I found myself being pulled up and out of a deep, deep dream state. I was somewhere far away (I want to say it was the Continental Divide Trail, but my memory of it faded too quickly, so I can’t be sure). When my eyes finally opened, I could tell I was no longer in the opeating room, but in the recovery station. Wendy was bustling about. And someone who I could not see was on my right, shuffling papers. I didn’t care who it was. I was too tired. I felt thankful that no one was telling me to wake up or to do anything. They were just letting me be. “Is it all over?”
“Yes! You did great!” Wendy said.
It all seemed so natural to me, unlike the way in which I was awakened after my jaw surgery. I remember them having me count down before the surgery and then, as if no time had passed at all, a woman was telling me to wake up in the operating room. “It’s all over,” she said.
“Nothing happened yet,” I responded.
“Yes, it did. You’re all done.” I felt extremely confused.
This disorienting, disconcerting feeling flooded back to my mind many times in the week prior to my knee surgery. I was not looking forward to experiencing the same loss of time, again. Fortunately, this time was much, much better. (Erik said then when I had my jaw surgery, they had to put me under a much deeper degree of anesthesia so I wouldn’t wake up with them sawing into my face.) Knee surgery is not nearly as invasive.
I looked down at the huge bundle that was my knee and let out a small laugh. “It’s that big?!”
Wendy said she thought she would put some ice on it.
The man to my right thrust some glossy papers in front of me. I realized it was my surgeon. He was trying to show me some photos of what had taken place. I told him I couldn’t see anything without my glasses on. He sighed and withdrew the photos. “You’re not going to remember any of this anyway.” He told me the surgery went well- that he removed a large part of my meniscus and shaved down my kneecap. He said I could bear weight on my leg as I felt comfortable. And then he was off. I heard him tell someone that Checka couldn’t get here any earlier than planned.
When Wendy came back, I said, “It’s a good thing Dr. Jolley isn’t a nurse.”
She asked me if my knee was hurting. “Something doesn’t feel comfortable. I don’t know if it is the ice or what.” She said she would give me some pain medication through my IV.
I felt comfortable dozing off. Every few minutes, however, a cuff around my bicep squeezed tightly and I was jolted awake. Can’t a girl get any rest around here? Jeez! I remember that they put something similar on my lower legs after my jaw surgery which kept waking me up, as well. I noticed that I had several blankets over me, and was amused. To my right, I could hear the nurses talking to Milan. He must have had a similar surgery, as me, since we got out at the same time, I thought. Later I heard a nurse telling him to check on it every time he peed or “dropped his drawers.” Okay, maybe not… I started to feel hungry, as well as tired. I heard Wendy offer Milan some crackers. When she asked me if I wanted anything to drink, I chose cranberry juice and told her that I was hungry, but couldn’t eat the crackers she had offered Milan because of the gluten. She got on the phone and asked for something gluten free for me- crackers or a brownie or something. I perked up at the thought of a brownie! She soon returned with three chocolate chip cookies for me!
I was so tired that I didn’t even care that Checka wasn’t there. I just wanted to rest. When I asked for my glasses and saw the clock, I said, “It’s 11:20?”.
“It’s okay. It’s easy to lose track of time after surgery,” Wendy said.
Another woman came in and told me that it was time for me to stand up. “Stand up?! It’s only been an hour! I’m tired!” I said. She said I needed to stand so I didn’t get blood clots. Then, I could rest in the recliner. I was okay with being in the recliner, so I agreed. Checka arrived just then. The other nurse said that when Wendy returned, they would move me. I explained to Checka that my nurse was named Wendy, as well! Wendy brought a print out of exercises I was supposed to do. “You should start these today”.
“Just the first one.”
“Okay.” I guessed I could manage something simple.
She also told me what I was to take for medicine at home. Checka was nodding diligently, which I found funny, because she wouldn’t be with me then.
I was worried about being exposed from behind when I stood up, but I think someone might have held my gown together. Someone swung my legs off the bed and Wendy helped me up with the crutches to lean on. I touched my injured leg down and was surprised I could lightly rest it on the floor! Wow! Look at me! They helped turned me around and Wendy said that I was a rockstar! (Checka has also called me that, so it must be true!). “Do you think I can walk 3,000 miles beginning in April?” I asked Wendy with a big smile.
“I think you can!” she replied.
I asked Wendy if she told every patient that they were doing great. She said she likes to be encouraging even if they aren’t. “But you really are!”.
Checka was surprised I wasn’t acting loopy. I shook my head as if it were totally normal to be functioning regularly on pain meds and anesthesia. Then, we immediately started talking yoga- the move that caused my tear, and what the purpose of doing such a thing was, and why a teacher would have us do it. We talked about the competitive nature of some teachers and what I disliked and liked about some of the ones we both knew. I didn’t feel like being so coherent and rational so soon, preferring to just be and rest, but Checka and I never see one another, so this was our only chance to talk and catch up a bit. Wendy would check on me every now and then. She brought me some pain meds in tablet form. Checka gave me a Kind bar that she had brought for me. I ate one of my cookies and asked for more cranberry juice.
After awhile, Wendy brought over the “beer cooler” that I was supposed to ice my knee with.
“I’m supposed to take that thing home?”
“Yes. Here is how it works. You fill it to the line inside with water and the rest of the way with ice.”
“I don’t have ice at home.”
“Well, you better get some!”.
You hold the canister below your leg to drain the cuff, and place it higher to refill it with cold water.
She brought my two pink bags of clothes and said I could change.
“I don’t want to go home and be all alone,” I frowned. “I wish I could stay here with you!”.
Checka fished my things out of my bag. “I hope my pants can fit over this thing!” I said. Fortunately, I wore some looser fitting yoga pants. I quickly put on my underwear, while she found the rest of my clothes, thankful that I had chosen someone I felt comfortable enough to do that in front of. Checka helped me put on my pants and socks. I was having a hard time reaching my feet without the ability to bend my leg and wondered how I was going to dress myself alone at home. She then gave me some privacy to put on my top.
Wendy wrote down when I was to start taking aspirin and had Checka go down to the pharmacy to get my prescriptions. Unfortunately, they were extremely busy, so she had to wait a long time. I took out my book and started reading until I felt too tired. Then I watched Wendy do something and thought about how different my outlook on life would be if I had had someone like her in it. I realized how completely I had been denied a basic right of life, and knew I wasn’t at fault for feeling sad or depressed as a result.
As I continued to wait for Checka, I felt a bit anxious, knowing she was probably feeling stressed. She had to teach yoga that evening, and had to drive nearly an hour back to her house after bringing me home. There is never enough time away from the obligations of life to just sit and rest- even when you’ve just had surgery.
Wendy’s replacement finally showed up to relieve her for a lunch break. (The traffic was still extremely heavy in the area!). I told Wendy that I would write down my website in case she wanted to come to one of my talks. As she walked away, she told me that she was envious of my independence. “I wish I could be like you, but I can’t.”
I was still there when she returned from lunch.
“What is she still doing here?” I heard her ask her replacement. A few minutes later, Checka called Wendy. “Checka, sweetheart!”. I smiled. Two extremely nice people were in my presence, being loving to me and to each other. It was so wonderful! Wendy pulled up a wheelchair. “I need to use that?!”. I expected to walk out of the hospital with the aid of my crutches. I was wheeled past the crowded ER waiting room and out into the cold winter air. We spotted Checka’s car and I stood up out of the wheelchair. “Okay!” I said, feeling like I could get to the car on my own.
“Not, not okay!” Wendy said. “I’m going to help you”.
She said she didn’t know how I was going to get through the big puddle and ice on my crutches. I just laughed. I had been through much more difficult things than that! I got into the front seat, waved goodbye to Wendy, and Checka and I headed for the highway. We talked all the way back. Because of the amount of snow, there was no place to park on the street, even for a moment, so I had her pull into my landlord’s spot. Checka took my crutches out of the backseat and handed them to me. “Do I have to use these? I just feel like walking!”. It felt like it was going to take forever to get to my door that way, especially with all of the ice and snow on the ground. I then realized that putting weight on my leg so soon was probably not such a smart idea. I was full of pain meds and anesthesia, which wasn’t allowing me to assess whether I could bear weight or not. Once we got upstairs, I mentioned that Wendy had suggested that she fill my ice bucket with snow. Checka apologized that she had to leave immediately. I set my crutches against the wall, said goodbye to her, and made my way to my couch, propping my leg up on some couch pillows. Wendy said that unless I was standing, I had to keep my leg elevated and not in a regular sitting position on the floor.
I felt a bit sad that my company was suddenly gone, but still retained the happy feelings from having had it at all.
After a few hours, I started feeling pain where the incisions were, as well as a general feeling of discomfort from the swelling. I took more pain pills and continued to rest. I wasn’t sure what time my neighbor was going to come over to check on me, so I didn’t want to fall asleep. At around five, I heard someone open my downstairs door and call my name. I slowly got up and hobbled to my door. He handed me some flowers! I knew right away that Erik had them sent for me (ordered from the Netherlands!). Maybe surgery is not so bad after all- being taken care of by someone who calls you “sweetie”, having a friend I never get to see drive me home, and receiving a bouquet of flowers!
I found a vase and was about to start cutting the stems when Joyce arrived. “Perfect timing!”. She checked to make sure I was okay and said she would be back the next day.
I cut the flower stems, heated up some miso soup, and returned to the couch. I wanted to post my big epiphany from the day on Facebook: “You guys!!… It’s so obvious that I would be happy if I had at least one loving person in my life!”
But I thought maybe it’s best I not post anything while high on pain meds, so I refrained.
By evening, I was surprised that I hadn’t slept at all since I got home (so different from my usual days!). I figured there was no need to transfer to my bed to sleep, so I remained on my couch. That turned out to be a very uncomfortable situation for my back and neck! Ah, surgery.