Postop during Pandemic

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It started with a phone call. The type of phone call that brings pure joy and excitement. I was driving to my apartment, crossing the Burrard Bridge in Vancouver; it was stunning out. It was the nurse from the hospital, giving me a date for surgery. She and I joked over the phone about how the day was March 13th, Friday the 13th. I don’t see that day as a day of bad luck, so I took the date. I immediately called my dad while bouncing in my seat with joy, probably looking like an absolute fool to the nearby drivers. My entire family was ecstatic for me, and a little shocked, because the date I was given was only a week away. It was a little worrisome to me, only having a week to prepare, but I had been waiting for far too long for this surgery and wasn’t going to let anything get in the way.

While I had technically only been waiting for that specific surgery since November 20th of 2019, once returning from travels, I had been waiting for THE surgery that was going to improve the quality of my life since 2016. I struggled through pain at work for a full year after university, and attempted to line up an amputation surgery for the year of 2019; however, there was a massive bump in that road and I will share that story at a different time. What is important is that I had been waiting years to find a surgery that I felt excited about and was confident in, and now it was here. So, I started to prepare for surgery the second I got home that day, and on Friday the 13th I went under the knife.

The world was already a scary place, but Canada as a whole had not been hit hard— yet. However, the tension was in the air and you could feel it in the hospital, especially when I had to return to emergency only a day after surgery (but that’s another story). I never imagined that just a few days after receiving surgery all non-emergent surgeries would be cancelled, stores would shut down and social distancing became the norm. I had expected to heal in Vancouver, having my dad there with me for maybe two weeks, and then having my brother and friends come and help when needed. I thought I was going to be feeling decent enough to get my own groceries and go for short walks on my knee scooter. Not only was my pain so severe for over a month post-surgery, making it next to impossible to do normal at-home chores let alone get groceries, the world was a totally different place and what I thought would happen post-surgery wasn’t possible. No friends could come over to help me, I was immunocompromised post-surgery so I shouldn’t even be in stores or around others for a while. All of my follow up appointments were to be done over the phone, and my recovery therapies were most likely not going to happen. I was completely panic stricken when it became clear to me what my life most likely would be for the next few months. 

I went to live with my family for what I thought would be a week and a half because I still had a followup appointment booked. That week and a half has now turned into five weeks. It took weeks for me to accept that I was going to have to live a postoperative life without regular face-to-face doctor, surgeon and various therapy appointments. I couldn’t wrap my head around how a person who needs to learn how to walk again, on a foot that is fused in a new position, that has new nerve damage all along the bottom of the foot, an extremely small atrophied calf muscle and several other problems not related to the surgery wouldn’t be getting treatment and help during the rehabilitation process. It caused anger, sadness and confusion in my days. My leg was, and still is, in pain from surgery, my joints aching from previous damage and now using a knee scooter, my gut and head struggling with pain medications, my nervous system rattled from a new trauma, living with ptsd, anxiety, and sleep difficulty, and then the weight of the pandemic. A sudden and massive shift in my life. Living with family, being so dependent on them even after five weeks, struggling to take care of myself, having fear of my recovery, and having fear of what is occurring in the world. 

Being postoperative during a pandemic isn’t easy, and I don’t see the point in sugar coating the very real difficulty behind this situation. I believe in speaking the truth, and the truth is that there has been a lot of bad, but there has also been a lot of good during these weeks. I’m going to leave you with some of the good things right now, because I believe I will survive this difficult time by noting the positives and the wins, no matter how small they may be:

  • All that I am grateful for during this time, including my family and their continuous help; a beautiful home to live in surrounded by nature; my friends who check up on me and connect with me; connecting with new friends on social media, and talking to individuals who understand my difficulties and who are support systems for me even when I have never met them in person
  • I have been feeling inspired and creative, and have been working on my website, my instagram, my facebook, and a facebook support group for those with chronic illness
  • I started to draw again, and be patient with myself when my wrist can no longer hold a pencil
  • I am feeling a bit stronger and more capable
  • I am able to drive again, and can escape for some me-time

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