When a “Side Effect” is More like a Full-Body Disaster

Hello friends, I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve written and I apologize. As I’ve said before, life gets in the way of things we want to do.

Moments before surgery, smiling behind my surgical mask. This surgery was an investment in my future health.

Moments before surgery, smiling behind my surgical mask. This surgery was an investment in my future health.

I had my second sinus surgery at the beginning of the week, and recovery has not been very pleasant.

I experienced a side effect to one of the medications used during anesthesia.

Within about 12 hours of my surgery, I began to experience severe muscle pain in my upper abdomen, back, shoulders, and neck. The pain was very similar to the type of muscle pain you might have after working out. I first noticed it as I was getting up from my hospital bed to use the restroom. Throughout the night, it worsened. As the sun started to come up, I was in so much pain that I had to use the side rails to pull myself up to get out of bed.

When the ENT doctor came into my room in the morning around 5 AM, I told him what I was experiencing. He told me that it was “normal to have some pain,” and that it was likely related to a muscle relaxant the surgeon used prior to anesthesia.

I asked if I could take ibuprofen – which is, by design, an anti-inflammatory medication – and he said no, that it could increase the risk of bleeding. They had been giving me pain medicine in my IV for my surgical pain and said that it *should* help the muscular pain and that I could have more, but it wasn’t helping, so, no thank you. I had already had enough drugs in my system from the surgery, I did not want to take any additional extraneous medications that could possibly mess up my breathing, especially if they were not going to work.

The only other option was Tylenol, which I accepted, because it was better than nothing, and I’d probably feel better in a day or two, or so I thought.

They discharged me, and we got home somewhere around noon. I fell asleep on the couch and was zonked for the better part of the afternoon. I awakened near dinnertime and physically couldn’t get up off the couch. I thought it was just residual pain from surgery, and after a couple of hours, decided to go to bed.

Ken helped me upstairs.

The Day After The Day After

I slept soundly, but in the early hours of the morning, I found myself in such excruciating pain that I could not roll over from one side to the other. I was gripping my head board to try to propel my body, but I couldn’t do it. I literally screamed in agony.

Ever the tech geek, I always sleep with my cell phone underneath my pillow, so I grabbed it and googled “post operative pain”. Google supplied me with a zillion and one results with the term “Post Operative Myalgia.”

The medication, a muscle relaxant called Succinylcholine, is well-known for causing severe muscular pain 12-24 hours after anesthesia. I read several studies that placed the occurrence rate for anywhere from 50 to 89% of patients given the medication.

50%?

89%??!?

A-ha! I’m not imagining it, I’m not exaggerating it, there really is a reason why I am in such misery. Normally, knowing is the most important step of the healing process, but a phone call to my doctor resolved nothing. He said the only option was to go back into the hospital, that he couldn’t do anything over the phone. I said I wasn’t going to do that. Most people would say, if it’s that bad, why didn’t you go?

I couldn’t imagine myself getting dressed, down the stairs, into a car, riding for 30 minutes, and sitting in an ER for hours just for them to tell me that there is nothing they could do. I had already asked the doctor while I was IN the hospital on Tuesday morning, remember? Nothing they offered helped me there, and it just got worse.

“Don’t Believe Everything you read on the Internet”

That’s what my doctor had told me. Well, nothing you “experts” are telling me is helping, so once again, Ken and I had to figure it out on our own.

I read as much as possible and decided to let time take its course. Most cases resolve in 2-3 days. Thankfully, I was so uncomfortable that I passed out for hours at a time. Whenever I had to get up or move, Ken and I would try to figure out the best angles to move my body so that I wasn’t pulling on the abdominal and chest muscles (which were the most painful). See, kids? You DO use geometry after high school!

The scariest part of this problem what that I could not cough. The rigidity of my muscles was so severe that I could not inhale enough to push the air out. I begin most mornings quite congested due to laying down (everything settles), and on that particular morning, I found myself unable to clear anything from my lungs or throat. I was beginning to freak out. If I can’t clear my airways, I will certainly end up sick very soon. I had not been able to do any airway clearance since before surgery.

Moving…On my own, finally!

It is now day 5 post-op and thankfully, the muscle pain has diminished to a 3 out of 10, and only occurs when I cough. I’m experiencing migraines from the sinus surgery, but it’s manageable with closed curtains, low volume, and avoiding bending over. Oh, and Ibuprofen every six hours. Yeah, I am taking Ibuprofen. It’s worth the risk, and I am not bleeding much anymore.

I hope to be back posting more often, as I had this surgery to help slow down the frequency of bacterial infections – they often begin in my sinuses and move down to my lungs. For 5-6 weeks prior to this surgery, I was getting sicker and just praying I’d make it to my surgery date without additional hospitalizations. Now I have an additional medication to add to my “do not take” list. I am looking into some advocacy for patients at least being educated about the potential for this debilitating side effect. I realize that you can’t cover every possibility, but this was a harrowing experience.

Thanks for reading!! I hope you’re all having a good summer, and will be back soon with more Therapink for the masses!

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6 thoughts on “When a “Side Effect” is More like a Full-Body Disaster

  1. Angelmarie Canfield says:

    Hope u feel better soon hunny thinking about you along with keepin u in my thoughts and prayers love u stay strong ❤ !!

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