After the first week post-op, there were still a lot of highs and a lot of lows. However, the connecting thread seemed to be that as each day went by, I start feeling more and more like myself again. Like anything in life – it takes time. Sometimes the progress would come so slow that I wouldn’t even notice. But it’s amazing when all the sudden I was able to do something (without thinking about it) that I couldn’t do a week ago.
Day 9 – Something New
At physical therapy, the stationary bike was integrated into my visit as a warm up. The surgeon said that even from the first few days post-op, I would be able to substitute the stationary bike for time on the CPM machine. However, I felt so weak and stiff for those first days (not to mention I didn’t have a bike readily accessible) that I don’t think the bike would have been very productive.
I remember sitting at my last appointment pre-op, asking about how soon I could start integrating physical activity back into my daily routine. I was absolutely thrilled when the doctor told me that I could start biking (at zero resistance) beginning the day after surgery. At the time, I was thinking that I’d be able to use the bike as a work out. I figured that after all of these months injured and constrained to the bike, I would just continue on until I was ready to run again. Stupid, stupid, me. Riding a bike after surgery is completely different than riding a bike for exercise. The purpose is passive motion, not fitness. The funny thing is, you don’t even care anymore.
Just getting on the stationary bike was a challenge. It took a lot of maneuvering and hoisting myself up with my arms to actually get situated on the saddle. Actually riding the bike also turned out to be quite challenging – as I was barely peddling fast enough to keep the machine on and the physical therapist had to keep a separate timer for me. It absolutely killed me to watch the minutes tick on by and realize that I wasn’t even cycling at a 12 min/mile pace (for those of you who don’t bike- this is NOT FAST).
Depressing – a little. Lesson of the day: you can’t compare the past (in this case, the speed I used to be able to cycle at) with the present.
Passive motion biking is NOT the same as biking
Day 10 – Bored to Tears
The tenth day post-op marked the first day I remember really starting to feel like “myself.” I was actually extremely antsy and anxious to get up and get moving. For someone who can’t sit still (just ask my husband – I can’t ever just “be”), this marked a substantial improvement from the past few days.
The problem was that by this point I was left alone to manage myself during the day – and what I was able to manage was pretty much nothing! Typically, I’m a “bored eater” and at this point I would just have been chowing down on anything. This doesn’t happen when you’re on crutches, as moving from the spare bedroom where I had set up camp, to the kitchen, was enough of a journey in itself!
Naturally, after having an unseasonably cool summer, the weather was absolutely beautiful during this stretch of time and all I could do was look out the window. Trying to stay positive was essential to surviving this stretch.
Day 11 – Easy Does It
Day Eleven marked my first return to humanity. I attended my husband’s Crossfit competition for a few hours (with much assistance). It was bittersweet – it was fabulous to get out of the house for the first time and finally get some fresh air. However, watching people work out when you are hobbling around on crutches was difficult. I don’t think I had ever been so envious!
Another thing I started to realize was how the world is not set up for people with moving limitations (and how unaware people are of what it means to be partially immobile). Bags laying haphazardly everywhere. People who abruptly walk and stop. Doors that don’t open. Limited (and far) parking. Granted, this may not have been the best setting to use as a basis of comparison- but it really started to open my eyes. Thank God for having others who were willing to look out for me – because there would be no way I could have navigated on my own.
One thing that annoyed me was when people automatically assumed that my injury was from running. Coming from people I knew, this wasn’t offensive because it was a logical question. But when a complete strangers asked… I don’t know if I have a look that just screams out “runner” or what. And yes – while running may have sped up the process (in that because I had a misshapen bone, being active in any capacity would have caused greater wear and tear) running did NOT cause my injury!
Aside from my mini outing, another monumental event on Day 11 was climbing “Mt. Everest” (the stairs that lead up to my bedroom) and actually going to sleep in my own bed!
Day 12 – A Few Steps Back
Clearly I over did it on Day Eleven. At the time it didn’t seem like I was doing very much (essentially just alternating between sitting and standing with lots of assistance). But on Day Twelve my body was extremely angry with me. I guess transitioning from not moving for hours to moving more frequently really took a toll.
When I got home from that afternoon I was absolutely exhausted, but I didn’t realize the magnitude of the harm that I did until I tried to go to sleep that night. I woke at about 2:00 a.m. in excruciating pain. Because this was the first night I had made it up the stairs and back to the actual bed, I stirred restlessly because I didn’t want wake my husband up. I was in so much pain I couldn’t think straight. It almost felt as though gravity was crushing down on my hips, causing everything to ache. I eventually decided that it would be best to move back downstairs and set myself up on the recliner with the ice machine.
Upon waking, the entire next day I was incredibly achy and sore. Even though I felt okay crutching around the previous day – I think that all that activity really did a disservice to my body. I spent all day laying around – moving back into the ice/CPM/sleep routine. All of that boredom I had felt a few days prior completely dissipated with the pain.
Day 15 – Goodbye CPM Machine. You Will Be Missed.
It had been a battle to get insurance to cover the CPM machine in the first place, so when they finally agreed to cover it for two weeks I was ecstatic. However, the time flew by and soon I found myself saying goodbye. It was bittersweet because although I knew that the loss of the CPM machine marked a step closer to recovery, it was scary to disrupt the routine that I had created.
I think the scariest aspect was trying to make sure that I would still recover properly without a key piece of my recovery equipment. After spending three or more hours a day in the CPM machine, it seemed that there was a gaping hole in my recovery plan. While the bike was a an acceptable substitution, it also required substantially more effort.
A typical night in the CPM machine. Much more relaxing than the bike!
Day 16 – Little Victories
A week and a day post-op and I was finally allowed to add in more “substantive” exercises at PT (clamshells (without the band), bridges, steps, etc.). I was also able to ride the bike a little faster (10:14 mile down from 12:00 just a week ago). As pathetic as it may seem – I was very proud to take nearly 2:00 off my bike “mile” time. At that point, it was the only way I really had to measure progress!
Day 17 – First Post-Op Doctor Appointment
On Day 17 I had my post-op doctor appointment to have my stitches removed and to have the PA evaluate my progress. I arrived ridiculously early (my dad drove me to the appointment and he is obsessive about being on time). After my surgery, I made the mistake of forgetting to ask about accessible parking permit for my car, so we ended up having a bit of a trek from the parking garage into the doc’s office.
The PA told me that this was a very exciting day because the harsh restrictions would be lifted I would be allowed to start reintroducing regular movements “as tolerated!” This meant increasing the weight I was allowed to bear on my bad leg by about 25 lbs every 3 days until I was fully weight bearing. I was also cleared to attempt to do things that require bending (as long as I did it slowly) like putting on my shoes. What a game changer!
I also had a productive day taking care of things on my To-Do List. My dad had the entire day off work, so he was able to drive me around a bit to go to the DMV to get the handicapped sticker and to the bike store to get a skewer for the bike trainer.
However, once we got home and got the bike set up on the trainer, it turned out that this would not be an acceptable substitution this early in my recovery. The trainer was too high off the ground and was difficult to climb onto. The flexion, even on a traditional bike, was also still too great. Regular road bikes also have higher cross bars, which was nearly impossible to swing my healing leg/hip over to climb onto the saddle.
Day 18 – The Exercise Bike
After realizing that the trainer was not going to work and still having no replacement for the CPM machine, I decided that finding a cheap bike on Craigslist would be my best option. While I had a gym membership, I still was on crutches and unable to drive.
Luckily, exercise equipment is one of those things of which there is far greater supply than demand. While there is undoubtedly a bunch of junk to sort through, I found a great bike priced at just $125. After talking the seller down to $100, we had a deal and I had a new bike!
Buying the bike was the best decision I could have made. While nothing fancy, it was a bike that I was able to get on and off of without assistance. It was also incredibly convenient to be able to hop on and peddle at any time during the day. The worst part was simply the discomfort of trying to sit on it for prolonged periods of time, but I found that if I could distract myself with a magazine or a book time went by much faster.
Hands down, best purchase ever