Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Long Haul

I got my stitches out yesterday and had my first post-surgery follow up with the orthopedic surgeon and his PA. Grandpa Terry was gracious enough to be our personal chauffeur for the day, driving the kids and I to and from Salem and all over Newberg picking up prescriptions and fast food for lunch. He even took the kids to the park while I was meeting with the doctor. What a gift he is to our family!

I saw the Medical Assistant first and she took my stitches out. The "gentle tug" actually felt more like a strong pull, but I'm grateful to have them gone none-the-less. Next up was the Physician Assistant, who I think is a really great guy. He had this same surgery last year and can relate on a personal level to what recovery is like. He answered my bazillions of questions, but not the way I wanted him to.

ME: Can I drive?
PA: No, cause it's weight bearing and you're supposed to have your brace locked at zero when you're weight bearing.
ME: My brace locks?
PA: (confused) Um yeah. Like this. (shows me how). You're supposed to have it locked at zero when you're weight bearing and at 90 degrees when you're sitting. And since it's your right leg and pushing the gas and brake pedal is weight bearing, no driving till we ditch the brace. This is really important cause we don't want you undoing the repair that's healing.
ME: When will that be?
PA: In five weeks.
ME: Okay, what about exercise?
PA: Nothing at all for five weeks. Except firing your quad and some little leg lifts. You can still go to the gym and work out your upper body and your left leg, but nothing for the right leg at all. After you ditch the brace, we'll start with light cycling and swimming. Not one step of running for at least 3 months. And the first time I ran, it took me 22 minutes to run a mile and a half and it was excruciatingly painful. Don't expect to run without pain for about six months. This is not a quick recovery.
ME: Can I have a tissue to dry the tears forming in the back of my throat....

I mean really. How can a mother of four school-aged kids go SEVEN weeks without driving? It's absurd. At the recovery rate I'm going at, we might as well have replaced my entire knee and stripped all my varicose veins... And six months to running without pain? Somehow that seems longer than the two months I recall being mentioned pre-surgery. The thought of relying on my friends for another five weeks for rides was just completely depressing. And the piece of information about weight-bearing vs. not? I wanted to snarl like Adam Sandler from The Wedding Singer, when his fiance' comes by the day after their wedding to explain why she left him at the alter, "Information that would have been nice to know YESTERDAY!" Did I really just jeopardize my whole recovery because of a piece of information I didn't have? Of course, I was too shell-shocked to remember to ask these questions while I was actually face-t0-face with the PA and could get answers.

The surgeon came in next. Checked out my two incisions and while giving me some more instructions, starting pushing hard on them, almost sending me through the roof. He explained it was called "scar tissue massage" and I needed to inflict this pain on myself every day to break up the scar tissue. Then he started round two of the "massage" and said, "Oops. I broke that one open. Maybe we should wait on this activity for another week." After we bandaged up my now open incision, he proceeded to put me through more tortuous stretches and "checks" on my recovery, then assured me I was recovering normally and repeated the same time line to good health. He ended with, "Rome wasn't built in a day. Don't expect a quick recovery."

As I gimped my way to the elevator (that I had to look for since I normally take the stairs), I felt completely deflated. I was glad to have a time line, but the length was surprisingly long. The no driving piece was the biggest hurdle and depression inducer. I called Curt to give him the lowdown and he could sense my disappointment over the phone. He decided to call the surgeon to get clarification on the points of confusion and his return call brought the first good news of the day. The surgeon and the PA had a miscommunication. Surgeon wanted me on a more advanced road to recovery, knew about the brace being locked at 90 degrees, and assured us I had not damaged the repair. Keeping the brace at 90 degrees would allow me to drive as long as I was off the Vicodin. Praise the Lord for minor miracles!

Later that night, I had someone who recently had major knee surgery flippantly tell me, "Oh a meniscus is nothing. Piece of cake." I sat at the table, alternating between completely deflated for what seemed like the 80th time that day and wanting to reach across the table and slap her. Her comment, though poorly timed wasn't ill-intended, but it made me feel like the past 13 days of my pain and sacrifice on the part of Curt and the kids were "nothing." That this journey should be a "piece of cake" and I must be a big wimp to be struggling so hard for every piece of ground I've gained since surgery.

I wanted to stay mad at her, but I really couldn't justify it. After all, how many times have I flippantly one-upped someone either intentionally or unintentionally? And her sentiment echoed my pre-surgery intentions that recovery would indeed be a piece of cake. Since it's been such a literal pain, our whole family to some extent is being forced into the refining fire. And I want this time to not be wasted. I want God to be able to purge me of thoughtless words, pride, a spirit of independence and whatever else He wants to clean out of my system that I don't even know about yet. When we come out on the other end of this, I want the dirt to be skimmed off the surface and have only gold remain.

And so I press on. Grabbing time with God when my brain can focus and appreciating the times that the Word resonates with my spirit and I don't have to read a verse 50 times before I realize I've been reading it 50 times and not comprehending it. Cherishing all the movie and book time with the kids and grateful for this opportunity to slow down and just BE with them. To watch them grow in compassion, service and helpfulness around the house and with each other. Relishing falling deeper in the ocean of love with my husband who continues to amaze me with his kindness, tenderness and love for me. Accepting help from the ever-expanding network of friends that in one year's time have become such gifts to me and letting them serve our family with meals and child care. And accepting the fact that all my past marathon and endurance training will come in handy now. I'm in recovery for the long haul and I'm ready to get this party started, one foot in front of the other.

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