Simple lessons from my 2 weeks in a cast…

The surgery was elective and one that I have held off for several years, but when it had begun to impact my workouts and become a serious annoyance in my life, I decided it was time to get it done. My doctor, Judith Baumhauer, the Foot Master of Rochester, scheduled surgery for Tuesday, August 11th. The doctor reconfirmed with me that it would mean 8 weeks in a non-weightbearing cast, followed by 4 weeks in a boot, assuming all goes well and heals as planned. Ugh!

Lessons Learned after 2 short weeks:

Good Doctor — Dr Baumhauer is not only a great surgeon, but a great surgeon with a sense of humor. She has wonderful bed side manner as represented today when the cast came off, she reviewed the foot, and said, “This looks great!! Stitches coming out.” I asked about some of my recent clumsy moments and she reassured I would be fine. “After 3 months though I am no longer responsible” she said with a grin. Lesson learned — find the best doctor with a sense of humor!!

Nerve blocks — if you ever have to have orthopedic surgery, ask for a nerve block. It puts you in a very happy place for almost 36 hours after the surgery. No pain!! Unfortunately, the block does wear off, about 36 hours later. But then you have the back-up meds to manage the rest. Lesson learned — always go for the nerve block.

Chatty nurse & cute doctor —  I had two nurses tending to me. I am sure it is no surprise to many of you, I really enjoy talking with people, getting to know them, and learning about their job and life. So I was chatting it up, asking detailed questions about my procedure when one of the two nurses cut me off and said, “It’s my turn to talk now!!” Ouch — that hurt more than the needles they just stuck me with. My anesthesiologist was an adorable doctor from England, Dr. Duncan McLean. Between his charming accent, his cute face, and his reassurance, I went off to la-la land with a smile on my face. Lesson learned — have the nerve block with nice people.

Listen to the doctor — Dr. Baumhauer had three things to say to me post-op. First, “I am happy we did this now, it was bad, your life will be much better.” This was great news considering what was to come. Second, “you are to put ABSOLUTELY NO WEIGHT on it for 8 weeks!” Third, “once the nerve block seems to be wearing off, and you will know that by the onset of the pain, start the pain meds…do not delay, or you won’t catch up.”

With regard to the final prognosis, I am looking forward to my new foot. With regard to non-weight bearing, what I failed to realize is how careful you have to be about tripping on the crutches because our natural reaction is to catch ourselves, with the bad foot, it hurts and causes a temporary set back. And I hate pain Meds and thought Tylenol could manage it. Wrong! Lesson learned — listen to the doctor on all counts, they know what they are talking about.

Beautiful cast creations — when the first trip occurred within 48 hours, they decided it was time to remove the splint and put me in a cast to keep me safer.  I was told to select a color, and of course, I did not want just one color, I wanted two. It is the child in me. When I was told they only allowed one color, I pressed and said, “Come on, I have had a really difficult 24 hours, this would make my day.” My guy, Roger, came through. When he said he might get fired for it, I reassured him that I would call his boss and send incredible kudos to Roger and the whole cast room team. Which Lesson learned — be open to the child in you and find other naughty people, like Roger, that gets it!

FullSizeRender        Being humbled and empathetic — the greatest lesson I have learned in just these two short weeks is about the challenges of living with one leg. When all limbs are fully functioning, life is pretty easy from getting ready in the morning to cooking, to driving, to trips to the store, to walking up the steps to the bathroom and to bed at night. We don’t have to think about it. With a cast and crutches, or a scooter, or wheel chair, you really need to plan every step you take, and determine where the barriers are in advance.

I am not handicapped. This is a temporary state of life for me. It will be over in another 10 weeks or so. But it has opened my eyes to the challenges faced by so many thousands of people with permanent handicaps of all kinds. Every move they make needs to be strategically managed in one way or another. I have been most fortunate to have a group of caretakers ready to jump in and help, good friends, my two boys (who actually cleaned and hosed the garage) and my mom who folds the laundry. My MCBA Team that have armed my scooter with a bell for everyone’s safety as I turn those corners. So I am have been lucky on this front. But there are so many that are less fortunate. I see so many of them on my way to work, at work, and going home each day. How do they manage on their own?

Just yesterday, I went to the office for the first time in two weeks for a few morning meetings. I was dropped off in front of the  Telesca Center by a friend, hopped on my scooter, and began my scoot into the building through our handicap doors.

scooter crossing

One of the immediate barriers I encountered was at the entrance to the door. The sidewalk at the entry point of the door is severely pock-marked, which I have noted for years now, but walking over the damaged sidewalk and trying to wheel over the damaged sidewalk are two very different experiences. This was one of many, I suspect, eye-opening moments I will discover in the coming months about the challenges of having one less limb to rely on. Lesson learned — keep learning and find a way to replace the sidewalk in the front of the Telesca Center for Justice where we are committed to ensuring access to justice. Repair of the sidewalk may require some new funds, if you are interested in donating to the “Improve Access to the TCFJ Sidewalk Fund”, please send your donation to the Foundation of the Monroe County Bar.

Thanks for checking in,

Mary

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