The realities of healing

May 26th, 2007

Dad called last night to wish Summer a happy birthday and he and I chatted for a while about the weather, his garden, and my health. As we discussed my recovery, he asked if I had gotten myself into more than I realized at first. In thinking back on it, I’m not sure whether he was referring to the injury or to the surgery, but he was right either way.

From the very moment I hurt myself, I kept thinking that it was no big deal and I’d be over it in no time. That was certainly the case when I first sat up under that tree, got to my feet and thought “I’ll just walk it off” — even though I was turning green and realizing that my right arm wasn’t working right. While Wendy was driving me to the urgent-care center, with every bump and jolt in the road a miniature adventure in pain, I kept thinking that all I needed was to have someone pop the shoulder back together (I thought I had dislocated it), give me some pain medication, and I’d be good as new in a couple of days.

Some realization began to set in even before we saw the orthopedist. It was clear from how wrong my right shoulder looked, the new bulge and the way my right arm hung too low, that I was going to need surgery to set it right. And yet I kept thinking I could get back to the office in just a couple of days. It’s just a little outpatient procedure, right?

Yeah. Right.

I’ve heard time and again that surgery is no stroll in the clover. It takes time to recover, even from relatively minor surgery like mine; and yet for some reason I thought I’d be back at work in just a couple of days. What really brought reality home to roost was the day after the surgery, when the anesthetic all finally wore off and I realized that I was back to square one. Except for the codeine, which didn’t do much more than take the edge off the pain, I hurt every bit as much as I had right after the injury.

In the four days between my fall and my operation, I had begun to feel better. Getting in or out of bed didn’t hurt as much. Sleep was easier. I was regaining a little strength in my right arm. The shoulder was still rather painful, but I expected the operation to improve its condition considerably. Despite all I had been told about surgery, I expected it to be a leap forward. Instead it seemed like a leap backwards, despite the fact that the repairs did put me on a road to recovery. When all the pains of the original injury returned, I began to realize that the road back was longer than I thought it was going to be. Sometimes you’ve got to whop that ol’ mule upside the head with a two-by-four just to get his attention.

So I live and I learn. If at first I underestimated how long it was going to take to recover, I’m now more content to get just a little better every day, not expecting to improve by leaps and bounds. Recovery may take a bit longer than I had expected, but at least I’m going to recover; the doctor says I can expect to find myself near 100% in about six months. And when I’m tempted to complain over having to spend a couple of weeks away from work, I remind myself that if I had landed on my neck instead of my shoulder, I could be spending the rest of my days in a wheelchair. Or the rest of eternity in a pine box.

I’m fortunate in many ways. I have good insurance, an employer who’s willing to wait for me heal, and an understanding and extremely supportive family, both at home and away. Best of all, I have a loving wife who’s giving me the best care possible — so I can forgive her occasional Tarzan joke. I just have to be patient and soon I should be back at work… where I’ll have to listen to all my co-workers’ Tarzan jokes.

It’ll be music to my ears.

2 Responses to “The realities of healing”

  1. Cindy Says:

    Well look at it this way: once you’re back at 100% SOP (standard operating procedure),
    you can turn that “Tarzan” joke (damn that I didn’t think of that! Smart wife you have!)
    to your advantage. i.e. “Me Tarzan. You Jane.” Catch my drift? ;-)

  2. Leigh Ann Says:

    The thing is, it’s much harder and takes much longer for the elderly to heal. Buck up, little skippy — you’ll be back falling out of trees before you know it!