The big “S” word: SURGERY. This can be a scary word for some and a comforting word for others. My experience with surgery has been a positive one. I have had eight surgeries since my diagnosis. Not all of those surgeries were ankylosing spondylitis-related, but my AS affected all of them.
Here are a few of the things I have learned when dealing with surgery when you have ankylosing spondylitis.
Sometimes surgery is necessary. I know this may sound basic, but there is more to it. Whenever you start discussing surgery with friends and family, they will have their opinions. When I was thinking about having hip replacement surgery before I was 40, I had friends telling me I was too young. I kept putting it off thinking maybe I was wrong. Everyone must have this kind of hip pain. When I finally had my left hip replacement, it felt so good that I had the right hip replaced 2 years afterward! I suffered because I let people tell me how I was feeling. Remember to be your own advocate!
Another thing I learned about having surgery with AS is the importance of communication. Of course, your surgeon should know you have AS, but what about the anesthesiologist? Before one of my shoulder surgeries, the anesthesiologist stopped by as they always do. When he learned that I have AS, he said, “I have questions.” He wanted to make sure I was physically comfortable during the surgery as well as reassuring me that he has his part under control. We all metabolize medications differently, so don’t be afraid to speak up if something doesn’t feel right. One of the worst things is leaving the surgery center in a lot of pain needlessly.
The last thing to think about when considering surgery is your need for rehab. I know that for me, my body doesn’t heal like it used to. So make sure you allow yourself enough time to heal. Pushing yourself too far could lead to further damaging what you just had fixed! Be patient, and listen to your body.
Surgery doesn’t solve everything, but sometimes it’s the only thing left. It is also important to remember that just because surgery didn’t help one person doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. Everyone’s body is different. So do your research and talk to your doctor to see what is right for you.
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