Healing is a humbling experience


I thought I was doing so well with my new knee. Then reality hit.

At my two-week post-surgery check-up, the orthopedic surgeon was pleased with my progress. However, he didn’t like the swelling in my leg from above my knee to my toes. I didn’t much like it, either.

The doctor said the swelling was most likely from my daily goal of walking a mile. I needed to rest, not walk.

That was my reality check. Thinking I was doing the right thing, my extra walking was actually slowing the healing process, adding to the post-surgery pain that goes with any major operation like knee replacement.

The doctor repeated what I already knew and was doing. “Elevate your leg, ice it, and rest,” were his orders. He assured me that I was well ahead of schedule in my healing. I need not try to hurry it along with my aggressive walking goals.

I got the same message the next day from my physical therapists. The swelling was hindering my ability to stretch, extend, and flex my repaired leg. I felt silly.

I got the message loud and clear. Healing takes time.

Being retired, the time I had. So I reordered my post-surgery routine. I continued with my physical therapy twice a week. I did my exercises and stretches. I wore out my recliner, my go-to spot to raise my leg and ice it, a lot.

Most importantly, I eliminated the additional walking. Both the doctor and therapists told me that many patients still used either a walker or a cane several weeks after the surgery. I walked without either a week after my operation.

I was the exception to the rule. Only I didn’t realize it or appreciate it. The doctor said that my dedication to the pre-surgery exercises likely had prepared me for a quicker response to walking unaided.

However, I needed to adhere to after surgery recommendations for a successful recovery. Now that I have settled into my new routine, I see how foolish I was to try to rush something that genuinely needed time and rest to properly heal.

I have always been an active, involved, engaging person who enjoys helping people. I like staying busy. I enjoy work that I can do. I learned that for the present, my most important task was to rest, elevate, and ice.

I listened to the medical experts by reprogramming that energy. I have limited my computer time. When I do write, I type with the laptop on my lap, feet up.

Treasure hunt.
I sit in the sunshine on the back porch, reading or watching gray squirrels plant acorns in the grass. Minutes later, the ever-observant blue jays unearth those same tasty treasures. For a change of scenery, I lounge in the comfort of my recliner, feet up, leg iced, and reading.

Even at this slower, laid-back approach, the days seem to fly by. I hope that’s not merely a reflection of my age.

The healing process has been an awakening and a humbling experience. I thought of others who weren’t as fortunate as me. Weeks after their surgery, they still relied on walkers and canes. I realized the arrogance of my over-zealousness to heal.

I grasped the importance of patience. The stark awareness of my situation increased my gratitude.

I learned that clarifying my own condition sharpened my empathy for those not as fortunate. Compassion took on a new form.

Healing from significant trauma to the body, whether by choice or accident, simply takes time. This old patient has finally discerned how to be patient.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2019

Author: Bruce Stambaugh

Writer, marketer, columnist, author, photographer, birder, walker, hiker, husband, father, grandfather, brother, son, township trustee, converted Anabaptist, community activist, my life is crammed with all things people and nature and wonder. My late father gave me this penchant for giving and getting the most out of life, my late mother the courtesy, kindness, and creativity to see the joy in life. They both taught me to cherish the people I am with. I try and fail and try again.

7 thoughts on “Healing is a humbling experience”

  1. Reading your post I couldn’t help but think, my son needs to read this! Six weeks ago he passed out while high on a ladder at work (it was hot and humid that day) and fell 9 feet hitting his head. He had and still has some issues from the concussion. Doctor’s along with family have told him time and again, rest, nap when you can, take things slow. He has it in his head that the healing of his brain will come quicker if he just goes back to work and night school and doing all the husband and daddy duties. However,because of this “logic” the healing process has slowed down, he has dark circles and looks simply worn out. I think he could learn a lot from your words of wisdom!! Praying for your continued healing!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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