My healing journey

“Re-set, re-adjust, re-start, re-focus,,,,As many times as you need to.” unknown

This has been my mantra, sometimes hourly, for months now

I am sitting in the dull beige room with my johnny gown on with my grey OR socks with sticky rubber on the bottom. My body is unusually calm. The nurse enters the room and takes my blood pressure at 127/ 69. “Great! Would you like something to relax you while you wait”?
“No thank you, I’m fine.”

Strangely, I am not nervous even when I notice my husband’s pensive face. Actually, I am excited. It’s been eight years since I smashed my knee. My mind races as I think about how many years it’s been since I went for a swim in the lake. Remembering the sun’s warmth on my face and the slow descent into the cool water as it caresses the curves of my body. I have missed that magical feeling of weightlessness. I also think of my bucket list of new things I would love to try, like kayaking. My excitement builds.
“Time to go”

As I lie here connected to monitors, wires and tubes, my heartbeat speeds up a little, so I take a long deep breath and feel my body soften again. I remind myself of my earlier thoughts. A large curtain is in front of my face, so I cannot see the reconstruction zone. A little while later, obviously, under some kind of pharmaceutical cocktail, in a happy state of mind, the loud sounds as they build my new knee don’t bother me. I think
“Wow that sounds cool.”
I hear the monitor’s screeching alarm to the left of me and watch my blood pressure plummet.
“What is going on? “I casually ask the anesthetist, who is right by my head,
“Don’t worry, that is normal with a spinal. I just pump fluid, and as you see, everything is fine now. “
“Ok,” I joyfully answer.

I am now in recovery, blissfully naive, still under the nerve block and feeling physically and mentally high. Whaa hoo.
The surgeon comes to my bed,
“Thanks so much, Doc.”
without missing a beat, he smiles
“Don’t thank me until you are walking .”
I try to ignore my gut’s foreboding feeling as he says this.
“Sacrasum,” I reassure myself.
The following day my naivety was gone. More narcotics and a quick class to Physio before I can leave for home.

His hazel eyes are wide, watery, darting back and forth, Bernie, my husband of 43 years, has never seen me in this much pain. The nurse pushes me in the wheelchair to our truck for the long journey home, two hours away. I am on powerful painkillers, which just barely take the edge off. Using my walker, I shuffle 3 steps and do my best to get in the front seat. I have my backside on the seat and my left leg in, “now what” I think out loud. At 5 foot 8, I have very long legs, and my new knee will not bend to get in. I am trying everything. I pop the seat back flat and shuffle around on it, but no way, it’s still about 2 inches too long. Suddenly I feel the nurse’s firm hand on my leg, “fuck” I scream as he bends my swollen straight leg inside the truck, and I collapse in sharp, searing pain. I am now softly sobbing, trying so hard to be tough. I am avoiding Bernie’s eyes, for I know he feels so helpless knowing how long it will take to get me home. It never occurred to any of us for me to lie down in the back seat. It’s a very long drive home.
Bernie has our son Adrian on the phone; he lives with his family 5 min from our home.
“Bud can you please come over and help me bring your mom into the house? She is in so much pain and I can’t do it alone.”
I hear the panic in his voice. Adrian is arriving as we pull into our driveway. At 6 ft 4, he is a large man but, more importantly, has training as a personal care worker, so he takes over. Bernie runs to the back of the truck to grab my walker, unfolds it, then runs to the door of our home to unlock it. Adrian is tender and gentle as I shift my body back on the flat seat again; this time, it’s about an inch more; I hold my breath and bend my leg out. Once again, searing pain. I am now softly sobbing again; I can’t hold it back.
“Its ok mom, take your time, dont hurry, I got you.”
Our sons’ eyes now are also glistening and anxious. At 40 years old, he also has never seen his mom in this much pain. He holds me steady as I grab the walker. I shuffle inch by inch finally into our home and collapse in my bed.

The next several days are a blur. I did not take my pain meds until the pain was unbearable. It was a huge mistake. My body shook for 14 hours, whimpering in my pillow. Nothing would take the edge off. The nurses warned me.
“Take the meds regularly and don’t let the pain get too bad or you will go into a pain crisis where nothing you take will help.”
After 2 pain crises, I took my Dilaudid and Extra Strength Tylenol regularly, and it took the edge off so I could finally cope.
It’s been almost a week since my surgery, and I desperately need a shower! Sponge bath is not cutting it anymore.

Bernie saran wraps my incision. I have a bench in our tub, but as of yet, my leg will not bend enough to get in, so I lean back and do a Jennifer Beal pose from the movie Flash Dance over the tub. Bernie takes the shower head down and helps me wash my hair and body. Water is everywhere, all over the floor and the walls soaking Bernie from top to bottom. We laugh as my big, burly man stumbles, trying so hard not to hurt me.
“Oh shit I’m sorry I stepped on your toe are you Ok Babe?”
“I’m ok, honey; laughing so hard at this point, I’m afraid I will pee on the floor. My body hurts everywhere, but I don’t care; laughing feels so good.
“There is no mystery left, honey,” still chuckling.

The next few weeks began a long recovery journey with setbacks and victories. I had a rare complication that slowed my healing and increased my pain. Life brings us challenges, and we rise to the occasion when needed. Now 17 weeks after surgery, it has been a very long, slow, painful journey that is not over by a long haul, but I am healing. My surgeon told me the complications I have endured are rare, but it happens sometimes.

It took a while, but this has taught me a few more lessons about surrender and acceptance. My days are a rhythm of lymph massage, exercises, elevating, and icing my leg. With the help of a thigh-high compression stocking, I started cooking again a few weeks ago, which gives me so much pleasure as I can now eat mostly plant base again, which I love. I am finally off all Pharmaceutical drugs and back to using herbs, which I have primarily used for 30 years and feel much better using: another joy for my body. I can do simple chores again, something I took for granted. I have been walking with a cane since January. This week is more milestones; I can now finally use my recumbent bike,
(only for 2 min at a time, but it’s a start) I go outside for short walks to the mailbox. I tried Qigong again this week, but a bit too soon will try again next week. I am still exhausted and in mild pain most days, but HOPE has returned for me. The timing is perfect, with more bright sun, fresh air and the signs and scent of spring in the air; even on snowy days like today, I have hope. One day at a time, I am getting there. I will swim and kayak in the lake; I know it in my bones.

My daily walk to the mailbox has become a lifeline of hope.

May all that is unlived in you blossom into a future graced with love John O”Donohue”

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1 Response to My healing journey

  1. Carol Switzer says:

    Oh Joyce I am so sorry this surgery has been such a trial for you. Hopefully spring will bring faster healing and then as the weather warms swimming will follow. I would imagine that being in the salt water would be very healing?? Hugs from Ontario!

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