November 12, 2023

Walking the line

Just like all the days before:

  • Mornings are the worst.
  • First steps are always the hardest.

My recovery from surgery began at my friend's/neighbor's house. I had dropped off my clothing, some food, and recovery tools the day before, and post-surgery I was set up in a bedroom in their basement. They were very kind to take me in, and to take care of me. I wasn't sure what recovery would look like, but I knew I was in good hands. 

After getting settled in, it was on to doing my homework. Every hour I was to be up walking with my walker. I was given PT exercises to complete every two hours, followed by icing and elevation of my leg. There were also varying schedules of pills to be taken, so though I had little to do, it felt like my schedule was full. 

One of the things I was worried about during recovery was sleeping on my back. I don't sleep all that well on the best of days, and whenever I end up sleeping on my back, it makes my back ache. My back was already a bit of a mess prior to surgery, so that added to the nervousness. With a 4:15am wake up the morning of surgery, I was plenty tired and fell asleep relatively quickly.

Unfortunately, I woke up about four hours later and couldn't find any real sleep the rest of the night. I had the same recurring anxiety dream that would have had me tossing and turning, but I felt like I couldn't move without messing with my leg. The next three nights were similar, and it would take that long for me to figure out that it was the Oxycodone that was making my mind spiral. 

That first morning when it was finally a reasonable hour to get up, it took a good ten minutes to get out of bed. Any minor movement of my leg felt like I was tearing it apart. As miraculous as the day before seemed, moving around under my own power, it felt like I was going to need to be airlifted out of bed the following morning. 

Once up, things started to loosen up a bit, and I could shuffle my way around. A physical therapist came by that first afternoon to check on how I was doing the exercises, and how I was doing overall. She instructed me to walk more smoothly and naturally. She also had me go up and down a flight of stairs. Be careful, but press on.

The first six days were filed with PT home work, walking laps of the basement, and lots of reading in bed. The last three days I made it upstairs to have dinner with my generous hosts. There was still plenty of pain, but each day it felt like I was making progress. 

I went home on day seven and have been home for a little more than a week now, and it feels like progress has slowed a bit. I am still doing my PT homework, and walking regularly, but for the first few days I think I was sitting in a chair too much when I should have been lying down on the couch or bed. At my two week follow up appointment with a surgical assistant she took off the bandage and let me know that I was at a good place for recovery. But then she said she wanted me to be a "couch potato" for another four weeks. 

The concern is that with this type of hip replacement you can feel a little too good when the joint is not yet stable, and you can really mess things up. My friends had told me a story of another friend of theirs who did just that, had to get a second surgery, and is still not fully recovered. I keep this in the back of my mind as a reminder.

After running nineteen marathons and tackling other difficult physical challenges, I have learned to push through pain to get to the finish line, to go to a certain place in my mind to press on when my body is begging me not to. When you walk that line just right, it can take you to amazing places, but I have crossed it a couple of times. At one end of my much smaller walking loop at my house, there is another reminder. 

This is a picture of me on a backpacking trip with friends about ten years ago. We were on our way back to the car after a great few days in the woods. This spot is next to a massive tree, and almost exactly a mile from the finish. I was beyond struggling and already suffering. Along with the usual gear, I am carrying an inflatable raft belonging to one of our crew so we could fish at the lake where we camped. The pack was borrowed, and as you can see the weight is not properly distributed. My back was already screaming. 

I just wanted to get through it, to make the pain stop. I went to that place in my mind that I had visited before. I got quiet, not really replying to my friends' conversations. When we reached the trailhead, my friends stopped for a group picture, but I kept walking. They called after me, but I couldn't stop, going straight to the car. Once I got the pack off my back, I broke down, wept and hyperventilated. They had no idea how much pain I was in (because of course I hadn't said anything), and I properly freaked them out, thinking I was having an attack of some sort. I thought I knew what I was doing, what my limits were, and I was wrong. 

I have pushed up against my limits since then, but I like to think I have learned my lesson about taking it too far. Hopefully there will be other finish lines in my future, but this is the most important one right now. Right now, slow and steady wins the race. It is a marathon, and not a sprint. Part of physical therapy is to push through some discomfort, but you have to walk the line more carefully while your body recovers. Keep moving forward, but don't do anything stupid. 

Don't be that guy in the picture. 


Anonymous said...

You will get back to doing awesome and challenging things, I don’t doubt it one bit.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the guy in the picture taught you a lot. ☺️