No Pain, No Gain
I had minor foot surgery at the b1eginning of the month to correct a problem that was not considered “serious” and not required, but it was highly recommended because it corrected a problem that would have only gotten worse over time. The second toe on my right foot was completely bent over. This condition, hammer-toe, was particularly bothersome when I stood up as my toe was perpendicular to the floor. As a person who uses a wheelchair because of Friedreich’s Ataxia, I was safe and comfortable during the day in my wheelchair wearing shoes and socks. However, standing up, particularly in the shower when your toe is perpendicular to the floor, hurt when I put pressure on it. Upon standing, sometimes my leg would move involuntarily and required a rapid adjustment of my feet to try to regain balance. Therein lies the issue for me: as someone who relies on grab-bars and the like to stand, I can’t afford to have any involuntary, rapid adjustment of my feet. I often feel like a tightrope walker.
The actual surgery itself wasn’t bad, nor was it especially long. I had an IV with some type of anesthetic, and I remember my bed being wheeled into the operating room and seeing a few people getting various machines set up for the surgery. I woke up in the recovery room about half an hour later and they told me that the surgery had only taken about half an hour and that I had been asleep about half an hour after that. I had crackers, water, took a pain pill, and received my post-op instructions. They wrapped my foot and leg up to the ankle and, with a dressing on the toe, put a “boot” on my foot. This became my “shoe” for the next couple of weeks. The nurses assisted me in getting dressed (sweatpants are the easiest thing to pull over the boot I quickly learned) and helped me transfer back into my wheelchair.
Not to be a whiner, but the first few days were not great. I was in pain and groggy from the medicine. I spent most of my time in a chair with my foot up on the Ottoman and a pillow. I needed to keep ice on and off of it every 30 minutes and luckily my mother and others were around intermittently and willing to help me. It is hard enough to care for yourself and maneuver when you have a disability, but because I was a bit out of it from the pain medicine and transferring was difficult because of the boot, I accepted the help. I surrounded myself with a book, the remote control for the television, snacks and other necessities.
I didn’t try to take a shower for a few days and was able to maneuver, albeit much more slowly, in and out of the chair and in and out of bed. I did not go out of the house unless I absolutely had to (such as back to the doctor) and limited my movement. My balance was off because of the boot and it was not easy or practical to stand up. When I finally did take a shower, I had to put a plastic cover over my foot and lower leg. It made the shower floor like an ice-skating rink. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I slid to the floor on a couple of occasions and had a very hard time getting back into my wheelchair. But I managed and despite some cursing, aggravation and getting to bed really late, I made it through.
After two weeks and one day, I finally got the stitches out. I have been cleared to take a shower and wear shoes and socks and take off the boot. I have kept it on for two extra days just to make sure that the toe is healed. Now that the stitches are out, I can begin to resume a “normal” routine.
On the way home from surgery and throughout these weeks I have been thinking about this process. I admit, I was a bit worried about how I would manage with the boot, but at the same time I thought to myself that sometimes you just need to bite the bullet and put up with a little discomfort, be it physical or mental, in the short-term in order to reap long-term, benefits. It’s not as if I was in stupefying pain and required pain pills to function. While there was pain, it was tolerable and there was an end in sight. I did not have any type of life-threatening disease.
I also realize that I am fortunate enough to have the resources (meaning, insurance) to take care of the problem and my case was minor. I’m not trying to belittle the potential risks of untreated hammer-toe, especially for a person like me who cannot stand up without devoting at least 75% of my concentration to doing so. But in context, this was pretty minor surgery.
As I am approaching the end of my recovery, I am happy that I endured the pain for the gain of even footing. There were some tricky times throughout the process and in some instances major frustrations because of the extra limitations I had to endure. Hopefully this will all soon be in my rearview mirror and I will move forward and forget about the less-than-enjoyable parts of the process. But I won’t forget an important lesson that can benefit us all; keeping a positive mindset throughout this process was key. It would not have helped to worry endlessly before the surgery and during my recovery about everything that could go wrong, how uncomfortable I would be and how further disabled I would feel. Instead, I’m thinking about the future and how I will not have to any time soon (hopefully!) worry about falling down and seriously hurting myself because of my hammer-toe.