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Surgery Chronicles: Two Weeks Down

At the end of week two, I'm home on my own and feeling pretty good. But it definitely feels like time has moved slowly. Hopefully the coming weeks will go by a little faster, now that I'm set up for a routine and able to do more for myself.

First Follow-up

I had my first follow-up appointment last week, which I'd been looking forward to pretty much since the day after surgery. Possibly because I was anticipating it so much, it felt like it would never come. But it did, and it went very well. I got my bulky dressing and "upper foot" cast off, and I finally saw my new foot! Of course, it wasn't beautiful; it was still tinted orange from the betadine used in surgery prep, it was swollen and a little bruised, and my incision was still healing and had strips of medical tape running along it (I'll save a barefoot photo for a later post). But my bunion was gone and my toe was aligned! That was the goal, and it was achieved.

The doctor said it only looked like I had minimal swelling and he didn't need to see me for another two weeks. So his assistant re-wrapped my foot in more dressing, a little more than I thought I would have on there—the layers of things seemed unending. But I have a few toes free now, and instead of the cast I have a soft splint covering all the dressings. Because my dressing is light enough to now fit in my boot (believe it or not), that's what I'm now walking around in, with crutches. I admit, it's a pain. There are six steps to securing the boot in place, so if I'm just going to the bathroom, I have to really think whether it's worthwhile. I also have to move my big toe gently back and forth each day for less than a minute, several times a day so it doesn't get stiff. That probably sounded as painful to you as it did to me at first, but it's really not that bad.

My new "minimal" dressing.

This is how I roll.

Back to (Semi)Independence

It's been kind of fun trying to figure out ways to do all the things I normally do at home. Some of the biggest challenges were cooking, cleaning, and just moving things from one room to another. Because my hands are occupied with the crutches, I've had to be creative. One benefit of living in a small space is that I don't have to cover much ground to get around. Here's how I do some everyday things:
  • Cooking. just by placing a bar stool into the kitchen (which I had to push and crutch, push and crutch in there), I can do pretty much everything I need to in the kitchen with out standing. It's a swivel chair, so if I start at with it turned to the left, I'm at my prep counter, where I can chop vegetables, use a couple of appliances (rice cooker, food processor), and access pantry goods. If I swivel it straight ahead, I'm at the sink, where I can do dishes (yay!). If I turn to the right, I'm at my fridge, microwave, and trashcan. Sometimes the chair needs to be nudged a few inches one way or the other, but that's no big deal.
  • Moving things from one room to another. A rolling desk chair comes in particularly handy. So when I place my oatmeal and coffee up on the coffee bar, I can crutch my way into the rolling chair, roll over to the bar, grab the items, and place them on a nearby ottoman. Then I can move into a seat and place the breakfast on a table or tray. Voilà! I can also carry a bag with handles and still crutch, or wear a backpack. So things are doable; they just take some ingenuity and a little more time than usual.
  • Showering. This has been fun... That's something I needed to figure out before the surgery because it's one thing I wanted to continue to do every day to help me feel normal—and maintain some dignity. I knew I wouldn't be able to stand (obv) or get my foot wet for the first few weeks. So I decided I'd sit on the ledge of the tub and drop in backward so my legs were hanging over the ledge. Before I remembered there's such thing as a handheld shower head, I was just going to run the shower on top of myself while sitting at the bottom of the tub, but then I realized it would be fully worthwhile to get the handheld. It works out well, except when I need to put the shower head down; I can't just rest it in the tub because it will spray everywhere, so I have to squeeze it between my legs while I wash, shampoo, etc. I'm probably saying too much. But two more things have helped my shower process: (1) my mom had the clever idea to wrap my bandaged foot and ankle in Glad Press'n Seal plastic wrap, which works amazingly well, and (2) I borrowed a little stool that my nieces no longer use, so I have an actual seat to sit on instead of the bottom of the tub (I know they make real shower stools, but why get a new thing when this other thing works perfectly fine?).
  • Laundry. This is something I didn't think I'd be able to do, but I managed to do some yesterday. Granted, it was not without incident. I had tossed my quarters into the reusable grocery bag that contained my laundry, and when I started to pull the laundry out to load it in the washer, two quarters came flying out and landed in between machines. So I had to crutch back to my condo unit to get two more quarters. When I finally returned after getting the wash going, a neighbor stopped by and gave me a piece of paper with his name and number on it. He said to call anytime I needed help. Apparently he'd witnessed my struggles. Incidentally, when I went to switch the load, I realized that the original two quarters had actually fallen into the machine, not in the crack. So I'd made an extra trip for nothing. At least got some exercise.

A Little Help from My Friends

I continue to have help from family and friends, as well as regular check-ins. These are wonderful. I've heard from relatives and friends I don't often hear from, because we're separated by distance and busy lives, and the fact that they've made efforts to reach out to me has been very heartwarming.

This past weekend I got to see my older sister, who lives practically on the other coast of Florida. We rarely get time together alone, so it was particularly nice that she made the trip to see me and help take care of me.


What's Next

I'm, of course, looking forward to my next appointment, which is in a week. I kind of wish it were sooner because I want the reassurance that everything is healing on track, but I'm trying to just trust that I'm doing everything I can to recover well. At the next appointment, I'll get to take all the dressing off—and keep it off. They'll remove the thread from the stitches and my foot will be free! There's a possibility I may not need crutches anymore and I can start to walk around in the boot, but I have a feeling it will probably be too soon for that. One thing to look forward to for sure is that I'll no longer have to hang my legs over the tub's edge to take a shower. It's the little things.

What I'm Watching/Reading

  • The Keepers. This was totally engrossing for me from the first episode. It's a reinvestigation of cold-case murder of a nun in the sixties. It's dark, fair warning, but it's really well made.
  • Twin Peaks. I never watched it when it actually aired, and with all the hoopla about the new series, I figured, why not?
  • I'm not really reading anything right now. Any suggestions?

Favorite Things

  • Tessamae's Zesty Ranch salad dressing. My sister turned me on to this when I was staying at her place. It's a non-dairy/non-creamy salad dressing with herbs you'd normally find in a ranch dressing. You have to like dill to enjoy this.
  • Instacart. I knew I'd use one of the grocery delivery services at some point, and I had my first delivery this week from Instacart. This one seemed easier than the other one I looked into, Shipt, because I didn't have to sign up for a membership. The first delivery is free, and the service delivers from stores based on where you live. If you want to try it, use this link and you'll get $10 off your first order. I may or may not get something out of it, too ;) 
  • Plants. Somehow I went from having no plants in my various homes for many years, because I'm historically a bad plant parent, to having four within a week. Prior to my surgery I won a plant from a raffle at work—a Bromeliad—and decided to take it home with me because of its air purifying qualities. I also happened to receive a pre-surgery gift from my twin sister, a Peace Lily, which also is good for the air. She also recently got me two pots of herbs—parsley and basil, which I love to use in cooking. So I'm learning how to take care of these things and keep them alive and beautiful and beneficial.
  • Carrot ginger soup. I made a big batch before surgery and froze half. I'm so glad I did, because I'm enjoying it all over again. It's delicious and healing. There are tons of recipes online, but I prefer the non-creamy ones (although I'm sure those are tasty, too). This one's mostly from Anti-Inflammatory Diet in 21.

What I'm Missing

  • Having family around. I spent the last week in the care of my twin sister and her family, including my two young nieces. I knew it was temporary and that I'd need to come home and be independent, but just having the buzz of a family's everyday life around me, even if it was sometimes stressful and I felt like an extra burden, makes my home situation now feel particularly quiet and still, and I guess a little lonely. But what I'll really miss is seeing what my nieces decide to wear each day. I love that they have the independence to dress themselves, and there's never a lack of creativity:
They're bringin' back the ruffle socks.


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