to pass through an airport scanner!


The PT and Occupational Therapist have been amusing to me.  They keep asking us if we have grab bars in the shower or shower chairs.  When we say no, we get a response (like a bug look) that wonders why we don’t have these things.  We’re in an RV!  There are no grab bars, a shower chair will not fit!  What do you want from us?  It’s fun to watch, I think they don’t get too many full timers.

Today’s key learning is this.  If you have compression of the spinal nerves with the concomitant pain, DO NOT SIT DOWN.  Jim is doing well because we kept riding.  After he couldn’t walk any distance, we kept riding.  I think we were still doing 70-80 miles a week after things went to hell.  The stronger you are before surgery, the better you will be after it.  If you can’t ride, swim.  If you can’t swim, then dog paddle or tread water. 


  1. That's some impressive hardware! We'll be crossing paws it does the job and gets Jim back into spring chicken form. His excellent pre-surgery condition will def help. We'll be thinking of you!


    1. Thanks for the paw crossings. We do appreciate their furry little selves.

  2. Holy cow. Talk about the 6 million dollar man. If he's already going up and down those steps he is doing fantastic. Keep up the good work.

    1. We were pretty happy about that. I had been wondering how he was going to get into the RV. Now I'm wondering how he gets in and out of the pickup truck.

  3. Wow, Jim is just full of hardware!
    Sounds like he's doing great. Of course, most of the doctors, nurses and therapists are used to taking care of patients who are much more frail than Jim is at his age. It definitely pays to stay active.

  4. You're absolutely right about getting fit before surgery, as I've witnessed this with cycling friends who have had hip replacement surgery. I'm sure his determination and resolve will stand him in very good stead, and your problem may be keeping him from doing things too quickly. All the best. I hope you got Eurosport for Jim to watch the Vuelta.

  5. Wow, that is some impressive hardware! He has me beat on the pelvis hardware: I have a plate and 4 (or 5, can't recall) screws. It sounds like he is coming along well. Hope he won't need a walker in the RV!

  6. Thank goodness for having a decent fitness level! Never give up on exercise!