Today is my son’s 17th birthday. It’s hard to be too joyful right now as he is still painfully recovering from surgery to correct his spine. See that image to the left? That’s him before and after. The “after” was taken six weeks ago, about 72 hours following the operation. We all hoped that by now he’d be back in school. He is, kinda, but not really.
He made it through about three hours at school today before he called me to come and get him. It’s one of his worst days since he started going back to school. He’s only really made it through the entire day once in eight attempts. But everyone says he needs to keep trying and keep moving, as I wrote about in “The recovery paradox: Movement causes pain; Moving reduces pain.” And that means I have to keep pushing him even though my heart aches at seeing him hurt.
On one of the really bad days, as the nurse walked my son outside to my car, the school counselor tapped on the driver’s side window. He wanted to tell me we could still go back to home-bound schooling. Part of me wanted to say yes, but we’re hearing from every health care provider that my son needs to keep moving. And if he stays home, no matter how much I badger him, he doesn’t move as much as he needs to move. In fact, I’ve observed that the weekend of lounging around makes Monday that much worse. In this week’s case, the three-day holiday weekend made Tuesday a whopper.
Progression of pain
You need to know he is getting better. The pain is less. And the pain is … moving. First it was the searing pain of the incision. This made the back a 100% no-touch zone or he’d be at a 10 in a heartbeat. (The “10” refers to the 1-10 pain scale the medical folks use. Read more here.) Then the muscles in the upper back were the aggravator, muscles that had been physically moved out of the way while the surgeons rebuilt the spine then place back. Now the pain is in the lower back, where muscles that haven’t been used exactly like this before are screaming out in agony.
The call I got today was, “Dad I’m at a 7 and climbing.” He had spent the last period in the nurse’s office. He knew I wanted him to make it through the day. He knew I needed him to get through the day. I have to admit it is getting frustrating. First and foremost I want to see my son better. It’s hard to watch his face tightening into a grimace. But we all need to move forward and there are other family logistics at play. Let’s hope the healing kicks in ASAP.
Pain doesn’t stop the fun
So despite the pain we had a pretty nice birthday celebration. I managed to get my son to physical therapy where they worked to try to stretch and relieve the muscles. Back home, after a long bath with Jacuzzi jets, a great meal and some pain meds, my son got a few of the things he really wanted for his birthday. He got some nice love packages in the mail from his grandparents and Aunt. He received a few new video games. Always a winner. A new book and t-shirt featuring “The Walking Dead.” And finally he blew the candles out on his very own 12 inch, 11.5 lbs. birthday cheesecake! He smiled the rest of the night, gorging on cheesecake and playing video games. Sometimes being a 17 year-old just isn’t that complicated. Especially if you’re distracted from the pain.
Note: My son is recovering from major surgery to correct his curved spine. He was diagnosed with “Scheurmann’s kyphosis” last summer. I’m being overly vague on names and places out of respect for my son’s privacy who isn’t thrilled when he’s the focus of attention. I write about it in case it helps other families. If you need to know more details please reach out to me.