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Surgery Chronicles: Day 4

First things first: my surgery went very well. The doc told me so as I was coming out of my slumber, but he also spoke at length with my parents. There were no complications, no real surprises, and if the healing goes as it should, the doc said he doesn't see why I shouldn't be able to get back to running—very welcome news!

My doctor, by the way, is Matthew Werd, at Foot and Ankle Associates in Lakeland. I fretted a lot over which surgeon to choose; I'd had three consultations, and it came down to two. One was an orthopedist I'd seen for injuries, and she happened to have performed bunionectomies on two of my coworkers, who were happy with their results. But her recovery program seemed far too good to be true. Walking around within a few days, no boot, and the second foot done within 10 days of the first. Maybe it would have been perfectly fine, but in the end I decided I wanted the more cautious approach, albeit with a much longer recovery period. Nonetheless, I'm very happy with my decision.

Day 1

On surgery day, despite all of my preparedness, I slept through my three alarms, I made what I'd later learn was the grave mistake of drinking a sip of water after getting out of bed (my instructions said to have nothing on my stomach four hours prior to surgery), I couldn't find the facility on time, and I forgot to pee in the cup so they could make sure I wasn't pregnant, an utter impossibility. Otherwise, things went well. My doc came in to greet me while I was getting prepped, and I made sure to ask him if he was feeling alert and confident. Twice. Just for good measure. My mom and dad came to visit with me while I waited to be taken back to surgery—something I was very grateful for because the wait was not short, and just being able to talk about random things and recall old stories helped keep me from getting anxious. I'm actually surprised at how calm I was.

A good look for me, no?

When it was time to go back, we said goodbyes and I was wheeled into the operating room. I remember three different staff preparing me, and one of them said she was just going to put some medicine in my IV that would help me relax. And then I remember feeling drowsy but aware of my surroundings, and I thought, oh my god, they're going to do the surgery while I'm still awake! And then I heard my doc tell me that everything went really well, and I realized I was already on the other side of it. I looked down and saw a bulky wrap around my foot and also became aware that my foot was numb. After being wheeled to a post-op room, I was reunited with my parents. My dad went back home to Orlando, and my mom drove me home, first stopping for oatmeal and coffee, which I'd been craving all morning. Even though it was after noon.

We got home, and I crutched my way to my unit, then sat down and elevated my foot and realized how helpless I was. But that feeling dissipated throughout the day as I started figuring out what I was and wasn't able to do for myself. My mom has been a tremendous help! I also received lots of thoughtful check-ins from family, friends, and coworkers.

Day 2

On the second day, I was still feeling pretty chipper. I even "secretly" got some work done because I had so much energy in the morning and was bored. My mom and I painted toenails.

Guess which one I am.

But on this day the numbness started to wear off and the pain started to set in. Which was entirely expected. So I started taking the narcotics my doctor prescribed. I'd specifically requested something without codeine, because I'd had a bad reaction to it before. So this new one, while it didn't make the pain go away, took the edge off so I wasn't too bothered by it. I took it as frequently as I was permitted, every for hours. At day's end, I was just tired and wanted to make sure I slept. I kept myself awake enough to take the midnight dose and fell asleep. I woke up at about 4:30, and since I was up, I took another pill and went back to bed.

Day 3

When I woke up in the morning, I was feeling a little groggy but still took my modified shower (more on that another time) and got set up to work. My mom brought me my computer, coffee, and oatmeal. I started typing an email to my coworkers explaining that I'd be on- and off-line, as the meds made me zone out at unexpected times. But then I didn't feel quite right. My stomach started churning, I was suddenly dizzy and lightheaded, and my skin got clammy. My mom helped me to the bathroom, and, well, suffice it to say that the narcotics did not agree with my system. My mom called the doctor's office and was told that some people have that reaction. So from then on, it was extra strength Tylenol or ibuprofen.

Crisis averted. All should have been fine, right? But something about that experience threw me off my "happy recovery" track, and the anxiety and depression I'd actually expected surfaced. There they were. Old foes. It didn't help that I hadn't seen my foot since before surgery, and the feeling hadn't completely returned to my toes (which my doctor said to expect). I think I just realized how very little control I had in that moment, and then in the weeks to come.

I tried to sleep away the day as much as I could. The pain was bad, but it was better than feeling the other stuff. My mom continued to take great care of me—prepping and bringing me food, helping me ice my foot every 30 minutes, and doing all the chores and cleaning I was unable to do. I wanted to give her a bit of a break from cooking, so we ordered sushi and watched a movie—Becoming Jane (I'd give it a 3.5 out of 5).

Day 4

Today was the transfer day. My mom's friend was coming from New Smyrna to pick her up and take us both to meet up with my sister and her family, whom I'd then be going home with (he also did some much-needed re-caulking around my tub, for which I'm very grateful!). We were meeting for lunch to do the swap, and that would be my first time back in public since surgery day. I was kind of glad to feel a part of normal life but a little nervous about maneuvering in public. Turns out it was actually easier in the wide open outdoors than in my tiny condo. But as soon as I saw my two young nieces at the restaurant, I got instantly emotional. I think I was concerned about how I must have looked to them, but it's also hard to be the weaker one around them; I'm supposed to be strong and capable and able to take care of them, and in that moment I felt just the opposite. It wasn't a feeling I'd anticipated.

The rest of lunch was a nice, normal time for family visiting. Nothing felt as if it were directly about me. And I think I needed to have some attention diverted.

I'm in my new place for the next week, and I'm hoping to continue to feel some normalcy and make progress in recovering. I have my first follow-up appointment in a few days, and then I will get this bulky wrap off my foot and finally see it! I'm sure it won't be particularly pretty; I'm expecting swelling, a still-healing incision with stitches, and maybe bruising. But what I won't see is my old bunion and misaligned toe! I'll get a new wrap on my foot, a much lighter one likely just around the suture area while it still heals. That means I'll be able to fit my foot into my protective boot, though I'll still need crutches for a little while as I slowly adapt to bearing some weight on that foot.

Here are some of the things that occupy my mind (and stomach) throughout my days:

What I'm Reading/Watching

What I'm Eating

  • So many good things. It's *lovely* having someone prepare meals for me. I usually don't take the time to do this for myself. The meals are also pretty simple and lots of them can share common ingredients.
Carrot-ginger soup, quinoa beet salad with kale.

This is just comfort food.

Green lentil quinoa salad over spinach.

What I'm Missing

  • Being able to see my foot. Here is my current view:
view of my feet from my perspective looking down, the right one wrapped in heavy dressing, the left one marked with word no
There's a foot in there somewhere!

What I'm Learning

  • Dogged determination for independent living is overrated. That's how I've been much of my adult life, but having my mom stay with me and allowing her to help me was good for my soul. It was good bonding time, too. Like my older sister just reminded me on her check-in call to me, that's what family is for. And I'm pretty damn lucky to have mine.

What I'm Looking Forward To

  • Seeing my foot.
  • An Ohio trip in the fall. I remember during last year's trip I was lamenting the pain and numbness in my feet from my bunions (these feelings are heightened in the cold weather), thinking I definitely needed to do something about it. This year when I go, I'll be able to say I did something about it. 

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