“In your fifties, you’ll have a minor surgery. You’ll call it a procedure, but it’s a surgery.” (Mitch Robbins, in City Slickers)
I had my own procedure March 30 - a bunion removal and ligament repair on my right foot. It was my first hospital stay since about 1961.
My foot didn’t hurt at all, even when I was in the hospital. I suppose there were times when it ached a bit, but the medicine hid any real discomfort. The nurses kept asking my level of pain, between 1 and 10, and I told them a 4 so they would feel good about doing their jobs, but it was actually nothing more than a 3. Or 2.
Using the photos I took at my first post-surgery doctor visit, I counted 62 stitches in five places on my right foot. That was a lifetime-high stitch count for me.
One benefit to being on crutches: I no longer felt guilty using the handicap stall in my office men’s room.
My only real complaint has been awkwardness. It was hard to carry anything when on crutches, but I compensated by using my backpack for everything. About the only thing I wasn’t eventually able to carry was a case of Diet Cokes. I tried pushing a grocery cart by resting my booted foot on the cart and pushing off with my other foot like a scooter, but it was spectacularly unsuccessful. I should stay away from that particular grocery store for a while.
I invented a series of stories to describe what happened to my foot, since a friend said I needed a better story: (1) My clumsy wife stepped on my foot during our audition for a dance contest; (2) My foot got caught in a bear trap during my last mountain adventure trail marathon at mile 10 and I had to hop the last 16.2 miles; (3) In a fit of recklessness I tried on my wife’s high steppers and wrecked my trilateral tendon; and (4) I shouldn’t have tried to carry my William Wallace claymore sword on my bicycle.
After using an elevator regularly for the first time in years, I wondered: Why, since modern elevators were invented in 1852, was there still no “clear” button in case I selected the wrong floor (or found myself riding with Buddy the Elf).
After about four weeks, my foot took on an irritating stinging itch. I blamed the heat inside my boot, or even the glue and strapping tape the doctor used after removing stitches. People tried to convince me that it was part of the healing process. Maybe, but it kept me awake at night.
In general, wonder how often we have to go through pain and irritation in order to heal. Is that a constant and predictable part of every process? I expect to go through pain to get better as a runner or cyclist, and I suppose as a politician, writer, or teacher. Maybe all healing, all improvement, requires pain and discomfort along the path.
What I’ve missed most is movement, since I can’t run or bike. It didn’t bother me at first, but I soon started to feel like a compressed spring. My last venture was a 24-mile bike ride on Thursday, the day before surgery.
My original plan was to do home workouts during the immobile phase, such as sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, and planks. I even had a schedule worked out on paper. However, healing tapped all my energy and I did little actual working out. That surprised and disappointed me.
Here is a typical post-surgery doctor visit: He unwraps my foot, pokes it a little bit, wraps it back up with glue and strapping tape and gauze, and sends me home. This happened weekly for six weeks. I suppose any visit when the doctor doesn’t jump back gasping in shock is a good visit.
I have been amazed how many people will trot across a parking lot to open a door for a stranger on crutches. It makes me happy for mankind. My sister-in-law, Tanya, says it’s because we live in Midland.
After six weeks, Dr. Glass pulled the scary pin-splints out of my toes and removed the remaining stitches. He made me stay in the boot another week so the pinholes would heal. I interpreted that to mean the bones were fine and we were waiting on skin closure, which I then interpolated to walking in my boot without crutches. I didn’t ask the doctor if that was correct because he might disagree. I just acted on my own. I am, after all, a trained engineer.
Week seven; my last time to park in a handicap slot was this morning at the doctor’s office. I’m planning to retire my red placard, even though it’s good until October.
This morning I walked out of the doctor’s office wearing two shoes, no boot. I drove home, pulled out my Fuji bike, and rode 7.41 slow miles. It was more of a comeback statement than effective exercise. It was wonderful.
There is nothing sentimental about setting aside crutches or a boot. It falls in the “good riddance” category.
I have photos of my foot: before and after, stitches, pins, etc., and I will email them to you if you’re curious. Cyndi prefers I don’t post them for the entire world.
I’ll still be hobbling and limping for a few weeks longer, but my toes are straighter, my foot narrower, and I can smell freedom in the air
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32