The illustrated version of my back surgery



In late September of 2009, I tore the muscle and tendons in my left shoulder. This was from a combination of trying to do car repair work that required fitting a six-foot man under the dashboard of a Ford Escort, and of pulling a heavily-loaded dolly that had one flat tire, when I was laid off.

I attempted to alleviate the pain of the swelling with Aleve. This irritated my digestive system and caused me to have such a bad case of hiccups that I was vomiting on a regular basis. I couldn't keep anything down, so I was concerned that my blood glucose was going low (going hypo) - a bad thing. It took a week to get rid of the hiccups.

So, in my fog-filled mind, I thought I would stop taking my diabetes medication for a couple of days. If I had been using a glucose meter, I would have seen that I was not going hypo. As a result, my blood glucose level reached 422. Normal levels should hover around 100.

Between the torn tissue in my shoulder and the out of control blood glucose levels, a deep staph infection set up shop in and under the muscle on my left shoulder. I had to go to the emergency room.

While in the hospital, they cut a huge chunk out of my shoulder so they could reach the infection and siphon it out. The wound is in one of those positions where you can't reach a knife if someone should stab you... Here is a (very blurry) picture taken four weeks after I was discharged:

Partially closed surgical wound at four weeks


They also managed to lose my blue jeans and belt. I still have not received the check for this, as of December 9th.

I was so fog-addled that I had lost track of two whole days, and had trouble time-lining the events that led up to my hospitalization.

After I was discharged, I had to wear two pouches - one containing a wound vacuum, to remove any drainage and to help keep the wound closed, one containing an IV of vancomycin which had to be replaced three times a week. Both pouches had tubes that I had to keep away from the sharp claws of my cats and had to take care not to tangle. The vacuum had to be kept charged up, which effectively kept me tethered to an electrical outlet half the day, and all night. The IV pouch, mercifully, used battery packs that were changed out when the IV bags were replaced.

Between the two pouches, the wound started to heal. Here is a shot of the wound after six weeks:

Partially closed surgical wound at six weeks


And another shot of the wound after eight weeks. It has started filling in with scar tissue. Looks like a big, pinkish worm to me:

Partially closed surgical wound at eight weeks


Now I am rid of both pouches, and get a more normal dressing on my back. Unfortunately, the tape doesn't stick to skin very well, so the surgeon who did the followup applied what feels like ten pounds of tape. It looks raggedy, to say the least:

Massively taped wound


The nurse just called to say she is making her "last visit." I don't know if this means no more dressings, or that I get one final dressing or if she plans to kill me when she gets here. I'll soon find out.

Well, it turned out not to be the final visit after all. It was just the final application of a wet dressing three times a week, and the beginning of daily dry dressing changes, seven times a week. Sigh... The actual final day was the 12th of January, 2010. And here is a picture with the wound all closed up. The scar is obviously still a dark scarlet color, but it isn't leaking vital fluids any longer. Yay! I can sleep without a shirt to keep dressings in place! I can take a real shower! I can stop building my daily schedule around nurse visits!

Completely closed wound



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