Holding It All Together

By Amy McCollom
I thought I was as prepared as I could be.  I have had several surgeries before, and as long as I know what to expect, I do pretty well.  And for this achilles tendon surgery that I was about to go through, I had done my homework.

From the day I saw the surgeon, I started reading up on the particular procedure I was going to have, and the outcomes experienced by patients.  I watched YouTube videos  of patients and their progress from surgery day on, and I even watched videos of the surgery itself.  I know; some people could never do that, but remember, I used to poke dead things with a stick when I was a kid, so there’s that.

One of the biggest challenges for me, I believed, was going to be on surgery day when John couldn’t go back to pre-op with me.  He has always been my rock, and my voice of reason, and my trusted best friend.  I always knew that if the nurses started hurting me really bad, that he would help me off of that table, jerk the wires and tubes out of my arm, and we would bust out of that joint. Too many action movies?  Probably.

Now, I admit that I am not the most graceful of creatures.  My family has told me for years that I walk funny; they claim I don’t swing my arms when I walk. I don’t understand what my arms have to do with walking.  I get where I intend to go.  But people do frequently ask me why I am limping. The last year and a half I really had a reason to limp and walk funny; achilles tendonosis.  

Not having had extensive time on crutches, I was a candidate for crutch training, according to my doctor.  I wasn’t the swiftest or the prettiest on crutches, but I passed enough to be cleared for surgery.  Then I went home and forgot everything they taught me.

Surgery day came and everything went smoothly, even when I had to walk alone, away from my partner of 32 years, down a sterile hallway and beyond the forbidden doors.  Actually it was like 15 feet, and it didn’t give me near enough time to come up with a good paragraph about my mental anguish.

I am not sure what exactly happened after my lights went out, but I remember waking up to someone commanding me to take deep breaths and a squishy mask on my face.  I also had lots of pain.  The pain was everywhere except my foot!  My shoulders hurt terribly and I could barely move my left arm, my ribcage hurt, clear through to my back! Most of all, my throat hurt horribly! I had forgotten about the throat pain.  Now, I remembered. That was what hurt me most when I had my neck surgery, the throat pain.  

My foot was numb for three days, totally numb.  I couldn’t wiggle my toes or even feel the skin below my knee. Then slowly, like a frozen steak thawing out around the edges, I got feeling back into my leg and foot. With feeling came pain.  By the time the foot pain came, the throat pain had dissipated.  

Now that I absolutely could not put weight on my left foot, I had to rely solely on the crutches, it was more important than ever that I use them correctly. John had used crutches quite a bit with his knee injuries and such, so he was a good coach.  

However, between the effects of the pain medications, and my own balance issues, I am a danger to myself and society on crutches. I also have a knee scooter, which is easier for me to use, however our cat has taken up the challenge of “I shall not be moved” when he hears me coming.  Third, John is letting me use his walker he has left over from his knee replacement surgery, but that too, takes a lot of upper arm strength, of which I also lack.  I may even have a torn rotator cuff in my left shoulder like I had in my right; feels the same.  So much for my dream of joining the circus and becoming a flying trapeze artist, eh.

So do I have any regrets?  I regret laughing at the commercial where the lady fell and said, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”  I regret not realizing that I would have a 30 pound cast on one of my legs that would throw my balance off, so maybe I should have practiced crutching around like that.  I regret  not building a ramp to my front door.  

One thing I have learned is that you are never as prepared as you think you are. There will always be unforeseen circumstances. And everyone should become proficient at using crutches because you just never know when that skill will be needed desperately.

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