One week ago today, I was sitting in my living room, going through the list of things I needed to bring with me to the hospital in the morning. My friend Meredith had come to spend the night and to be in charge of getting us to the hospital by 7AM. She asked me if I was nervous. I didn’t think so, but I also didn’t expect to sleep much.
When you’re on the edge of overload, it’s interesting to note what does capture your attention. For me on Monday morning, it was the fact that every single person who came into my pre-surgery room made a point to introduce themselves and tell me about their role on the surgery team, and to ask if I had questions. That was really reassuring. My friend and my bishop were there to pray me on my way; and the next thing I knew, I was waking up in room 4760.
The good news was that the surgery had gone well; the challenging news was that I was expected to be out of bed and sitting in a chair that same day. I laughed, which worked about as well as when Sarah tried laughing at God. The next day, I was introduced to my physical and occupational therapy teams, and I learned the names and functions of a variety of pain control meds. The next couple of days passed in a blur of therapy sessions and pills. Every time I walked a few steps or did some exercise, the nurse or the therapist commented that I was doing really well. I admit that I didn’t feel it. The least movement sent stinging pain up and down my leg.
Finally it was time to go home. I admit that I was feeling uncertain about my ability to manage. While in the hospital, I was expected to call a nurse every time I wanted to move from chair to bed, or to go to the bathroom. And in the hour it took to drive home from the hospital, I would be able to navigate my two-story house on my own? I reminded myself that the hospital restrictions were as much about protecting them from lawsuits as about protecting me from injury; and off I went with my friends Karyn and Libby.
My “home base” is my favorite chair in the living room. (Some other day, I’ll write my testimonial about Ekornes Stressless chairs.) I’m surrounded by my walker, my electronic devices, my knitting, my water bottle, my grabber, my leg lifter, my gallery of pill bottles, an ice pack for my knee, and usually some snacks. For my first few days at home, I even slept in the chair.
For the first days at home, everything – I mean, everything – revolves around physical therapy. I schedule pain meds in advance of the session, so it will be easier to do the work in therapy. As soon as the session is done, I come home and spend time with ice on my knee. I practice the exercises I was given at therapy several times a day. It seems like every minute is spent either getting ready for therapy, in therapy, or recovering from therapy.
A few years ago, when I had hip replacement surgery, I could feel the progress of my healing day by day. That isn’t as true (for me, at least) with this knee replacement. It’s a much more winding path; two steps forward, one step back; and an occasional day when nothing works as planned.
Even with the pain, the special arrangements, the dependence on others for every little thing… underneath all of that is a strong sense of amazement and gratitude. Scripture says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and there is so much evidence of that all around us. Some have been given the minds of doctors, to see and understand how the body works, and how it fails. Some have been given the spirit of therapists, to know what exercises will help rebuild the body and to encourage when everything seems beyond reach. Some have been given the heart of a friend, to empathize, to encourage, to listen, to remind us that we’re not alone. For all of this, and for so much more, I say “thanks be to God.”