the bright side


Off the top of my head I don’t have any anecdotes of my own where something good happened as a result of something that went awry. That said, since I’m a “cup half full and thank goodness I still have a cup!” and silver lining kind of girl, and I’ve been meaning to write down some of the bright spots of my recovery, this place and moment are as good as any (if a bit late anyway).

Day 1
Thursday I had foot surgery. It happened rather suddenly, but needed to get done before the calendar year on my high-deductible plan was up, and so I jumped. Without having cleaned the house thoroughly or filled the freezer with frozen dinners or strengthened my quads and core and upper body in preparation. Oh well.

On the bright side, my doctor is a good man and a family friend (distant kin, in fact, on my husband’s side) and actually rearranged his schedule to get me in on a non-surgery day and took good care of me.

I came home feeling discouraged over how weak I was (how difficult it was to get up the 7 stairs of my split entry house) and a little stressed over not having the right equipment (namely a knee scooter and a toilet seat booster, among other things) to make things easier on me. I had to send Shane on all sorts of errands and even goose chases trying to secure all the things, some of which really could have been picked up ahead of time through better coordination with the doctor’s office, insurance company, and home health providers. I felt badly about this, as he had had to be up at 5am as well to get me to surgery at 5:30 sharp and he did not get knocked out for a couple of hours of surgery.

On the bright side, I have a pretty purple cast. Due to the nerve block, I was weak, but not in pain. And because I wasn’t in pain I enjoyed a full day recovering from the effects of anesthesia, but not addled by narcotics. And when things fell apart in regards to the scooter, I posted a note on our ward’s Relief Society Facebook page and had a shiny pink scooter with a basket within a couple of hours. (Thank you, Dana. Truly a lifesaver!)

Day 2
This was my hardest day. My foot was the least of my pain, as all my muscles–even muscles I didn’t know I had–reacted badly to being used in new ways and I struggled to figure out the logistics of getting around. I hurt all over. I felt weak. I kept comparing myself to post-op me 14 years ago. I was stressed about my other knee having to overcompensate and over basic self care and the logistics of even getting in and out of a chair. By that time I was on pain meds and I wonder if they had a depressive effect, because I was not myself and for the life of me could not find any silver linings. I truly felt bleak and made the mistake of convincing myself it was going to be this bad for the remaining three weeks I am in a cast with orders to avoid all weight bearing on my left foot.

On the bright side, several people checked in on me my day began with a sweet and tender visit and a hug from my friend Evelyn (who brought me a lovely hand-written card and some beautiful flowers) and ended with a visit and a hug from my friend Holly who brought in a delicious dinner (why is it that potatoes and gravy are the perfect comfort food post-op?). I was starting to figure out the scooter and gave thanks for one of those bathrooms that is so tiny you could use the toilet, take a shower, and wash your hands all at the same time, which provides me with lots of grips and support on nearly every side.

Day 3
I still spent most of the day in bed, determined to give myself a full 72-hours being diligent about keeping my foot raised above my heart in order to mitigate the swelling (something I learned the hard way with my ACL repair 14 years ago). I was too tired to read, which was sad, because I even remembered I had a good book (or two or two dozen) to read. I still struggled getting up efficiently and still felt a little like it would be this way always.

On the bright side, this was the day I decided I was going to conquer one thing a day. And that would be not just ok, but even brave and good. By the end of the day I conquered getting from my bed to the bathroom with less fear and with minimal impact on my left knee. (Mostly I prayed every time that it would be ok.) I was able to go off the pain meds already–which is both a miracle and a blessing and slowly felt my brain clear. My friend Heather brought in a delicious dinner from Bam Bam’s BBQ, and well, their brisket is divine. On this day as well as the last, people blessed me with encouraging words, which I thought I would remember, but unfortunately did not. But they were simple words–single sentences–that lifted and brightened and gave me hope. I want to remember the power of words to bestow hope.

Day 4
This was a day of juxtaposition. Quiet morning. Busy afternoon. Calm and chaos. Kindness and sass. Encouragement and frustration. Confidence and a panic attack in the middle of the night over knowing that tomorrow I would need to negotiate the stairs in order to get to the follow-up appointment with my doctor.

On the bright side, I discovered a new Podcast, cleaned up the space around me a little and learned how to (mostly) negotiate without panic getting in and out of my favorite chair in the living room so I could spend time with my family when they came to Sunday dinner. My friend Jan brought a lovely chicken dinner over with the most delicious rolls and Lindsay made a yummy fruit salad–I crave fresh fruit in recovery. I relished how the simple act of checking in on someone means so much.

Day 5
The morning was a little stressful with an intrusion of work (I was supposed to have a full week off for focused recovery), changing plans and trying to coordinate things I’d committed to while in a drug-induced state.

On the bright side, I shampooed my hair from the kitchen sink which Shane had been so kind to empty when he did the dishes the night before. Foolishly realized mid shampoo that I was essentially home alone (Kyle was deep asleep downstairs), bent over the sink with the edge of my knee resting lightly on the very edge of a wheeled scooter with only a hand brake on a tile floor. And that if the scooter should slide out from under me I would certainly be in trouble. (The bright side is that my brain figured that out before I learned it the hard way.) My friend Nancy, whom I’ve missed greatly as she and her husband served a mission in Boston dropped by and we had a good visit. Then my friend Deena dropped by from Las Vegas, bringing a lunch of savory soup and a colorful salad and full of rich anti-oxidants. Later that day my friend Morgan brought in delicious dinner from Zupas (complete with extra chocolate covered strawberries) and was also–as always–a delightful visit. All visits did my heart much good. And I was gratefully cognizant of the one-day reprieve from the stairs. My big strong (and younger) brother kindly reminded me not to beat myself up over becoming weakened by a desk job because he does manual labor (and runs a small ranch) and even still has noticed a decrease in muscle mass over the past five years himself and my friend Cyndi told me she had patients my age who have to recover in a facility because they are not strong enough to recover at home. Again, the simple power of words to encourage and lift and brighten. Kindness is a powerful force for good.

Day 6
My son Zack came to take me to my doctor’s appointment, as Shane had jury duty a day earlier than he thought. The initial trip down the stairs went well. Our railing is sketchy, so I decided going back up would be safer and only slightly more awkward on my hands and knees.

On the bright side (notice how these sections are getting longer every day?), I got out of the house! All went well with the doctor who took at look at the incision to make sure it was healing well and replaced the purple cast with a fresh bright blue one and told me I get to graduate to the boot two weeks from the day (shaving off two whole days!). Lindsay couldn’t resist the promise of a blank canvas and wrote Andy on the bottom of it, which will amuse me (and others) for days to come. My friend Maria dropped by with her cute kids and a beautiful posey and a good hug and cheery visit. The stairs went so well the first time (a cautionary tale–I overdid it and it was too much for me the second time) I felt brave enough not to miss a wedding dinner and a life celebration I truly wanted to attend. Shane–bless his heart–drove up to the graveside in SLC and then came right back to pick me up and turn around and drive right back up to SLC for the other events, which were, fortunately, right close to each other. A change is as good as a rest and surrounding myself with good people and good food (because I had mostly forgotten to eat that day) was healing even though I wore myself out. It was a long, full, exhausting, but good day.

I am learning (again) not to compare, to look for and celebrate baby steps, to be patient and grateful and hopeful. I say the words out loud. “You’re going to be ok.” “Thank you, strong knees, you are doing a good job.” etc.

Shane has been a great support managing the house and bishoping and jury duty even when he doesn’t feel that great himself, not to mention Lovanox shots in my belly and fetching things when I can’t fetch them for myself (though I do try and succeed with many things and even managed to do most of the dishes yesterday) and chauffeuring me to SLC and being patient when I ask for one more thing at the end of the day. He has made me laugh out loud a couple of times and a good belly laugh is the best medicine. So many people–too many to name–have checked in and up on on me, some of them nearly every day. This too is a powerful force for good. I am blessed by good people in my life and so very grateful.


[Day 135 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]