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post surgery lessons

About a year ago, I was running in the mountain barefoot, just as I’ve been doing for over 35 years; enjoying the feeling of the ground underfoot and being in tune with nature. As I was climbing boulders, one of the stones slid out from under me. Not only did I break my foot when I slipped, but I also ripped a tendon off the bone.

Luckily, I was with a friend who helped me walk the few miles out of the woods to my car. When I arrived home to assess the damage, I knew that it was serious but did not realize to what extent my foot had been injured. Little did I know that I would soon undergo major surgery and be laid up in bed for weeks on end.

Are you, or someone you know, about to undergo surgery?

With a little planning, you can help the healing process and this journey may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Here are a few points to consider and a list to help you prepare for your surgery.

If you *must* have surgery:

Lesson #1: Get a second opinion.
As much as possible, try to get a second opinion of a doctor that comes highly recommended by several people you trust. A good surgeon is hard to come by and it may mean the difference of a successful recovery, or having problems for the rest of your life.

My surgeon wisely advised me, “Don’t have surgery unless you have no other option. However, if you do, be sure to find the best surgeon”
Even if your surgeon is fantastic, keep in mind the second insight my surgeon shared with me: “No matter what a doctor tells you, your body will never be the same after surgery as it was before your condition.”

Lesson #2: You are going to need help.
Now is the time to ask your family and friends for help. Don’t be afraid to let them know your challenges and how you will need help. You will quickly discover who will be there to support you. Also, surrounding yourself with positive people during your recovery will make the healing process much easier.
Just as important, is to avoid negative individuals during your healing process. In fact, on several different occasions, I witnessed people argue in the hospital right after their surgery. They ended up ripping their stitches and going right back into surgery! Not exactly the best healing environment…!

Lesson #3: Obtain your medications early.
Ask your doctor if you can pick up your medications a day or two before your surgery. This will allow you to go right home to bed, for much needed rest. You won’t have to go to the pharmacy right after the surgery, fighting lines while you are still groggy from the anesthesia.

I told my doctor that it did not seem like a great idea to walk into the pharmacy on crutches right after foot surgery and wait in a long line. He agreed, so he called my prescription in the day before the surgery.

Lesson #4: Healthy foods will help you heal better and faster.
Fill your refrigerator with healthy, organic foods that are easy to prepare. Make sure you have enough food for the first few days so you can focus on allowing your body heal and not spending that valuable energy cooking or grocery shopping.

I only had healthy, organic food in the house so my body and mind could heal faster by having the proper nutrition I needed. (Not to mention that if I had junk food in the house, I would have eaten it all!) My doctor could not believe how fast my foot healed, or that I was ready to walk so soon after the cast was removed.

Lesson #5: Drink plenty of liquids.
Keep a large supply of pure water and fresh pressed juices near at hand. Drinking high-quality, purified water is one of the fastest ways to rid your body of the pharmaceutical drugs used for your surgery. Fluids help your body flush out impurities during healing.

What to do during recovery?

Listen To Positive Music: The right music will help you relax. The more you relax, the better you heal.

Play Board Games or Puzzles: Do crossword puzzles, Sudoku or other wonderful games to have fun while stimulating your mind.

Read Books: Those books that have been collecting dust over the years? This is the time to finally read them. Or, ask someone to read to you!

Watch Positive Movies, Documentaries and Comedies: Laughter is one of the best medicines known to man. Find a feel-good movie that will make you laugh.

Play An Instrument: A friend who only knew how to play the guitar told me that if it were not for his broken leg, he would never had learned how to play the harmonica.

Get Some Fresh Air: If you are able to move around, sit out on your porch for a while each day and get some fresh air. Or, have a friend take you for a nice drive in the country.

Learn To Meditate, Pray or Enhance Your Spiritual Practice: Meditation helps reduce stress and promotes an overall feeling of calm and well-being, which contributes to healing. Many hospitals now incorporate meditation as part of the healing process and say that patients who meditate have a much higher healing rate than those who do not.

Draw Or Work On An Art Project: This is great fun – especially when done with loved ones or children.

Write A Story: Always felt that you didn’t have time to write your novel? Well, now you’ve got the time! Just start writing – you will feel all the better for taking that first step.

Starting Up Again:

After lying around on my back for 8 weeks, I gained about 20 extra pounds. (See my before and after photo.) I suppose this is normal for someone who suddenly does not get any exercise. I had trouble getting up and walking around. Not being mobile and doing what I love most was a very difficult time for me, both physically and emotionally.

Once my doctor gave me the okay to slowly start moving my foot, I started swimming everyday. Swimming was my water therapy. It was gentle and the water supported me while I exercised, preventing my foot from moving with a jarring motion. At first, I could not believe how out of shape my body was. But when my body started feeling great after a week, I felt so grateful.

Three weeks later, I started training Jiu-Jitsu and eventually worked my way up to long walks. It took about 6 weeks, but I lost the extra 20 pounds.

It has now been about year and it seems that my foot may never get back to normal. It is still a little stiff and is around 90% of what it was before the accident. Each day, I still work at improving flexibility in my foot to gain even more movement. It seems to be getting better, little by little.

Looking back, this was an experience about the importance of life and our impermanence. It became a blessing and was a wonderful time to reflect. While I would not wish this painful experience on anyone, if it does happen to you, I urge you to use the time to discover what will make for you a better Quality Of Life.

(Of course, check with your doctor first before doing any of the above, just to make sure you get the best advice to properly heal yourself!)