Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Distraction Pain

I want to give you an updated version on my thoughts about 'Distraction Pain'.

One of the things I had hoped I wouldn't suffer with going into this was distraction pain.  I had read lots of scary posts and articles about this mystical pain that no one really understands, from the point of view of why it happens to some people and not to others.

A quick idea of what 'Distraction Pain' is:

  • There are several reported cases of distraction pain post back surgery. In fact, disc surgery recovery is often marred by the intensity of this pain.
  • What exactly is distraction pain? Degenerative disc disease wears out your discs, thereby resulting in their collapse. The ADR surgery will jack up the disc space to its natural height. Thus, the insertion of an ADR implant into your spine results in disc height correction.
  • Post disk treatment, the muscles, tendons and ligaments and nerves in your back have to grow to accommodate the increased disc height. They stretch themselves to adjust to the new space. This stretching causes pain, which is known as distraction pain.

I had decided in my head that I probably wouldn't suffer with it. Stay with me my reasoning is pretty sound.  When I had read posts from people talking about their distraction I noticed one thing they all had in common.  They were all much fitter looking than me.  You know gym types, lean muscles, kept themselves fit, eat green smoothies and somehow despite the pain pre-operation, stay in shape.  Whereas me, well I think it's fair to say I am not in shape!  Not in any kind of shape square, circular or otherwise completely and utterly unfit, overweight and mostly my body doesn't know what muscles are.

So, in my head I thought well these fit people have these tight muscles, tendons and nerves etc that now have to stretch when they are already tight.  Where as me, mine are already loose and flabby so shouldn't cause me any problems.   Oh how wrong can a person be!!

We have had the privilege of befriending two lovely guys and their gals, who had a two level ADR and give or take a few days we are more or less in time with each other.  My operation was first so I have always been a couple of days ahead.


When the distraction pain hit me on Day 9 post op, it was honestly more painful than childbirth.  I have never experienced anything so unpleasant and all consuming.  I couldn't sit, I couldn't sleep, Lie down.....nothing, it was completely and utterly relentless in it's severity.  One of the worst things was just trying to stand still, something that became completely impossible.  We have a tiny lift here at the flat and to get down in it I had to walk round in circles just so I wasn't in tears by the time I reached the ground floor.

I watched my two friends at first with no leg pain.  Now don't get me wrong I would literally not wish this pain on my worst enemy as it's fucking horrific (excuse my language!) but I started to worry that it was just me and what had I done differently, was it my fault for being unfit etc.  When all of a sudden it hit them both, and as well as instantly feeling extremely sorry for them, I have to admit to feeling little relieved at the same time.  Both Rhett and Mark had exactly the same pain and over the next week we shared anything and everything we found that helped. As both Rhett and Mark were both extremely fit guys going into this, I was extremely surprised that it hit them as well and my theory went out the window.

So, what did help?  After all this blog is supposed to be about helping others!  This is what we all discovered helped the most.

1. When the pain strikes at it's worst, get up no matter how hard it is and gently pace the room for no less than five minutes.

2. Take pain meds as indicated by your doctor.  Or take a trip to the Old Town and visit the smoking grasshopper and talk to the incredibly knowledgeable shop keepers about how their products might help you with pain (and believe me they DO!!).  We are going to be doing a whole blog on this topic when we get home, as it's a big subject and one that is very controversial. It is not something we thought about until it was suggested by a number of health care professionals here, as my pain medications had gone off the chart.  

We want to make a longer video documenting our whole journey with CBD, so watch this space!

I was taking up to 15 different pain medications including morphine, Valium and codeine during any one day.  I am now taking just two tablets a day, very occasionally three.  If you want to know more about this before the blog comes out in December, please feel free to contact me as I am happy to talk about what has worked for us. 

3. Hot water bottles are your friend.  If you go to any of the supermarkets they sell them.  Move them around with your pain.  Our physio told us cold was good too, but I found it more painful, but whatever works.

4. Get a really good and strong magnesium and take double the dose daily, everyday! Magnesium helps with nerves, muscles and is an anti-inflammatory. 

5. Massage. Craig bought some Weleda Arnica Oil which is absolutely wonderful stuff.  Our amazing physio uses it, so we got ourselves a bottle.

Try to remember that it will pass, because all things eventually do.  It's a hard one though.  I have spent so many hours crying over this pain, leaving Craig feeling totally helpless.  It's a nasty pain, a pain that just keeps on and on.  The last two days had been pretty good and I had started to think that perhaps I was one of the lucky ones and it had passed through.  Only to be woken last night in so much pain I wanted to pass out.  On went the kettle, out came the oil and pain medication taken.  At least now we have a game plan when it hits, we know that within 40 minutes it will have eased enough to stop the tears.

Distraction pain is shit, no other way of putting it.  It seems most people seem to get it, in one form or another. It does not discriminate by height, age, weight or fitness level.  If you are one of the unlucky ones, my heart goes out to you and hopefully I have provided a couple of tips that might help.  If you are one of the fortunate ones who misses out then I hate you....just kidding! Then enjoy a faster, and easier recovery and go see the sights of Zurich.


Kate & Craig x

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Love and Farts!

I woke up this morning and I felt miserable.  The pain was back at full force and I felt bad tempered and fed up.  

Craig smiled at me "You okay honey?  How are you feeling today?" the same question he has asked me everyday for the last year.  My instinct was to snap back something mean and uncalled for like "how do you think I'm feeling" or "like shit".  But, as I lay there with him smiling down at me, I thought to myself I don't deserve you,  your care, your love, your unending patience no matter how much he has to deal with from me.  I burst into tears as I have done more than a few times over the last few weeks.  He sat down on the edge of the bed and stroked my hair and he said "it's okay, I got you".  It's something he says to me a lot and it is always something that instantly grounds me, changes my mood and makes me feel safe and loved.  To a certain extent it even makes the pain I am dealing with at the moment seem less difficult.   

He got up sorted out my medications, made me a cuppa and brought me two hot water bottles that he carefully placed under each of my aching legs.  Something he has also done every night at around 3am when I wake up crying in pain.  What amazes me more than anything is I keep expecting him to just get pissed off.  At some point fire off a tirade of abuse, you know "Oh for fuck sake Kate stop being a pain in the arse and just get on with it" but he doesn't, not even once has this amazing man grumbled, been bad tempered or even slightly pissed off with me.  

Quite the contrary.  I think, in fact I know as he tells me daily that he truly wishes he could take my place, that if he had a magic wand he would gladly take what I am going through so I wouldn't have to.  Much like we feel about our kids when they get sick I suppose.  It's the worst feeling in the world watching someone you love suffer and knowing you can't do anything about it. 

It's easy to forget about the carer at times like these.  The people who sit by the bedsides of those who are sick.   Worried till they feel ill, tired and running on empty.  I think in some ways it is far easier to be the patient than the carer.  As the patient we get to go off to sleep for the operation which in my case took a little over six hours, a fair bit longer than expected and I know that extra time would have been spent pacing like a new Dad waiting for the arrival of a baby during that part of history when expectant Dad's were expected to wait outside and not support their wives. Then, the next days are spent watching their loved one throwing up, falling over, screaming in pain, crying, moaning and looking like death warmed up.

I have seen the worry in his face, the tears he thinks I miss, that he desperately tries to wipe away quickly so I won't see them, because God forbid I would worry about him during this time (that's not allowed apparently!).   When I wake him in the early hours of the morning I can see the lines of worry on his beautiful face, and his nervous, jittery hands stroking mine, I can see in his face how completely helpless he feels.  I smile at him and I can see his emotions catch in his chest "I love you, you are my one, you know I would do anything for you, if I could take all this away I would" then he lies down next to me and strokes my arm till I am once more sleeping and so it goes on. He must be so tired, so exhausted.

As a relatively new couple, just three years there were still so many things we haven't 'shared' for instance I had never been to the bathroom in front of him, or farted in front of him!!!  The thought of either mortified me.  I can always remember my Mum telling me that there should always be a little mystery left between a couple and that's what category those things belonged in!  However, I didn't have a choice, given the choice of a male nurse or my loving husband helping me to the toilet there was no competition and he took it in his stride, we even giggled about it.  

Then the dreaded fart incident, the absolutely mortifying moment when the surgery had built up so much wind I simply couldn't contain it any longer and couldn't get to the toilet in time to hide it.  Almost in tears and apologising profusely the noise ripped through the flat like a mini earthquake, I wanted to die of embarrassment. Craig laughed his socks off and said don't worry about it, smiled at me and let off the biggest fart before we both fell about laughing. Something he would never do, ever in front of me, he did just to make me feel better.  

Today felt like it was going to be a write off.  But in true Craig style he gently pushed me, cleverly offering me fresh croissants if I attempted to get to the bakery with him.  I can't tell you how good if felt to arrive, order croissants and apple juice and actually sit down at a table and devour them like a six year old eating chocolate.  I felt amazing, yes there was pain but we were back where we started the first day we arrived, back in the cafe we first went to and there it achievement and his smile said it all "I'm so proud of you".  

We wandered back to our little flat and we felt so full of energy that Craig gently suggested perhaps we should venture a little further.  I looked at him and my instinct was to say no and climb back into bed but instead I picked up my scarf and said "okay let's do it".  Before I had a chance to change my mind we had bought two short distance tickets for the tram.

I have discovered that the only problem with not having crutches is no one is careful around me anymore which is a little scary. So, rather sensibly Craig suggested I wear the back brace on the outside of my clothes so that people can see they need to give me room.  We 'jumped' on the tram, this of course is completely the wrong word the right word would be something like 'stumbled' or 'tentatively'  but anyway I digress.  We traveled along till we got to the Opera house, then we wandered the streets.  

Speaking to my lovely Dad yesterday he told me that when he was in Zurich many years ago there were Bratwurst stands and knowing Craig loves nothing more than a hot dog, it became my mission to find him a Bratwurst dog.  The only problem was the stand was the other side of a door which was at least 12 steps up in front of us.  I looked at them nervously then took a deep breath and climbed them, like any normal person, totally conquered them!  I haven't been able to climb stairs in 12 months and it felt bloody wonderful!  

After devouring a well deserved bratwurst (yuck as far as I am concerned!!) I was beat so we climbed back down the stairs found a tram and went home to our little flat.

What a day!  A day of firsts, a day of things I didn't think were even vaguely possible yet, a day of laughter, cuddles and fun.  None of which I would have done if Craig hadn't gently pushed me, reassured me and loved me every step of the way.   

I have never known a love like ours, and I have come to realise that not everyone is lucky enough to find a love like ours.  I know I have had to wait long enough to find it!  I know one thing though I will never take it for granted or what he has done for me during this trip.  Craig says "It's what you do for the person you love" but it's so much more and I know in my heart I will never be able to repay it, but I will spend my life trying for sure.

 Love Kate x

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Physio Day 1

Today I am 10 days post op and yesterday was my first visit to the physiotherapist.

Janusz my lovely Physiotherapist

I have to admit to not looking forward to it.  The pain has been absolutely unbearable this week especially the last couple of days.  I have truly experienced what 'distraction' pain and it is bloody horrendous.  It is an ache that goes really deep into your legs, for me from my hips down to my ankles and it is completely relentless and has caused a lot of pain and crying.  

The first relief I really felt from it was my trip to see Janusz Szymichowski (the physio).  As I say I was rather nervous about my visit as I couldn't bear the thought of any more pain being inflicted on me but it was quite the opposite.

Janusz is absolutely lovely and incredibly knowledgeable.  I took Craig in with me which in itself was a great comfort. What I found really wonderful was that he took so much time to explain everything to us.  It's amazing how much better your brain is able to process something if it understands why something is happening.

He explained that the 'distraction' pain is caused by nerves in my legs.  I am 3 cm taller since the operation and everything is trying to adjust to this, least of all the nerves but the problem with nerves is they are not really very stretchy.  This means they hurt a lot and it will take time for them to get used to my new height and eventually will stretch to accommodate.   Some folks are really lucky and don't get this pain, others however can suffer with it for weeks, months, and sometimes even years.  I am just desperately hoping that for me it will only be a few weeks at the most.

My Scar!

The physio session started off with some gentle leg massage and frankly within seconds I felt such relief even blurting out "I love you already" poor Janusz looked at me somewhat confused and I once again remembered that I must be more careful what I say as things get lost in but oh my goodness, I had gone from a morning of crying my eyes out to relief in a few seconds it was wonderful.  Using a arnica based oil he rotated my hips and massaged the pain away.

We stood up and he taught me a few exercises.  It was really fascinating he talked to us about simple walking.  I expect most of you had noticed with my crutches I had started to waddle like a duck, due to that dastardly nerve pain from the SIJ cockup and I am finding it quite difficult to learn to walk without the penguin waddle (as Craig calls it!).  Janusz broke down the elements of walking into separate movements, something I had not ever contemplated before and we both sat listening with great interest.

The exercises I have to do are very simple and are based on just the movements of walking.  I started doing them at home today although it was a bit painful here and there.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a physio appointment today but turned out I did have a followup consultation with my doctor which somehow got lost in our planner. I have three copies of the roster for the week ahead and I have confused myself which one is which.  So tomorrow's job is to ring and confirm all appointments!  

Although I could not have gone to the appointment anyway as poor Craig has been absolutely out of it today with a horrific migraine.  I couldn't have made it there on my own and he was in no fit state to take me, just upset that Dr Rischke would have been waiting for me and I didn't show up!  I really do like the doc and his wife Elke there are just such nice people.  If you are considering ADR surgery I would seriously consider using Spine Rischke here in Zurich.

Tomorrow we have a day off everything, so we are going to just stay home, do my exercises, go out for a short walk in the morning and in the afternoon but mostly just take it easy.

One of the things I am really thrilled about is that the three couples (including us) who came here to have more or less the same operation are all in contact.  It has been so wonderful being able to talk to them about how they are feeling, what they are doing for pain, how they are dealing with walking etc. The only thing it's hard not to do is compare yourself to how well they are doing.  I have to remember this journey is different for everyone and no two stories are the same.

I have learned a few tricks that I want to pass on for anyone dealing with this horrible distraction pain:-

  • Walk it out no matter how much it aches or what time in the early hours of the morning it is, walk around for at least 5 minutes .
  • Take a magnesium supplement every time it hits really badly.
  • I found that valium/diazepam seem to be the only medicine that help relax the muscle.  
Hot water bottles, my Aunt gave me one and we went and bought another from the shop.  Make them as hot as you can bear and move them to wherever the pain is, by far the best thing I have found for the pain. 

Hot Water Bottle Therapy!


Kate x

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Back at the Flat

We are finally back home at our little flat and I can't tell you how good it feels.  Especially knowing that our friends Mark and Megan are having to stay an extra day at the hospital due to Mark having to have revision surgery.  My thoughts and prayers are with you and my heart literally hurts so much for you Mark, knowing you have to go back into surgery.  I think it would have broken me, it says so much about who you are and how strong you are that you have come through it with a positive attitude.  Please know we are here for you both as much as we possibly can be.

My three new discs plus two screws left from SIJ Fusion
I realise now there was nothing I could have done to prepare myself mentally for this surgery.  It has been much harder than anything I had even vaguely imagined.  The pain has been the worst I have even endured and frankly I would preferred to have given birth.  It is the most relentless pain I have ever experienced.  

I also know that nothing Craig could have done would have prepared him for being my unwavering support throughout this.  I know at times I have frightened the absolute crap out of him and how he has kept it together for me is beyond my comprehension.  Craig has been my absolute rock throughout this and I could not have done this without him.  His strength and determination to see me through this has given me courage I didn't know I had.  If there were ever two people who belonged together, it's us. 

The SIJ revision pain is, I think, worse than anything else.  I am greatly saddened that only two of the four screws could be removed with my surgeon even breaking the screw driver head off in one of the screws, which will have to stay there forever now.  I am at least grateful that the screw that the previous surgeon had so carelessly screwed onto a nerve has gone and with it the intense pain it caused.  At the moment it's too early to know if that will improve the pain from an operation that was never needed in the first place and it's hard not to be angry at the original surgeon for his total disregard for whether it was a necessary operation or how carefully he actually performed it.

The new discs whilst bending

The pain from the 3 level artificial disc replacement is 'interesting'. It goes from being very intense to completely disappearing and then reappearing in my legs like the worst ache after doing a marathon, not that I have ever done a marathon!!!  I am not sure you can mentally get yourself ready for a big operation like this and talking to fellow patients at the hospital undergoing the same type of operation they agreed, no amount of preparation would have got me ready for this.

Being in Switzerland has definitely brought it's challenges but really I cannot praise Dr Rishcke and his team enough for their care and expertise. The nurses too were absolutely incredible, with the exception of one, who definitely needs to find a new career! I have to make special mention to nurse Ilir (pronounced Il-iya) who has only been a nurse for just two months but whose calling is definitely nursing. He was so nice to me at my lowest points and I can't thank him enough.  

I also have to say a very special thank you to Dr Elke Schweingruber (I hope I spelt it right!) who was my anesthetist and so much more.  She was amazing and tried so hard to help me with my pain, even at one point placing acupuncture needles in my ears and turning to other alternative remedies to help me.  It really is time for the rest of the world to look at how alternative and modern medicine can work in unison. So many countries discount alternative medicine as rubbish, but I now know first hand how incredibly powerful it can be when used in conjunction with each other.  

Make sure you watch this video, it's my favourite!!!

It hasn't all been tears and misery, Craig and I have managed to grab the odd giggle here and there that has made our situation easier.  Although I think maybe I was the only one giggling as Craig was told he had to inject me with a DVT injections for the next 14 days.  Last night as he stabbed me for the first time, he turned a horrible shade of grey.  But strangely the whole thing was still a lighthearted moment in what has been the toughest time of my life. 

Equally the visits we have received in hospital from family and friends lifted my spirits more than you will ever know.  I know at times I may have seemed like I was completely unconscious or out of it, I did know you were there and it meant so much to me.  During one visit with my 'Tilling family' I could hear everyone talking but couldn't find the will to even open my eyes, but as I felt Andrew slip his hand into mine I remember how happy I was that you were all there.  

Thank you so much to my Aunt who has visited numerous times, for sitting with me and even rubbing my sore legs.  To my Uncle Bob who came over from the UK, your visit meant so much to me and it was good to give you a hug after so long.  Last but certainly not least my beautiful sister who continues to support Craig and I, you mean the world to me. 

The support I have had from all of you at home has also been amazing, the emails, messages and texts have been beautiful.  I have been in contact with my wonderful folks and children most days and it has cheered me up every time I have spoken to them, even though I miss them more than I could have ever imagined.

To sum up, what I have learned so far on this journey is that everyone is different and everyone heals at a different speed.  Some are lucky and escape much of the pain whilst others feel everything.  The 'distraction' pain has been one of the hardest things to understand.  In my head I had decided that this only affected really fit people because their muscles were tight and toned, therefore the extra height they gain (and yes I am around 3cm taller!) and the subsequent muscle and ligament stretching was the reason behind the pain.  This doesn't appear to be the case as I am the least fit person I know and certainly don't have toned legs!! It just appears to be the luck of the draw.

Pain is really just a lottery, a roll of the dice as to whether you will get it or not.  It can't be predicted and it can't be deliberately avoided. If you are unlucky enough to get it, you just have to work through it.  If you are lucky enough to get away with it, then enjoy a walk around the lake and take in the sights!   

The day of the operation in my pre-operation gown

It would be easy to be put off ADR surgery reading this blog, but that truly isn't my intention.  At the end of the day I had no alternative open to me but this surgery, and I know each day will get easier and as I start physio I will start to see real progress.  I just want to be honest in my account of this journey so that others facing the same decisions as we did, go into this with their eyes wide open.  It is not an easy journey but one that many of us have to take because there is no other choice.  

Love Kate & Craig x

Ps Our Go Fund Me page is still up and running and if you can we would really appreciate your help!


Friday, 18 October 2019

Day 6 Post OP

I am sorry it has taken so many days to do an update but things have been pretty rough and it’s been a very hard few days. I really wanted to update everyday but I have been really very unwell for the last few days and just too poorly to update. Hopefully things are now improving.  I have had to have another day in hospital which really upset me but I am so happy to be going home to our little flat tomorrow as long as I don’t pass out again!

Love Craig and Kate x

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Day Three - Homesick

Today has been a really tough day. 

The pain has been awful and I have wished many times today that I have not  done this operation that it was all a terrible mistake!!

My beautiful husband has refused to leave my side and I don’t know what I would have done without him him here. I get really nervous and upset if he isn’t here. 

My sister is also here and I am so grateful to her it’s like having my Mum here or as close as possible.  My Aunt is also here and soon my Uncle too which will be so nice. At the me moment I just want to hide under a rock and not see anyone, I feel so ill. It’s very hard and I feel very down.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Day Two - too painful for words

I have used videos again today as it’s easier than writing at the moment.  Been a terrible day with more pain than I though I could take. There have been many times today where I was I haven’t don’t if!!  just have to keep your eye on the goal!

Got up again today and walked a little further. I felt really proud of myself but it was painful.

Kate xx

Saturday, 12 October 2019

On the Other Side

Day 1 Post Op

I am going to let the videos speak for themselves. Kate has been through so much today, more pain than any person should feel. It has been heartbreaking to watch but I am very proud of her. 

Despite all the pain she took her first steps. Really hard and very painful, there has been a lot of tears today. Just one day at a time my love.

It’s been a long day for Kate so if she hasn’t answered her messages please forgive her. I have confiscated her phone to make her rest so if you get a reply it’s from me!

Love. Craig and Kate x

While Kate's in surgery

Today’s blog is going to take a different perspective.  I’m going to give you my insight into the last 10-11 months from my vantage.[NB* as of posting this Kate is now out of surgery and apparently has been going mad with Facebook live!}

I have been on this journey with Kate from the moment she fell in the back yard at home.  That day seems like a distant memory, we have gone through so much since then, and yet the emotional pull from it feels like yesterday. I wasn’t home at the time the accident occurred; I was at Robina doing some shopping when I got panicked messages and a call from Charlotte that Kate had fallen and couldn’t get up.  

The Theory of Relativity suggests that the closer you travel to the speed of light, the slower time passes and I can tell you that although I made it home in record time, it felt like an eternity.  When I arrived, the ambulance was already there and I found Kate sprawled on the grass in the backyard screaming in pain.  Those screams have stayed with me ever since that day and will probably haunt me forever, I don’t think I have ever felt so much pain and fear vocalised with such intensity.    

The path that was laid before us from that day has seen it twist and turn and wind around in what seems like circles sometimes and as with many life changing events in one’s life, you constantly ask; why?  Or, what if?  That one event has triggered a Butterfly Effect that has seen every choice and decision made, both good and bad, lead us to here, Zurich.

The misdiagnosis of her condition and subsequent unnecessary surgery that Kate went through in January has by far been the darkest of the paths we have travelled.  The nerve pain she suffers from the botched surgery stays with her almost constantly, the sudden jumps from the electric shocks in her lower back and down her legs make me wince on her behalf!  She soldiers through it but, honestly, how much can one person take?  If I could take it all away, I would in a heartbeat.  If I could trade places with her I would without a second thought.  I hate seeing her go through so much pain, I just want to wrap her up in cotton wool, bubble wrap, and anything else that will protect her.

I say “we” throughout all of this, reference it as “our journey”, and although it is not me literally suffering through the pain she feels, believe me I feel everything she does.  When you spend so much time with someone you love, and we do - we are very rarely apart; you get inside each other’s heads and become a part of each other’s souls. Since that day I have effectively become Kate’s carer.  She has needed assistance with everything that requires movement.  From stairs, to getting into cars, to walking around the shops, to cooking, cleaning and after a fall in the shower several months ago, we now even do that together.  Just as well I built a large one in our renovations last year!

There hasn’t been a day go by when Kate hasn’t apologised to me at least a dozen times every day for everything she has “caused”.  Yes, she sees this as her fault and the guilt she carries over this breaks my heart.  The term “shit happens” falls on deaf ears and although this was originally an accident, she has taken on the guilt of every choice made since then. 

What this had done to her mental health has become clear to me. And, while she puts up a brave face for others around her and soldiers on, privately I am witness to the tears and anxieties that she feels because of this.  Sometimes it’s difficult for those “what if?” questions not to take a negative track; what if this is the best it will get? What if I can never walk properly again? What if something worse happens? She asks me these questions every day. I feel an overwhelming need to protect her at every moment, all I can do is reassure her that everything will work out fine as I hold her in my arms every night. I provide her comfort as best I can, but the one thing I wish I could do is impossible – take it all away.

If life is a series of consequences for our choices, then those choices have finally led us here.  From the initial accident, to misdiagnosis and botched surgery, to seeking new specialists, to second, third and fourth opinions, to our wonderfully deficient health care system not covering Kate’s needs, to seeking help outside Australia, to finding the best European surgeon in his field, to now sitting in the hospital cafeteria writing this blog as Kate is undergoing the operation that will resolve all this mess.  I wish we could have just skipped all the bad things and just jumped straight to this!

Being in a foreign country surround by an unfamiliar language is a bit like trying to tie your right shoe with your left hand; you admire the beauty of its execution but it feels completely uncoordinated trying to achieve it.

Switzerland is an amazing country. Everywhere you turn you are surrounded by history.  Zurich is a combination of old and new; the old town is so full of beautiful architecture and yet, just a short distance across the river to the west, large post-modern structures intermingle and rise to dwarf beautiful buildings that could tell so many stories.

The Pyramide Clinic sits on the eastern shore of the top end of Lake Zurich and looks like a cross between a Mayan temple and something out of Star Trek. For weeks we looked at pictures and studied maps but to be finally sitting here in this hospital seems totally surreal.

Our consultations with Dr. Rischke, both in Australia via Skype and now here in Zurich, have left us with enormous confidence and a true sense that the end of a very long and dark tunnel is nigh. He is confident that he will be able to revise the botched surgery and remove the screws that were supposed to fuse Kate’s sacroiliac joint.  Scans had indicated that no fusion had occurred, so the Professor was confident in their removal. He even has the specialists who invented them in there assisting him.

Once that operation is done, they will flip her over onto her back and then perform the three-level disc replacement.  This is done through the front, so once they “open her up” they have to move aside the contents to access the spine.   It’s a fascinating procedure, we watched one on YouTube a few months ago. 

As I sit here know we have just hit the five-hour mark.  It’s a complicated surgery but one that we are sure will give Kate her life back.  She is in for some horrific few weeks ahead with pain and so forth, but the long-term prognosis, hopefully, is bright. 

We are currently in the hands of our Swiss surgeon.  And, if he is half as good as everything else here, we’re in good hands.

Thank you again to everyone for your support, thoughts, donations and prayers.  We really do owe you all a great debt of gratitude.

By the time the next blog comes around I'm sure it will be Kate's view from the other side of surgery.


Friday, 11 October 2019

The time has arrived. We just want to thank everyone for your support, best wishes and donations to help get us here for this. It just got very real. Craig will post updates here as we go. See you soon. xx

Day Before the Operation

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Meeting Dr Rischke

It has been a nail biting day as we waited to meet the world famous Dr Rischke.  We certainly were not disappointed, he was absolutely lovely.

The first thing he wanted to know even though we had talked via skype and email is what made the Australian surgeon do a bilateral SIJ fusion.  He told us that none of the scans taken in December last year showed any reason whatsoever for such aggressive surgery.  He has done many fusion of the sacro illiac joint himself but he said it is an absolute last resort.  He would need to see signs of arthritis or joint instability,  he told us my pictures showed no problems whatsoever.  

I felt a bit stupid really sitting there today, trying to explain why I let a surgeon operate on me, without seeking a second opinion. Why didn't I stop him from doing it?   Why didn't I shout louder or protest louder?  The Australian surgeon was so arrogant, so sure of himself, I suppose I felt small and insignificant, afterall what would I know, it's just my body.  I feel so angry with myself, I kept telling him it was my back, that the pain was coming from my back.  He was so sure of himself and had so little time to actually sit and listen to his patients, I never stood a chance.

Dr Rischke told me my discs are completely degenerate and that was and always has been the problem.  Had the proper tests been done it would have been quite clear what the problem was.  The doctor told me my use of crutches and my awkward walking is the fault of the SIJ fusion gone wrong and that when that screw is off my nerve things will be much better.  Plus having three new discs will help I imagine!

ESP Disc replacement

The next few days will be taken up with visiting the hospital, meeting the anesthesiologist and physiotherapist before checking in on Friday morning at 7am. I am first on the list at 8am, the operation should take around 4 plus hours.  So, a bit shorter than we expected.  Whilst laying on my stomach they will make four incision in my butt and hopefully remove all four screws, the holes left should eventually just heal by themselves.  Dr Rischke is bringing in specialists from the company that created the tools to perform the revision to assist him, so I really am in good hands.

Once he has finished with the revision of the SIJ fusion, they will flip me over and use a horizontal and vertical incision just below my belly button.  Carefully they will move everything out of the way and proceed to replace my three lowest discs with ESP discs.

Pyramide Hospital - Zurich

It all sounds pretty easy and straight forward I suppose! Afterwards I have to wear a back brace for eight weeks.  I will be in hospital for six days and seven nights.  Then we stay in Zurich for some rehabilitation, this is a little up in the air as unfortunately this was a little lost in translation and I think we will have to make a change to our plans as they are at the moment, but we shall see how it goes.

It's all go from here and suddenly what I had fooled myself into believing was a holiday is suddenly very real and just around the corner.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped me to get here.  Your generosity knows no bounds and I am eternally grateful to you all.  We didn't hit our target so without my Mum and Dad's help we wouldn't be here right now.  I don't know how I will ever pay them back. Knowing we are spending what little money they had put away for retirement on my back is absolutely mortifying but being the incredibly generous people they are, they wouldn't hear of anything else.  I will never be able to say thank you enough. You have always been there for me, and I know you are my folks but that doesn't mean I take it for granted.  I just wish you were here with me now, I miss you and the girls very much.  Knowing you won't be there when I wake up is a very hard thought but without you I wouldn't even be here, so thank you, thank you so very much.

Love Kate & Craig x

Ps If you would like to make a donation you still can, please visit our GO FUND ME PAGE

It's only been 11 years

Craig and I had a lot of fun today and managed to spend an entire day just not thinking about what this trip is really about.

My Auntie Magie and her husband Reuben live here in Switzerland and have done for the last, well a long time!  Yesterday we met up and it was wonderful, totally over emotional but what do you expect when you haven't seen a family member for 11 years!  I have to say she didn't really look any different, except that she was more like my Mum than I remember.  Craig said if he closed his eyes he would be convinced that it was Mum sitting there. 

We traveled by tram into the old town, which I have to say is fast becoming one of my favourite places on earth.  They took us to a gorgeous restaurant which felt more like a place for locals than tourists.  My Aunt wanted to take me to a place that was famous for it's rosti.  The restaurant was called Rheinfelder Beirhaus and sure enough the rosti was out of this world.  

 I have assumed whilst writing this blog that all my wonderful readers know what rosti is?  If you do not know I can only feel incredibly sad that you have lived your life without it, and you simply must go out and buy potatoes and follow a recipe and put this to rights.  Rosti is cooked potato that has been grated and then fried in copious amounts of real butter and frankly it is to die for (literally!).

After our meal we went on to another restaurant Cafe Schober to have dessert, even though I thought I couldn't have eaten another morsel!  This delightful old restaurant has to be one of the most beautiful places I have been to eat.  

We went upstairs to this small area filled with old chairs with red velvet inserts, with beautiful old beams above our heads and red velvet walls, it felt so decadent.  The desserts well, all I can say is I have never tasted a cheesecake like this in my entire existence, light, fluffy, sugary and just delicious.

We wandered a little further before jumping on the tram home, full and exhausted.  What a lovely day and so good to catch up with my Auntie after so long.  We look forward to spending more time with them during our trip, even if our other visits are not quite so active!

Love Kate & Craig x

Monday, 7 October 2019

An Unexpected Day

We were supposed to be at the hospital today, but it's been delayed till tomorrow at 3pm. We thought all our time would be taken up with scans and tests but this is not the case at all.  Although, that may change of course when I see the doctor, I didn't think of that. I know I have to see the anesthesiologist and the physio as well. Trying not to think about the operation, we haven't even had a walk to the hospital yet.

So, with an unexpected day in front of us we thought we would just stay home and rest. But, after a few hours sitting around we started to get bored. We decided we would go out for a short walk. 

Instead we ended up taking a tram going towards the old town.  We didn't really intend to get off but just sit on the tram and take in the scenery but it just looked so amazing!

We picked a random stop and got off and see what was there! We got off the tram and found ourselves standing outside of a beautiful building with a sign that read 'Kunsthaus'.

Our adventure had led us to an art gallery.  After a lot of persuasion on my part assuring Craig I would be alright to walk around for a bit, we went in.  I had read about the art gallery and knowing what a huge art fan Craig is I kind of hoped we might be able to go there.  So, finding ourselves standing outside the place, I decided it was a 'sign', and refusing to take any notice of Craig's protestations about whether I could manage, we went in.  

Claude Monet

Having a rest whilst enjoying pictures by Giovanni Segantini

I am so glad we did.  My favourite part of the whole day was watching Craig's reactions to seeing painters by such great masters like Vincent Van Gogh, Vuillard, Monet, Manet, Rembrandt, Van Dyke, Picasso, Canoletti, Warhol and more.   

Vincent Van Gogh

He was like a child in a sweet shop and it was an absolutely wonderful experience. I love art but really only like the old masters, the new contemporary stuff well, you can stick it.  

I'm sorry I can see the art in this!

I did realise I was tremendously gullible when Craig turned to me very seriously and said 'Look it's Rochefort's Escape by Manet, it depicts Charlie Chaplin escaping in a boat' and I said 'really?' staring most earnestly at the picture, at which point Craig almost fell on the floor laughing. It was painted in the 1881 so completely impossible, but it was so like Charlie Chaplin and he said it with such honesty.....totally caught, hook, line and sinker.

It does look like Charlie!

Upon leaving the gallery we decided to get back on the tram and head home but instead ended up going in the wrong direction ending up in the Old Town.  

My gosh I don't think I have ever seen anywhere so beautiful as this place.  The architecture is absolutely stunning, there isn't a single space that isn't stunning.  We wandered for a little until my body could take me no further.

We found ourselves at a restaurant called 'Adler's' .  Knowing we had to eat out today as we didn't realise all the shops were shut on a Sunday, we sat down at a table outside.  We were given great big rugs to put over our legs and two menus.  We ordered a big pot of bubbling cheese fondue and a plate of Raclette with meat.  It was just amazing.  

You can click on the video we made to see what it looked like, it was f***** amazing!!!!  

Craig actually looked drunk on cheese by the end.  

We found our way back onto the right tram and crawled back into our apartment where we both promptly fell asleep.  We woke up at midnight, changed into our pj's and slept through till 5am.  All this fresh Zurich air makes you tired.  I have to say though I struggled a bit in the night with pain, but it was totally worth it.

Apart from my wedding day, it will go down in both our books as the most perfect day ever, filled with laughter, love and adventure.  

Raclette toooooo good!

Today we are spending the day with my Aunt Magie and her husband Reuben. Craig has never met them so it will be a very special day to introduce them.  I didn't think we would get the chance to see them this side of the operation.  We are hoping to go out for lunch, they are taking us for the best Rosti in town.  If I told you I was excited it would be a gross understatement.  I could literally live on Rosti and never eat any other food!  Also spending time with family, well that's pretty special! It's been about 10 years I think since I last saw my Aunt.  Should be a good day!


Kate & Craig x