Thursday, February 25, 2010

The inside story

Philadelphia is obviously sick of the snow. Yesterday the weather reports had people in quite the tizzy with the forecast of another approaching snowstorm. Today the markets are apparently cleared of milk, bread, eggs, and cheese, the schools are closing early, and the game shows are interrupted with news flashes about the weather, but here in our cozy, golden room on the 17th floor of the Ritz the flakes flutter down past our windows and nothing is sticking to the ground outside. And nothing much is bothering us.

I don’t feel any sense of urgency or panic. We’ve crossed the threshold and are on the other side. Ben, Mark and Grandma Joyce sit happily huddled around the ottoman playing cards, a game called 7-27. They all are numbers people. Not me. I’m a words person, as you might have guessed.

However, I’ll share some numbers with you today, numbers which are making us pretty happy, overall.

We went in for our follow-up appointment with Dr. Cahill this morning. He gave Ben the go ahead to return home. More on that later. We looked at x-rays and compared the day of surgery (35 degree thoracolumbar curve)

to two days after (down to 12 degrees!).

I thought you might want to see his new hardware.

5 staples and a hybrid adjustable rod,
which you can see is attached in 4 places,
on 1 lumbar vertebra and 3 ribs.

He is now required to wear the protective brace every day for the next six weeks, but not at night. Following that he’ll need to wear it whenever he participates in activities which would entail twisting, turning and bending. This will hold true for the first 6 months following surgery. His activities are not limited except for a prohibition on all contact sports, bungee cord jumping, parachuting, rock climbing, motorcycling, trampolining, and jumping on horseback…until the rod comes out. (It would figure that Ben has all of those sports on his personal “to do” list. Well, he’ll just have to wait!)

His first lengthening will be in six months (September) and will entail a trip to Philly, a short surgery and a night in hospital. The distance makes it a bigger ordeal, but we will get used to it.

We talked with Dr. Cahill about long-term planning for the rod. It is possible that Ben will have to have more than three lengthenings and even possible that he’ll need a second rod. We are in uncharted territory. That’s how new this technique is. But, as you can see, it’s accomplishing quite a bit, getting a straight spine in a way that a brace never would have done. The day of surgery Dr. Betz (the chief of staff and the innovator of these techniques) was concerned about his thoracic curve and talked about possible fusion in the future. Looking at his x-ray post-op I’d say it looks quite a bit straighter. Time will tell.

Our plans now are to leave on Monday. We have tickets to return on both Saturday and Monday. Mark would love us to leave on Saturday, but that is in keeping with his desire to be home, be done with it all. And his typical disconnect with pain. (One day I’ll tell you about the time he broke his elbow playing racquetball and continued to play for a couple hours and didn’t even go to the hospital until the next day. Uh-huh.) I am of a more cautious nature and I just don’t want to push it. And, might I add, I’m the MAMA. Yesterday Ben went with only Advil for pain management all day, but by evening was in such pain that it was hard to go to sleep and woke him several hours later. It took an hour to soothe him back to sleep (with Valium and Hydrocodone on top of his Advil). With the snow coming in today and lasting through Saturday, travel feels dicey enough. We gave Ben the choice and looking at the sheer number of hours he’d need to sit up without a break (about 12), he decided to be cautious as well.

Grandma Joyce came to visit us yesterday from New York and is going home shortly in an attempt to outrun the storm. She brought homemade brownies and a deck of cards, an overnight bag and lots of enthusiasm.

She and Ben played cards while Mark and I went for a stroll through Philadelphia. (We found a sweet little neighborhood called Rittenhouse Square and two cool yarn stores. Not that I needed more yarn, but Mark made me go in and increase my stash…really!) We had a slumber party in our hotel room last night (not that we got much sleep) and she was waiting for us here when we returned from the hospital this afternoon. It was good for all of us to have her here, and especially good for her to see Ben in such great shape.

So, four more nights in Philadelphia. As Grandma says, if you have to be stuck in a place this is not a bad place to be stuck. A few more days of take out. A few more days of game shows, Olympics, and cartoons. A few more days of doormen, maid service and solicitous hotel employees. Then we’ll head back to California, brothers, animals, and our whole network of friends and family.


Sandy said...

Those x-rays show some exciting results. I'm amazed there has been that much change so quickly. Didn't realize it would be that immediate. Holy cow... Well, we've had our science lesson for the day! Thanks for that! ;) Now come home!

G said...

Wow! Those x-rays are something else! The kids and I are very excited to see so much change so quickly. And x-rays are always cool anyhow.

We miss you here!