So as the title states, I wanted to share my experience following the 1st of 2 Bilateral Eagle Syndrome surgeries (which took place yesterday morning, 12/31/14, at approx 7:30AM). FYI- I will eventually have BOTH styloids removed, but this 1st surgery was to remove just the right styloid process. For everything that transpired prior to this 1st surgery, check out my other thread http://forum.livingwitheagle.org/forum/topics/helpful-eagle-syndrome-surgery-advice-i-m-stressed & grab some snacks because that ones a novel (not that this one is any better, but still lol). In this thread, I just want to share my experience during the moments leading up to the surgery, along with some observations I made during my post-op recovery & i'll also share some tips that might be helpful to someone else who ends up having the styloid process removal procedure done in the near future.
First things first, i'm a guy (not that it matters, but just so you all know that there are guys out here who sometimes have a low tolerance for pain & I think i'm one of them lol). I stayed with mom & dad the night before since I knew I would not be driving for a couple days. Once we got to the hospital, we checked in shortly after 5:30AM (once we found the right building lol) & went to the waiting area after filling out some paperwork & ensuring that the ID info on my wristband was correct. They called my name & I went up to the surgery prep room while mom & dad initially waited in the lobby. I was assigned a nurse, who got me the necessary surgery "gown", bags for my personal belongings & cleaning wipes to clean myself off prior to my surgery time. She closed the curtain to my room & I did as instructed (everyone was VERY nice). Once changed, the assistant nurse came in & asked some questions similar to the questions the first nurse asked, Another young lady came in to get me started on the IV, then the anesthesiologist came in & brightened my spirits. He didn't really explain much in terms of the process &/or risks of anesthesiology, but i'm assuming this is because I advised him that I had my tonsils removed before in the past & he probably figured that I already knew the drill.
Shortly after he left, my mom came in to be with me in the minutes leading up to surgery & I had 3 quick questions written down on some paper (all 3 of which I would ask my doctor as I would see him just prior to the surgery). My blood pressure was a little high (150/80) but both numbers were in the normal range just the other week (like 10 minutes after a workout), so I figured this was because I was a little nervous. The doctor finally came in, kindly greeted my mom & I, he marked the surgery area on my neck & after a short debriefing, I asked my questions. I asked him how soon I could schedule surgery #2 (to my delight, he stated it could be as early as 6 weeks if this 1st recovery goes well), I asked him if I would be able to eat (he said it would depend on how i'm feeling), & I asked him if I could keep the styloid as a souvenir once it was removed (he said they could take a picture of it for me, which was fine by me). Seeing this styloid process for myself would be "closure" for me after suffering with this condition for so long now. At this moment, my spirits were really being lifted as it seemed like on this day just about everything was going better than I had expected, but the icing on the cake came when the doctor himself asked my mother & I if we would mind him praying with us before surgery... I try not to force my religion on others, but I can proudly say that I am a Christian who believes in the power of prayer (as is my mother), so needless to say we accepted his offer & joined hands in prayer. From that point, I sadly draw a blank as the next thing I remember is being guided out in a wheelchair with mom & dad helping me into the car that we had parked in the valet. I definitely was beyond drugged up/exhausted & was nowhere close to being able to walk on my own with any kind of balance, but I found it in myself to get in that car smiling because I knew that I was now halfway to the finish line with one of these two "thorns" finally removed after SEVEN YEARS of pain & suffering.
As we left the hospital, mom showed me the picture of the removed right styloid process (in EXCELLENT quality, taken by the doctor himself, in a full-color printout, from several angles) and I breathed an emotional sigh of relief. The feeling of closure was almost overwhelming, knowing that I was now one step closer to FINALLY putting this condition behind me once & for all. As we made it back to the house, I began the process of assessing my pain level & figuring out my limitations as far as mobility/etc. First thing I noticed was the fact that although my neck was quite sore on the side of the surgery, my pain level was nowhere near as sore as I had expected it to be (presumably due to whatever meds I was on, of which mom never allowed me to see because she's scared of me overdosing lol). What would bring pain, however, was if I touched the surgery area (obviously), leaned to the left/right, laid on my left or right side, bent forward or looked upwards... Doing any of the above would bring a level of pain that basically matched (or surpassed) the level of pain I would experience on any one of my worst "sore throat" days. Needless to say, I learned quickly what NOT to do in order to prevent this.
Mom & dad graciously allowed me to take over their bed & I slept off the rest of the meds that were used during my surgery (or at least that was the goal lol). I was absolutely exhausted & very weak, but so glad to be in this huge comfortable bed as I began my recovery process. This was really when I learned how NOT to lay during this healing process, & some things you just have to learn the hard way lol. I also learned what it felt like to drink fluids & I thankfully can say that while swallowing is painful, it is MUCH more bearable than what I experienced when my tonsils were removed (in my case).
Hours later, I woke up & had a couple bowls of wonton soup (+a couple small chocolate chip cookies) & this is where I made what was probably my GREATEST mistake thus far. Not sure where the miscommunication originated, but I guess I ate earlier than I should have (before the meds were cleared out of my system) & as delicious as that soup was, I sadly did not end up digesting ANY of it: A few short hours later, I got dizzy, felt my stomach churn, & next thing I knew I was leaning over the bathroom toilet on my knees, throwing up everything I had ate. It was HORRIBLE, I absolutely hate the feeling of throwing up & I can honestly say that I had not thrown up ever since I was like 12 years old. It was the absolute worst feeling ever, but in that moment I knew that I brought it on myself & I was learning yet another lesson. As the night progressed, I threw up several more times, & I believe my "upchuck" grand total came to somewhere between 16-20. Had I known this would have happened, I would have recorded it & sent the footage off to The Guinness Book Of World Records because i'm quite sure I broke some type of World Record. In any event, I think (PRAYERFULLY) that I got it all out at this point, & I guess i'm gonna lose a few lbs over the next few days because i'm not interested in eating anything else at this point until I know that i'm 100% in the clear. At this time, mom & dad are knocked out asleep, its about 3:17AM & i'll be asleep soon enough because I feel my eyes getting heavy. O yea, & mom/dad made me take the couch this time unfortunately, so we'll see how this works out (I feel like Cinderella when her Golden Carriage turned back into a pumpkin lol). But hey, I brought the cat with me, so at least I have him here & he's not walking around meowing all night this time (knock on wood).
With all of that being said, here is a quick summary of the pros & cons thus far, based on my own observations:
#1 Breaking the World Record for throw up within a set amount of time (because I ate before I should have).
#2 Although the pain is not as bad as I expected, when I try to eat/drink, lay on my left or right side, or look up, the pain matches what I would experience on any one of my worst "sore throat" days.
#3 The weightlifting is on hold at least for a few days (or weeks) thanks to #2 and the stitches.
#1 God guided this ENTIRE process so that in the end I would end up with a doctor who is an EXPERT when it comes to this procedure, caring & one of the nicest people I have ever met.
#2 The doctor offered to pray with my mother & I just prior to the surgery, we took hands & sent one up (then he came down to the lobby & prayed w/ mom & dad AGAIN afterwards).
#3 The doctor said he'll be able to do surgery #2 in only 6 weeks depending on my recovery progress (initially I thought i'd have to wait 3-6 months).
#4 I already notice my airway passage has improved (MAJOR when you're a singer who needs to breathe correctly).
#5 My "smile" muscles have not been compromised, i'm not experiencing "first bite" syndrome & to my knowledge there is NO nerve damage (all of which are several complications that can arise following this procedure [according to what I have read in recent weeks]).
#6 Assuming it is not the meds giving me a false sense of hope, I honestly feel like the recovery is not going to take too long.
#7 (more than anything) I'm ALIVE.
Last but not least, here are some tips based on what I have learned over the last few weeks on through this first day of post-op recovery & I truly hope this information can help someone else who might be having the same/similar procedure done in the near future... PLEASE KEEP IN MIND: I am not a doctor & some of these tips may or may not work for others... I'm simply sharing what I have learned over the last few weeks/hours & I am sharing what has been working for me since getting back from the hospital (your mileage may vary):
1. (NEVER BE AFRAID TO GET A SECOND, OR THIRD, OR FOURTH OPINION PRIOR TO DECIDING ON SURGERY) - At the end of the day, YOU are the one who will have to live with the end result of the procedure. Don't allow egos (from other doctors/etc) sway you into rushing the process. This is YOUR life, this is YOUR health & in the end, YOU have to make sure that you're choosing the doctor &/or method that works best for YOU. If a doctor makes you feel guilty simply because you took it upon yourself to get a 2nd or 3rd OR 4th opinion, then you may wish to re-consider whether or not that is the doctor you should be going with (as he/she may be in it for the wrong reason, which is definitely something that you do NOT want when that person is operating on you). Be observant, take notes & pray that God will lead you in the right direction. In my case, I did all of the above, I ended up going in a direction that I was not initially planning on going in & (in my opinion) I truly believe that this was truly the BEST direction for me.
2. (PLANNING FOR YOUR SURGERY DATE) - CAREFULLY look over all pre-op instructions that should be sent to you at least 2-3 weeks before your surgery date... I'd say if you don't have this by the 3-week mark, call your doctor (or his/her assistant) & request to pick it up or have it emailed/faxed. Aside from not eating/drinking anything after a certain hour on the night before surgery, there are also certain meds/supplements that you will need to stop taking up to 2 weeks prior to surgery (& its kind of a big deal because taking such meds/supplements up to the surgery date can possibly cause SERIOUS complications with the surgery [in my case, I had to stop taking Cod Liver Oil 2 weeks prior, & I even suffered through a headache one day because aspirin is my go-to whenever a headache rolls around yet it was another item on the "do not take these medications" list]): Had I not looked over the list, I would have continued taking the Cod Liver Oil, & I would have taken at least two aspirin within the 2 weeks leading up to surgery... Be proactive & mention to your doctor (or his/her nurse) any meds that you frequently take that are NOT on the list just in case the list is missing anything (in my case, the hospital called to register me at one point & told me to stop taking my vitamin D [which was not on the list])... Google "medications not to take prior to/following surgery" for good measure, & pay attention to the list of meds/supplements not to take in the weeks FOLLOWING surgery as well. ALSO: Map out your trip to the hospital IN ADVANCE (including but not limited to where/how you will park)... Mom & I had planned to do this but simply ran out of time & i'll bet my last dollar that my blood pressure would have tested a little lower had we arrived a little earlier. Also MAKE SURE to bring your ID/insurance card... I actually had a couple days the other week where I left my wallet at home, & i'm so glad I didn't make that same mistake yesterday because they definitely asked for both items at check-in.
3. (BRING LOVED ONES IF POSSIBLE) - Needless to say, you want someone you trust who can get you to/from since you won't be able to drive yourself home. But more than anything, if it is a family member, a loved one or a close friend, it can definitely help to calm your nerves during the moments leading up to the surgery... In my case, my check-in time was about 2 hours before the surgery, the surgery itself lasted roughly 2 hours (because my styloid was LONG & a little harder to reach than the doctor had expected), then I was in recovery for approx 2 hours. In the end, I checked in just after 5:30AM & we left around 11AM (according to mom, because God knows I didn't know left from right by the time I left that place). So thats just under 6 hours total & obviously the total length of time from check-in to completion might make it difficult for others to come with &/or stay through the duration of your surgery, thus I was very fortunate. Nonetheless, if you go alone for whatever reason, just pray, make sure you have a ride to/from & know that you're really NOT alone because God is there with you every step of the way! YOU'VE GOT THIS, & trust me when I say that its nowhere near as bad as you probably think it is!!!!
4. (RELAX) - I know for fact that despite my high blood pressure test upon arrival, I was FAR more relaxed than I could have been. The friendly demeanor of everyone I came across at the hospital had alot to do with this, but so did having mom & dad with me & ALSO knowing in my heart that I had finally chosen the right doctor for the job (after searching & searching for MONTHS). All of this added up in my case, & by the time the doctor came in the room, I had a peace that came over me that cannot be put into words: I was ready, & all of my worry was gone (especially after the doctor himself prayed for a successful surgery on my behalf). What a difference that made! Just know that you'll be in & out of there in no time & in the end you will feel SOO much better.
5. (TRY TO HAVE YOUR POST-OP APPOINTMENT SCHEDULED BEFORE YOUR SURGERY DATE APPROACHES) - Not sure if this is the norm, but my doctors surgery scheduler ROCKS... She's basically a mirror image of him, she gives off the impression that she is his biggest fan, she is kind/caring & she actually scheduled my post-op appointment for less than 2 weeks after the surgery (I go in for post-op on 1/12/15). She knows i'm trying to get all of this behind me A.S.A.P. as well (since i'm a singer), so i'm sure she played a big part in the doctor being willing to schedule surgery #2 so fast (provided that my recovery from surgery #1 goes well).
6. (PLANNING FOR & MINIMIZING PAIN/PREVENTING LOSS OF BODILY FLUIDS) - OK... Everyones tolerance for pain is different... For me, I feel like mine is low, but I can once again say that my pain thankfully has been moderate in this case & this is good news as mom hasn't even been letting me take much meds since leaving the hospital (I believe they gave me Oxycodone, which is a med you must be VERY careful with [looking up the side-effects, it looks like that bad boy just might have caused at least some of my countless "upchucks", if not ALL of them]). Not sure how I will feel once the meds wear off or once I stop taking them altogether, but in my case/as of today, the most pain comes if I try to lean to the right or left, lay on my right/left side, bend forward or lay 100% face down/up. Best way I can explain it is like this pressure somehow hits the surgery area in either of those positions & I feel it (just as if I was to directly touch it). Sitting (or laying against thick/doubled pillows) at a 45-90 degree angle prevents this pain & keeps it moderate to low (you should be able to sleep easy if you take this approach). If you don't already have some nice LARGE pillows, get some prior to your surgery because you'll be glad you did! ALSO: If you need to get up out of bed for whatever reason, DO NOT lift yourself up from the neck area (because you'll be sorry if you do lol)... Easy to make this mistake, especially in my case as I guess this is usually the area I use to lift myself up whenever I get out of bed (didn't even realize it until now). Instead of lifting yourself up in this manner, simply place one of your hands behind your head & slowly/gently push your head upwards until you feel the weight transfer to your mid/lower back (or until you're at an angle of approximately 90 degrees), then you're good. ALSO: Keep some ice packs handy (or ice wrapped in wash clothes). Gently placing this across your neck will help to soothe it & further minimize the pain (avoid getting it WET though, as this may cause problems with the stitches [presumably, as my doctor advised me to cover the area when I take a shower]).
When it comes to swallowing food/water, initially all I could think of was the Hell I experienced during my tonsillectomy recovery (it felt like knives cutting at the back of my throat every time I tried to eat/drink anything). Let me tell you: At least for me, this thankfully is NOWHERE near that bad... It is, however, somewhat painful to eat/drink, as to be expected when you've just had a major operation in your throat area. Mind you, I didn't eat/drink anything until after I had slept for several hours, so I had time to rest up before even attempting to take in anything. That probably helped, but in the end it seemed like food was somehow slightly easier to take in than liquid. As for liquid, this has been my workaround (which may sound dumb but has been working in my case): Drink from a straw (you won't want to take big gulps, trust me)... Breathe in from your NOSE while at the same time taking in liquid at the mouth... As you exhale, swallow the fluid. Don't ask me how, but this seems to bypass the pain sensors if that makes sense & it goes down easy. You'll get into the habit after a few run-thrus, & it will make your life easier especially when you're trying to remain hydrated.
Lastly, do yourself (and your toilet bowl) a HUGE favor & don't eat anything for a while following your surgery. At this point, I don't know if it was because of the Anesthesia or the Oxycodone, but I threw up like crazy & I highly doubt this would have happened had I not eaten so soon after the surgery. Trust me, you might be a little hungry, but you won't die by going without food for a day or so. Drink LOTS of water, give yourself a nice meal the night before surgery (PRIOR TO the cutoff time) & try to make it a meal that digests slowly (like oatmeal, beans, greek yogurt). The slower it digests, the longer it will keep you full & should pull you through that next day or so. While I ate the night before, I didn't eat anything that was really slow-digesting, it was out just prior to my surgery & all Hell broke lose shortly after I tried to eat again following the surgery. Clarify this with your doctor & make sure to have a clear understanding. To my understanding, however, it just depends on the person & for me, eating so soon after the surgery just didn't work in my favor. ALSO: In my case, they wanted me to urinate one more time before surgery, supposedly because they want your bladder to be empty during surgery. Normally I can't pee on cue like that, but this time I got lucky: Probably best to cut off your water intake a few hours early, so that your bladder is all clear once your surgery time has arrived.
Well guys/gals, I think that's about it. If I forgot anything that anyone needs to know, just let me know & i'll share whatever I can. I've been up for a couple hours typing this & i'm exhausted, but I did it for YOU guys so that we could hopefully have at least one thread on here with some straight answers coming from someone who just got out of surgery for BILATERAL Eagle Syndrome (which of course is the rarest form). I said I wanted to help/educate & raise awareness about this condition going forward, & just take this as me trying to do just that. I'm counting down to surgery #2 & praying that it will be as successful as surgery #1. I'll post a separate thread once that day approaches, & i'll come back to THIS thread with any updates on my recovery process as I go. I will keep you all updated with any changes/unexpected symptoms or if anything weird happens between now & then. ALSO: Make no mistake that I absolutely will share the name of my doctor once surgery #2 is complete, so that anyone who is either A. in Arizona or B. able to travel here will be able to link up with one of the BEST (and if anyone needs to know his name now, inbox me & i'll send his name over privately). Thanks once again to everyone who shared your knowledge, support, kind words & prayers in the weeks leading up to this first of two surgeries. I appreciate it more than any of you will EVER know!!! For those of you with a strong stomach, feel free to pull up the attached file which is a picture of my removed right styloid (not meant to gross you out, simply meant to educate): Doc was nice enough to take this picture for me & seeing that right styloid process FINALLY removed was CLOSURE for me, letting me know that i'm halfway to the finish line!!! I'll also post some scar pics in the future once I give it some time to heal, so that people can see what I was trying to see several weeks ago (a picture of a healed scar, taken a few weeks/months after surgery, with the stitches dissolved & no makeup covering it lol). Thankfully this doctor specializes in the placement of his incisions, so if all goes as planned, my scar won't be too noticeable (& those who read my other thread know that the external scarring from the external [aka- extraoral] surgical approach was one of my main concerns with this surgery since day one). Talk to you guys soon!!!! GOD BLESS/Story developing...
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