MIND, BODY AND SPIRIT
“To get through the hardest journey we need to take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping.”
– Chinese Proverb
The worst is behind me. Or the worst is ahead. Possibly, I’m in the worst moment right now. I’ve been debating this with myself since my knee surgery five days ago.
So far, I’ve behaved according to the Doctor’s rules.
Rule #1: Don’t shave your legs for two weeks prior to surgery, and not for at least three weeks after. This means that sometime later this month I’ll need safety goggles and high-powered lawn equipment to trim the scruff from my calves.
Rule #2: No dark greens, broccoli, or avocado for three weeks. Seriously. I laughed out loud when I was given this rule. Of course, that was right after I had stocked up on my favorite greens and broccoli, and there were also some very sad looking avocados shriveling in my kitchen. I guess the nutrients in dark greens counteract the blood-thinning medicine I’m required to take. So, OK, no greens. Fiber and protein. Fruit and chicken.
Rule #3: Breathe deeply into the Incentive Spirometer every hour you’re awake for the first couple of days. That one was easy, thanks to yoga. I remember having to do this before and getting very frustrated when I’d collapse my chest and shoulders, forcing out a breath just to get the little yellow ball high in the tube. Yoga has taught me to eliminate the old breath first, which makes taking a full, new inhale so much more efficient. It’s all about the exhale.
Rule #4: Walk. Lift. Bend. Straighten. It sounds so easy. The torturers from Physical Therapy had me walking within hours of surgery. I was being stretched, bent, and straightened on a regular basis, and the expectations for such movement are increased every day. Well, NEWS FLASH: It hurts! And not in an “I-think-I-need-a-Tylenol” sort of way, but rather in a “roll-out-the-heavy-artillery-top-shelf-meds” sort of way. I need serious pain medication, followed by anti-nausea medication, and topped with lots of ice and a stack of pillows to elevate my new prosthetic. Just as soon as I get “comfortable” with my leg propped higher than my body, I realize I need to use the bathroom, or the Physical Torturer comes back.
But there is one thing I absolutely, positively, without question, refused to concede to: a walker. I didn’t use one for my previous knee surgery. I used crutches, and we lived in a house that expanded UP rather than OUT. We had lots of steps and I got by just fine. No walker for me. No way. I stood my ground right up until the night I was discharged from the hospital, and then I thought about the crutches, and I thought about my instability, and I surrendered to my better judgement. So, we roll through the house; me, my walker, and my puppy, who has accepted the walker at face value but must be wondering why it doesn’t need a leash.
They’re right, of course. The doctors, and the nurses, and the Physical Torturers. You have to keep walking, and stretching, and straightening, and bending. If you don’t, one day you’ll realize that your wounds have healed and the pain has subsided, but the walking and stretching and bending and moving didn’t get better by itself. You’ll bend no further than you pushed yourself to bend, and you’ll walk no stronger than the degree of strength you exerted. And you’ll balance and straighten in direct correlation to the effort you put into balancing and straightening through the pain.
My best memory of surgery day: It was not the young, handsome, and buff Doctor of Anesthesiology who promised me I would not get sick from the anesthetic. I barely remember him. His biceps may have struggled against the unforgiving restraint of his hospital scrubs, and the key lime paper hat did contrast handsomely with his dark, wavy hair, but he fibbed. I got really sick from his medication. No, my best memory of surgery day was laying in the hospital bed and watching patient after patient shuffle by on the arm of their Physical Torturer. All I could see from my vantage point were the same red, slip-proof socks that I wore on my feet. Above the socks, I could see the hem of the blue and white printed hospital gown we all wore for the occasion. As each patient lumbered by, with their new knee or new hip, I heard quiet voices asking about recovery, or rating the degree of their pain. Then I heard one voice, a woman, speaking with determination and a hint of defiance, say, “When can I start doing yoga again?” I love her.
I wanted to yell at her to stop and come by for a chat, because I could have answered her question! She can start doing her yoga immediately! In fact, it’s happening each time she puts one wobbly foot in front of the other and she breathes through the pain. Bending, stretching, straightening, and breathing. You can call it rehab. I call it yoga.
I want to publicly thank my own “Physical Torturers” Leslie from the hospital and Angela, who comes into my home and calms me in my frustration, encourages me without backing down, and smiles with genuine beauty as she counts each agonizing rep of leg lifts. Thank you for practicing yoga with me.
Laurie Kasperbauer, RYT 200, enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes. Laurie is also an active Florida realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. She can be reached at Harborview Realty, 291 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island, or by calling 712-210-3853.