Home Sweet Home
Today marks the 10th day after my amputation surgery. After 5 days at the hospital I was deemed healthy, strong, and independent enough to handle myself (thank God - it only took 40 years to get here:-) . Pain was under control and besides the fact that I now only have one foot, all seemed satisfactory.
Adorned with love and care, my beloved Sonja and my parents had nurtured me every day with highly nutritious fresh vegetable/green juices, protein rich smoothies, and hearty breakfasts - all homemade and delicious. Avoiding hospital food was high priority. If any of you had the unfortunate experience of extended stay in a hospital and had your share of bedside catering food you'd know what I'm talking about. Although they try their best, hospital food is not designed to aid your healing. In fact it may slow it down and even cause unwanted complications. Nutrition has been a focal point on my journey and continues to be one. Food is medicine and what we fuel are bodies with has direct effect on our wellbeing.
I have been a vegetarian for almost 15 years in total (with a few diversions along the way). Nutrition has played a major role during my healing process. This is a subject worthy of its own space so I will address it in detail later on. For now I would say that I have fully embraced the saying - "you are what you eat".
So with a full belly, an official signed hospital release form, supported by my trusty crutches and a bandaged residual limb (what an odd name - I want to find a different one, something nicer...), I head to Home Sweet Home! There's nothing like Home, your bed, your space, your things, your family. No more hustle and bustle that hospital life provides... just peace and quiet.
My beautiful daughters came over, this was the first time I had seen them since my operation. The youngest had no issues what so ever with my 'new appearance' and just cruised through as if nothing changed. It was a little different with my eldest, she was anxious and afraid, not really sure what to expect and how it will all look like. Eventually she got over her fear and once we hugged, everything went away. Dad is the same Dad, nothing has changed, just one foot missing but everything else is absolutely as it was.
The next day, I suspected that a local infection may have reared its ugly head right under the incision line at the front of my stump. It didn't look good at all, the edge had turned black and it looked like the area didn't receive any blood supply. So here it is, all started amazingly well (I even received the dubious title of "fastest amputee recovery the hospital ever had") and as soon as you think everything is 'on track' - you get a reminder that life just doesn't work that way.
Was I concerned? Was I afraid of possible complications? You bet! This came after I did my best to be proactive and reduce chances of infection as much as I could. Did this infection happened during surgery? maybe. Did I want to blame someone, maybe it's my fault, the doctor's? It doesn't matter! The question was: do I react to this from a fearful, scared place or do I take a deep breathe, reconnect, and trust that it will be ok. Now, don't get me wrong, this is not 'wishful thinking' 'lovey dovey' everything will be ok, just stay positive mode. No, this is a serious medical condition that requires medical attention ASAP! I immediately scheduled an appointment with my surgeon for the next day and now had to wait. And here they are, all the daunting thoughts came rushing in: what if it's a serious infection? Will it spread? Will I end up at the hospital again? Will they need to intervene, why did this happen? So as I breathe deeply, I decide not to react from an unconscious place, but respond from a place of awareness and connection. Will it make the infection go away? I doubt that... Will it allow me to get some sleep tonight and handle this differently - I hope so! Once again I'm tested (like we all are all the time) and the more frequent these moments reveal themselves, the more practice time I get.
It seemed like the longest night and even longer day until we arrived at Dr. Viskontas office. He opened the dressings, looked at it from all angles and then said "I've seen this before, it's not ideal but not too bad". Indeed the area hasn't received enough blood supply and some of the skin will come off, but overall it should be ok over time. Whew, what a relief - thank you.
Then night time arrived and next set of challenges arrived, throughout the day my nerve pain levels continued to increase substantially, phantom pains, shooting pains, burning pains - the whole enchilada! This came after I made a huge mistake where I decided to reduce my pain medication drastically by half and not use any nerve pain control meds... A big NO NO!
Ok - lesson learned - got back on all my prescribed meds and hope for the best. In excruciating pain I lay in bed, now is the time to use some of the techniques I learned and practiced for so long. I began my pranayama breathing and really concentrated on the leg and directing pran in and out. I noticed a subtle shift in pain levels, more focused and isolated.
From that point on I drifted between pranayam, mantras, meditation and sleep for 5 hours. Over time I was able to observe the pain from outside my body and the experience was beyond words.
I was able to isolate each nerve and had a conversation with each one. Mainly I tried to explain to these nerves what happened and describe our new condition. I tried to connect and work on new nerve endings in my stump and shift them from firing all the way to the foot which is no longer there to stop closer to the new stump edge. This combined with pain killers and the new nerve control medicine did something. Pain levels were substantially lowered and I felt energized.
It held well throughout the day, but as night time approaches I can feel one of the nerves is still out of control and shooting pains are back in that area, well another talk is in place.
Will keep updating soon
Be well and all the best
Welcome to the other side
Hello dear friends,
First I would like to start with a general update as many of you have asked how am I doing.
I'm doing really well:-) I had no expectations going in and didn't try to figure out the outcome or how I would feel. I totally surrendered and allowed life to unfold without me getting in the way.
So here I am 3 days after, and my recovery is beyond normal...
The all mighty has graced me with a remarkable start to this new stage of my journey.
I feel good, already had my first hike in the hospital :-), hoping on my left leg using crutches, and overall doing pretty well
For those of you who are interested I wrote a detailed description below sharing in greater detail the day prior, the day of and the day after the operation.
The day before my operation we returned home from beautiful Tofino on Vancouver Island in British Columbia after 4 gorgeous days spent with my wonderful family.
This vacation / relaxation time was very beneficial and allowed us to unwind and enjoy Mother Nature and each other's company in a sweet relaxed way.
Upon our return I had to say my last farwell to my two beautiful daughters as they were picked up by their mother. I will see them again after the operation when I return home.
Saying goodbye was extremely emotional and very difficult. With tears in my eyes and a chocked throat I gave them a big hug told them how much I love them and tried to keep myself together.
It was heart wrenching.
I completed my last preparations, such as installing a hand grip bar in the bathtub, adjusting a portable shower stool, packing a bag for my stay with books, music, extra clothes, toiletries etc.
it's a strange time as I tried to 'finish' things knowing that I'll return home with some new mobility challenges so I tried to close different loose ends related to work, banking, bills and a large 'To Do' list that just kept growing, so at one point I just let it all go. There's time for everything and I'm sure I'll find ways to deal with it later.
Before bedtime I did a series of pranayam (Yogic breathing technique) exercises and meditated with my beloved Sonja.
Emotions skyrocketed as we both realized that the day has come - here it is, next morning is just a few hours away.
Last preparation was to wipe my body with Antiseptic Body Cleansing Washcloths. It should aid with reducing the risk of skin infection at the hospital.
Quick note about hospital infections:
this is a very serious situation, post surgery infection rates are very high and cause serious complications. If you're scheduled for an operation I highly recommend you speak with your health care provider to learn what they do to reduce this risk.
I used these wipes again the morning of my operation too - its important to be proactive towards your health to reduce risk as much as possible, you can do it and I strongly encourage it.
The day of my operation
We woke up at 4am. I managed to get some sleep and awakened with mixed emotions. On one hand I was ready, but nothing can really prepare you for something like this. There was no doubt or fear, just a heavy feeling of sadness.
I have ventured into uncharted waters many times before but this time I had to fully trust the process and surrender like I never have before.
Once again I did my pranayam routine (this time I found it very challenging to complete, my lungs and heart felt tight). we meditated together for a short while.
It's so hard to describe the emotions that came up, I can only say that at this point I had to master everything I learned and really internalize it.
Understanding that I am not the body and separate from oneself bodily part are two different things.
This is by far, my most challenging time.
However, at the same time I felt so connected, guided and protected - this provided me with so much peace and acceptance - I am eternally grateful.
The drive to the hospital was quiet, we didn't say much. Conversation was about directions on how to get from there back home as my parents will use my car for the next few days and this area is new for them.
Arriving at the hospital I went directly to patient registration and from there straight to pre op preparation.
I'm the first in the OR, scheduled time is 07:45. Operation should take about 2 hours.
I remove my clothes and slip into a fashionable gown, green smurf like socks and blue slippers - the hospital Armani line at its best.
Sathie, a sweet nurse inserts an I.V into my vein (why do they all poke at the same place?), some last paperwork to sign and I'm ready!
Tears run down my face as I say my last goodbyes to my parents and Sonja.
Emotions are high, this is it, in a few minutes My right foot will be separated from my body forever!!!
My heart races and I breathe deeply.
Secured in my bed I'm rolled away to the pre-operation waiting area.
Here I am introduced to the nurses that will aid the surgeons, I meet with the anesthesiologist and we discuss my options:
Epidural partial anesthesia (from the hips down) combined with sedation
Local nerve block either one injection that will last 24 hours or a catheter inserted in the main nerve that will stay for several days.
I choose full anesthesia with nerve block catheter - no reason to be awake during this and the nerve block should last longer than a local injection.
A note about Synchronicity:
At this hospital there were only 2 anesthesiologists that are qualified to perform the catheter nerve block. It requires a highly trained professional as they need to find the nerve with an ultrasound machine and insert the catheter in a very specific way.
Originally they were not scheduled to work on the day of my operation, but with divine guidance they were both called in that day and I had the fortune to have them on my team of professionals - so blessed and guided - thank you!
Another synchronicity moment (twice in a row now - how lucky am I?)
After I interviewed 5 different prosthetists in my area I chose to work with Scott Hedlund a Certified Prosthetist from Russell Prosthetics. I have to say that all of them are great and very professional, but I felt a special connection with Scott and decided to work with him. He's innovative in his approach and open to try new systems and techniques.
A few weeks before my operation Scott told me about a special vacuum based rigid dressing made by company named Ossur. This dressing is designed to reduce swelling of the risidual limb and may take off 6 to 10 days of healing time. He learned about it during a seminar he took in Sweden. Apparently they have used this system in Europe for the last 5-6 years with great success, but for some reason they don't use them here in Canada.
Scott was able to get one for me - this is the first time it will used in Western Canada (and perhaps in Canada) - I'm happy to be the first 'guinea pig' using it here.
So here we go, they roll me to the operating room, I'm introduced to the other professionals in the room and meet with my surgeon, Dr. Viskontas.
I request to have my foot cremated and they made the appropriate arrangments (my request is not religious based but spiritualy based, I'll tell you more about my intentions and plans about the ashes in a separate post) .
I lay on my stomach as they identify nerve location and insert the catheter, then I turn on my back, a surge of heat runs through my veins and... Lights out
Two hours later I slowly wake up in recovery. Monitors and beeping sounds bring me be back to reality.
First thing I do is take a big breathe and remove my blanket off my leg...
Not sure how I'll feel seeing it for the first time I open my eyes and look at a white plastic dressing that ends just below my knee.
Wow, my foot is gone!!!
A deep breathe in... and out came a huge sigh of relief...
This was completley unexpected and
I know this may sound odd but this is how I felt right there and then.
It felt as if a huge weight has been lifted, an anchor that held me down was released - I felt complete and in peace.
As I write this down I'm still in awe of how I feel. This is truly amazing and I truly feel guided and protected.
As days go by I have a stronger feeling of connection and acceptance, deep inside me it feels right.
My healing journey of 2.5 years has shifted and a sense of transition is everywhere.
Part of my extensive preparation was to learn how to use visualization and make it part of my tool kit.
I must say that I didn't know if this will work or not but I allowed myself to follow through. During the last 3 months leading to my operation I visualized myself in different situations, from waking up in recovery to walking with crutches, working at home, going to the bathroom, using the shower etc etc.
I have to say that it worked remarkably well!
I woke up and looked down and it felt as if I have seen this before, no surprises or anything like that.
I stayed in the recovery room for 5 hours (normal recovery time is 2-3) apparently my breathing rhythm and oxygen level where fluctuating too much. They say it can happen after full anesthesia so I was connected to an ECG machine and monitored for the next 4 hours.
After one hour things seemed to get back to normal but they insisted that my breathing rate of 6 breaths a minute and a heart rate of 44 is way too low.
It should be in the average range of 10 breathes a minute and at least 55 BPM.
I tried to explain that I trained in pranayama for many months and this is my normal resting breathing rate and so is my resting heart rate (which has always been low, just like my father's and my brother's).
But my pleads were to no avail. They were convinced something is wrong.
Throughout this time my family stood still at the waiting room anxious to hear what was going on. Unfortunately they weren't updated on my situation until I got out.
I can't imagine how they felt.
5 hours later I was rolled out to my room accompanied by my family.
I was so happy to see them!
I would like to use this opportunity to reach out to all of you who have held a beautiful healing space for me and supported my family in such a beautiful way - thank you so much!
It takes a village to go through something like this and exit on the other side as I did.
I feel your support energetically and I have no doubt that is it a tremendous part of my healing and well being - I can't thank You enough.
Off to bed I go, I'll try to post again in the next few days.
Love you all
I write to you humbled, overwhelmed and filled with gratitude.
Your amazing support, healing wishes and love have filled my heart and touched me deeply.
Please see this as a personal note from me to you for your beautiful notes and messages (I would love to respond to each and everyone one of you personally, but it would take several days...
My heart is full and my soul elated - thank you all from the bottom of my heart, I felt your energy supporting me throughout the day and you truly held a strong healing space that has supported me, Sonja and my family in a powerful and beautiful way.
I awakened with a tremendous feeling of relief, peacefulness and acceptance.
I feel as if a powerful part of my journey has ended and a new one begun.
I have prepared for so long and visualized myself after the operation in a way that made me feel as if I've been here before.
Now begins a new chapter of healing,
Which will present new challenges and I'm sure will have its own ups and downs.
I carry your loving support with me as I embark on this new adventure.
Grateful to have you in my life.
Love you all