Stacey! You really need to cut your toenails…

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I had my first moonboot mani pedi this weekend.  I had a wedding, and while I always planned to get my poor feet, left who is swollen due to excessive hopping and body support, and right, dry and shriveled from being secluded in Velcro darkness for too long, scrubbed and trimmed, my plans were cemented when a colleague looked down at poor righty and with a disgusted look on her face, crinkled her nose and told me I was long over due to get a toenail trim.

Well actually she said it much ruder than that, and from the look on her face I thought she was going to vomit at any moment, but ill let that slide. Mind you, she also took the prime opportunity of telling me after I had successfully managed to hobble almost a kilometer down the street with her for lunch and was sweating and uncomfortable. One would think given I have been strapped into a moonboot immobile for two months she would have let my slightly long big toenail slide also, but hey, each to their own phobias.

Ok, so I should back the truck up. It’s been weeks since I have bothered to write. I know what you are all thinking, I should have loads of time on my hands to sit in front of the computer and think of slightly humorous stories about my recovery.

In truth, my days are shorter thanks to sleeping in, my nights longer thanks to not sleeping, and I am tired all the time. The voice in my head that commanded my attention for the better part of this year has been silenced. Both of them. Pitchfork holding and prodding me has taken a holiday to some dark and exotic location, and angelic me just looks at me with wide eyes and sets her mouth in a straight line no matter what I do.

Even when I fail miserably at keeping a paleo lifestyle, and worse, make excuses for why I haven’t been able to.  I try to pretend its only because people sometimes bring me meals that contain potato and defiantly sugar. Or because my non-paleo, now home husband has been doing all of the cooking and hasn’t quite mastered the against all grain mentality. Or because sometimes its too hard when I forget to take lunch to work, and the café upstairs only has a beef salad that will contain soy and most likely gluten, but its that or a burger because walking up the street is too far.

But sometimes its because I really want to eat that Tim Tam.

And the choc peanut M&Ms. And the container of strawberries. And because the Thai restaurant only has rice, not cauliflower rice and a curry isn’t the same without a base. And because, well because I just want to try a piece of that cake.

The paleo flag I was once flying with pride has been somewhat ripped and is a little disheveled due to some rough winds as I continue on the adventure that is my recovery.

I’ve given up trying to exercise. A few days here and there in gym gear and a moonboot, doing my own workouts of sit-ups, push ups, leg lifts and a few other movements did nothing to really excite me so I gave up all together.  I’m not sure if it was the boredom of exercising on my own, or the image of myself looking ridiculous with crutches and weights at once, but I soon got over it.

Just using crutches all day takes my energy away, and hopping from one place to another on my good leg has meant lefty is now well and truly double the size of righty.

Something that was well noted when I got my mani pedi.

Lefty had to be scrubbed silly and massaged with intent before the tension from standing alone for months began to soak away and the layers of dead skin finally broke away to reveal a softer, smoother foot underneath ready to be calloused and abused.

Righty sat in the footspa for 30 minutes, the longest time she had been on the ground and in water, and no sooner after I raised her in the air for a slight exfoliate, did the skin start falling away from my foot. Literally. No scrubbing, no brushing, no blade needed. She was literally wasting away.

Disgusting I know. But the poor old sod has been shielded away from sunlight and air for too long so the skin melted away like the evil green witch in the Wizard of Oz.

She turned a deeper shade of purple. Righty does that sometimes. Since finishing the self-administrating blood clotting preventative injections a few weeks back my circulation doesn’t always match up. And I’m only a week down on my new foot angle. One more purple arch to go in the boot and then I will be set flat again. My heel will touch the ground and ill be good to go.

But lets not get ahead of ourselves. I still have seven months ahead before running will be on the cards, and while the 18th of November is the date penciled in to see my good friend the surgeon again, he might only relieve me of the crutches and not the boot.

I still have a long way to go.

Which is why Righty is purple, and every few hours, despite my toe wiggling I have to massage her myself and watch with fascination as the blood moves to another part of my foot and she turns from beetroot red to casper white.

Two months down and it’s not only the colour of my foot that has changed.

My right calf is no longer there. Seemingly overnight it has been replaced with what I can only describe as an arm like version of a leg. My ankle smaller than my wrist. The calf the size if my arm – and not my bicep or my shoulder – my arm.

Here I was worried about getting tuck shop arms that would flap in the breeze, and instead it’s my leg that now jingles and jangles during my routine bio oil treatment each night.

There is effectively no muscle there. Not ‘there is a muscle I just haven’t used it’ muscle. Not ‘I have really bad calf muscles from not exercising’ muscle. But a ‘there is no muscle in there because there is really no muscle in there’ muscle. My poor old Achilles hasn’t quite stretched far enough to move my foot yet let alone to reach into my calf muscle and join it, let alone define it.

That will be another month at least.

On the bright side, at least my toes look nice.

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Be careful what you wish for

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I wanted Michelle Bridges arms and a six pack. As I have had numerous people point out over the past four weeks, you don’t need legs for that.

Maybe I should have added in killer thighs – plural – or curvy calves – again plural. But I didn’t, so I really don’t have any excuse if I don’t get them, even with my dodgy achilles.

In the weeks following my operation not a lot happened. I was picked up from the hospital, still slightly drug induced and wheeled home with a goodie bag of takeaways including Tramadol, Endone, Oxycontin and my first three weeks of Clexane injections.

I was promptly placed on couch, handed TV remotes and given permission to boss, direct and order others around whenever I needed something.

What I needed was better TV. Even with Foxtel I forgot how boring, yet strangely addictive day time TV is. 16 and pregnant, 4 Weddings and my all time favorite Geordie Shore.

For whatever reason, perhaps because my brain was still floating in clouds and my leg still ached, but whenever I tried to read I had a hard time focusing. The words would swim on the page and well constructed sentences made no sense. So I gave up and just succumbed to the junk that is reality TV.

Along with the bossing and the ordering, I also called on a few more favours.

The first day post operation my ‘almost always paleo’ friend who happens to be a pharmacist bought over the pair of crutches she had ordered and I had paid for, saving me the weekly $10 hire fee from the local chemist. Given I had a bill from almost every doctor in the Epworth, the savings was well welcomed.

Her biggest favour however, was her clinical hand there to steady my own when the time came for my first injection.

Actually her hand was the only steady one, and so instead it was she who injected the preventative blood clot drug into me, slightly pinching my stomach and using one of the alcohol swabs she had thoughtfully also bought over. This time I watched. I wasn’t naive enough to think I was going to have her come over at 6pm everyday for the next six weeks.

The needle pierced my skin and the fluid was pumped into me. It swelled around the area, between her fingers and the flesh of skin she was still pinching and even when she slowly withdrew the injection the fluid remained poised. We could both feel it, bubbling just under my flesh, until she lightly pressed over the pin prick with the swab and sent the fluid flowing through my body to help keep my blood flowing.

The first of many injections was dropped in the safe syringe canister and I popped another pain killer. When my head was too cloudy to focus, she left and I returned to my TV viewing.

My routine of waking, stumbling to coach, being fed, bought coffee, food and handed remotes, iPad and water was interrupted in the first few days by welcomed visitors. My circle of friends who were part time workers or stay at home mums were the biggest help during the day. Not only did they bring conversation that actually made sense and did not involve underage sex, but my visitors also bought well meaning care packages and lunch. And their children, who could run around and distract me from the throbbing that had remained in my leg since the surgery and who pointed at my boot with a confused look on their face and asked what my ‘ouch’ was.

Good old trusty Grandma, Gma to those who know her, was also a big help visiting twice during the first week I was home alone. The first time she came for lunch it was with chicken, salad, fresh rolls and her world famous orange cake. I was thankful and hungry, but also vividly aware her orange cake was loaded with sugar and gluten and the rolls, despite being still warm, were something I had stayed away from too long to risk.

Bollucks. The part of my brain that was less drug affected thought. How was I going to tell my 84 year old Gma that all the food she had bought had recently been crossed off my ‘yes I eat that’ list. The very same Gma that had once scolded my vegetarian sister for not eating the zucchini slice she had made because it had ‘only a little bit’ of bacon in it.

Oh thanks Grandma, but I don’t eat bread very much anymore (at all)

Oh don’t you love? Do you want only half then?

Um, maybe I’ll just have the salad and not the roll.

Ok, I’ll just put you the half, which half do you want?

I faced the same challenge with the orange cake.

I’m a little full now Grandma, I might have some later.

You didn’t each that much love, ill just put you a little piece.

The second time she came, it was with her homemade soup that not long ago was my favorite. Luckily Joel had eaten most of the remaining orange cake and what little was left I had farmed off to my sister so nothing but crumbs remained.

But how this time could I explain that her once treasured and loved chicken and corn noodle soup was now a big NO on the paleo diet.

I didn’t. I ate the soup; nobody likes a fussy disabled girl.

The days were largely boring. I had visions of writing a witty and entertaining blog entry every day, but just like the fog that entered my brain when I tried to read, I couldn’t find the right words to write into my newly purchased journals and so the pencil stayed pointed the pages blank.

Slowly, at my brothers warning, I tried to wean myself off the pain killers. Perhaps I tried a little too early but his sms had freighted me

What drugs are you on? You better be careful, some people can get addicted to those you know. You should try not to take them.

Three years ago, my brother had broken his neck playing football and while thankfully he is fine now, he had been in a world of pain and bother back then, and had also been doped up on various blood thinners and pain killers. I was worried his warning may have come from personal experience, so excluded my daily helpers only a few days post surgery.

It was a mistake. By Tuesday I found myself in a bout of depression and pain. I had been home alone for most of the day left for once to manage my own snacks and hobble up to the kitchen every time my water bottle needed filling. TV had been bad, I was bored and feeling a little sorry for myself. And my leg was throbbing.

Epic fail.

Dad called, criticized my brother for his ‘well meaning’ warning and told me to pop a pill if I needed it.

I took two.

Nights were better.

At night friends popped over with care packages. Annie with parcels of food – all paleo food I might add – recipes she had taken the time to photocopy from the Against All Grain cookbook. Magazines, books and DVD’s. Nisha with more magazines. Megan with hand weights to help focus my frustration (and get those Michelle Bridges arms) Anna came to see me on a visit from Perth and together with Annie and Nisha, I broke my paleo diet with Thai food, wine and champagne.

But it was worth it, I felt human again.

And of course there were the flowers. A beautiful bunch from all the coaches at Crossfit Hawthorn East that arrived (conveniently) on a day when my sister was babysitting me.

A bouquet from work, cuts from Gma’s garden. Nisha, Anna and Charly all bringing a bunch when they came. My house smelled and looked beautiful, even if I didn’t

And then the first week was over.

The second week I went back to work. Well I went back working, from home. I had decided again to stop taking pain killers and for the most part the days were fine. But long. I had underestimated how much longer everything would take when dong it on one leg, by oneself, still slightly fragile from the surgery and post op week.

Getting dressed – unable to take my moonboot off until the stitches came out – meant that my wardrobe was limited. Very limited. As in I often stayed in my pajamas all day or managed to stretch a pair of trucksuit pants over the boot and hoped I had no visitors.

Making a coffee. Travel mug strategically placed on the edge of the kitchen bench. Down the two stairs I go on the crutches, leg held in air. Mug placed carefully in bag then gently lowered onto right crutch or over shoulder and slowly, very slowly, maneuver over to the couch or into the study. By the time I got there, the coffee was cold.

Showers. All of a sudden I was a child again and couldn’t perform this simple task on my own so resorted to (as hideous as it sounds) bathing only every second day. Garbage bag over moonboot, stool in base of shower. Leg stretched out of shower door and resting on another chair so it didn’t get wet and stayed elevated. All of this had to of course have a helper to lower me on stool and get me out of the shower when the time came.

Food. It was almost too hard. Breakfast was provided to me by well meaning husband (who now refers to me as the English patient) before leaving for work, but lunch and snacks were left up to me. It meant I got up only when I was starving and not for snacks, although my appetite still had not come back from the operation. At least I managed to FINALLY give up my nut addiction.

I was exhausted.

Just getting around on my own sapped my energy, and my brain trying to focus on working that first week was tough. I took regular lunch breaks, plopping myself in front of the TV on the couch for an hour while eating whatever it was I had managed to make and carry on my own.  I answered emails and dialed into meetings said a silent thanks that I didn’t have to make any massive decisions.

On Friday of that second week I glanced at myself in the mirror after negotiating the shower and was a little horrified by what I saw.

Dark bags circled my eyes, unwashed, greasy hair that hadn’t been brushed in a day or so. Pale face, very pale face from sitting indoors for weeks. Track marks and bruises some purple, some black and blue spotted my stomach from the daily injections.  And I had lost weight. The muscle tone I had tried so hard to achieve had faded into the background and left my stomach, arms and back with a thin layer of flesh. It wasn’t fat, it was just skin. For some reason despite the lack of exercise I had lost both size and weight.

Defiantly no sign of Michelle Bridges arms and a six pack. I looked hideous.

Morphine Madness

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Sometime later, after my gluten free hospital roast lamb and vegetables – that of course also included potatoes, and when my stream of visitors eventually subsided, the pain started to crawl its way into my body.

Julie had just left for the night, saying her goodbyes ironically through the locked toilet door after I had managed to negotiate the bed lowering mechanism, lift myself into the strategically parked wheelchair and using my one good foot push/pull myself to the disabled loos.

I thought about trying to sleep through the pain, but I remembered Julie saying a night nurse should be in around seven for my next round of drugs and it was now almost half past. And besides, I was craving a coffee and a gluten free snack.

I used the buzzer. The one that looks at you with a warning almost daring you to press it. Everyone will tell you it’s there to be used, to be pressed, especially for those that can’t walk. But really its not. It’s a in an emergency button and if you press it when it’s not an emergency… well let’s just say you get crossed off the night nurse’s Christmas card list.

I pressed it.

And heard the sound of the buzzer, its whining every second, from my bed. The girl who I was rooming with heard it too, as I imagine many other patients did also.

I automatically felt guilty, but my pain was creeping its way up from my toes to the throbbing where I imagine my incision was made. The only thing worse was the craving for coffee.

Eventually Miss Night Nurse (I never got her name) came.

I plastered an almost too wide smile on my pale face and greeted her with all the enthusiasm I could muster

Hi! (fake smile and high pitched voice)

I was just wondering, I think I am due for a pain killer?

Ok, well we are just doing handover, just checking. I will have a look and get back to you when we can.

Oh (no longer smiling) Ok (voice level and pitch dropped significantly) well can I also have a coffee and some water please?

You want coffee, water ok, give me a minute let me finish handover.

The buzzing stopped and she was gone.

I was still thirsty, hungry and in pain.

But I waited.

And waited.

Eventually she came ‘rushing’ back with a few pills and a glass of water.

I have some panadol, and your medicine, and some water.

Oh thanks so much! Fake smile was back on my face a moment before I snatched the pills greedily from the table and dropped them down my parched throat with a swig of the water.

And now I’ll get your coffee.

Do you have any snacks? I asked timidly.

You want snacks? Ok yes we have some.

Umm…. Anything dairy and gluten free? I almost apologized, although not sure why.

I should have just taken the allergic option that would have had me wearing a red warning beacon around my wrist of my ‘gluten intolerance’ but given it would have changed the medication I was supplied thought I best be a little more flexible.

I’ll see what we have.

At least I didn’t have to wait long. Night Nurse was back in a flash with my coffee, long black, luke warm, no sugar.

And she had snacks.

An array of snacks.  It was as though she had taken one of everything she could find from the kitchen in order to satisfy the fussy patient in ward 15. But there, buried among the cheese, the savoy’s, the sugar filled nougat, there were even gluten free options.

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But nothing paleo.

At least the blue pills had managed to warn off some of the pain and I even managed to doze off half way through The Footy Show.

A few hours later however I woke due to the now violent throbbing in my leg.

The ward was quiet; lights were out, curtains drawn. It was almost 11pm. Across the bed from me I could hear the muffled whispering of my roommate and her boyfriend but of course there was no nurse in sight.

Thinking perhaps I had just slept funny, and maybe a roll to the loo would help the discomfort, I again managed to negotiate the wheelchair solo.  But an empty bladder did nothing for the aching in my achilles.

I was going to have to buzz again.

Now just in case you think I am a light touch, a sissy or just fond of the pills let me give you some background.

I have a high pain threshold. I know this, and have had it confirmed by other professional medics. And yes I might brag about it a little, but compared to a friend who once said Yoga hurt while she was down dogging (not my friend Nisha just to clarify) I know I have a much higher tolerance than some.

Proof point number one –

The only time I have ever had to have a filling I was more scared of the injection that was meant to numb the pain than the filling itself. So much so the dentist said he would start and slip it in without me knowing. I went through the process eyes shut and mouth held open.  Every now and then he would ask me how the pain was and I awkwardly nodded my head – there was none. A slight discomfort, nothing really pleasant, but no pain.  When eventually the procedure was over and I could close my mouth enough to swallow and then talk, I asked when he had given me the injection.

I didn’t. The dentist replied. You have a high pain threshold, so thought you could have the filling without having the injection to numb you mouth.

Proof point number two –

Numerous previous injuries have seen me sprain (never break) arms, wrists, ankles and feet but instead of hopping off the netball court or soccer field I would play the game out only to discover my foot was so swollen my shoe wouldn’t come off until it was iced or that my little finger was actually broken not just jarred.

Proof point number three –

Two days after getting all four of my wisdom teeth chiseled out of me (I say chiseled as they were so crocked they had to be broken in my mouth and piece by piece removed to save my normal teeth) I had reduced my pain killers by half – although was still in somewhat of a delusional state given I thought I could once again eat foods that did not have a consistency of baby slush.

I tried my old uni favorite the 2-minute chicken noodles (I shudder at the processed thought now). I had not tried these bad boys for years, and forgotten the effect the preservatives had on my stomach. The noodles themselves went down without too much hassle; it was a few hours later when my bowel tried to digest them that the trouble occurred. And by trouble I mean the pain of my digestive system screaming at me for feeding it such fowl food. The run to the toilet and the combination of the pain killers and the poor food choice left me reeling in pain – so much so I should have taken more drugs right then and there. But I didn’t and instead when the pain got so much my body cracked it and I fainted (still on the loo).

Actually maybe that goes against my theory…

Either way, by now I was in excruciating pain.

So I buzzed that ‘don’t buzz me’ warning beacon again.

It had been a few hours since my blue pill, and by now the anesthetic would have well and truly worn off, so there was no way I was over reacting – right?

Well Night Nurse seemed to think I was.

For when I told her that I was in a lot of pain and could she give me something she nodded, made some comment my brain couldn’t comprehend in the situation and left.

Half an hour later she still had not returned and I was about to bite my own leg off if it meant the pain would stop.

I could still hear the girl in the ward opposite, she too was calling out for more relief.  She too had buzzed. She too had a quick visit from Night Nurse and asked for something. And she too was still waiting. But unlike me, she had support. Her boyfriend was still by her side, refusing to leave until the medication came.

It was only when Night Nurse came to kick her other half out did he demand some relief and he was not leaving until it came.

Naively I thought his stance would be something I could piggy back on. That when Night Nurse bought his girlfriend (who had something removed from her back that had left a hole big enough her mum had to learn how to pack it before discharge) her pills, I would get mine.

I was wrong.

The two measly almost see threw curtains that separated us and the ten feet of white hospital tiles was like an ocean and I was forgotten.

It had almost been an hour.

I buzzed again.

I had no choice. I honestly can say I had never experienced such pain as I was in currently.

Never in my life.

Not one to compare mild pain to labour, I had the terrifying thought that if childbirth was worse than this I was never signing up for it.

I think I went a little delusional.

Thank goodness, the nurse who answered my buzzing this time around was not my slow shuffle night nurse by Miss Matron.

My polite demeanor was gone, I was in agony.

My pain is really bad… I could hardly formulate a sentence

Out of 10? Miss Matron asked all business like

9 (I left 10 for childbirth).

Ok ill bring you something straight away.

I tried to breathe through it – wasn’t that what they told you do to? I tried the breathing I had recently learned in Yoga but it was too loud in the ward and it sounded odd, like maybe I was in labour so I stopped and sheets gripped so tightly my knuckles turned white, prayed to anything that would listen Miss Matron wouldn’t be too long.

She wasn’t.

The sheets came back with a flourish, a light was switched on and both Miss Matron and Night Nurse were at my side in a second.

Miss Matron – Stacey given your pain is almost at a 10 we have a shot of morphine for you

My fear of needles momentarily forgotten Miss Matron held my shoulders down while Night Nurse primed the injection. It wasn’t until they had pulled up my nightie and swabbed my stomach with an antiseptic that I realized I had been squirming in pain and was moving too violently for the needle and that’s why I was being held.

I wish it was Miss Matron who did the deed but it was Night Nurse who gave me the morphine hit.

It may take a few minutes she said snapping off her gloves. So take these too

More pills. I swallowed them without water and then washed them down for good measure. Hoping I would be in a phase of fog soon and the pain would be gone.

Miss Matron filled up my water and smiled at me with concern.

Buzz if you need anything else that should help you sleep.

It did, but only a few hours.

The injection had left a small bruise on my stomach and a red pin mark, and it had also left me foggy enough that the pain which had returned (enough to wake me) was almost bearable.

Just suck it up Stacey my inner red horned pitchfork holding self said.

It’s probably not that bad. Miss Hole in her back is sleeping.

I’m not sure if she was, but at least she was quiet.

This time I took my inner self’s advice and ignored the buzzer.  Mastered the wheelchair again on my own and drifted in and out of a painful sleep for the rest of the night.

At least I was going home tomorrow.

Drips & Drugs, Pills & Paleo, Bed pans & Bed pains

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My surgery was largely uneventful. This was a good thing. I waited as expected for four hours in the day procedure area of the Epworth Eastern hospital, ready to eat my arm off after fasting since the night before, and as luck would have it was only called in once I had successfully hobbled my way to the disabled loos and back.

Standard issue hospital gown, mootboot finally off even if only for a moment. Nurse painted my leg red with a cleaner and antiseptic, and also to highlight in surgery which leg it was that needed attention. My assistant surgeon introduced himself and gave me a few pointers on what they were doing and how. The anesthetist came to explain the post op pain killers he would prescribe, made some bad jokes and left. Dr Hau popped in long enough to draw an arrow in black marker on my leg and a smiley face on my right big toe and then I was wheeled into the surgery area.

No gas, just an injection or two, the methodical count down and before I knew it I was asleep in la la land.

I was told during the surgery I was turned over, face down and Bonds undies on display while they worked on my leg. Incision at the back of my ankle, about seven centimeters which would leave the scar Joel was so worried about. My mop ends were successfully attached with no major issues or surprises. I was sawn up and the entire thing took about 30 minutes.

I woke to find my moonboot back on and groggy from the remains of the anesthetic.

No real pain – that would come later. Nurses fussing over me. I remember asking if they had called Joel yet to tell him I was ok, since his mum had died not 10 months earlier during a routine biopsy, he had a fear of anyone going under anesthetic.

For the next few hours nurses came and went administering me with antibiotics through the intravenous needle in my left hand and providing various pills for me to swallow that were designed to prevent the onslaught of pain I knew was coming.

I felt largely, ok. Thirsty, and a little hungry once the harder drugs were flushed out of my system. I managed to keep down water so the drip in my arm was taken out, the bung left only for the antibiotics I would need to prevent infection, one of the most common risks associated with an achilles surgery.

When I felt strong enough to eat the Nurse, Juile, bought me my gluten free lunch option. Sandwiches.

She left the still cold from the fridge white bread ham and salad triangles on my hospital tray table along with two more blue pills and a glass of water. I eyed off the sandwiches with disgust. Even before my gluten free days I hated premade sandwiches, and had an intense phobia of them which started when I was a child and used to hide standard school lunch of vegemite sandwiches in the bottom of my schoolbag instead of eating them. Where they remained until my Mum eventually smelt them out.

I popped the pills with another swig of water and tried to work up enough courage to tackle the ‘food’ in front of me. I was pretty hungry.  I still hadn’t eaten since dinner last night and it was well past lunch time. Ok so they weren’t paleo. I knew the substitute flour would be corn based or something and the ham would be mass purchased and produced, not free range, and I spied what I thought was margarine not butter, which I have never eaten, but really, my options were limited. Very limited. As in, I had nothing else.

The only food place in the hospital was a Hudsons coffee, which would also serve premade sandwiches, and while I had a smoothie or two in waiting I had made the night before the operation and were in the nurses refrigerator, I first needed something I could chew.

I took a bite and like a catholic girl on her wedding night tried to think of something else.

Half way through the first non paleo triangle, the blue pills kicked in and I had trouble thinking at all. My vision went blurry, my hand seemed to move a tad slower than I wanted it to and my sandwich had no taste at all. When I moved my head it took a while for my vision to catch up, and a warm feeling was creeping all down my body.

When Julie returned I slowly, deliberately, as by this time I was quite dizzy asked her about the pills.

Are they meant to space you out?

Yes they are morphine based, so they might have a strange effect.

Ok, good, so it wasn’t just the sandwich that was sending me into a fog of delusion.

In my field of hazy fog I finished the sandwich and when it eventually lifted, I finished my hide the greens smoothie too.

Much later, when the blue pills had almost warn off, I had been administered a second round of antibiotics, my smoothie was gone and a jug of water had also been put away, I needed to use the bathroom.

It was my first pee post surgery – almost five hours ago.

I buzzed nurse Juile. I hadn’t been out of bed since my surgery either so wasn’t sure if I was even allowed, but knew either way I would need some help.

I was humiliated when she returned with the bed pan.

In addition to my premade sandwich phobia is my dislike for use of public toilets and my inability to squat to pee. Ever.

Now at the risk of providing too much information, let me offer some background to my unusual toilet behaviors.

If a toilet door does not have a lock, I request a friend or sister to wait out the front for fear of someone walking in. The first toilet I use in a block at work, is the toilet that becomes, when possible, my one toilet for the rest of the day. I won’t go camping unless there are public loos and when travelling around Asia and Europe I managed to bypass all drop holes to find a toilet with a seat and functioning flush button, even if it meant I was in the end running for one. Literally running for one.

So when Julie returned with the bed pan and instructions that I was not yet to get out of bed, I almost thought about holding on.

But I was still hazy on drugs, full of medications, antibiotics, smoothie and water, and only had one foot I could jig or tap my bladder pressure away, so really had no choice.

My first problem was stage fright.

For 33 years I had managed to never be put in such a position where this method of peeing was required, and now, dispute the intense pressure on my bladder which was calling out for a release, my mind was having trouble letting go.

Julie came back to see how I was doing, but I shook my head so she disappeared again.

Like with the sandwich, I shut my eyes and thought of something else, and a few minutes later, perhaps because by this stage my bladder was bursting and I had no other choice, my release came.

This isn’t so bad. I remember thinking, almost settling into it.

Just like a loo, only portable.

The relief on my bladder as the pressure began to ease was instantaneous, and I relaxed into the bed pan. Maybe I relaxed a little too much, or maybe it was just the amount of fluids I had consumed during the day, but I had trouble shutting off.

A memory from a drunken night out when I had held my bladder from one pub to the next, before running into the loo and peeing so much the person in the cubical next to me called out to congratulate me on my long stream came back to me, and as it did a sudden moment of panic and fear.

What if the bedpan was not deep enough.

Bollucks.

Now if you are not a fan of toilet humor, toilet stories or other low brow attempts at making a funny, or if you have an angelic image of yours truly you would like to preserve, stop reading now.

Things do get worse.

I thought about not posting this, not writing it to begin with but life is often messy, and I figure I am only embarrassing myself, and life writing is about writing about life – good bad or otherwise.

So here goes.

By the time Julie came back I was sitting in a bed pan of my own pee.

I had well and truly outdone myself this time round.

Stomach muscles engaged I was resting lightly on the brown paper bowl in fear I would fall too deeply into the pool of my own urine and tip it everywhere.

I need not have feared, that happened anyway.

For when poor Julie came to take away the pan and empty it, it was so full she couldn’t prevent it from tipping and sloshing and spilling drops – well more than drops – of urine onto my hospital gown and sheets. And yes, I had been sitting in it.

I was mortified.

Julie drew the curtains around my bed, blocking out the family visiting the only other patient in the six bed ward, but they had seen enough anyway. They had seen Julie come in with the bed pan, only for her to return later with a bucket of hot water, soap and a set of new bed sheets.

Like a child once again in nappies I was stripped, bathed, and changed into my own pajamas. The bed was stripped and new sheets put on me. Julie remained professional the entire time, as I lay there red faced, dignity gone as she washed my back and butt, and wondered if this is how the elderly felt when they too were unable to bath themselves.

This is why I only use toilets. I thought as Julie finished up, smile on her face and told me not to worry, it happens all the time.

As the curtains were opened and the family opposite glanced my way, I wished for two more of the blue pills that would space me out so I could forget this moment ever happened.

An hour or so later, when I needed to relieve myself again, Julie returned smile on face, wheelchair in front of her, and said she had checked with the orthopedic surgeon, I could get out of bed.

Thank god.

Learning the Rough Way

I spent the next two days pre operation at work. Some thought I was crazy, coming into work before having an operation. Why wouldn’t I just take the days off? I would like to say it was the allegiance and dedication I felt to the job, and perhaps there was a little of that. I probably wanted a little bit of sympathy also from my colleagues. In truth though, the main reason I went back to work on Tuesday and Wednesday was to keep sane.

I was already worried about the boredom I would find at home waiting for me on the couch; between the remote control and the mound of cushions I would need to support me for the next few weeks.

I was grasping onto the remains of normality for at least the next two days. I needed people. I needed routine. I needed to keep busy.

The Monday after we left Dr Hau, me with a fake smile plastered on myself to try and pretend I wasn’t shocked or surprised at the length of recovery he had outlined for me, I called in a bigger favor from Laura.

Time to fit me with a cam walker, or what I affectionately (not) refer to as a moonboot.

Laura paid me a home visit that night and expertly fitted me with the shoe, showed me how to use it and left me with a few compression socks and bandages to use in future. Helpful tips on how to shower with one on (cover with garbage bag and use electrical tape) on sleeping (pillowcase to keep your sheets clean) and promises that eventually I would get used to it.

Her visit saved me not only a trip to the hospital the following day to get one fitted, but also saved me some much needed cash. At this point, after paying $100 for the Dr visit, $90 for the ultrasound and $98 for the Xray’s – all before operation and post operation care – I was starting to wonder why I had private health insurance in the first place and with election time looming, was almost half interested in the ‘policies’ our ‘level headed’ governments were trying to sell.

Her visit also meant I was free on Tuesday and could go to work and given it would be the last two days in a few weeks I could, I actually really wanted to.

Plus I knew what was coming. Weeks of alone time, getting bed sores and most likely putting on a few kilos and loosing the 15% body fat I at worked so hard at achieving.

I couldn’t drive. The moonboot had seen to that – for at least three months.  So not only was I couch bound, but housebound too. I had to rely on others for everything – something I’m not really good at.

Good old Dr Hau with his remarkable bedside manner had been very stern about the first two weeks post operation and their significant in helping me to repair. Leg raised, elevated to prevent swelling that could then rip at the stitches or pull at the recently attached tendon. No moving unless I had to. And by had to, it meant unless I had to go to the toilet.

Just sit on the couch, Dr Hau had said. Like this was easy.

I’m sure for some it would be, but I have never been a couch sitter for lengthy periods, unless I have lost myself in a novel or with my notebook and have successfully managed to lock out the outside world.

Just sit on the couch.

So no crossfit in the morning, no yoga at night.

Just sit on the couch.

So no cooking dinner or preparing meals.

Just sit on the couch.

So no driving, no grocery shopping, no walking the dogs.

Just sit on the couch.

So no working, no visiting friends, no brunch on Sunday mornings, no drinks Friday night.

Just sit on the couch.

So no dusting, no vacuuming, no mopping or sweeping or cleaning.

Just sit on the couch.

I was worried.

I may have a slight obsessive compulsive nature when it came to housework and if I spot dust on my dark chocolate brown coffee table can’t relax until I remove it. Couch time was only after dinner had been cooked and dishes had been washed and dogs had been fed and the next day smoothies had been made.

My day used to start at 5:15am and end at 11pm. That was going to be a lot of couch time.

At some point during a fit of self pity I reached out to Jarryd Roughead via twitter.

I never expected him to respond, although I hoped he did. After all he had done this same injury and had come back to play some of his best footy. He was in the lead for the Coleman medal, surely if someone could spark some sort of fight in me it was him. It was a simple message, and he responded not half an hour later.

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I’m not ashamed to say, this made my day.

It pepped me up when I needed it. It also reconfirmed to me what I heard from the surgeon, the doctor and everyone else who knew me well. I needed to stop, relax, and not try to rush this or do too much. I needed to literally, once my leg had been cut open and my tendon mop ends reattached, do nothing.

So that Tuesday and Wednesday, before my operation date, I went to work. I worked hard, not leaving until late on Wednesday night. I tried to handover what I could, tidy up other things and ensure my team had what they needed. I hobbled to the disabled loos on my own with my hired crutches and yet to be named moonboot and managed to master the art of carrying my drink bottle in a bag over my shoulder every time it needed filling.

I smiled and joked and laughed and told the story of my popping achilles about 20 times over and never once minded, because I knew I would miss this, this normality, when I was alone on the couch for two weeks.

And I may have, when the cab had dropped me home and I was alone for an hour before Joel came back from his day trip to Sydney, stumbled around the house trying to dust what I could, putting away clothes where I could and trying to arrange the study in some sort of order. Because this was also normality, and while everyone hates housework, I knew I would miss this also.