How Long? Tell Me, How Long?

(song: Wait For Spring To Come/artist: John Butler Trio)

Jan 21, 2016

On the advice of my surgeon at my 3-week follow-up, today I saw neurologist Dr. Dora Leung at Hospital for Special Surgery. The purpose of the visit was to assess the extent of the nerve damage and (hopefully) get some idea of a time frame for my recovery. 

Ready to be (literally) poked and prodded.
After I got dressed in the all-too-familiar hospital gown, Dr. Leung performed a series of tests ranging from banging on my joints with a rubber mallet to test my reflexes, to poking me with a tiny pin EVERYWHERE. She started around my shoulders and gradually worked her way down. Once she got around the area affected by the saddle paresthesia, okay my butt, the pricking became less and less painful until I finally said, "I have no idea where you are."In addition to my numb lady parts, there's still some numbness in my shins. I'm not going to bleed out if I cut myself shaving so it's not all that worrisome.

She really lost me at S5...
And then we did a series of balance and strength tests in the hallway. My balance sucks, I can't lift my toes off the ground or walk on my heals. I can walk on my toes though, so that's a huge post-surgery victory. I'll take it where I can get it.

After I got dressed, she gave me the straight dope:
  • The saddle paresthesia is sensory nerve damage, most likely sustained during surgery since "hammers and chisels are involved in order to get the bone off the nerve". And while nerves have the ability to regenerate, apparently sensory nerves are not as "hearty" as motor nerves so this may never completely go away. She recommends I see a urologist since my new-found bladder control superpowers are of concern. On the plus side, painless bikini waxes for life. Cup's half full? 
  • The nerves that control my feet are (fortunately) the heartier motor nerves, which can better sustain surgery trauma and are more likely to recover completely. Hooray!
  • She recommends continued use of the cane as an indicator to others that, while I may look normal, speed and balance are not on my side so it will serve as a "FALL RISK" prop. And let me tell you something, when you're using a cane, people get the hell out of your way. I feel like Moses on the subway platform.
Cane coming through!
  • She tells me that PT (which I started the week before) is the way to go and advises lots of stretching so the Achilles doesn't get too tight and cause compromised walking. She tells me that tonic water, quinine specifically, is good for muscle cramps. She didn't say I shouldn't add gin, so I take this an open invitation to develop a raging drinking habit while I recover.
  • She recommends shoes with more ankle support for longer distance walking so I immediately buy these jazzy numbers.
Hip Cripple.
I ask her to ball-park a time-frame, while promising not to sue if she's wrong. She's reluctant to give me what I want so she says things like, "your legs are long and the nerves go all the way down" and "very slow process" and "like watching grass grow". And then she FINALLY says, "You're young and healthy. I think you have potential for a full recovery. Be patient. Give it 12-18 months."

All I heard was "12-18 months"...