Although I’m recovering, I’m not okay. I like to think that I am, but I’m not. Who would be, living our realities?
Explore This IssueOctober 2021
Alex: The day of the surgery was a wonderful experience. No, really—I mean that. The pre-op nurses gave me a card wishing me good luck and my anesthesia colleague hooked me up with the good stuff; the only thing I remember was being wheeled into the OR and then waking up in the post-anesthesia care unit with a coffee cup in my hand.
Julie: Mine went well too, but mine was done at a surgery center and I knew no one. They did treat me like I was special, as they knew I was a surgeon. I brought a bottle of Angel’s Envy bourbon as a gift for my surgeon and joked that he should drink it only after my case. It was humbling to have surgery amidst the pandemic. My husband couldn’t come in, and I felt scared alone. I also only remember being wheeled in for surgery and then waking up in the PACU. Did your recovery happen faster or slower than you expected?
Alex: I recovered sooner than I expected, in that I was able to walk that same day, but slower in that it’s now six weeks after surgery and I’m still going through PT and am unable to fully get back to my usual lifestyle. I was told it will take at least 12 weeks of rehab before I can do the things I could before surgery, but I didn’t believe it until now.
Julie: At least you don’t need your spouse to put your bra on for you every day, or have a crappy ponytail because you can’t raise your arm high enough. Changing into scrubs is a painful nightmare. Now I’m not able to reach any high shelves, I have constant soreness, I’m unable to sleep on my favorite side, and I can’t sleep much due to pain. PT seems to barely be helpful. Did you follow instructions for postop care, and for recommended PT?
Alex: Yes—I’ve been a good patient.
Julie: I haven’t. During my 11-hour days, when was I supposed to stretch three times a day? When would I apply heat for 20 minutes then ice for 15 minutes? It’s a poor excuse, but with the pandemic, I remain overwhelmed.
Julie: If you had to do it over again, what would you have done differently? Would you have planned more or less time off?
Alex: I would have cancelled my own patients and gotten the surgery earlier. I went through a very uncomfortable three weeks just so I wouldn’t inconvenience my own patients. We need to realize that we’re humans too, and we need to put our personal health first to be able to help others. I get that now.
Julie: I would have asked more questions and read more, but most of all, back in 2019 when my right shoulder started hurting, I would have stretched religiously and warmed up. I need to acknowledge that my body has served me loyally while I abused it over my lifetime and more than 25 years of stress as a surgeon. If I could go back to May, I would have taken two or maybe even four weeks off and focused on intensive stretching and daily physical therapy instead of returning to a full clinic while typing with a horrifically tense arm and shoulder.
Thank you, Alex, for sharing your story with all of us. On behalf of your readers, we send you healing and positive energy and wish you a supersonic recovery. Yes, we’re all human. We’re still connected, and we will struggle together. Thankfully, I’m beginning to find my former self, the one with greater sense of well-being, by taking it one day at a time.