Moving more slowly for good reasons


I’ve been moving a lot slower lately. At my age, that can be expected. That, however, is not the primary reason for my more leisurely pace. I recently had a right knee replacement.

Before the operation, I had been hobbling along at my usual rapid stride for too long. With bone on bone, arthritis, and bone spurs, I knew my knee would need medical attention.

I sought the absolute best orthopedic surgeon I could find. His reputation clearly preceded him. I had to wait three months for a consultation, and then another five months for the knee replacement surgery itself.

Three and a half hours after the surgery.
I took that delayed process as a cue. I needed to be more patient, more deliberate in my approach to life. I wasn’t a spring chicken anymore, and my achy knee daily reminded me of that fact.

My wife and I attended pre-surgery classes together. The instruction covered the do’s and don’ts of my activities both before and after the operation. Also, a friend from church had had the same surgery by the same surgeon at the same hospital as me with impressive results.

From these sources, I gained confidence, and specific themes emerged.

“Stay ahead of the pain,” was one. In other words, don’t try to be a hero. Take the pain medicines as directed.

“Ice is your friend,” was the second piece of wisdom. Elevating and icing the leg helped reduce the swelling and inflammation. Ironically, though, swelling is needed to properly heal the soft tissue, muscles, and ligaments that have been cut into and/or moved in the surgery process. The key was to keep the long, stapled incision dry and clean.

Long before the surgery, I began a routine of recommended exercises. I continued to do them in the healing process. Doing so clearly paid dividends.

On the stationary bike in the hospital rehab.
The doctor had told me that he would have me walking the same day as the operation. My surgery was at 10:30 a.m., and I was strolling down a hospital hall with a walker and supervision by 3:30 that afternoon.

Staying hydrated was another essential element in the post-surgery protocol. I drank like a fish.

The doctor had one more piece of pre-surgery advice for me: “Keep moving.” So I did.

I walked around the neighborhood, usually in the morning, as much as I could. I also went hiking, though I often stopped to rest, especially on inclines.

Though I have yet to have my post-op surgery visit with the doctor, it’s clear all that locomotion paid off. At the end of my first session, my physical therapists said I didn’t need either my walker or cane. A week after surgery, I was walking unaided up and down our street.

How I kept writing.
I noticed that my gait was nearly half of what it was before the surgery. As we walked side by side, I told my wife that I think this is the stride that I should continue to maintain.

I felt comfortable walking at a slower pace. An occasional sharp pain radiating from either side of the knee kept me focused on each and every step. It was the first test of my new, slower resolve. I had a new knee and a renewed appreciation for all that was around me.

I know I am fortunate, and that I still have a long way to go in the healing process. I hope that the more unhurried stroll through life will enhance my awareness. I’ll breathe deeply, observing, absorbing, and appreciating with even more vigor of whatever finds me along life’s path.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2019

Every now and then life nails you

Amish buggy
Morning excursion.

By Bruce Stambaugh

When you spend most of your life living in the world’s largest Amish community, you tend to get a lot of flat tires. It just happens.

You see, when a horse throws a shoe, the nails holding the horseshoe to the hoof go flying, too. If they land in the roadway, which many are prone to do, passing motorists often pick them up as their tires pass over the sharp metal nails.

You know what’s next. The tire goes flat, usually when you’re already late for an appointment. I’ve learned to deal with it.

I change the tire and take the flat to the repair shop to find the leak. More often than not, a horseshoe nail is indeed the culprit. The tire is plugged or patched, and I’m on my way again.

Sometimes the tire can’t be fixed. I fork over $150 or more for another tire. What more could I do? You don’t have to live in Amish country to be able to relate to this scenario. In fact, there are times when you wish flat tires were all that had gone wrong.

An acquaintance recently shared how his father fearfully faced open-heart surgery. A few years earlier, his wife, my friend’s mother, had died during the same procedure.

I listened to my friend tearfully relate other details about how his mother’s death had negatively impacted his father’s spirit for the last decade. He didn’t want to lose his father the same way. To my friend, it was like all four tires had gone flat.

Holmes County Ohio
Enjoy your view.
Others I know have lost spouses, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, grandchildren. You get the sad picture. You might even be in the picture. Unseen nails abound in life, often puncturing us when we least expect it.

Some nails are more nuisances than they are painful. Canceled flights, broken heirlooms, sick pets all qualify as life’s flat tires. Those can often be patched. Everyone experiences some bumps in the road that flatten our spirits.

Yelling and screaming might make us feel better. But doing so won’t fix whatever problems we face. I often look to others as models for the way I should go.

My wife and I have twice run into a friend who recently lost her husband to cancer. She is ever so thankful that friends and relatives have been taking her places. The joy expressed in her smile shines brightly, dimming the sadness in her eyes.

Amish buggy
Keep on keeping on.
As my friend Kurt and I walked the Survivors Walk in the Holmes County Relay for Life event last month, we met a young lady who had beaten brain cancer. She wasn’t going to let that nail in her tire deflate her enjoyment in attending middle school next fall.

Now that was the spirit, the key to living a positive life. This young woman radiated confidence and enthusiasm. It was an honor to walk with her.

Just like that darling teenager, it’s how we respond to life’s flat tires that can make all the difference. Mourning the loss, accepting the situation, and getting on with life as best you know how will help you get where you want to go.

As sure as a buggy will clip-clop by my house, I also know that it’s just a matter of time until I get another nail in the tire. When that happens, I’ll find myself back at the repair shop. It’s simply the way life is.

Amish farm, summer
Sunny summer view.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016