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