Congratulations! You’ve been hurting long enough. Admitting you have a problem and moving forward to a fix is scary. We’ve all brushed off pain, now and again. When physical pain consumes you, it’s time. No one can tell you when it’s time. You just know. Pain is fatiguing. Pain is psychological. Pain can take over your life.
Before acceptance, you try to disguise your pain, your need for joint replacement, from others. I could make a career of hiding pain. “Accepting the Oscar…..”. At some point, there is no hiding. Strangers start to even notice. You’re not as clever as you think. I’ve become attuned to observing peoples’ replacement needs. It’s like “Name that Tune” for me. In one step, I can tell what joint strangers need to have replaced. Knee. Knee. Hip. Then I guess their careers. It’s good to keep busy.
You’ve chatted up your friends for doctor recommendations. You’ve paid attention to all the commercials and ads. You weigh your options. After an acceptable period of mourning your defeat, you make an appointment. All is good. You’re fine now. Calm again…. until the day of the appointment.
The doctor’s appointment went as well as it could. The doctor secretly wonders what took you so long. The staff gives you the happy nods when you schedule your surgery, as they hand you paperwork. Now to share the news with others.
You check your work and social calendars. You mentally change the date around holidays, birthday, work projects. But, you decide, the date actually works! Your family is nervous happy. Your friends and neighbors offer their thoughts, prayers, and help. You feel the need to justify the surgery with every sharing. “It’s genetics.” “It’s from an old sports injury.” “It’s not my fault!”
You go to the pre-surgery education class. Yes. You must be educated. Here’s the one thing you should walk away with. Do not watch the YouTube video of your surgery. You’ll never sleep again. You’ll have trouble sleeping anyways, you don’t need more. You listen. You peruse the paperwork. Pay heed to the need to poop. Miralax is magic. You doubt some of the suggested items. Trust me. You will need some of these things, like the flower needs the rain. (Name that tune!) Antibacterial wash? Clean sheets? Loose clothing? Grabbing tools? Their experience predates your needs. You are advised to make sure your loved one has the passwords to your accounts. Bills should be paid to date. More worry lines form in your forehead.
You go the pre-surgery medical appointment. You meet a team of people that will ask questions (over and over), perform some tests, and ask you questions, again. This is tiresome. They are at the gathering-information-stage. You are at the sick-of-this-shit stage. Can I hear an “Amen?” The world starts a countdown to your surgery.
It’s a week before the BIG DAY. Everyone treats it like a vacation. You convince yourself you need this time off from work. You plan on catching up on so much. Movies. Books. Magazines. It won’t happen. You’ve been instructed what you can and cannot do, take, drink, or eat before the surgery. “How will I make it?” you think.
You arrive at the hospital, early in the morning as directed. You’re nervous, excited and just plain damn tired. You are in the pre-surgery room getting prepped. The hospital gown is handed to you. You succumb to this last step. Shits real now. It’s too late to turn back now!
Your surgery was a success! Then why do you feel so crappy? Anesthesia my dear! You groggily await your family. They are nervous but rejoice at the sight of you lying in wait. The visit is quick. They will meet up with you in your room in an hour, or so. Suddenly, they are unabashedly hungry. They hurriedly leave, relieved you’re alive.
Your room! You are so happy to be here, for now. It will soon feel like a prison for the endlessly seeming stay of 3 days. You are not prepared for the parade of medical staff checking your vital signs, asking if you have any questions. “Can I go home now?” is not what they mean. You laugh when told that physical therapy will be up soon to get you moving. They mean it. Really. You scoff at the PT when you are told, before you are released, you must be able to go up and down stairs. Unimaginable that this swollen, stapled mess will ever move again. Beg the nurses for Miralax. You are bound to be constipated. (See what I did there?) They aren’t kidding in the commercial, it’s the science of going!
Have your visitors bring you coffee and palatable foods. Coffee never tastes good in plastic mugs. You will not be served haute cuisine. Bless the hospital food workers. They try. There’s nothing better than a smuggled salami sandwich. HGTV will become your best friend and your worst enemy. Even at your weakest, you will have the strength to mock the “open-concept-couple”. Or those aghast, their children should have to share a bathroom. Oh, yeah. Bring it on. You will find yourself shouting at them. And then the nurses come in, to join your comical rants.
You accomplish small miracles each hour of your captivity, sitting on the edge of the hospital bed. Washing your face has never felt so good. You can only dream of a hot shower and clean hair. Reality hits you. TED stockings are a four-week sentence, unless you want a blood clot! Pro-tip: save the plastic bag they’re in. You can slip it over your toes, to make pulling up the socks a little easier. It won’t be easy, just easier. Oh, you will hate them.
You made it up and down the stairs. The physical therapist is releasing you. You are going home! You, and your amazing swelled legs, are squeezed into a car. Hospital slippers adorn your puffy feet. It’s still glorious to be getting out of the hospital and into fresh air!
As you pull up to your home, your first of many fearful thoughts flash in your mind. “How am I going to get in?” Stairs. Lot of stairs. You can do this! “Up with the good, down with the bad” you chant. Now, it’s time to show what you’re made of. Your ride pulls the crutches from the trunk. You sit, plotting. The door opens. Fresh air fills your lungs. You look at your legs and wonder how are you going to move them towards the house. You do it! You’re in! Find a comfortable chair. Look around. All the wonderful squeaks, creaks and groans serenade you. The coffee tastes better. Food is glorious. You crawl carefully onto your bed. Peace. Followed by boredom.
“Boredom?” As the anesthetics wear off, you’ll be restless and have trouble sleeping. You are tired of just sitting. You want to feel better, be better. Hunger will elude you. You’re uncomfortable. Recording your meds is tedious. Your staples are sore. TED stockings should be used as an instrument of torture. No one told you there was a mental/emotional side to healing, along with the physical. Put plans in place to keep your mind busy. First your mind, then your body. Your recovery should not be a marathon of HGTV. Give yourself a week and then get mentally active. This comes before physical activity. Listen to music. Sing along. Those lyrics will come back to you. Enjoy the beauty of online shopping. Hello Amazon! Converse with your family. Write letters to your friends. Don’t bore them with details. Talk about what you can do together in a few weeks. Listen to books on CD or online. Take an online class. This is the perfect time to learn something new. Craft away. Finish a project you started. Write down all the promises to yourself, to use this experience as a second chance. You want to live life to its fullest. You cannot measure improvements by days with joint replacement surgery. You measure by weeks. Every week you will make successive progress. You’re going to be fine in a few weeks. You’ll get over your fear of falling. Wait. What? The world will become one of steps and opportunities to fall. It won’t last once you regain your confidence and feel in control again.Who knew?
If you have any concerns, always rely on your resources. Your visiting nurse, physical therapist and your surgeon. You have a team to support you, to answer your questions. Please ask them! Surgery is serious! Remember to do your physical therapy. It’s very important to do the exercises. Surgery replaces the joint, but now you have to work everything else. The ability to bend and straighten have never been so important.
You’ve got the grit to get through this. Use your tenacity to make the changes that need to be made. Just keep moving forward with your goals, small or large. You’re going to be great! This isn’t a defeat, it’s a new opportunity.