(Events took place in June 2005.)
When I finally awoke from the surgery and was back in my room, I could immediately tell the difference. While I was already beginning to feel pain, at least, it was manageable with pain medication. That was a real blessing after the previous three days. I could hold a conversation with someone and not end up screaming in pain, and I was finally able to adjust my bed so that I could eat without wearing my meals. Small progress at best, but I knew to accept any progress, even baby steps.
In fact, that was my life now. Baby steps. The physical therapy team wasted little time reaching me following surgery. After all, it was their job to teach me how to walk, again. This process would prove difficult and extremely painful -- and at times, frightening. Fortunately, I highly respected the therapists and understood their role in my recovery. Without their aide, I would forever be in a bed. So, getting up and about was what it was all about right now, and I anticipated their arrival with excitement yet some fear. When two men walked into my room that first time, I tried to be upbeat and positive. I listened as they explained what would happen. They told me exactly, step by step, what they would do -- what I was to do and not do, and then we got started. They would move me to where I was to be in the bed and then, slowly, they would raise the header of the bed and I would wait until they were ready to help me get up. There was great anticipation in the room -- the three of us working together for a common goal. My first step .. post surgery.
Once I was actually in a seated position on the side of the bed, they let me rest for a moment. Obviously, my body needed to adjust since I had been lying flat for days. In a way, it felt great to be off my back -- I did not realize how much my entire body ached. Ready, they gave me final instructions on how I was to rise up and to hold onto the walker they had placed by my bedside. I had never used a walked before, so I had no idea what to expect let alone how to really use to correctly. That was why they were here, to show me how to use this device so that I could eventually walk on my own. For now, of course, just getting up from the bed was a major ordeal. I was terrified. I was not sure my right leg could support me. Even though I had undergone surgery and was told it had been successful, I had no proof that my leg could support my body. The lead therapist told me that I was only to “toe step” -- that is, I had to place all my weight onto my right toes and not any pressure on my heal or entire foot. I would stand up -- my left leg on the ground but my right leg supported only by tip toes or “toe step.” That sounded logical, at that time, but proved quite difficult when executed.
When I was given the signal to stand, I began to rise up and once I placed my weight onto the left leg and slowly adjusted myself to placing my right side -- using that gentle toe step, I held onto the walker and found myself standing. I screamed! That was my very first verbal reaction. I gave out a loud, blood curdling scream. (I had had a lot of practice with this, so it just came naturally.) I scared the daylights out of the two therapists and a nurse came running into the room to see what had happened. That was my gut reaction. A terrified scream! However, the therapists were professional enough to know that they needed to reassure me, and then, we took a major step forward. I moved the walker a tiny bit forward and took my first baby step on my new, titanium reinforced leg. Still terrified -- I looked forward, listened to the calm voice of the physical therapist by my side, and took another tiny step forward. Those steps were monumental. While I may have covered only a very short distance, I had taken a huge step forward in my recovery.
Each day I would walk a bit further, aided by a dedicated group of therapists who were there for me every step of the way. And, when I was not doing physical therapy, I was busy with occupational therapy. Both were essential for me to reach my next goal -- to be able to walk well enough that I could leave the hospital and go to a rehabilitation center for the second part of my recovery. Ever hear the words, “No pain, no gain.” I think they were coined by a person doing heavy duty PT/OT for a long period of time. Pain was part of the process; yes, it was very painful to walk but each step brought a new level of confidence. And yes, there were plenty of gains. When I finally made it to the door of my room, I was so proud of myself. You would have thought I had just completed a marathon. I was so happy!