“You just do it. You force yourself to get up. You force yourself to put one foot before the other, you refuse to let it get to you. You fight. You cry. You curse. Then you go about the business of living. That’s how I’m doing it. There’s no other way.” –Elizabeth Taylor
So I did it…it’s over! Months and months of preparing and stressing and just like that! Done with!
I had to be at the hospital at 5am on the day of my surgery. I didn’t get any sleep that night. I washed up, packed some last minute things for my overnight bag, put clothes on and walked over to the hospital. Nerves rushing though me, and as I approached those double wide hospital doors, I couldn’t help but feel like I was taking my last steps of freedom. Everything from there is a blur. I was assigned my pre-op room where I met with the anesthesiologist, nurses, both Drs. Levine and Rozbruch; and I was even greeted and welcomed from the president and CEO of the Hospital Lou Shapiro. What an honor that was!
What was hours felt like minutes. Last thing I remember, I was being wheeled into the operating room, and next minute I was waking up from anesthesia in recovery. Surgery lasted about nine hours, from what I was told. While in the recovery room, I became very disoriented. I was not aware of my surroundings. Shortly after, my epidermal wore off and I experienced pain like I never had before. I was told it wasn’t uncommon but it was sooner than expected. That was managed, and after being down in the PACU for a little over 6 hours, I was transported up to my in-patient room. I slept that night (Friday) and woke up Saturday ready to take the day on ahead of me. Physical Therapy came in and I began that right away. We learned how to do so many different exercises to strengthen my range of motion, knee extensions, toe stretches, I even learned how to get up and down from bed, and to and from the bathroom. Occupational therapy came and they made me a customized shoe that I will need to wear to stretch the ligaments in my foot. There, I learned how to do pin care site cleaning, to prevent infection, and to inject daily blood thinners. My catheter eventually came out and I even did my first round of limb lengthening. Now that was really neat! It was a weekend filled with learning 🙂
I also had a lot of family and friends visit, which really lifted my spirits. It also broke up the monotony of the daily schedule of being in a hospital. I found myself getting stronger with each day that passed. Unfortunately, I still found myself with no appetite and very nauseous from all the medication I was on. I started getting what I now have named my “episodes”. They tend to show up after I exhaust and push my body. I was also being very stubborn about taking my medication, trying to be brave and fight through the pain. I wasn’t properly managing and staying ahead of it, so when it came it would come like a gust of wind that quite literally would knock me out. I have difficulty breathing, my entire body goes into shock mode and starts to tingle and go numb. It’s so scary. Moving forward, I need to get on a structured schedule which will help me maintain this. The doctors also found that my blood pressure was increasing daily, so monitoring and maintaining that was also something that became a daily thing. Drs. Rozbruch and Levine made sure to visit me and we talked a bit, discussing a game plan moving forward.
It is surreal to me that one week ago today I was in New York and going through all my pre-operative appointments – and now it’s all over. I know this is only the beginning, and that my journey is only beginning. I will be returning to NY every two weeks for my post-operative appointments with Dr. Rozbruch. I will be receiving in home physical therapy prior to joining HSS at IMG up in Bradenton, and I will also have an at home nurse come in to monitor me. I learned this past week that there is no modesty in medicine…you need to put aside any discomforts you may have upon others seeing you with anything less than a gown and pure nakedness underneath. Having a sense of humor through it all really helps as well.
I know that life will not be comfortable or easy for the next few months, but life begins at the end of your comfort zone. And the days you are most uncomfortable are the days you learn the most about yourself. So from now on, I want to get more comfortable being uncomfortable. I want to get more confident being uncertain. I don’t want to shrink back just because something isn’t easy. I want to push back, and make more room in the area between I can’t and I can.
This series is by Gabrielle Sholes, a patient of Dr. David Levine and Dr. S. Robert Rozbruch, at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS). This weekly series documents her experience as she prepares for a unique ankle fusion and limb lengthening surgery that will allow her to walk pain-free and improve her quality of life.