Hello from Greenville…a 3 week update!

Hello from Greenville!

I have been hanging out at my parent’s house for the last 11 days. My mom is calling this “forced rehabilitation” because we both know that if I were at home I would be over eager and overactive. This is the part of any major surgery that is difficult, but even more so for a type-A personality like me. From my past experiences, once I start feeling good I am always eager to start feeling great and get back to normal life again. I am still wearing out quickly, taking naps, and having to limit myself so I can continue to heal. This time in the recovery process is always a lesson in patience. I am very ready to get back home to my husband and my puppies. I miss them all terribly!

On a positive note, I am getting to spend lots of quality time with my parents and sisters. I am staying in Greenville a little longer than I probably would have because my baby sister, Frances, is getting married next weekend at my parent’s house. Being home has allowed me the opportunity to take part in lots of wedding planning and projects which is SO fun! The three of us now live in three different cities, so anytime we are together is always a treat. There are lots of projects going on to get the house wedding ready, one being some major landscaping. Caroline (my middle sister) is a landscape architect so she is is putting her skills to good use.

I have been terrible about taking pictures the last few weeks. I have had lots of visitors and had the opportunity to hang out with some friends from high school. Last weekend both my sisters and their husband/fiance were at the house all weekend doing wedding work in the yard. On Saturday Frances had her bridal portraits, and so I cooked my first meal since the surgery. I got an A+ for taste, but it wore me out!

My constant companion has been my moms one-year-old Vizsla, Hazel.  I have started calling her my appendage. She follows me wherever I go and sleeps whenever and wherever I am sleeping. I may steal her and take her home with me (mom don’t read this!).  We have also been going on lots of walks.

Some things I am looking forward to are seeing Brad next Thursday and seeing my puppies when I get home in a few weeks. I am also looking forward to getting to take some of my dissolvable sutures out in a week or so. They are sewn externally and are driving me crazy. It’s the little things, right?

 

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A closing note before heading home

Tomorrow it will have been a week since I was discharged from the hospital. Since discharge, we have gotten into a daily routine that includes lots of coffee, a daily walk around the neighborhood, and lots of good food. Some of the delicious places we have found to eat are:

Today was our last full day in the city because we are flying home tomorrow (yippie!!). I had my follow-up appointment with my neurosurgeon, Dr. F, this morning. Generally, the wait on his clinic days are extremely long, but his resident promised me that if I got there early they would see me first. My appointment was at 9, so we got there at 8 and we saw them both by 930! I got a great report on my wounds healing and was cleared to begin physical therapy and gradually resuming a “normal life” at my own pace with some restrictions. I will be heading back to Chicago in 3 months for new MRIs and to spend more time discussing a long-term plan with my surgeon.

Dr. F and I at my appointment. We love him SO.

 

The “plan” going into this surgery was to revise my Chiari decompression, remove the shunt tube and scar tissue from my spinal cord, and detach my spinal cord in the areas that it was stuck (this is called detethering). Before surgery, I reviewed my new MRIs with Dr. F and he was highly confident these things were possible. Once he started the surgery it became clear that my spinal cord had too much long-term damage, inflammation, and was too tethered to fully complete the detethering portion of the surgery as previously planned.  After talking to my family, Dr. F did his absolute best on my spinal cord and completed the Chiari revision as planned.

After surgery, we were all obviously disappointed and have taken time to process this news. This outcome means that I will most likely always be a tethered cord/spinal cord injury patient. That being said, we all began to earnestly pray (and tell my surgical team) that we were looking for extraordinary outcomes, and that my goal was to exceed their expectations.

I have always loved to walk outside (especially with my puppies) but before this surgery, I struggled with leg pain to such an extent that I often could not walk more than a few blocks. Since my surgery, I have been able to walk a little more every day. After my appointment today I walked 1.5 miles back to the hotel and I am only 9 days post op! I could NOT have done this two weeks ago. This is extraordinary, and being able to tell my surgical team about my success today was such a joy. Our prayer is that I continue to heal and recover in remarkable ways, exceeding expectations as I go.

We celebrated our successful walk and appointment today with a lunch at one of our favorite places, followed by a long nap for me. Now on to packing and home tomorrow! The journey certainly is not over, but it is going to feel so good to sleep in my own bed and to be back in Greenville with people I love for a few weeks.

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Home sweet hotel

As most of yall probably saw on facebook, I was discharged from the hospital on Friday afternoon. I was meeting all the benchmarks and my pain was being controlled by oral medications, so it was decided I could continue to heal at home (aka the hotel).

Since returning to the hotel we have been doing much of the same that we were doing at the hospital…napping, watching Netflix, listening to music, etc. There have been some high points though! I got to wash my hair (kind of…) for the first time in five days yesterday. My sterile bandages are still on both my wounds until I see my surgeon next Thursday, so we gave hair washing our best attempt last night. It felt awesome to have great, gunk free, post-surgery hair. I have also been trying to do a lot of walking to get my energy back up. Yesterday we walked a few blocks twice, and I have walked even further today. I am so thankful for my increased energy level each day and that my pain level is continuing to decrease as I heal.

On a sad note, Brad left this morning to go back to Alabama. Work and our puppies are calling his name. It will be just over 3 weeks until we see each other again. There is nothing easy about being apart for so long, but I am so thankful to have people still able to care for me here as I recover and people to care for him while he is home alone.  After Brad left this morning, my mom’s longtime best friend (and my other mother), Mrs. Jeanine, flew in to keep us company for the next week. So far we have enjoyed some girl time today including ice cream for dinner 🙂

Our plans for the next few days include continued healing and resting. We are so thankful to have not encountered any infection or CSF leaks so far and are still praying against these.

“Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.”

Psalm 63:3-4

 

 

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We have made it to the other side!

It’s Anna here! We are almost 48 hours post-op and SO much has happened since surgery. I was taken back to surgery around 11:00 AM Tuesday, but the procedure did not get underway until after 12:30 PM. I made it to from surgery to my room around 8:45 PM and my doctor, Dr F., came and shared some of the ups and downs of the surgery with me (more about that later). After that, my parents and Brad were allowed back to see me in the ICU.

I was extremely groggy after surgery and slept for the first few hours in my new room, but after all my anesthesia wore off I was quite awake because I was placed on a LARGE dose of steroids for 24 hours. I was up most of the night after surgery listening to podcasts and music. Luckily I was on a pain pump and my pain was relatively low. The day after my surgery (Wednesday), I was ambulating with assistance and had eaten three full meals with no nausea. When Dr. F rounded late Wednesday evening he called my good mood and low pain level the next day “steroid induced psychosis”, but I aimed to prove him wrong :). After my steroids and antibiotics finished infusing I was cleared to go to a regular neuro floor and moved late last night and had a much more restful night.

Today I have hit quite a few individual goals including:

  • Ambulating without assistance
  • Walking up stairs unassisted
  • Walking around the floor and stretched my legs with Brad’s help
  • Continuing to eat full meals
  • Passing my Physical Therapy evaluation
  • I am off all IV pain meds and other IVs since this afternoon

I am currently wearing a soft cervical collar and probably will be in some sort of collar for quite a while going forward. I am also still on all heart monitors because of some heart stuff I have had going on including tachycardia. We are all feeling so thankful for all of the blessings we have received since surgery. I seem to be recovering quickly, my pain level has stayed manageable and low, and we have had wonderful nurses and other care teams.

After talking to both Dr. F and his resident, looking forward we have quite a few more obstacles to overcome both short and long-term, but right now we are taking things one day at a time. We are looking at being discharged either tomorrow or Saturday and some things I am looking forward to over the next few days are:

  • Taking a shower and washing my hair!
  • Having my next visitor arrive, my other mother, Mrs. Jeanine
  • Being able to ambulate more and becoming more independent

Thank you all so much for the prayers, texts, and phone calls that we have all received over the last 48 hours. I know they encouraged my families anxious hearts as they waited during surgery and they have been such an encouragement to me. Some things you can continue to pray for are my discharge plan, my pain level, my family as they continue to care for me, and my continued recovery over the next weeks/months.

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Today is the big day

The big day is finally here! Yesterday I had a full day of MRIs and other tests. Not only did I get the ONLY MRI room with a radio, but I had the most wonderful MRI technician who was so caring during my 90 minutes in the MRI machine. My scans went so well. I was able to stay still and was comfortable the entire time. I am so thankful for this blessing!

After my scans, mom and I had a quick snack and rested before we headed out as a family for a delicious dinner at Girl and the Goat. It was great to have some family time before we head into today. My surgery is scheduled for 11 AM Central time, and I have to be at the hospital at 9 this morning. I made myself get up at midnight and eat two granola bars because I know I will be starving (and probably hypoglycemic) by 1030, let’s pray I make it! I was told at my pre-op visit that surgery would last between 6-8 hours, so I am guessing I will be in PACU by dinner time. My mom will be taking the reins on here for a while and updating yall after surgery.

The encouragement we have felt leading up to today has been overwhelming, and such a gift from the Lord. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to us. We love you all!

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We made it to Chicago!

This week has been a whirlwind of packing, working, moving, and spending time with the ones we love. The love and support we have felt while doing all of these things have been overwhelming! I have received so many texts and gifts, and so many people have gone out of their way to demonstrate kindness to Brad and me as we prepared to leave for Chicago today.

On Saturday we took Lacey and Piper (our pups) out to St. Florian to leave them with a friend. I was so sad to leave them and will miss them terribly while I am away. I am not sure they feel the same about me–they were pretty excited to be on a new adventure.

We drove to Birmingham early this morning and got into Chicago after lunch. After resting for a bit at the hotel, we decided that this was our only free day together before surgery and recovery and so we set out to do some exploring. We did a riverboat tour, which Brad loved, and had a wonderful dinner together.

Tomorrow my parents will be getting into town and I have medical tests most of the day before surgery Tuesday morning. One thing I am having done is a new set of MRIs for my surgeon to use during surgery. Please pray that I will have clean, movement free, scans and that I will be able to stay still in the machine for the entire time.

Through the last week, the Lord has put Psalm 139:5 on my heart as the verse I should be praying as I approach surgery. It says “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.” Knowing that the Lord is not only in my past but also already in my future, with his hand readily upon me, has given me such peace as I approach surgery this week. 

Until tomorrow,

 

 

 

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Some exciting news before Chicago!

We bought a house! We closed today. Yes, six days before brain surgery. We also realize everyone probably thinks we are crazy. Brad and I have been living in a house he built on his family’s farm since we got married. Earlier this year we decided we wanted to start looking at moving to Florence, AL to be closer to friends, church, and work. Since there was no rush we have been casually looking since early summer. I have been real estate obsessed since childhood, and love looking for the diamond in the rough.

When I was in Chicago in August with my mom for my first visit with my new neurosurgeon, I sent Brad to see a house I thought might have potential. He called me from the house and told me this was the house, and that I would love it. He was right! We were hesitant to make an offer knowing that surgery was coming up, but to quote my mother “you can have two big life events at one time”. We are so glad we listened because life will go on after surgery! This house is the perfect mix of old, new, redone and needing work. I love a project and Brad loves move-in ready, so this is the perfect compromise. It was built in 1958 and is a one story mid-century ranch. We are so excited to make the move. I am especially excited to decorate the new house and am SO excited to have something to look forward to during my weeks of recovery! Sometimes the Lords timing seems strange and overwhelming but during the last few weeks, we have seen Him bless and direct us. As we head into next week with a new (empty) house under our belt, we are trusting He will do the same.

 

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Here we go again…

Those of you that have been around for a while know my story, if not you can find it above. Here at the Bowling household we are calling 2017 “the year we don’t want to repeat”. In February I had major surgery to replace a shunt in my spinal cord. After receiving good news from my post-op MRIs we were overjoyed and felt like we might finally be in the clear for a little while. Little did we know we would be facing another major surgery in less than 6 months.

Here’s how it happened. After my surgery in February I was feeling better, but not great. As time went on I felt that I needed to confirm I was making the right choices with my health going forward by getting some other medical opinions. Through research and the direction of the Lord I quickly saw two Chiari specialist who offered similar opinions.

I went to Chicago in early August 2017, to see a new neurosurgeon for his opinion. He expressed great concern that though the newest shunt in my spinal cord was working, scar tissue from previous surgeries had caused my cord to attach or “tether” to the membrane surrounding my spinal cord. This puts me at risk for spinal cord injury and paralysis. He believes the “tethering” is also causing many of my symptoms. He wanted to operate as soon as possible. My baby sister gets married in October, so brain surgery was not really “part of the plan” before then, but isn’t it funny how quickly the plan changes?

We decided on a surgery date of September 19 in Chicago, which is SO soon! I will spend 3-4 days in the hospital and a total of about 10 days in Chicago before I head home to recover.  I have found that in times like this it is so easy to let yourself play the “what if” game, but doing that is dangerous for my mental health and it undermines my faith in the Lord. All there is to do is lean into Him as all the scariness and unknown circles around me. Looking toward this surgery I have found an overwhelming sense of peace about this surgery that could only come from the Lord.

Since my last surgery, I have been learning that the most powerful tool I have in this life is my own story. My story provides me with unique opportunities, and over the past few months, I have been learning to embrace this. I have always been hesitant to share my story because honestly a lot of it is painful. It has always been easier to look forward toward growth instead of reflecting backward. For a long time, I felt like my success in overcoming pain and obstacles was the triumph in my story, but what if the real triumph is being capable of sharing my story with those around me to point them close to Him?

So, as we start this new journey and embark on a new surgery, please follow along. I (or my mom) will be updating this site regularly. We greatly appreciate your prayers as we approach surgery and recover afterward.

” But now thus says the Lordhe who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

Isaiah 43:1-3

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