Sunday, July 03, 2011

A Bunionectomy when the Pain is Just too Much

There's nothing poetical about getting your feet cut -- voluntarily. The pain really has to be too much before you present yourself at the hospital, turn over all your worldly possessions, and naked under one of those drafty robes say just do it. My pain hit that tipping point coming out of Melbourne at 4:36AM last March. Add to this the fact that like many I have had to make compromises on health insurance (a $5000 deductible). BIG decision.

Since many have asked, here's how it has gone so far:

Operation day starts at 4:30 AM. The choice between "twilight sleep" and total anesthesia is easy, KNOCK ME OUT. I don't remember waking up, Michael driving me home, or how I got into the house. Total blackout. So far so good.

First couple days: Ice bags and keeping my feet elevated above my heart keeps swelling down. Where is the throbbing pain, say pain like I had on the airplane last March? This pain is tender when touched. When I leave the toes alone, no problem. I use a borrowed walker to get back and forth to the bathroom in my stylish black surgical shoes. A word about the shoes -- they set me back in a couple of ways. They cost $60 each (not covered by insurance) and they are designed to throw me back on my heels when I stand. Michael brings me all meals and I watch waaaay too much television. Pain is about 4 on a 10 point scale. I only use the prescription pain killers at night to sleep, mostly they make me nauseous. Have to use a shower hose to wash while sitting on a shower chair, my feet wrapped up in plastic bags with rubber bands.

End of first week, Michael takes me to visit the Dr., in a wheelchair. He rewraps the feet and I get a peek. Black and blue with a red tinge gets rewrapped in an ace bandage. Still using the walker for getting around. Michael still preparing all meals.

Second week -- I start to get out -- in a wheel chair, using it kind of like a toddler does a walker. I try out the electric cart at Costco and the grocery. I learn that when you are in a wheel chair, people don't make eye contact. They come at you, catch the wheelchair in their peripheral and then purposefully look away. It is an amazing insight. I promise myself to say hello to every person in a wheelchair from now on. I can fix a quick meal (toast or chopped fruit in yogurt). Elevate, elevate, elevate. Ibuprofen for pain, which is a little uncomfortable but no where near the pain I felt before the surgery.

Third week -- Back to the dr. for exam and Xrays. No wheelchair. He says I don't need the throw back shoes any more and rewraps the feet in new tube ace bandages and gives me new black velcro shoes with flat bottoms. Three and a half weeks, I fly to San Antonio for a three day workshop. I have no trouble standing to teach for 1 hour at a time. Walking slowly through airports and of course the flying causes extra swelling. The new shoes give me blisters, so I switch to sandals with velcro, adjustable straps. Hardest challenge is descending stairs because it hurts for my feet to bend. Good news! It's okay to bathe. Feet are peeling like crazy for whatever dumb reason.

Fourth week -- Freedom! I can drive an automatic car easily, but using a clutch is tricky because I have to use my arches instead of the ball of the foot. Manage to teach two full 8 hour days, but the result is some pretty significant swelling. Incisions are completely closed and scabs mostly gone.

Fifth week -- first attempt to ride a bike goes well. Wearing hiking sandals. Descending stairs still requires thought and care, but am able to navigate the grocery and a short hike in the woods with the grandkids. Still walking stiffly and slightly reminiscent of a duck. Basically off of Ibuprofen. Incisions are smooth. Feet still too puffy to wear sneakers easily.

A friend of mine had this surgery last December and told me that she just ran a 5K. I'm not sure this will turn me into a runner, since I never was before, but hopefully in 6 months I will be free to walk in sensible shoes. Generous, heartfelt thanks to Michael for feeding and support, grudging thanks for ordering me to sit down and put my feet up.

Everyday is better than the last. Glad I got both feet done at the same time.