I write this post as I stare down the barrel of yet another shoulder operation, number four on the same side, in a long list of nine other medical procedures, totalling 13, that left me staring into the stunningly bright theatre lights. I then begin to think about how easy it would have been to just give up; to think that this is my lot in life, to think that my life is meant to be full of pain and misery. But thankfully I did not. My faith in God, my friends, my family, and my own perseverance has me sitting comfortably today knowing that this is just another Speed Bump in the Highway of Life, and not in fact a Road Block.
You are not Alone
A useless adage to those who have been in similar situations, where you find yourself completely useless, helpless, and physically alone for large portions of the day. You seem to receive an abhorrent number of messages and phone calls letting you know that you are not alone, and that people are there for you. But for a fair majority of the time, you are. Everyone is at work, school, daycare, running errands and generally going about their day to day lives, while you may be laid up, on couch, with you leg locked dead straight and not being able to move to go to the bathroom without assistance, let alone make a meal or achieve any housework. This was my life for nearly 18 months, in one form or another, as I was recovering from a Bilateral Tibial Tubercle Transfer, Dr Google will sort you out. In the early portions of my recovery I was almost completely couch bound, struggling to hobble to the bathroom when required. After a period of about 8 weeks I was granted 15 degrees of bend on my knee, which felt much more after such a period of being locked straight. And so my recovery continued. Once I was ‘fully recovered’ the Doctor then moved from Left knee to my Right, and started the whole process again. During this time my wife was working full time, my son was at school, my friends were all at sea, and I was left in our West Australian home alone for approximately 10 hours a day. An eternity when cooped up with only a dog for company or conversation. I did however have a lot of time to realise something. Despite all of this seemingly empty time whereby, to the outside observer, I was left with nothing but my own thoughts I was, in fact, never truly alone. Thanks to it being the 21st Century and not 1348AD, I was able to call or FaceTime my parents in Queensland and update them on my recovery and have a chat, I could email my friends at sea and catch up on all the Royal Australian Navy news, I had the entire collection of human knowledge in the palm of my hands, and a personal library that would keep me going for years. So I came to realise, no matter how physically empty the house was, I was never really alone, not if I didn’t want to be.
I have mentioned, once or twice, about reflection and its importance on our mental health, this goes double when you are in the midst of an adverse situation. It is all too easy to be in the middle of a scenario and not be able to see the other side of it, or to see the lesson that could be learnt, or to see how this could one day be of use to you. I know I have, numerous times. Most recently I had the unfortunate pleasure of having my bowel rupture, and if you think that sounds uncomfortable and unpleasant let me assure you, it is. Perforated Diverticulitis for those who’s Google fingers are itching. I was admitted to surgery and spent a further six days in hospital, wound up with a colostomy bag, and a gnarly scar for my efforts. I thought to myself, at some un-godly hour in the morning, How can this be? What am I going to do? What if this is permanent? How am I going to live with these changes? and they were and still are all good questions, some of which were only answered 12 – 18 months later. I took the time I had to consider everything, the what, the how, the why, the when, and really consider how I can make the most of this awful situation. I decided that I would take this as a learning experience, something that I can take with me and add to my book of life and share later on. So I changed my attitude, I asked every question of the staff I could, I watched every procedure I was awake for, I asked about worse case scenarios and best case. I became the worlds best and worst patient all at the same time. As I went through the next six months I would go under the knife twice more and spend another five nights in hospital, and have close to eight ER visits. I ended up with 55cm of scar tissue on my abdomen, muscles that are still rebuilding 12 months later and a cool story to share with all of you. But it has also given me a really powerful insight into abdominal surgery, stomas, recovery and the real day to day, life changing effects that surgery like this can have on a person. And as a nurse, this is going to be amazingly helpful. Did I think that immediately at time, NO, but has it come in handy already? You know it has.
All things come to an End
The saying usually goes All good things must come to an end but I have found it just as true of the opposite, so now I go with All things come to an End. Just as a broken arm will knit, the movie Titanic will roll credits and the visit to the In-Laws will soon be over, all things come to an end. Recently I was undergoing a Nerve Conduction test to determine the cause of some random arm pains. The test is, to say the least, unpleasant. It went for nearly 30 minutes and basically the technician sends varying strength electrical signals through the nerves in your arms and causes the muscles to involuntarily contract. It is both awkward and painful. But it eventually came to an end, my recent broken arm knitted, my knees healed, my abdomen has mostly healed, the visit to my in-laws ended (I love you guys, you know I do), the Titanic eventually sank and Leonardo Di Caprio let go and sank into the abyss. Everything comes to an end; hang in there, it will pass, you will become stronger for it, and hopefully have a story or two to share.
These three lessons I learnt are great for transitional issues, injuries, seasons of life, heartbreak, pain, and suffering. Some things won’t pass, and thats ok too. Just remember even though this speed bump may be a long one, if there is no downward side, then its not a speed bump anymore, but a new road for you to travel down.