** All underlined places are for those looking just for needed facts about this surgery.
Day 7: My first day back at work.
Again, it takes a village. I had to wake up at 5:35am, 20 minutes earlier than I usually do for work (I am a middle/high school teacher — Dance, Theatre, and Journalism). At 6:55am, as my mother was helping me put on my socks and slippers (easier than sneakers for now), my boyfriend appeared at my door. He grabbed my lunch, backpack, water bottle, and my heart (because I am so grateful to have his support).
Hobbling into school is definitely going to build my forearms. Thankfully, for now, I am only attending school for three days (W, T, F). Come Monday, I will be in West Palm, FL, for the next surgery.
I am on the second floor, along with my boyfriend (funny enough, our classes are next to each other). It’s helpful that he is next door to me. He aided in my first-day-back set up, especially moving plugs to be accessible.
Throughout the day, I felt okay pain wise. This brace is horrible for when you’re sitting. It sits right up against one of my sutures. I just unwrapped it after my first period class. I also tried doing my little exercises throughout the day — foot pumps, and quad and glute clenches. I also got up during my third period class and hobbled around the class to get my leg moving and blood circulating.
One thing that is not leg related, but part of my journey, is my skin factor. Right now, my flare is killing me. Going through TSW (Topical Steroid Withdrawal) can be absolutely exhausting. So now, I am slowed down by my leg and still having to face the flare music. It makes it that much more uncomfortable to deal with my ailing skin. And I genuinely, without hyperbole or over-exaggeration, would take this surgery pain over TSW pain any day of the week. My leg annoyances and knowing I have an uphill battle facing my future therapy protocol is nothing compared to the deep-rooted trauma that is Topical Steroid Withdrawal. However, it’s a damn forceful teacher and has given me the strength to look anything in the face with confidence that I can overcome it.
Once I was chauffeured home by my beau, I was pleasantly, but not surprised, greeted with a spotless home. My mother, before she took off back to her home up north, made sure everything was in order for me these next few days. Having that extra, motherly touch is a Godsend.
I will say, as nice as it is to have quite time, it is tremendously cumbersome to be on your own with a bum leg. Time is eaten away by all the hobbling… and tedious leg control… and balancing acts… and not being able to carry food around in a normal fashion. It’s really forced me to slow down, literally.
Thankfully, I have friends with hearts of gold. A dear friend of mine got Covid tested (negative, woot) and came over with her daughter to treat me to a home made meal. Her company lifted my spirits. Getting to vent and get things off my chest with no judgement or pause is medicine. Plus, I am in a vulnerable state with my skin. As I ate, my chin began to peel itself. Every time I eat, whether that’s lunch or dinner time, the skin near my mouth can’t seem to hold itself together. It becomes too stiff and tight that mere chewing or laughter sends it into a stripping spree. She makes me feel worthy of love despite all these crazy imperfections. She even brought me a gift that told me, in words, how frequently I need to remind myself that I am a w e s o m e.
As soon as they left, I had my weekly Women’s Circle meet up online. I kid you not, I only knew the host and one other TSW friend at the beginning. Now, I feel like these women are a part of my weekly ritual. They share their personal goals and dreams, as well as laughter and tears. I look forward to their connection every week, especially the little lessons I learn.
The Women’s Circle ends at 9:30pm for me. Usually, I can get everything squared away by 10pm for bed. Here comes the eye-roll. I barely got to bed by 11pm since I am a crippled, skin-soothing mess — not to mention that even though I have a to-do list next to where I sleep on the couch (highly recommend if you are alone), I forgot one major thing before getting myself tucked away…
The damn lamp light was still on.
I had to unstrap my leg, uncover myself, shimmy to the edge of the couch, reach for the crutches, hobble around the coffee table and ice machine, pull the light switch, hobble back around the coffee table and ice machine, lean the crutches, gently lower myself to the couch, maneuver my body back past my CPM machine, re-strap my leg, cover myself, and make sure I was back to my semi-comfortable position that I had in the first place.
Day 8: Sleep is an illusion now. No sleep aid to lull my mind into forgetting how uncomfortable by body is having to sleep on my back. Luckily, it was a half day today at work. My boyfriend picked me up, rode the elevator up to our floor, and made it to 11:45am in a breeze.
That morning, before work, I had to change my dressing for the first time. The spot is pretty yellow, which is normal. It is part of the bruising cycle. What I wasn’t sure was normal is the fact that my left foot was a bit more red in the morning than my left.
One lovely part of the school day was the care package from my amazing and beautifully pregnant Activities Director. It had chocolates, Twizzlers, a notebook, a Baby Yoda mug, fun gel pens, and heartfelt Get Well Soon cards. Some were pretty funny.
Then, at 3pm, I had physical therapy. Inquisitive, as she passively moved my leg around, I asked about scar tissue. I know it’s a vital but painful part of the healing process and didn’t want to shy away from it. She was adamant that once the incision healed, I touch it. She says the area can become unbearably sensitive for some people if they don’t stimulate the area. We only did a very light workout as well — ten minutes on the bike with no resistance. It was on the bike that ensured I wouldn’t go past 90 degrees.
My father brought me home afterward. He humbly took all of my paperwork to get my temporary decal – it’s $15 in Florida. The permanent one is free – how backwards is that?
My boyfriend ended my day on a high note, coming over with dinner (Thursdays are date night). He didn’t feel it was safe for me to be alone, so he even temporarily moved in for a few days. He slept beside me on the couch, ignoring the much more comfortable bed in the next room. “I sleep where you sleep.” Swoon.
Oh, and we watched Angels and Demons! I am totally sucked into those types of films and books. I may have enjoyed it more than the first movie, DaVinci Code.
Day 9: I can not stress enough how badly I am sleeping. Every night seems to top the former. My boyfriend and I were up from 2-3am together. There was no way my sit bones and pelvic muscles were going to chill. Overall, about 3.5 hours of sleep.
My skin, as well, is on the sleep game — every day, just worse and worse. My arm was atrociously flaring. It’s embarrassing, but I tried to hype myself up knowing I had one more day left of school.
Alas, when we got to school, the elevator was broken. Imagine how thrilled I was to climb up those flights of stairs, tired and achey. My boyfriend made sure I was safe. I asked for some ice during the day, as well, and made sure to get up periodically from my seat. It’s important to move around. I forgot to mention that my physical therapist said sitting for too long at a 90 degree angle could inflame the joint and possibly leave me with tendonitis.
Later that day, after a grueling sit-down shower/wash off since my skin was so tight and uncomfortable, my boyfriend packed up my CPM machine (yup, still doing that) and whisked me off to his place for Cantina Friday. We (which is now just my boyfriend and his roommate) make pizzas and watch whatever Marvel/Disney+ show is currently airing. This week was the premiere of Falcon and Winter Soldier.
By 9pm, I was done. My skin was aching, my leg and hip muscles were aching, and, mentally, I was aching. I didn’t even want to look in a mirror anymore. My boyfriend kindly saddled me back up in the car with my CPM machine during the Heat halftime and shuffled us back to my place. Once again, we both got ready for bed on the couch.
Day 10: So this night, instead of allowing sleep to beat the both of us, I got up at 4am and crutched my way into my bedroom. I wedged a pillow under the corner of my left leg to keep it from moving and slept for a couple more hours. It still sucked, but better than nothing. My boyfriend left early in the morning for a planned golf outing.
I needed some alone time. I needed some time to let it out. People have told me I am strong going through all of this, but that’s not what I am being. I have no choice but to keep going — there is a difference. I don’t think I deserve the “strong” title at the moment.
Later on, I had a Quinceñera to go to that I had choreographed for a former student. I was thankful to have my boyfriend go with me, as well as have a friend/former colleague sat at my table. Of course, the elevator didn’t work there, so I had to brave the stairs once again.
I tried enjoying the evening as best as possible, but I couldn’t help feeling inadequate. My skin was peeling so much and I wasn’t able to actually dance. My boyfriend looked so handsome and did a little groove with me for a quick minute as I waited to say goodbye. One kid, getting excited, was rolling on the floor and almost used me as a bowling pin.
On the way home, we both chatted about our potential futures in the event industry, owning our own banquet hall and hosting parties. It could be seen as frivolous, but talking about our future makes me happy and gives me hope past the gloom I currently feel.
Despite both of us wanting to hit the hay, I used my machine one last time while he did a load of my laundry that I needed for the following day — packing up to head to West Palm Beach.
Day 11: We both slept in my bed. Just having the person you love laying next to you helps. However, my skin didn’t show it — it was scary miserable looking into the mirror that morning.
My boyfriend left around 6am for a family event. I had two things on my list– pack and use my machine by 1:15pm. I thought that wouldn’t have been such a feat. My body killed all motivation.
Time was racing by on the clock while I was being slow as molasses. And, packing was a nightmare. I thought I could do it on my own (even my thoughts are stubborn), but man was I kidding myself. It took me forever using my crutches as chopsticks, lugging things back and forth, and willing myself to keep going in all my anxiety.
When my father arrived, he gave me a hand doing a few extra things before loading up my goods. My nerves grew with each piece of luggage making it’s way to the truck. But, there was no stopping the process. Soon enough, we were on the road to West Palm Beach.
When we arrived, we found my mother parked in a sketchy part of town. She hadn’t realized that she booked a small apartment in a very unnerving neighborhood. We went inside to find gross couches and an aesthetic not matching the abode’s advertisement. Unfortunately, we ended up abandoning the sofa stained duplex for a La Quinta Inn. Home sweet home. Being someone who needs their space, this small room was surely going to test that.
Day 12: Today started off on the wrong foot without us even knowing.
I woke up at 5:30am, again, with lack of sleep. I did a warm cloth wash off using the tub faucet while sitting on the shower chair. I pulled myself together as best as possible, even put a bit of eye make on so I didn’t look like Death’s closest relative.
I had two appointments today — one with the surgeon, Dr. Feldman, and one with the hospital to get Covid tested and paperwork settled. We plugged in the address and it took us to the hospital. We went in and checked in. The girl kindly informed us that Covid tests usually weren’t done that early so there may be a small wait, but not to worry. My mother and I looked at each other wondering why we would have an appointment for that early if they didn’t usually do it at that time.
I was then called in by an older nurse and taken to a room where a lot of children were being kept in their own private sections with their parents. She sat me near the back and started asking me tons of questions — the pre-screening process. This time, however, I felt a bit bothered. They weren’t as comforting as my former hospital’s staff, especially with me skin. She called in one of the anesthesiologists who came to speak to me about my steroid allergy. Instead of it being a quick “you got it” conversation about my need to be cleared of any steroid use, there were a lot of questions. He then told me their usual anti-nausea treatment had a steroid in it. I just kept reiterating that I couldn’t use that one. He would then tell me they had many others that didn’t have steroids, so I nodded and agreed that those would be great to use. It was terror provoking, like it might not be adhered to if I didn’t constantly remind them to not use the one with the steroid.
As I got shuffled out of there, back to the outdoor corridor, my mom greeted me stating my phone had been going off. I got excited thinking it had to do with my two year anniversary of my documentary being released.
It was a phone call asking if I was going to show up to my appointment. I called the number back confused. My surgeon’s office told me I went to the wrong appointment first and that my surgeon was going to need to go into a surgery soon.
“But on my email it said to come to this address?”
“Yes, the hospital and the institute have the same address. I know, it’s confusing.” Uh, yeah.
So, I waited out near a bench for my mother to pull around. As I sat down on the car seat, a nurse sauntered out to quickly swabbed my nose for my Covid test. It was the most express Covid test I’ve ever taken – in and out. I didn’t complain.
At my surgeon’s office, I was able to see my surgeon’s assistant. I asked a lot of questions and, frustratedly, didn’t hear answers I enjoyed soaking into my already troubled body.
After the surgery, the average time in the hospital is 2 days. I knew that one. She then said there is one thing I need to know about the surgery — they will need to cut into a nerve in my leg. I may or may not experience a burning sensation in my leg, which they could assuage with a medication (most stay on it for a few months if the pain is too bad). However, the feeling, whether the numbness or the burning, could last months to a year.
Also, because my sleep has been so horrible, I asked about my body positions. She said she’s fine with me sleeping on my stomach. I need to speak with my former surgeon about it. She also added that maybe, because my muscles near my hips aren’t getting stretched and are fighting back at me, I could try letting my right leg drape over the side of the bed to get some extension in.
I asked her about my bowel movements and she said if I’ve been backed up, I definitely need to get everything out — magnesium citrate would help in this juncture. She also added that I would want to be using stool softeners and a fibrous diet after the surgery with the amount of drugs I would be on.
I would not be able to go back on my birth control for another 3 months after the surgery. Uh. Not happy about that one. But the next information made me even more depressed.
After the surgery, I would come in for a two week check up, then another four weeks after that, then another four-six weeks after that.
“The two week appointment would be to see how you are and to take out the sutures, which is simple, since they are dissolvable,” she states.
“And then I get off my crutches at my six week mark, correct?” I say rather confidently.
“You would most likely go from two crutches to one crutch for another six weeks.“
It’s like I got hit with a sledge hammer.
“Yeah, give or take. It depends on how you are healing.”
I had zero idea about the second six week portion on a crutch. She said we could play the “what if” game all day, but it’s as follows —
Six weeks on both crutches, 30lbs on the surgery leg (so, nothing– the leg is about that weight), and only passive movement (meaning my leg can’t move itself – I have to move it with my other arm or leg or another device). Then, four to six weeks on one crutch with 75lbs on the surgical leg. True physical therapy will happen after the first 3 months.
All of my joy left the room once I found out about that. I originally was told I’d get off crutches after six weeks. That meant walking by my boyfriend’s birthday (soon after the six week mark), plus fun times at the End of the Year trip my school is hosting (at a beach, fully paid hotel stay for two nights). It was a goal I had set my sights on, as well as others. Now, I’d still be on a crutch. I will be highly hindered in the sand, playing golf (for my bf’s bday), carrying stuff on my own, bending down, taking photos and video for my dance studio… crushing, crushing news.
Adding to the dismay, I asked about the scars/wound sites for scar tissue issues. During this next surgery, my current sutures will be taken out. At two weeks, which is Wednesday, I should be able to start looking into physical therapy for scar tissue massage. It’s going to hurt, but I want to get it done as soon as possible. The hiccup? Even though these sutures can be done within two weeks (possibly, depending on how they look), this new incision will be a four week healing process before scar tissue issues can be evaluated. I have 18 appointments left to use in my insurance and to use two to four of them just for scar tissue massages may not be the best idea. However, I will not be allowing scar tissue to settle. I’ll be asking my physical therapist about it.
Another predicament is sun exposure for the scars. I asked about the beach trip I am desperate to take, if anything for my soul to be uplifted, and I want to make sure I do what is appropriate to protect my incision areas. She said, for a year, I should keep them out of the sun. I could cover them with the special dressings I’ve been using, as well as use zinc oxide. The bandages aren’t water proof, but they could fool me — they stick on extremely well. There are some I found online however that I may try — Tegaderm Pad. She also informed that using things like Vitamin E and Mederma can help.
But! Sunshine is necessary and helpful for my bone healing. I need to take Vitamin D and Calcium, but getting 10-15 minutes of sun (particularly on the backs of my arms, she divulged) aids in bone formation.
The final thing I questioned was my “mechanical” leg parts — the screws. She said I will have six of them. Because of my smaller size, I may see one in certain positions, but I will absolutely feel them. It is something I will need to get used to over time. After 6-12 months, I will have them taken out — an outpatient procedure.
Although Feldman’s assistant was sweet, I left the appointment in abject sorrow. It’s hard to process it when I don’t have any alone time, and all I really wanted was a deep embrace from my boyfriend, the kind that places a healing salve on all of those broken places. I didn’t want to let him down on his big day and I hated knowing the weekend I have been dreaming of (for two years now) was being shattered — all by a crutch. Day by day is all I can do at the moment.
After the appointment, I went to get my nails done since they were atrocious. BIG THING: You can’t have your nails done for this surgery, unless you leave one pointer finger free of any polish. They need it all natural. So, I knew I’d need to keep my pointer finger free.
Let’s add more fuel to my misery fire.
The place my mother dropped me off at (so she could get me my magnesium citrate) crushed my soul further. My skin is a mess and it’s very obvious. My hands are one of the affected areas. The lead lady and male owner came over to me and immediately start scrutinizing over my hands. It was killing me. I’ll move on from this experience since it has nothing to do with my leg, but it’s available here on my skin blog post: Palimpsest.
Afterwards, we brought lunch back to the hotel and I was able to use my leg machine, eat, and take a 30 minute nap with my leg inside the machine. I had a parent/teacher conference afterwards on zoom. I kept my camera off to help with my anxiety.
Then, the magnesium citrate hit. Thankfully, I can say I was getting cleaned out for the rest of the night.
Day 13: Guys, my body has had enough. My butt bones and my contracted hip flexor muscles are killing me. I even snapped at my mother at 6:45am, hanging my right leg over the side of my bed, my leg involuntarily twitching in pain, since I wasn’t in the mood to discuss what I should and shouldn’t be doing to stretch out my irritated muscles. I just wanted to feel some sort of relief. My positivity bubble was bursting. I was done.
To add to the discomfort, I had to teach my classes from zoom. It wasn’t horrible, but I just wanted to sleep. I caught up on some grading for the last quarter of the year, not wishing to look at a piece of work until next week.
The CPM machine was picked up around 4pm. Buh-byeeee.
I had called my former surgeon that morning as well to see if I could sleep on my stomach from now on but no call back — figures.
The one thing that plagued me the rest of the night was my skin. Knowing I couldn’t moisturize before going in scared me. It’s one thing to deal with two surgeries on their own, but facccccck, adding my skin onto the matter was the tipping point.
Just note, when I write so much about my skin, not just my leg, I truly believe my stress over both is important to realize during my hip recovery. I am not able to solely focus on my leg, but must baby my largest organ going batshit crazy.
Wish me luck tomorrow 🙏🏻 9am arrival time. No food past midnight.