What I Learned from Surgery

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had surgery on my ankle this fall. The short version is that I had damaged the tendon that runs along the outside of my ankle while training for the Broad Street Run this past spring. I had some congenital issues that made the injury more likely to occur, but I did the damage myself, by running despite the pain. The first lesson? Don’t do that. I assumed that the pain would get bad enough that I would need to stop, and when it didn’t, I didn’t. Don’t be like me! Take care of your body. It’s the only one you’ll get. 

This is the ridiculous bandage I wore for 12 days. I found some creative ways to scratch various itches! 

This is the ridiculous bandage I wore for 12 days. I found some creative ways to scratch various itches! 

The Second Lesson

Healthcare workers of all sorts, at least the ones I met, are wonderful, kind, selfless people. I was alone on the day of my surgery, having taken a cab to get there in the morning and a friend on standby to pick me up after, but I never once felt alone. Everyone took wonderful care of me, attended to my needs, and answered my many, many questions. If you know a doctor, nurse, PA, CNA, transport professional, phlebotomist, or anyone else who sets foot in a hospital every day for a living, give them a hug. 

The Third Lesson

Crutches are the ever-loving pits. Human beings are not meant to carry their body weight on their arms. I knew that crutches would be a hassle, but I had no idea that a simple trip around the block would be like running Broad Street five times in 20 minutes. It was exhausting. The pain in my palms and shoulders was, after the first day or two, way worse than the pain in my ankle. Crutches also mean that you can either hold something in your hands or move around, but not both. The simple act of getting a cup of tea from the stove to the couch required help from someone else. Or it required a crazy series of maneuvers involving setting the cup on a counter, scooting a few feet toward my destination, moving the cup again, scooting, moving it again, scooting, and so on until I arrived. Eventually it required buying one of those utility carts that people transport groceries in, with a large cutting board across the top, so I could set things on it and roll them where they needed to go. Regardless, doing the very most basic self-care took far more effort than I anticipated. I repeat: It was exhausting. 

I don't know who appreciated the flowers more, me or Satchmo. 

I don't know who appreciated the flowers more, me or Satchmo. 

The Fourth Lesson

Being visibly injured makes the whole world a much nicer place. My neighbors, generally already wonderfully kind people, stopped to ask me how I was doing, if I was OK, did I need anything. Total strangers smiled at me, held doors, shifted carefully out of my way, and offered me assistance. For more than two months I walked around in the world a bit differently, prepared to explain to a stranger why I was on crutches – and later in a walking boot – smiling reassuringly at little kids who look concerned about me, and on the lookout for folks with less obvious disabilities who might need the same accommodations folks have offered to me without my even asking. 

The Fifth Lesson

I have the most wonderful friends, family, and coworkers; they are a blessing. I had care from the moment I got picked up until the day after I was out of my cast and able to hobble around in a boot, which was about two weeks. For the short stretch when I was alone, a friend came to look in on me and walk my dog.

A friend had these bracelets made for my care team. Even my surgeon got one! 

A friend had these bracelets made for my care team. Even my surgeon got one! 

Those who couldn’t be here in person flooded me (in the good way) with calls, texts, flowers, and cards. I won’t call anyone out by name here, but if you saw me or reached out to me in the months after my surgery, please know how grateful I am. 

This kid was super helpful in the recovery process, and never once judged me for my stained pants or my messy apartment. 

This kid was super helpful in the recovery process, and never once judged me for my stained pants or my messy apartment. 

I can’t really recommend foot surgery. It hurts. I’m still not back to normal. But it was a great lesson in patience, humility, and love. And I always recommend those.