Back Surgery – Through a Patients Eyes

You’ve done your research…and decided that back surgery is right for you.  But, what can you expect to encounter through your journey?  What plans do you need to make? Are there some ideas to make the process go smoother?

I’m currently 10 weeks post op from having “Lumbar Fusion”… a disc placed through the front, and a rod placed through the back.  As a patient, I am so willing to share my experience, and the things that I’ve learned which helped me through this challenge.  Let’s go there now…

Surgery Date 

You have learned the risks of the surgery; you have heard the good and the bad. Today is the day that you do not think of any of the negative or worries of the surgery. When you start to play those thoughts through your mind, distract yourself. You can get unnecessarily worked up, and today is not the day for that.  You also need to remember, your job is to just show up to the hospital… That’s it!  You will be asleep through the entire thing. Put your confidence in the surgical team that has spent many years learning and practicing for this day.

Prepare for and Manage the Pain

This is a BIG topic, and you will find meaningful results with a little pre-planning.  With the opioid epidemic that the nation is facing, it will affect your life for the next 12 hours. Hospitals now have policies in place to “under treat” your pain initially.  They will always start with medication very mild, and will work up to something stronger that matches your pain level.  However, in my case, I went 8 hours at a pain level of 10 before comfort came. 8 hours in that kind of pain is horrible.  So what can you do to prepare?  I learned the next day in talking with my doctor that his orders were that I could have anything up to a certain level or morphine without him even being called.  So, why then did I suffer? Not because of doctors’ orders, but because of hospital policy.  I HIGHLY recommend that you have a discussion with your surgeon prior to your surgery that goes something like this, “I’ve learned that hospital policies have changed to better control pain management right out of surgery.  Should they start with a low dose of medication that is not treating the pain, what do you suggest that I do?”  You then have a plan with the surgeon going into the surgery that you can lean on if the hospital falls short of dealing with your pain.

Hospital Stay

When my doctor said to plan on 5 days in the hospital, I blew it off as… “He doesn’t know me”.  PLAN ON 5 DAYS!  It doesn’t matter how tough you think you are, expect time there.  This is a big deal, and is a major surgery… from both sides of your body. Should you have a complication from surgery, it is likely to up and be recognized through the staff there, as well as your vital signs etc.  Don’t push things at this step.  The hospital will likely keep you until you satisfy these categories:

Your O2 Sats stay above 90 without oxygen. (Don’t cheat on this on.  You don’t want to be home with breathing issues.  The surgery will affect the way that your lungs process oxygen.

   Your Bladder needs to be working properly. The surgery affects your bowels big time. Even though they have not been operated on, they have been moved out of the way to allow the surgery.

You need to have a bowel movement in order to be discharged.

Physical Therapy has to give you the green light to go. You need to be able to walk down the hall and back in control with a walker.  Therapy will likely come to your room twice a day.  You are never happy to see them.  You’ve just basically been in a car accident and they want you to go on a walk with them.  This is the time to push yourself. Walking will be your best friend, as you will find it to be the best way to minimize your pain. When you stand, expect some discomfort as you are placing the load on your spine.  Give yourself a few minutes before you actually start to walk. The first time I stood, the pain was intense, as I had a “stinger” on one side.  I couldn’t put any weight on one leg.  The second time up, still having the pain, I began to put just a bit of pressure on that foot…. and in 10 minutes, I started to walk. The next day, the longer I walked I noticed the pain start to diminish.


The hospital gave me a Walker and a Reach Gripper Tool.  I’m 6′ 2″ so I needed a toilet riser which you can get on Amazon for $35.  You will need all 3 of these items if you are tall. You will use the walker for 2 weeks.  Save yourself some dignity, and don’t put tennis balls on the back legs. This only needs to be done if you have hard floors and someone lives beneath you, as it does make a lot of noise.  The gripper tool is a MUST. This is how you pick things up, as well as assist you in getting dressed. Attach it to your walker so it’s always available.  If you have this, you will not be tempted to bend over which is forbidden.  After two weeks of the walker, I was stable enough to walk with a cane.    Don’t spend a lot of money on this, because you will likely only need a cane for a week. I got mine at the dollar store and mounted some Harley Davidson hardware on it… cuz… that’s how I roll.


It took me 10 weeks to become pain free.  Set your mind to this time period. Each day up to this time period, you wonder if you will ever have a quality of life.  The mornings are the worst.  While you have been sleeping, your back gets stiff, and you always wake up to a paralyzing pain. The best thing that you can do is to get moving.  Work through the pain to get to your feet and walk, (using a walker at first). The very worst thing that you can do is to lie in bed all day trying to recover.  Get up frequently, and walk around the house. Avoid Bending, Twisting and Lifting.  You will find pain relief from walking.

Back To Work

Getting back to work and having a routine is very helpful.  You and your doctor can determine when it’s time to return.  My doctor told me 4 to 6 weeks, which would have driven me nuts. My indicators in returning to work were:

  1. Distance walking. Can I walk (with a walker) the required distance that my job demands?
  2. Comfort in riding in the car. Don’t overlook this requirement. Getting in and out of the car is a challenge, sitting for the entire ride, and dealing with the bumpy rode are all factors.
  3. What does your job entail? I work in an office behind a desk which allowed me to return sooner.

At a week and a half, I came to work for 3-4 hours a day.  I did that for a week, and then went to full time.  This was the perfect balance for me.

Physical Therapy

At 6 weeks, I attended a physical therapy session.  I recommend this to all of you. The therapist did a quite extensive skeletal evaluation to see if the fusion was happening correctly.  In addition, you will be shown the several exercises that you can do at home each day.  These are helpful, and include muscle stretching. The focus here is not weight training, rather, to get your body as flexible as possible.  When this is optimized, your entire body will distribute your task weight distribution…. and not just your lower back.  Being overly independent, I did not continue my physical therapy at the clinic, but am involved each day with a self-guided program.

Would I Do It Again?

Simple answer… YES!! Prepare yourself mentally, if not you will sink into despair. 70 days of pain is what you are signing up for.  The pain is controlled by medication for the first week or two. And it certainly gets less and less with time, but expect each morning to be greeted with pain.

I am 100% now… I’m far better than before my surgery. I still have my weight lifting limitations, which are very doable.

Bipolar and Violence

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It seems as though when someone is diagnosed with a mental illness, one of the first things that others wonder is…”Are they going to be violent towards other people?” This thought can be very appropriate when it comes to other mental illnesses like Schizophrenia, (a topic for another day).  But as it relates to those with bipolar disease, what are the risks and facts relating to violence?

I’m happy to report that when patients are in treatment, taking their medication there is no difference in them becoming violent compared to someone without the diagnosis.

That being said, when a Bp patient has chosen to self medicate with illegal drugs, there can be a tendency for them to become violent.  But, yet again, the same goes for someone without the diagnosis, taking the same illegal drugs, (spice comes to mind).

Things that you might find helpful though.  While in a Manic phase, it is quite common for the patient to become irritable, and at times somewhat aggressive.  Family members should understand these changes or symptoms.  This is not the best time to push for them to clean their room, or work to get their grades up. If aggression is witnessed, remember, it’s part of the disease… and it’s not to be taken personal.

On the flip side, when the patient has entered the phase of depression, this is the period when “self-harm” might occur.  Self harm can involve, cutting, burning, punching ones self, and any other form of them hurting themselves.  Unlikely… Yes, but as it relates to this topic of violence, this would be the time in which self harm would occur.

These are both extreme examples.  Bp patients can live a very happy, productive life… free of violence or harm.  Treatment is important to pursue, but once a therapy plan has been implemented, they can live a life undetected of  being Bipolar.

Understanding one another helps us in our relationships.  It is common nature to judge others based upon how we feel about things.  But, we are all different… Some of us have been wired differently than the norm.  When others understand why we do some of the things that we do, relationships aren’t set back due to feelings of being hurt by a characteristic of the disease, and not the personal intent of the patient.


Can diet make a difference with Anxiety?

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I have not found a medical term to describe the feeling that some of us with anxiety get, when we experience an anxiety fueled “emotional state of doom”. This is not a panic attack, something different. It is the WORST feeling ever, and is the hardest emotion to deal with.  So, I’ll describe it with these words:

Anguish, Wretchedness, Fatalism, Despair, Urgently hopeless, Overwhelming sorrow, Acute distress.

If you’ve experienced this feeling, you know what I’m talking about.  You are emotionally troubled to the point of urgently begging for it to stop. 5 seconds become 5 weeks.  It is excruciating!!! Almost like a bad conscience X 100.

Years ago, before my mom’s death, I recall going to her house.  She wasn’t doing well, and I found her on the bathroom floor.  Her face was horrified, her skin clammy and white… She told me that she was feeling what I’ve just described to you above, yet she had no idea what it was.  “I just feel so scared that something awful is going to happen… Help me,” she begged.

Last Saturday, I found myself in that same state.  Prior to this feeling I had just cooked some elk steaks, and not knowing what else to do, I ate them…  Within 15 minutes… The feeling was gone… Completely! How could I have just gone to both extremes so quickly?

I was curious to know what just happened.  I jumped on the internet and looked up protein and anxiety, and would like to share what I learned with you.

There are foods and drinks that can affect our anxiety.  I’d like for you to consider them as you think about your day-to-day eating and drinking.

GOOD   Protein, Beef, Turkey, Salmon, Spinach, Avocado, Nuts, Water, Seeds, Magnesium (in moderation), Vitamin B Complex Carbohydrates, and Omega 3 Fatty Acids.

BAD   Caffeine, Energy Drinks, Alcohol, Refined Sugar, Processed Meat

First off… When you experience a heightened moment of anxiety….eat a steak!  I’m serious.  You try it, and prove me wrong.  Notice how you feel in 15 minutes, as I know it will help you.  Experiment with the GOOD food items listed to see how it affects your anxiety level.  Just try them first when your anxiety is high. When you have identified the specific foods that helps, don’t just wait for the anxiety to come, include these in your daily diet.. preventing the anxiety from coming on strong to begin with.

As it relates to the BAD list…  I’m not your mother, and my intention is not to tell you what you can and can’t eat, (I’m a big Diet Mt Dew fan myself).  But I want you to be aware of the things that can bring on anxiety.  These things are opening up the floodgate of anxiety and pouring it into your body.  You then can decide if they are something that you want to cut back on, or not… simply be aware.

I have to strongly state this.  Alcohol is by far the worst anxiety inducer when it comes to heightening anxiety, (research it for yourself).  The day after consuming lots of alcohol, (party), you will notice that you are experiencing some of your greatest anxiety levels. You take note, and then decide what you would like to do with your findings.

Start your day off with some protein.. You choose what kind.  A scoop of peanut butter if you’re on the go.  Most of us wake up in the morning with a bit of anxiety.  Protein will immediately combat that as well as.

Eat complex carbohydrates as well throughout the day. Carbohydrates are thought to increase the amount of serotonin in your brain, which has a calming effect. Eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains — for example, oatmeal, quinoa, whole-grain breads and whole-grain cereals. Steer clear of foods that contain simple carbohydrates, such as sugary foods and drinks.

Some of you who have tried the Atkins diet, which resulted in you becoming an emotional mess… now you know why.  You need the Complex Carbs to function.

Specific Foods and drinks make a difference with anxiety.  Incorporate them  into your lifestyle both as a daily treatment, as well as a urgent fix to that pesky anxiety that sometimes gets the best of us.




Your Life Can Change in an Instant!

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It was just another routine day for me. Wake up early, get ready for work, and begin the hour drive into the office…Just like I have done for the past 11 years.

Days before, we had been pounded with several snow storms making the drive difficult. But the snowplows had been diligent with their continued efforts to keep the snow off of the roads, and laying down the lifesaving salt behind them.

It was refreshing this day to drive at the speed limit. No snow on the roads today, just a wet… salty.. mist filled the air, kicked up from the traffic in front of me. This was inconvenient at most, but was quickly resolved with a squirt of washer fluid, and the cleansing of the wiper blades. But then… comfort went to chaos very quickly.

I pulled the fluid squirt lever back…. there was no fluid left, and the wipers smeared the salty mixture on the windshield to create a barrier which I could not see out of.

I was in the middle lane, surrounded by cars, traveling 70 miles an hour. At that same moment, the sun hit the windshield, making everything in front of me disappear. I was in trouble! I could not see where I was going, and knew that the direction of the road was changing ahead of me.

How could this happen to me? I am the most prepared person on the planet. Always checking, always preparing…And now it was certain that I was going to crash…. My thought… “Jesus, take the wheel!” Serious!!

I quickly thought that even though I cannot see in front of me, I could still see… behind me, and to the sides. Using this new found guidance, I could navigate to the side of the road, avoiding all cars and out of danger. I made it safe. WHEW! Now, just a small laundry problem was my only challenge.

Another gift! Not just in staying safe, but this experience generated more info for this blog =) This experience was such a life lesson.

Up until now, you and I have discovered ways to navigate through difficult times. When we are challenged, just like the salt build up, we have some things that we always go to (the wiper spray) to assist us in completing our journey. Take a moment and discover what yours are. Prayer, love, talking, reading inspiring things. What do you routinely do to keep going when things are difficult?

Weather you know it or not, you have certain tools that you have found that enable you to stay in the fight, and carry on. Identify those tools, and offer a prayer of appreciation for having access to them.

But, just as I experienced, that tool was taken away from me, creating a scenario that I was unprepared for. My solution was… a quick prayer… followed by a brand new solution… totally opposite from what I was always relying on.

God will always see you through. Trust Him. As prepared are we try to be, there will always be unexpected salt on our windshield, and on occasion, no fluid to clear it. It is during those times we realize that He can provide other solutions. He can safely guide us through. And, sometimes, we just need to hold on, and let Him direct us to safety.

Do you trust Him? He can see the way… ALWAYS!! He knows what lies in your path… and better yet… He can direct you through it. This one concept is so very important for you and me to understand for the upcoming years. Our ‘go to” solutions might change… We might not see any logical way on how we are going to proceed. But if you and I understand that this might be in our future, and have come to a firm understanding and knowledge of trusting HIM to see us through, we will be prepared for those times.

God loves us! And righteousness is going to conquer evil… I have read the book… I know how this story ends. But traveling from today to the glorious day that the Savior returns is going to be difficult. We need to recognize this, and know that we can make it with values such as these.

So, fill up your windshield fluid, and spend your time realizing that trusting God is always the plan when life gets difficult.



What the World Needs Now…

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Our world is continuing to darken.  Each day we see more evidence of the consequence of sin, selfish choices, hate, violence and despair. For those who remain faithful to their religious values, there is this feeling that they are in the minority.  Our numbers are dwindling, or so it seems.  What lies ahead?  Is it truly worth the fight? Friends, neighbors, and people who you thought were “rock solid” are succumbing to ways of the world.  Darkness is creeping in.  Will it overcome the light?  Your light?

Tonight as you prepare to go to bed, I’d like you to do something very simple.  Take a flashlight with you to your room… turn off all of the lights so that the room is completely dark.  As you sit in this darkness, think about where we are as a world today, identify some of the emotions that come to you while you process this thought.  Loneliness, fear, desperation, and anxiety might be some that you can identify.

Now it’s time for something amazing… Turn on the flashlight……….. What just happened? The light has just overcome the darkness. The darkness right in front of you has disappeared. It was replaced by the light.  Now, just using the darkness, try to overcome the light.  Take lots and lots of darkness and try to snuff out the light…. Keep trying….Try as hard as you can. Were you able to do it?

Light will ALWAYS overcome darkness… ALWAYS!!  But darkness can never overcome the light.  The only way for that to occur is if we turn off the light.  You have total control over the switch.  There will always be light around you as long as you leave the switch on.

What happens when you introduce another flashlight into the room?  The room gets brighter, thus eliminating more of the darkness.  And so it goes until the darkness has been totally eliminated by the overpowering of light.

My call to all of you is simple.  We must first choose to keep our flashlight on.  Don’t listen to the whispers of sin, temptation and darkness. As we choose goodness and righteous living, we can enjoy peace even when we are surrounded by the contention of the world.

Secondly, WE NEED EACH OTHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Surround yourself with others that have chosen to keep their lights on as well. Family, friends, church members, etc.  We must stay close to one another.  We must bring our lights to their houses, and they must have the opportunity to bring theirs to ours.  Identify who these people are in your life. Stay close to them. Serve them.  Love them and their families, for this is what will recharge your flashlight batteries.

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. 15Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Our numbers are strong, but just shy and bashful.  Be proud of your light. If you feel that you do not have others in your life that have this light, join us here. I invite you to share your thoughts on this blog.  Let’s help one another as we connect, to show the world that we are still here.

I also invite others who have been overcome with darkness, that you might know that there is still peace on this earth.  You will find it in bits and pieces as you associate with those still clinging to their light, and the principles of goodness which they cherish.  Come and rest your soul in the meadows of HIS love.

We Need … Peacemakers

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Us versus them… Me against you… My way, not yours… and so goes today’s thinking.

I’d like all of you to think about the one in your family who always seemed to be the one to bring peace to the group. What was their side of an argument?  Were they for this… or against that? (Are you ready for a big reveal?) To them, it’s not about opinion, or choosing sides. Their vision, purpose, and devotion was always about one thing… Bringing Peace.

“Peace”… The word itself just feels… awesome, doesn’t it?

Peacemakers are unselfish. They put aside their own wants and opinions, and work towards bettering the group.  To bring others together, find common ground, and redirect others towards reasonable thoughts, ideas and solutions.

There is a very selfish movement in our world today.  People want what THEY want.. at all costs.  Many don’t even know what they are fighting for, but are driven by the sole thought of what they do not want.  This is very obvious in politics, but perhaps more subtle in the groups of people in our own lives.

So, go to your closet, and dust off the Halloween cape.  We need hero’s right about now.  DO you see the light beam over your city, calling out for help? Your skills, and talents are needed… your brothers and sisters need you.  We need peacemakers.

So, can one person make a difference?

Look at your world.  Who does it involve?  You have family, neighbors, friends, coworkers, and strangers in your life.  There are also others that are beyond your reach of closeness.  So for now, we will eliminate those others far away.

The people who you are around everyday… this is your mission… To be the peacemaker in this circle of humanity.  So now, let me ask you the same question.  Can you… one person, make a difference?  YES YOU CAN!!!  Want more peace in your life?  Then YOU become the instigator of that peace.

The tools that you will need to accomplish your mission.

Love.  Develop a genuine love for other people. This is one of the basic needs that we all have… To love and to Be loved.  You have this wired in your DNA.  Let it lose.  Loving others actually accomplishes the second part of that need, for when you love others, you feel loved.  It can start with you…. and is not necessary to wait for someone else to show love first. Love, and feel loved.  Hmmm… interesting, huh?

Understanding. People want to be heard.  Allow them to talk through issues and explain why they feel the way that they do.  As people share their feelings, the other party has an opportunity to hear the other side, to which understanding can develop on their end as well. Resolution comes from understanding one another.

Find Common Ground. What feels like a fight between two parties, can end up as three people working together to reach common ground.  You do not need to choose sides, rather, let the three of you discover what might be the best solution. Many people have not been taught the concept of “give-and-take”. You can take the lead of the conversation and introduce the concept of compromise.  This is essentially negotiating.  What are some of the things that each side is willing to give to the other?  As one side sees the other side give, it’s likely that they too will be willing to give up something.  This is the secret to being a peacemaker. When both sides give, peace is inevitable.

Now, you have your assignment.  Let peace begin with us.  This is not a battle we fight, yet a Divine teaching that will bring light to a darkened world. You will notice that as you fulfill this assignment, others will gravitate towards you as they associate you with this light. People are searching for someone to help them navigate through the emotions of hate, contention, and fighting.  You have the light… it’s time that you hold it up high for others to see.



Both of Me Are Bi-Polar =)=

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I’m writing this post to my bi-polar friends… Especially the ones who I have not met yet.  I want you to understand what is happening inside of your mind. And, most importantly, I want you to recognize these conditions, not as personal weaknesses of yours, but rather resulting behavior of your condition.

Mental illness is just that… It’s an illness… just like diabetes, it is a medical condition not asked for, but once understood, can lead to effective treatment and a better life for you.  Don’t be ashamed to call it what it is… Your brain, just like other organs in your body has received some deficiencies and genetic imbalances, that are a challenge for you to navigate through.  I’d like to offer some thoughts for you to consider.

Bi-polar is a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. This might be over a period of time, or your mood could change in a split second.  Those feelings that you have (when perhaps people call you moody) are a condition of the disease.  You can be HAPPY… even giddy at times, and then swing to the lowest of lows, stuck in the pits of depression. Again… realize this is not a weakness of yours.  It’s not that you are trying to act this way… it is a very normal trait of the illness.

You might even like the mood of mania, especially after depression occurs, but sometimes this high does not stop at a comfortable level. Your mood might accelerate to you becoming irritable, your behavior unpredictable, and your judgment impaired. During periods of mania, people frequently behave impulsively, make reckless decisions and take unusual risks.  Understand this about yourself. Recognize when you are in the danger zone of mania, and put your guard up a bit not to get caught up in those decisions, or make those mistakes.

Now, the depression side.  This is the easiest to understand, yet the most difficult to navigate through.  From my experience, this can not be resolved without the key component of medication.  There are other tools that are important and can be used during these periods, but medication… the right brand, and the right dose, are game changers.  This behavior, when extreme, can not be resolved by just trying harder.  The medication produces the balance that your brain needs, just like insulin that assists the diabetic.

Specific types of Mental illness are a challenge to diagnose. And… one size does not fit all in treatment.  But if you can identify with some of these behaviors, your very first step is to visit a medical provider and begin treatment.  Right medication… right dose again… this is an important factor. It takes time to find that balance.  Do not give us by saying, “I’ve already tried meds, they don’t work”.  It took me a year, and trying 8 different medications to find relief.  Give yourself the time to zone in on the right stuff.

A second thought is.. Don’t get stuck in your own mind.  Let me explain.  We all have conversations in our mind.  I am not talking about hearing voices… but we have thoughts, that lead to other thoughts. This is called “Self talk”.  During self talk we think of what we are experiencing, and how bad or good life is. This talk usually leads us down a non healthy path. For example, “Here we go again. I’m feeling depressed. I hate to feel this way. Am I losing my mind? I have no desire to keep trying. I’m getting to be a burden for others. I’m not strong…..” and so it goes.  If you stay there in your mind, it is unhealthy and dangerous.  You need to “get out of your own mind” and redirect your thinking.

However, self talk can also be positive and redirected.  Instead of taking you down, recognize that you are in this state, and begin to self talk in a positive sense. “Oh… I’m slipping again, but I have people who love me. I can distract my thinking by listening to music. I love my friends, this is my depression period, it will pass… etc”.

What else helps?  Exercise!  Just do something that gets your heart rate up for 20 minutes or more several time a week.  Exercise releases endorphins and serotonin… the “feel good” chemicals.  Now… you’ll exercise to get some of those… right?

The last thought that I want to give you for this post is…There is a healing benefit to “Talk Therapy”.  Talking to someone else about your condition.  But, what do you talk about? This is the time to explain your thoughts and feelings. You are not looking for solutions from the other person, but you are getting lots of thoughts and feelings out to someone who will intently listen.  If you feel misunderstood (another symptom of your condition), talk therapy is the perfect time to speak those thoughts. Listen to what you say. Release what you have been holding back.  Talk it out…You will find this to be effective in healing your mind.

This is just the tip of the bi-polar iceberg.  But, just enough for you begin to understand yourself more. I believe in you… I care about you… and I’m excited to join the team that is helping you find sunshine on a rainy day. =)