Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pared Down Christmas

I usually go hog wild and crazy with my Christmas decorations. This year, however, since I had surgery less than a month ago, I had to pare down. I only got out two Christmas trees. I had to forgo all of the little vignettes I usually put up around the house. I have a hand painted (by me, thanyouverymuch) Christmas village that has a spot the living room. Then there is the Santa collection that is lovingly displayed in the playroom/office. I have acquired cookie jars, teapots, towels, salt and pepper shakers and various other objects d' Christmas that I sprinkle throughout the house. I leave no room undecorated, even bathrooms need a smidgen of holiday flare in the form of soap dispensers, towels and bathmats. All of that will have to wait 'til next year, because I can't manage to set it up this year.

Did I mention I am really getting tired of this walker? Okay... that is a discussion for another time, back to Christmas decorating.

All of that is just inside the house. I have been collecting and making more and more things to display in the front yard. Last year we added a five foot tall penguin, whose arms kept flying off with any random wind gust. My husband swears he is still going to put the lights on the house; it's just to windy today to do it. =O)

I let the kids decorate the trees. This is another area in which I have had to give up authority. I have no control over anything around here any more. Meals, laundry, cleaning, hair cuts, taxi driving -- I can't do any of that, so I have learned to let it go and let it get done as it may, by whomever it may. Not the easiest task in the world for a person like me. I have had had dominion over all of these elements for the past 14 years, but I managed to rise to the challenge.

The kids did a fairly decent job decorating the trees. They had a companionable time looking at all of the ornaments with their names on them that I have collected through the years. I get one for each child each year and put their name and the year on it. When they grow up they will have a whole assortment of ornaments to hang on their own tree.

For fun, I bought a gingerbread house kit for them to decorate. They anxiously awaited the first opportunity to decorate it. Alas, it didn't go quite as planned, the icing was runny and it wouldn't set up. It fell flat as the walls came tumbling down. They had a grand time, though. All they really wanted to do was eat the candy anyway.

It was really pleasant to watch them having such a good time. I am usually scurrying around getting everything set up, so I miss out on the sociable atmosphere; I just want them out of my hair. So all in all, I guess it is a good thing to have a pared down Christmas every now and then. I helps remind me of what first-rate children I have. I also gives me a chance to really focus on the gift that Christmas really is - one that should be savored and unwrapped slowly, not something that we scramble to finish in a rush.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How long is your recovery?

It has now been almost two weeks since my hip replacement surgery. I am making adequate progress as far as the healing of my body goes. The pain is not so totally consuming as it was at first, or even a week ago for that matter. I am starting the process of tapering off of the pain medication and trying not to rely on sleeping pills (thus the reason I am up at midnight). It is still sore and tender, not yet ready to bear my full weight. However, I no longer feel the the searing white hot pain that took my breath away when I so much as shifted my position. This progress begs the question on everyone's minds -- When am I going to be well?

Physically I would say in a week or two I will have sufficient stamina to resume normal activities. I hate to say that though, because then everyone is going to expect me to be fully restored. That is a scary prospect because I feel that my mental state is miles behind my physical recuperation. I still feel discombobulated, out of sorts, just not myself at all. If I push myself to bounce back before I am psychologically ready, it could be disastrous.

The reason I went ahead with this surgery was because I felt that I wasn't giving my family my maximum. The benefit of me being a whole, pain free person, outweighed the risks of being out of commission for a bit of time. I had become exhausted, irritable and just plain not easy to live with. It was time to put my family on the front burner. They had suffered right along with me for far too long. Having a chronically ill parent is not easy on a kid. They grew resentful of me not having the energy that I needed to do the things they wanted to do. Not to mention they were fed up with my crotchety, prickly reactions every time they turned around. Yes, it was time to put all of the expectations of the outside world on hold while I got myself in good shape, so I went ahead with the operation.

Really, what I am afraid of is that those distractions from the outside world are going to start creeping in before I am ready. I am bothered by the thought that people will start to see me getting better -- they will see me out and about and will assume that I am ready for business as usual.

I know that it is not fair to leave everyone in the lurch, but I didn't have this surgery so that I could be a better volunteer. I am already a colossal volunteer; I have that down pat. I had the operation to be a remarkable mom and a new and improved wife. While I appreciate that while I am not there, someone else has to do my job -- I know that finding a replacement volunteer is a cinch compared to finding a replacement mom and wife.

Yes, they will just have to get along without me for the time being. They will find a way to muddle through; I feel quite certain. I just have to get both oar in the water before I start rowing out into the deep water. There are just some things I know for sure and I know without a doubt, that I have to steady myself at home and get healthy for my family or else it will all collapse around me.

I don't know when I will be 'well'. You'll be the first to know.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Surgery Update Day 6

I suppose I should update you on days one through five first, huh?
  • Day one was 11-04. I got the call that morning to be ready and at the hospital by noon, as the surgery was scheduled for 2:00. Right when we got there - at 12:05 - they were frantically looking for us. Come to find out the man who was supposed to have surgery before me drank a cup of coffee that morning, so they refused to operate on him. They wanted to bump me up and take me in right away. Funny how doctors don't like waiting even five minutes on a patient to show up, but have no problem letting those same patients languish for hours in their offices waiting to be seen. That's a story for another day, perhaps, back to day one. I woke up at about 4:00 in the recovery room feeling nauseous, cold and parched like I have never been before. They gave me drugs for the nausea, warming blankets for my chilled body and ice chips for the thirst. For the most part I was comfortable. The Anesthesiologist had a nerve block in place so that the surgical site wouldn't be quite so painful. They brought me to my room where I was congratulating myself on not being an annoyingly whiny patient like the one in the next bed over in the recover room. She was a real eye roller that one. I talked to family and friends and felt acceptably comfortable.
  • Acceptable would turn to unsatisfactory on a dime during the night. I could not get into a restful position, no matter how much I wiggled around. The nerve block was starting to wear off and I was running a slight fever. I began to be a tad less judgmental of my recovery room roommate from earlier in the afternoon. I probably sounded twice as gripey as she had. My receptors were buoyed slightly when I woke up at 11:30 and was told by Eddy the tech guy that Obama had won the election. I turned on the TV just as he was finishing his speech, so I flipped around to find a replay of it. I enjoyed it enormously.
  • Day two would dawn with quite literally a pain in my butt; my butt, my hip, my leg, you name a body part on my left side and it had mutated into a fiery ball of molten hot lava being jabbed at with a red hot poker every time I moved -- even breathing hurt. Much to my amazement during this particularly uncomfortable time, Physical Therapist Nurse Ratchet with the voice of Minnie Mouse (picture it) walks in and cheerfully announces that I will be getting out of the bed, walking around the room for a bit and then settled into a chair for five hours until the group physical therapy session started at 2:00. You have GOT to be kidding me. Um... no she was quite serious. I explained all of the extenuating circumstances -- low blood pressure, low blood count, nausea, fever, and the...PAIN; it had been almost three hours since my last pain medication dose. The more I resisted the more she insisted. She even went down the hall to get a blood pressure cuff to check my blood pressure herself. It was about 70/60, which is low but not low enough to prohibit getting out of bed. I gamely tried. I really did, but in the end it was a no go. I simply could not do it. The mind was willing but the body was weak. They came back and tried again later, but it just wasn't going to happen. I know my cut off point. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, but that was just too much for me to endure.
  • That night I became so frantic with pain that I just didn't feel it was worth it, I should have just lived with a bad hip. Completely broken. That is what I felt. I got out my bible and began to read scripture and pray. I couldn't tell you now what scriptures I read or what I said in my prayers. It doesn't really matter. I felt the proximity of my God. He had begun a great work in me and he would no be abandoning me here and now. By degrees I began to feel better as the night progressed. When the Doctor made his rounds at 6:00 am, I was feeling almost sufficiently hardy enough to sustain life. I attended two, yes TWO physical therapy sessions that day and blew PT Nurse Ratchet's theory that I was a whiny baby prima donna clear out of the water. She couldn't help but comment on my marked improvement. I graciously stated that I did indeed know my limits and when I say I can't do it, I mean I physically cannot do it. I really was looking forward to getting a good night of sleep, but alas it didn't happen. Broken, hit or miss sleep was the best I could hope to achieve.
  • Friday was D-day, or rather, departure day. I almost didn't care that I had to go to Physical Therapy that morning to have them deem me fit to leave,or that it would take most of the day to get all of the necessary paperwork in order, as long as I did, indeed, get to leave. I beat my various and sundry offspring home by minutes instead of hours, but *deep sigh* I was home. They all had rather complicated social engagements planned for the evening, except for my 12 year old who stayed home to watch The Long, Long Trailer with me. I went to be quite early, but I would once again find real sleep allusive.
  • The next day was tolerably uneventful. I decided that night to take a sleeping pill before bedtime, hoping that it would forestall the tossing and turning. It worked rather well. I snoozed it up at one point for four solid hours!
  • The only things still bothering me on Sunday were my incredible, unquenchable thirst, my loss of appetite and the rancid taste the sleeping pills left in my mouth. I still had a considerable amount of pain, but was able to manage it with strict adherence to the pain medication schedule. I took a couple of naps and as bedtime approached I wondered if I would have trouble sleeping again. I decided to take Benadryl instead of the Lunesta in an attempt to keep the horrid aftertaste of Lunesta out of my mouth. This would turn out to be a really big error in judgment. The Benadryl made me fitful, only sleeping in maybe 20 minute intervals. Finally after about five hours of that I got up. If I was going to be awake, I might as well be doing something. I went into the living room, caught up on some e-mails and watched some recorded shows on the DVR.
  • That brings us to today, the set back day. Since I got very little sleep and the sleep that I did get was so broken and restless, it hardly qualified as sleep, the only purpose it served was to make me sore cranky and on edge. I started to feel useless, inept and generally just a waste of good space. I literally cried for three hours. I couldn't stop. What if I got all the way through this recovery process only to find out that I wasn't any good at any of the things I had only dreamed of doing while in pain for the past 14 years? What if all I was ever good for was to be a warm body to fill a chair position on a PTA board? Everyone knows these people have no real skills, anyway - they are only there because they said yes when asked, right? I was (and still am) scared to death to find out if I have something real and substantial to offer the world. When all of the illness and pain and frustration are stripped away, what would I do if I found no brilliant sparkle at the core? I still have not satisfactorily answered these questions in my mind. I really don't know who I am or what I am capable of doing in the absence of affliction; it has been too long to remember that person. I guess I will just have to start getting to know myself all over again. Just when I was getting used to this one, too.
If you are reading this and find a misspellings, errors in grammar or improper use of syntax, keep in mind that I am still taking heavy pain medication. Also, anything I said here cannot be used against me at a later date. It would be bad form to do so. =P

Monday, November 3, 2008

Totally Overwhelmed

I usually go into the school ever day to check my PTA mailbox and make sure there are no fires to be put out, but last Thursday, I didn't go in, as both my little kids were in after school tutoring. I decided just to drive up and quickly pick them up and then head to the middle school to pick up the other two. The Librarian brought my little one to the car and handed me a gift bag. I was a little confused, but she said, it's from the staff. I expected to open it up and find a little token of their appreciation. I get one once or twice a year -- a candle, a book, that kind of thing.

As I was waiting for the older ones to finish their after school socializing, which can take a while, I decided to open my little prize. I was completely bowled over by the contents of the bag. It was a handful of cards.

The first one I opened was from the Librarian herself, it was a Barnes & Noble gift card, oh how sweet I thought to myself, I had been wanting to go and get some books and magazines, but I didn't think I could really spare the cash right now hhmm...maybe I can buy a book and a magazine. Then I looked at the amount -- $100! I have never been able to spend that much for books just for me! Yippee! The next one was a card signed with well wishes from all the staff members. I was choked up reading all the nice notes. They are a sweet, wonderful group of ladies (and one man, lol). There was another card from the teachers in fourth and fifth grades where my kids are students. By this time I am sitting in my car with a big lump in my throat. It is not often that I get that much adulation in one day. I gotta say it felt delightful.

I then moved on to the next plain white business sized envelop; to my amazement inside was $50 gift card to a local Mexican restaurant. The following one was yet another gift card, $50 from Boston Market. The one I open after that was a handful of $5 gift certificates from a local burger place, I was bowled over as I counted them out there were 11 of them -- $55! The final envelop had a note on the front that said it was for those nights when Dad needed to get some fast food, I was astounded as I counted out $120.

I was just floored at this. I wasn't expecting it and to tell you the truth I felt a little guilty accepting it. I am not sure why, but that was my first reaction -- that I didn't deserve such generosity. I am much more comfortable giving to and serving others than having the same bestowed upon me. I am still in awe, but I am almost past the guilt and falling headlong into gratitude and honor. I will take a big stab at accepting the gifts in the spirit in which they were given. I know a lot of thought and effort when into it. I still can't believe it though. It is going to make things so much easier for my surgery on the 4th.