Originally written June 2019; image from ClevelandClinic.com

Two Pickles & a BLT is a standard healthcare acronym for “push, pull, bend, lift, twist”. It often refers to what you can’t do post-surgery, after an injury, or to give some repetitive stress injuries a rest. These restrictions may be removed in whole or gradually as the patient heals. For example, I could lift first, so long as it was light, easy to reach, and wouldn’t move far. Also, other injuries, such as my decades-old shoulder injury, make the Pickles difficult, even if after my spine was ready.

Spinal Fusion Sucks

You will have no brain due to incessant ouchies & meds. A lot of that stuff that was fixed before, such as hip bursitis, will return because those other things adapted to the way body parts used to work.

You’re going to want to ensure you can deal with all of these, and more:

  • Eat a healthy diet for faster healing
  • Drink ozonated water to provide more oxygen for the organs and stressed body parts
  • Fuck the hot tub that makes everything feel better because stitches
  • Fuck the scar tissue that’s going to hurt every time you breathe or move
  • Have everything paid off, or at least on auto-pay
  • Take meds (see the section hospital processes fucking you over later)
  • Pay for COBRA & deductibles when your employer lets you go even though that’s technically illegal
  • You’ll be too busy healing to fight so they’ll get away with it

First, everything hurts. Ya gotta do PT, pain management (drugs, shots), physiatrist, etc.

It’s gonna take two years to prove surgery is needed. Or at least it did in my case. If only the first pain specialist had thought things through instead of assuming I’m an addict. See, he’d asked how much of a specific med was needed each day. He said that needing so many was only for guys who fell off ladders and broke their spines.

This didn’t prompt him to think, gee, maybe the spine’s fractured. And I was so doped up on pain meds that this thought never occurred to me.

Don’t forget the MRIs, x-rays, and other tests. Many of which the neurosurgeon will wanna re-do anyway.

Research your doctor. Learn how to read x-rays & MRIs. Read their blogs and/or books. Watch their YouTube channel. Check out their textbook rentals on Amazon or Chegg.

Then there’s the surgery prep itself, including no anti-inflammatories. Ya know, the ones you’re taking cuz everything fucking hurts. Prepare to have the hospital staff be all friendly but the processes will fuck you over so have their info handy. And they’ll change their stories all the time so record everything. Record record, not just write shit down. Especially if you’re therapy or personal pet is coming to visit and /or stay.

Then the surgery finally happens.

The Hospital Stay

  • Get a private room
  • You’ll probably have to save up for this ahead of time
  • And need it if your “advocate” is gonna stay with you
  • Make sure the services happen correctly
  • Especially pain management
  • Then PT / OT
  • And your hardware like walker or spirometer
  • Better yet, buy a good lightweight walker first
  • Even ordering lunch is hard because the nurse says call a number and that person says tell your nurse … every meal for the almost a week-long stay in the hospital
  • Oh, and if you’re like me, and your dog is also an emotional lifeline, find out what’s needed to bring the fuzzy in, and hopefully even stay with you

Forget about getting prescribed help unless you’re over 65yo. No matter what anybody says to the contrary. Cuz they’ll tell you you’re getting help, and your friends and family are gonna be overwhelmed by and resentful of the bait & switch.

Why? Because the assumption is that family and friends have the ability to stop their lives and take care of you for a few months. Cuz. Of course they can do that.

Then you’ll need more the PT to stabilize the region, PT to re-figure out how to do stuff, PT to figure out how have a social life, OT to get in good enough shape to work, then find a job. Each pass takes at least 3-4 months, probably closer to 6-12, just to find out the goal, such as getting back to work, just isn’t gonna happen.

Which is probably why your employer fired you, by the way. The best part is that the promised 25 years of long-term disability is only active for as long as you’re employed. Uh …

Oh, and get the house ready ahead of time:

  • Setup a first floor bedroom and bathroom
  • Clear walker-safe paths
  • Don’t even pretend you can use the stairs
  • Prep for your new routine …
    • Who’s in charge of meds?
    • Who gets to run amok with the walker while you’re asleep?
    • Who’ll keep the walker paths open?
    • Are you going to bathe yourself?
    • Is bathing even allowed?
    • Super important question, here, who wipes after a poop?

Many (all?) of who does what might not be you. For at least three months.

How is your pet(s) gonna sleep with you? Who’s gonna take care of them? You can’t feed, water, bathe, or walk yourself let alone a pet. Whoever helps you will probably also get stuck caring for your pet’s special needs if they’re older, such as brushing their teeth, giving meds, or doing their traction.

Getting Your Life Back

My surgery was in November 2018. It’s now April 2022. Ya know what I don’t have, yet? A life. And it looks like I’ll never have one, actually. So be prepared for that depression to set in, too.