My recent surgery repaired a torn muscle in the hip abductor group, as well as removing a large bone spur. Now I'm counting the days to a recovery milestone--being able to ambulate without a walker. As I was waiting in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) after my surgery, the PT folks arrived to see if I could manage the required "touch-toe" routine to let my repaired muscle heal properly. The technique is to use my left toes for balance and bring the other foot forward while holding onto the walker. It didn't go well, as all I could manage was a little hop forward. The physical therapist felt that it was not safe to discharge me, so I was admitted for an overnight stay. Next morning, I had to demonstrate that while I was not able to do the "touch-toe" dance, I could scoot around seated on the walker Andy had gotten for me. I demonstrated getting to the potty and back to my hospital bed. This satisfied him and we headed home, just 10 minutes away.
It wasn't until I got home that I fully realized there would be very little I could do for myself. My daily routine consists of getting from bed to bathroom to lift chair in the family room. Fixing meals, doing laundry and doing any kind of household tasks were out of the question. Fortunately, our son Pete was on hand to help with all of these things and got very skilled at whisking me around the tight corner into our bedroom. Soon I was able to do it myself. Andy had to help me get in and out of the shower, where a non-wheeled walker gives me stability. I figured out the best way to get dressed and learned the most economical way to get through the morning routine and reverse it at night. It was all pretty exhausting, though.
One night we decided to get out for some Mexican food. Pete loaded up the wheelchair Andy rented and off we went. It was a little complicated getting me into the restaurant, but what struck me were the stares I got as we headed for a table. "What's wrong with her? Does she have cancer? Did she have a heart attack?" I just smiled and ordered a virgin margarita and some guacamole.
A few days before my two-week post-op visit with the surgeon's PA, I decided to try the standard walker and voila! Now in less pain, I quickly mastered the touch-toe routine. This has given me a bit more freedom. I'm able to get outside on the patio for some fresh air or take the dog out the front door so he can see the world. I switched to using the wheeled walker to get around. Still hard work, but faster. If fatigue sets in, I can always sit down for a few minutes. The surgeon had already told me that I would need six weeks on the walker, so it was no surprise when the PA confirmed it. In 24 days, I'll see the surgeon and get started with PT.
I was sometimes depressed, tearful and even angry in the early days of my recovery. Then I reminded myself that I have lots of help from family and am in generally good health despite two trips to the OR in ten months. I know this frustrating situation is temporary and within a few weeks, I'll be pretty much back to normal. I've known plenty of people who never got the chance to regain their health, so I try to keep my head on straight and stay focused on better days to come.
You may be wondering why I chose the number 21 for this post. No, it's not the name of one of Adele's albums or the age when you can drink alcohol without getting arrested. For me, it represents something entirely different. It's the number of surgeries I've had during my 76 years. I know, it's hard to believe. And it doesn't even count procedures which only required sedation, like having dental surgery. The only plastic surgery I've had was to lift my eyelids so I could see the world a little better and not have permanent wrinkles across my forehead--that did not involve anesthesia either.
The first three trips to the OR were actually happy events: C-sections which resulted in the births of my three children within a four-year span. As I got older, I needed surgery for a number of orthopedic issues, like bone spurs and knee replacements. The biggest of these was a major rebuild of my lumbar spine in 2017, a "360" procedure which meant 11 hours in the OR and three incisions.
Now, in the space of about 10 months, I will have had two more trips to the operating room. Last July, it was emergency surgery to repair two kinds of hernias on my right side. Later this week, I will check in to Baylor Lakepointe Hospital for a repair job on a tear in one of the muscles that makes my left hip work. It will be an outpatient procedure that takes 45 minutes and I'll be home by afternoon. No idea why it happened, just that it has been causing serious pain for weeks. I've been using a cane to get around, taking a bit of pressure off the offending area and sleeping on my right side, which really sucks since it's not my preferred position for watching Friends re-runs before drifting off.
Surgery doesn't scare me. It might be because my dad was a doctor and my brother David is one, too. I worked for hospitals most of my career, doing healthcare fundraising and communications. What does scare me is getting an IV started. I don't seem to have any available veins, so I'm always the victim of several "sticks" until the nurse finds one. It usually takes an ultrasound to locate the little sucker so they can start fluids and put me to sleep.
After this go-round, the fun really begins. I'll be using a classy new walker ordered from Amazon (I tell you, what can't you buy there?) to get around for the next six weeks but only using my right leg and touching the toe of the other. This is so the muscle can heal properly. Then it's six weeks of physical therapy to finish the job.
Not looking for sympathy or even a get-well card. This is not my first rodeo and I'm sure I'll come out on the other side of this lovely experience just fine. Just pray that they find a vein on the first try.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.