Neck Fusion - Adventures at Mass General

Carlos has been a proud member of the United States Air Force for approximately 12 years. However, as with most military jobs, the wear and tear of required gear and the job tasks in general can result in many physical problems. For Carlos, 2-3 of the vertebrae in his neck had worn down and begun to rub and squish against his spinal cord. After months of physical therapy and shopping around for a good doctor that actually cares, we chose a neurosurgeon at Mass General Hospital in Boston (Best.Decision.Ever)

You never know exactly what to expect when you’re planning your stay at a hospital. We knew we would be staying at least 2 days but of course it could always be more. I packed for simplicity about as possible as a female can. Same pair of jeans, 3 different sweatshirts, one pair of sweats and shirt to sleep in, and of course the hygienic necessities. 

The night before we couldn’t sleep and in no time 4am was upon us. It took about an hour and a half to get to Boston and we shuffled into the quiet empty hospital expecting to be the only ones there for surgery. We immediately burst into laughter, we turned the corner to the room and standing in a long line were about 30-40 other people apparently also having surgery that morning. Thankfully the line was moving along pretty quick. We were checked in with a little hand held pager that was something out of Texas Roadhouse and found a little spot in the massive waiting room to sit.  

Before long he was taken back to change and prep for surgery and I was left to the adventures of exploring the ginormous maze that is Mass General. There’s a surgical family waiting room set a part for those who want to wait comfortably and stay up to date on their loved ones status. This quickly became my home for the next 8-9 hours. The room is ran by a nurse and two volunteers. Once you check in, they let you know when your loved one’s surgery has begun, when it ends, and when you can request to see them. I picked a space on a long desk with a privacy window and plenty of outlets so I could do some of my work. I am definitely blessed to have a job I can literally take with me anywhere. I also brought a book for any work downtime and I made a couple trips to the cafe down the hall for coffee, water, and a muffin. The cafe was uber cheap which is great when you’re stuck waiting for so long. Plus you’re in the middle of downtown Boston, you don’t want to have to go anywhere. 

Carlos was in surgery for a little over 2 1/2 hours. His doctor came down to tell me everything went great, which was awesome. A couple hours after that I was told I could finally go see him. I followed a volunteer through winding halls and about two elevators until we had finally arrived at his recovery spot. I say spot because that’s just what it was. The teeniest of spaces with just enough room to fit a stretcher. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I would see him so my nerves were a little wrecked right before I walked up to him. He was obviously very tired and in a lot of pain. All in all, his incision looked great and I squeezed into the space, popped open my book and let him rest until we could get into an actual room. There was no phone signal in the recovery area and I had been updating friends and family for the past 8 hours, but it was nice to know he was ok and enjoy the quiet alone time we had for a couple hours. 

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He finally got a room and so began the treck through more halls and only one elevator this time. The room was amazing. Because we were in Boston and in such a huge hospital, we assumed he would be in a shared room and that was if he got a room initially at all. That wasn’t the case, he was given a beautiful private room with plenty of space and not too bad of a view. Not like that mattered since the only direction Carlos could see was straight. 

The next three days was spent trying to get back to a new normal. Carlos would take little walks that felt like refreshing 5 minute escapes and we experimented with what he could actually swallow. So far it’s been yogurt, broth, and lots of ice water. It’s taking him a bit to get used to help. He and I are very independent people and so needing help with shoes, pants, and anything that requires bending down can be frustrating. He’s stuck with a very fashionable neck collar for the next two months and will begin physical therapy after that to learn new posture and movement techniques. 

The nurses and staff at Mass General were beyond more than we could ever have asked for. They are genuinely dedicated to their profession and really love what they do. Since we’ve come home, Carlos has posted up in the basement recliner that we moved into the living room and I’ve taken up on the couch. Things like this sometimes make you do an inventory of your relationship and how far we’ve come. Things could have been worse or gone badly, but they didn’t and for that I’m very thankful. For now we’re looking forward to less pain and some rest and relaxation at home.