Just a week ago tonight (Tuesday), I emerged from a chemically induced sleep to a brand new world. One in which I brashly told myself and others that I could handle just as I have handled other challenges in my life, with trepidation at first, then realization I had no choice, and eventually victory.
I knew immediately this was a different animal.
The first thing I felt in the recovery room was an incredible tightness from below my knee to halfway up my thigh. It was then that I remembered. If I’d had the strength to look anywhere but the ceiling in the surgical recovery room at Belton Regional Medical Center, I’d see that I no longer had a right foot and ankle.
This had been a long time coming, upwards of three years. The appendage had been broken in multiple places on at least two occasions, and diabetes-induced neuropathy had limited my ability to feel the warning signals that additional damage was being done.
Reconstruction would be more than difficult at this point, and would require me to remain sedentary way longer than would be healthy for me, either physically or emotionally.
So in all the waking moments leading up to this dramatic and sudden consciousness, there was no doubt that amputation, followed by a recovery period and then a modern prosthetic device would have me upright and active in a way I really hadn’t been able to be in several years. At least without pain.
But that afternoon on the gurney and for most of the next week confined to a hospital bed, the outlook didn’t feel so rosy.
There were moments of encouragement, of course, as family and friends met me in my hospital room after surgery and relayed to me the positive assessment given to them by my surgeon.
There were moments of extreme gratitude as the nurses and patient care technicians rushed about supplying me with my every need, cheerfully and dutifully, not hesitating to rebuke me if I tried to take on a task I should have waited for help to attempt.
You can only imagine what some of those tasks included. Put it this way, in that situation you quickly lose any sense of pride and/or modesty you entered this place with. And the incredible thing about these medical professionals is the way in which they convince you that, to them, it’s far from personal. Handling duties like this are not a somewhat distasteful task, they’re a useful method of monitoring the health of a patient, not unlike a blood pressure cuff.
I had meals, and pretty good ones, delivered to me on a tray three times a day, and snacks offered to me late at night if I wanted.
I had every bodily function monitored and logged multiple times per day and night. For someone that hadn’t had a hospital stay since 1978, it was a true shock to the system.
But the week was also a wake-up call to my psyche. As friends and acquaintances read last week’s column, filled with determination and grit, many commented on Facebook that my approach to this situation was inspiring.
And now, I felt like a fraud.
For a solid week, I felt helpless, stranded and miserable as my wonderful wife, family and friends scrambled to create a new living space for us – one that would accommodate me. Me, and my broken body.
Then, this morning, I emerged from the hospital at last – at first timidly. We went to our house in Raymore where I sat in the garage while the dogs were delivered to me. Their excitement to see me, and mine to see them, may have been the linchpin.
As we drove to the office and our new home, I sat in the wheelchair on that familiar sidewalk on Main and wheeled into my newly positioned desk facing out the front window, I knew I was back.
And whatever it takes to get me to the place that a week ago I knew I would get to, I had it in me. I’m no longer helpless, I’m no longer isolated.
I just have a hill to climb the next few months. Now I finally know how high that hill is, and honestly, I feel that’s half the battle.