The trials and tribulations of “helping” someone through Post Op Recovery

This was a hard post to write so please be kind! Anyone who has know my little family over the last year will know we haven’t had it easy, my husband Karl; my rock, my dog walking partner, my partner in crime, head of heavy lifting and all-round manual labour in the house, hurt his back pretty badly which lead to him needing an operation. I won’t bore you with the details of how difficult the lead up to his Op was for our little family, I’ve already done that. A little while ago I built up the courage to write a post all about watching someone you love diminish in front of you Entitled “can we talk about long term injury of a loved one” I’ll link it here so you are welcome to take a peak!

We built ourselves up to his operation. I think without meaning to we built up this massive expectation of: everything will be fine after the op…. the problem is with something like a Spinal Fusion post op recovery can take what feels like forever.

The Op itself was pretty scary. Karl made us all promise that we wouldn’t visit. He didn’t want anyone in the hospital. I had made covert arrangements to go up and visit but after promising him I would wait till he was discharged and promising his family that it was strictly no visitation and I would also be sticking to that rule and obeying Karl’s wishes I cancelled my plans. I couldn’t lie to the man I love, nor could I knowingly lie to his family. Lots of people told me wild horses wouldn’t keep them away if it was someone they loved, but I had promised, most importantly my want to visit was about me and not about the needs of my husband. It was a need to gratify my own want to prove I cared or show my love, to ease my own worry. It broke my little heat but to be honest that didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It was what he wanted. And I had given a promise.

I was put at easily slightly as this op was planned and hospital visit would be well co-ordinated. I wanted my husband to be completely at ease and relaxed. Although I must admit one call form the nurse and I would have been there in a flash. Given that it was an operation that on the whole was routine and generally successful I wanted the operation to be on his terms and as calm and stress free as it could be. I did feel a little better know I could call him every day and they wouldn’t keep him in for long.

I was a bag of nerves, he handled it a lot better than I did. Getting the phone call from the nurse to tell me how everything had gone was quite honestly the first time in 24 hours that I didn’t feel sick and clammy. I didn’t call the hospital at all that day; I had promised myself I wouldn’t be one of those people who kept on blocking up the phone lines before their loved one was even out of recovery. The nurse was lovely and told me all was well, everything was fine and the general bits and pieces they pass on to the next of kin. She also told me he was a little delirious but was insisting they let him phone me as soon as he opened his eye; which made me laugh and cry a little.

The whole evening I worried about him. This whole operation malarkey causes a hell of a lot of worrying doesn’t it?! We finally spoke properly the next day. Its crazy, because our entire relationship has involved Karl going away, but I missed him so much and cried through the majority of our conversation due to one thing or another. Trying to pretend I wasn’t cry was pretty hard; I wanted to see him so badly. But I had made a promise and I wouldn’t be the wife I thought I was if I disregarded that. Pluss he was under the influence of all the post op drugs so I can’t imagine having visitors was fun.

The first problem arrived as we chatted…. a mouse appeared – no I am not even kidding. Our house backs onto a woods and the weather was really bad so seeking some warmth a mouse had snuck into the house. I broke down, this would normally be Karl’s responsibility and in that instant it dawned on me how much I rely on him. All my emotion spilled out. But I caught the little bugger! While crying hysterically, obviously. There was a sudden realisation that I was pretty much on my own now till he recovered!

He came home 2 days after the op. Surprising me, as he kept it all a secret until I walked through the door. To be honest he was in a state, and pretty much completely immobile, much more than I had anticipated. After a few unexpected complications I ended up taking some days off work to try my best to be his nurse; I’m not a great nurse. But I helped him do what I could, changed his dressing and washed his hair and all those things, made lots of tea and fussed over him. Its amazing how much expectation I had put on the operation. Without meaning to I had built up the idea that once the op happened everything would be okay. When in fact he’s now much more immobile than he has ever been. The first few days shattered the illusion that we would all be back to normal soon. He was only able to move around in small periods, struggling much more than he ever was before and in a lot of pain. I found myself not only trying to help him do day to day activities but my to do list around the house doubling, and my worry and stress levels doubling (well more like tripling, if I was a normal person they would have doubled, but I am a worrier). He seems to take everything in his stride, well hobble (he isn’t quite striding these days).

Now I find myself constantly studying his face looking to see if the pain is easing, looking to see if he looks like himself again. Worried he is bored, sad or lonely. I find myself clock watching trying to not be out of the house too long, I stopped kick boxing and now rush home from work all because I’m worried about him being home alone all day. He has taken it in all pretty well; as he takes most things because quite frankly he’s a super hero. I study his movements looking for any change or improvement and am sick of hearing myself ask “how are you feeling today”, if I am sick of it I know he is, but I can’t help myself and I am desperate to know. He’s bored and I’m out of ideas to keep him entertained. I’m desperate to see improvement and let’s be honest most men aren’t very forth coming when it comes to talking about pain or injury…. So, I drag it out of him. Poor soul!

We sit and talk about what we are going to do when he is “better” and my little heart fills with hope and a tiny bit of dread… the thought of “what if he never gets better?” constantly creeps in. I’m trying to be positive for his sake but I’m a panicker by nature and I feel panicked. He is calm and collect so I try to mirror him.

I have a new found respect for families who go through this again and again, because it is mighty hard. But for us there is light at the end of the tunnel. Pre-op I saw him get worse and worse every week, I saw a personality change in him, less joy, less humour, he was snappy and bordering on depressed. Who can blame him! The constant pain was just too much. He now looks 10 years younger, he’s laughing more, hasn’t snapped at me in weeks, he looks brighter and most of the time he seems to be getting better even though we have seen little improvement in his mobility. He is much more my husband again than he has been for months. The person I love and adore. He is however going out of his mind with boredom so I can’t wait till he is back on his feet.

Its been hard trying to control my expectations; I want him better now! My mind very much linked operation with being better and the less than instantaneous improvement crushed me a wee bit. Although I’m smart enough to know that post op recovery takes time my heart doesn’t seem to have gotten the message. But I’m working on controlling it. My brain is still trying to process the events of the last few weeks and piece it all together. The uncertainty is hard for me, a person who like to research, plan and prep. I like to know what to expect and in this case its hard to know. Family and friends ask me how he’s getting on and I don’t know how to answer because its so hard to tell this early; and he isn’t the most forthcoming person. A typical man who doesn’t want to talk about his pain or show his weakness. But I continue to study his face and movements and hope to see further change and do my best to keep them up to date.

We are taking it slow and I’m yelling at him for doing too much, or not doing his regular movements. Most importantly I’ve stopped interrogating him about his pain levels, well almost. Taking things one day at a time isn’t my strong suit…. but I’m trying.

2 thoughts on “The trials and tribulations of “helping” someone through Post Op Recovery

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  1. Again beautifully written. You are all three unstoppable , strong and unwaivering in your love and support for each other . Love always . Mum x

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