It's been a long road. If you aren't following me on Facebook, you probably don't know what the last year has been like. It was a difficult year.
First, in July 2018, I had to put my dog, Sweetpea, to rest. She was 14 years old and had been in decline for a year. I got her from a rescue group when she was 10 months old, in 2004, and she had been the best companion ever. The decision was relatively easy - she had been in pain and was, at the time, in considerable pain. The actual act was heart-wrenching. I put some pictures of her at the bottom of the My Story page.
Later that month, I had my left hip replaced. At first everything seemed great, but then I developed a complication. The stem, which goes into the femur, subsided. It happened several times, eventually leaving me about half an inch shorter on that leg.
Just when I was getting around and had returned to work, I fell. I landed squarely on my left knee and my femur cracked, about 3 or 4 inches above the knee. I knew it immediately (not the first time I broke a femur). Paramedics. Surgery the next day. More rehab. It was especially difficult because I couldn't put any weight on my left leg. As a result, my right hip was bearing nearly all my weight (with the use of a walker or platform crutches, of course). Six weeks in a skilled nursing facility until I could begin putting weight on it.
That was November 26, 2018. Just before my fall, I had begun having issues with my spine again. I had been through a laminectomy and fusion (T2 to T5) in 2008. Now, the stenosis was back, this time more significant and at T5-T6. After the femur fracture and repair, I focused on getting stronger so I could prepare for the massive spinal surgery that lay ahead.
In April 2019, I had the third surgery in a 9 month period. And this one was the most difficult of my life. The surgeon cut away the bone material that had grown over the fusion from 2008. In his surgical notes, he stated that the procedure took twice as long as expected because that bone growth was so significant. Then, he performed the laminectomy of T5 through T9 and placed a new fusion rod from T2 to T10.
I spent 3 long nights in ICU. I could not sleep for 80 hours. I could rest, and get very close, but I could not achieve REM sleep. On the third day, they took me off the high dosage of steroids and I was finally able to sleep. Three more nights in a regular room, and then 10 days at skilled nursing. I came home from the hospital and told my brother that I didn't need him to come stay with me. Almost immediately, I regretted that decision. It was difficult to care for myself, but we had made all the necessary adaptations (and my girlfriend was a tremendous help when she could visit) and I managed.
In late June or early July, I started physical therapy three times a week for a few weeks. My strength grew considerably. I returned to work on July 26 - and was so happy to be back! It felt great to get out and be around people again after almost a year of near isolation at home and limited social interaction.
Well, today is just under 5 months post surgery. I'm feeling stronger and better than I have in a long time. Two days ago, I took a walk of approximately 0.4 mile - wearing my back brace for support. Today, I walked approximately half a mile without my back brace. My muscles are getting stronger and my stamina continues to increase.
I've enrolled and am taking an "Intro to Cinema" class at a local community college. I've traveled to Atlanta to see my best friend. My girlfriend is busy with her college classes, but we are planning some kind of adventure to celebrate our birthdays together.
And I know I'm feeling more empowered because I am once again planning a trip around the world, for later in 2020. Make t-shirts for my trip. Work on my book. Thinking about what a non-profit would look like (to encourage people to understand their own power).
It feels so good to feel this way again. I've missed it. Stuck at home for a year was depressing. My thinking shrunk. Wonderful people in my life encouraged me, but when your challenge is to walk with the aid of a walker or crutches, it's easy to find yourself thinking in small terms. I need to think big!
Interestingly, The Magic of Thinking Big author David Schwartz was the speaker at an orientation function for my first quarter in college, way back in 1984. His words were inspiring, and I've always loved his book. To me, thinking big is the only way to think Why think small or mundane? I have power; do big things with it!
I want to write a book, maybe write a screenplay. Travel around the world. Start a non-profit and share my insights. Inspire people. Connect with people. Live a big, happy life! And finally, it feels like these things are possible again!