One Month Post-Surgery Update: Lizz’s Perspective

It’s been just over four weeks since my elbow surgery. The surgery will hopefully correct pain and numbness that I’ve had in my right arm for over two years due to cubital tunnel syndrome. You can learn more details about why I had the surgery here, and read the immediate post-op update here.

As Dan had said, the surgery went well. I made sure to request they not use Versed during anesthesia (we learned I reacted poorly to it after my SI joint injections), and waking up was a lot easier without it! I was nowhere near as nauseous as I have been after every other surgery. They still gave me IV Zofran right after I woke up though – I was a tad nauseous and nerve pain can always make that worse. I was dealing with pain (and somehow able to give it a number while barely conscious), and they gave me several (3) doses of IV fentanyl before releasing me. (I just looked at Dan’s post-op update, and they also gave me a Dilaudid apparently.) Below is a slideshow of pictures from my surgery day!

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Dan and I came home, and I took a nap. My pain was actually pretty well controlled, way more than I’ve experienced after other surgeries, and I felt much better without the Versed. Without the intense nausea from the Versed, I was actually able to do a good job with eating.

Recovery was actually doing pretty well, until the weekend. Surgery was on a Tuesday. I was struggling with itching due to the Dilaudid, but Benadryl would make it almost tolerable. My mom arrived Friday to help me around the house and stuff, so that Dan could get back to work on Monday. I was as excited to see her as I could be given the circumstances.

On Saturday, we got to unwrap my arm, remove the dressing, and I got to shower. I had a headache and felt horrible and greasy, and my arm was really swollen. After the shower, I thought I felt better, but then I started to feel very much not better. I took a nap, but my headache and nausea just wouldn’t cooperate. I was already on Tylenol every six hours, Dilaudid every six hours, and Mobic every 24 hours. I was also taking Zofran every morning and evening, and phenergan as needed. I couldn’t take any more medications for any of the symptoms I was experiencing.

Sunday was Easter, so the three of us dyed hard-boiled eggs and had cinnamon rolls for breakfast. It was a lot of fun! But in the afternoon I had another bad headache, nausea, intense itching, and fatigue. I believe I napped again – but things get a little fuzzy. Days blurred together with all the symptoms and pain and medication.

I continued struggling with the atrocious headache and nausea a bit more, when I suddenly realized it was probably the Dilaudid doing it. I called my pharmacist, explained my symptoms, and she confirmed it was the Dilaudid and I needed to get off of it as soon as possible. Thankfully, I have a prescription for Tramadol, so I just switched to that at my next dose time. Within two hours of taking the Tramadol, the horrible headache and nausea calmed down to a barely there head discomfort and my background nausea! Needless to say, I won’t be taking Dilaudid again!

Weird RashI developed a strange rash on my right arm the night of April 3rd, and it only started fading April 8th. No one knows what it’s from because nothing at all changed (no new detergents, creams, dressings, etc). Dan and I think it may be related to the swelling and healing and my body having weird allergy problems, but we will probably never know. The swelling is due to an excess of white blood cells rushing to an area to help repair it, and allergies are also due to white blood cells – that’s why we think it may have been related to the swelling. I don’t usually get rashes at all, so it was even more odd. Taking Benadryl around the clock, and using copious amounts of Benadryl cream helped substantially.

My post-op appointment was on April 5th (about 9 days after surgery). My surgeon, Dr NS, was extremely happy to hear that the numbness in my fingers was significantly improved already, and I was actually doing pretty well with pain and everything. He cleared me to start doing as much as my arm will allow me to do, instructed me to start doing scar massages (mini torture sessions, in case you’re wondering), and gave me a padded sleeve to help keep it protected while it finishes healing.

Tramadol makes me very sleepy and foggy, so I wanted to get off of it. I cut all my pills in half on the 8th. Then I tried to skip a dose (go from taking it every 6 hours to every 12 hours). I was also taking Tylenol every 6 hours, and Mobic every 24 hours. Unfortunately, at about 8 hours post-dose, I started getting very ill and having physical withdrawl symptoms. It’s not until writing this that I realize how horribly fast I tried to do that to myself, as it was only two days later… Oops. I did cave and take a 1/2 a Tramadol that night, but skipped the morning dose in the hopes of sleeping off the withdrawl. However, my arm was in a lot of pain, and touching the scar made my eyes water. So I had to restart the 1/2 Tramadol. I was able to reduce it to every 8 hours, however, even though I was dealing with some minor withdrawl symptoms as each dose started to wear off.

I was able to, thankfully, taper off the Tramadol by the 16th of April. That same week, I was also able to come off the Tylenol and the Mobic. Now, I’m only using Tylenol as needed (which isn’t very often) to help with pain from overuse. I am supposed to be using my arm as much as I can, so sometimes I accidentally overdo it.

Being on Tramadol around the clock, and with my dominant arm back to only about 85% function, the days have all been blurring together. It’s almost been a month post-op, but it feels like it’s been a lot longer than that (I’d say it feels like it’s been at least 3 months). I need to cut myself some slack and take it easier. It’s okay my arm isn’t at 100%, it’s okay that I needed my heavy pain killers so long (especially with my fibro), and it’s okay that I’m still not doing a whole lot with my life at the moment. I’ll be back to it soon enough.

Overall, recovery has been quite good – and I’m surprised at my progress. It was great having my mom here for help with things like kitty feeding, driving me to/from my few appointments (so I could keep taking my pain meds), and other small things. I know she felt like she wasn’t helping a ton, but the little things add up and would be significantly setting me back in my recovery without the help. My scar looks great, though it’s gotten a lot more red due to the massages, and my pain is still better than expected. The massages are starting to make it flatten out a bit though, so I’ll stick with it.

Hopefully, recovery will continue to go well, and I’ll be back to “normal” soon!

For previous post-surgery updates, check out the story highlight on my Instagram called “Surgery Updates.” I also have a few posts in my actual Instagram feed.

Slideshows of unwrapping and scar progress – click to view the next photo. Photos are graphic, and clearly show my surgery site: blood/scabs (unwrapping), large scar, bruising, etc. The last slide of the unwrapping slideshow shows how we rewrapped it to keep it clean and protected. (Pause the slideshow if you don’t want to see it.)

Unwrapping – graphic:

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Scar progress:

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