The "Gimp Gift," I now call it. Three surgeries out of four, and what I'm learning along the way
As I sit here right now, my dominant hand is four days out of surgery, and having a lively conversation with my nervous system. However, four fingers are working and it only took two days this time around before I could type one-fingered. I'm swiftly moving towards near-normal speed with one hand.
My god, the body is remarkable.
Before that, though, I was highly entertained by how swiftly my brain adapted to typing one-handed with my left hand. It's really quite extraordinary when you and I take the time to observe how the body responds.
My left foot is now three weeks from being bootless, having had plates and screws installed November 30th. That surgery was on the same leg whose knee I shattered a month before in The Atacama Desert, after which I did the nine-day horse ride anyway, while learning a superb lesson in allowing others to help.
I spent weeks on a scooter while the boot protected my healing foot.
Meanwhile, I focused on both the PT for my foot and intense attention to the scar tissue. Every night I settle in on my couch with a bottle of Bio Oil and massage the thick, ropy scars. At first it hurt. A lot. Then it felt terrific. So much so that those nightly sessions were a downright pleasure. Still are.
Then, on February 6th, my right hand underwent surgery to remove the arthritic CMC joint.
You should see the other guy, right?
I started this journey July 2022 when my left hand went under the knife. You learn a lot about what does and doesn't work. We found out that Gabapentin (for nerve pain) was a lifesaver.
I also tested the idea that distraction therapy- which for me is travel combined with animals- is a great way to speed healing. Since I massage animals, it didn't take long before the cast was unnecessary and my hand was swiftly regaining grip strength.
In other words, this was a full-immersion education in learning how to adapt to injuries, how to heal while incorporating fun, and how to ensure that I put in the PT for each body part to get it fully operational and strong again.
I bought a bike trainer and set up a station so that as soon as I can get a bike shoe over my left foot (that just happened) I can finally do aerobic work. Meanwhile, I am back at the gym, one foot and one hand down.
Yes, you should see the other guy.
In the middle of this I re-hired my personal trainer to help me with workouts which allowed me to exercise even with the body parts out. That isn't just fun. It's hilarious. I managed to roll off the bench at the gym and scare everyone, and I was laughing too hard to get up right away.
But it's hardly over.
Right about the end of February the boot comes off, and I get to hike again. Terrific. I can't wait.
BUT. As soon as I've had a month of hiking in the gorgeous Oregon woods, I get surgery on my right foot. Then I am booted for another twelve weeks, but all the other parts will be finishing up their healing and strengthening.
We're saving the best for last, as it were. For of course, this affects driving.
All this, as my good friend Melissa loves to point out, offers endless opportunities for growth. By being curious about our bodies, and being willing to journey with our process vs. be angry or irritated or complain about what we can't do, this year of multiple repairs has been amazing.
Of course it's been painful. Surgery which involves the hands and tops of the foot means that nerves are affected, and I was reduced to a blubbering mess for my first hand. That led to the Gabapentin, and since then the healing journey, while not without its pain, has been vastly improved.
Why on earth would I subject myself to four surgeries in twelve months?
Especially since they were elective?
Actually, that was easy. The fastest way to leap back into my passion was to buckle down and get all four done- given how things are going so far. Precisely a year after my first hand surgery I will be spat out ready to head back into the world of adventure travel.
That will only happen if I'm willing to do the PT, the at-times painful work of massaging the scar tissue on both hands and feet, and diligently work what body parts I can as they become available.
That's why I restarted my martial arts, which, while ridiculously lopsided and clumsy, will keep the blood flowing and my body healing as I am distracted by exercise.
I'm not in this to impress you or anyone else. I AM in this to impress upon all of us, most particularly this aging athlete, that the body is nothing short of incredible. If we're willing to do the work, the body will quite often give us what we ask.
Not always, granted.
But more often than not.
I don't know what you're going through. Nobody is privy to our private lives. This much I do know: The older I get, the more I push, trust and treat this body with the care, respect and maintenance it deserves, the more it gives me in return.
Here's what I mean:
Yesterday, four days past hand surgery, I was able to balance on the top step of a step ladder, with one foot down, one hand wrapped in a cast, and change out the suet in a feeder positioned well over my head. That may not seem like a big deal, but because of the design of the feeder and how high it is (to keep deer out of it), it's wickedly hard to do with four working hands and feet.
You and I are worth the investment in our independence as we age. You and I deserve a strong, balanced, well-oiled body as we age.
I trust my body more at 70 than I ever could at twenty. The way I see it, if we're willing to be interested, curious, considerate, and engaged with the skin suit we were given, we will be gifted with quality long life. Even if we were brutal to ourselves along the way, and my hand is way up here, the body forgives us swiftly if we feed it well, move it much, and make the intellectual, emotional and spiritual commitments to ourselves we deserve.
The reason I do what I do is that I want all of us to enjoy a full and happy life until the moment our ticket gets punched. Let's move. Find joy in life, our physicality, and the world around us. The hardballs life throws at me regularly these days are getting hit right out of the park.
With enduring respect and regard to all my Dear Readers whose dietary and health advice and recommendations are taken seriously, often incorporated and deeply appreciated.
Dear Walkabout Saga Reader:
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