If you are reading this in chronological order, you will understand the title of today’s blog. If you are not, then I invite you to read last week’s blog first.
I am writing this in a totally pain-free state. I have not been out of pain in over seven years. This time last week, I was imagining what this feeling would be like. I have to confess, it is NOTHING like I thought it would be. It is (caution – hyperbole coming) liberating, effortless, smooth, spacious, energizing, humbling, delightful, effervescent, delicious, and as Cole Porter once composed, de-lovely.
Pain is such an individual experience. It confounds measurement but is eloquently described in terms of intensity and frequency. As a species, we seem to share an awareness of others’ pain that often invites empathy. It is a phenomenon that modern medicine has found ways to numb, block, and erase from our memories temporarily quite effectively, all the while drawing on the wisdom of our early ancestors who experimented with nature’s pharmacopoeia.
I realized after my hip replacement that I had been living in three phases: anticipation of pain, containment of pain, and adjustment to pain. As of this writing, none of these phases currently occupies my mind/body hypervigilence. What has taken its place is an awareness of how my body adapted to the physical strain, either through adjusting other joints or muscle groups, or by staying as still as possible and not encouraging any movement at all. The resulting consequence is that I am really, really out of shape! But now, because I am without pain, I will be able to gradually increase my muscle tone, my stamina, and return to a level of functioning that I identify as “healthy”.
The surgery experience was, in so many ways, a seminar on receiving and trusting. Friends kindly transported me to the hospital, waited for me in the recovery room, texted and emailed good wishes, and now are caring for my every need. The medical professionals were happy. I am going to repeat that because it has not always been my experience. The surgeon and anesthesiologist (a woman, by the way), the nurses (both male and female), physician’s assistants, and techs, were all happy.
The process unfolded precisely, as if it were a ballet. In pre-op, checklists were completed, attention was paid to my comfort and needs, lighthearted banter was shared, papers were signed, and the most wonderful drugs were administered. Once in the operating room, the gurney I was on (which was more like a spa bed) was magically inflated and my body transitioned onto the operating table. I have a vague memory of faces, then I went into the Land of Versed, returning some 50 minutes later with a new hip, some additional pain medication on board, and a delightful nesting on that very comfy gurney. Once stabilized in post-op, I was carted to my hospital room, assisted into my bed and offered water and a meal. Total elapsed time: 3-1/2 hours.
I was up and walking on my new hip (which was a very strange experience) by 4:30. I didn’t walk far, but I did perambulate a hallway showing off my stunning hospital gown, using a very noisy walker. Slept like a baby that night due to the kind hint of a patient who had a knee replacement done at the same surgery center. The hint was to bring a sleep mask. Worked like a charm! When the night nurse came in to check on me and the lights came on, I remained in a pleasant drowsy state and just let him do his thing.
The next day dawned with an early rising and sitting in the chair. Another walk up and down the hall, and then a lovely breakfast. (The food was REALLY good!). Around 8:30 another ballet started with visits from the surgeon, the physician’s assistant, the physical therapist, the occupational therapist, and the nurse who kept pushing me to pee. Once I complied with that directive, I was ready for discharge. My charioteer arrived and I was wheeled downstairs. Did the trip home and have been receiving guests ever since. The only residual effects I have had are a bit of sore throat, some post-nasal drip, a slippery brain, and being easily tired.
Since then I have been doing my physical therapy, getting used to walking, and except for a minor set-back, have been returning to a functional status I have not had in several years. This time last week, I was wandering in a world of “What If . . .”. This week, I am securely walking on familiar ground and feeling better every day.
One of the lessons I am learning is pacing. I don’t have the stamina yet to keep up a regular schedule. That is a physical reality. My mind is ready to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but I really do need the nap every day and I go to bed early. I am communing with my inner sloth and finding it a welcome break from the chaos that seemingly is gripping the world at present. Honoring this, I am going to bring this week’s blog to a close and take my nap!