This past Monday, I had my first post-operation follow-up appointment. It wasn’t with my surgeon, who I have, so far, talked to for perhaps three minutes on the day of the operation. On that day, the orthopedic surgeon showed up with about a dozen others (Ohio State is a teaching hospital/medical program) in green scrubs. Barely making eye contact, the surgeon explained how there would be two incisions to set the tibia with “hardware” inserted into my leg, and that the surgery should talk about two and a half hours.
I’ve never spoken to him again.
The nurses and physician’s assistants at Ohio State have been godsends. They’re the ones focused on patient care, on the day-to-day of managing pain and medications and mobility, patiently answering my questions and providing me the information I didn’t even know to ask. So I was very happy that this week, I got meet my PA, a man named Matthew, who would deliver the verdict on the current state of my recovery.
With a 2:30 pm appointment on Monday, my wife and I took a Lyft over to the ortho clinic. I impressed a kid at the entrance by zipping right by him on crutches (“Whoa, you’re fast!” he said) and heading over to check-in. We didn’t have to wait long. The nurse gave my leg a once over. The incisions look great (as far as incisions go) and she said that she would remove my sutures at the end of my appointment. She asked about my pain and flexibility, and I explained how most of the pain I’m experiencing is on the inside of my leg where the ankle and tibia connect. She took some notes, and about twenty minutes later, the PA showed up.
The physician’s assistant is Matthew. I had spoken to him the week before when I had called with some questions about treating my leg (how do I properly clean it?) and how it looked (swollen, including a massive blood blister), and when I called him–not once, but twice–he always called back and then, without being in a rush, answered all my questions and explained his thinking on treatment and what my body was going through. I felt so much better talking to him. And, in person, it was more of the same compassionate care.
I had a list of questions saved on my phone, and Matthew answered all of them. My wife’s questions too. He laughed a bit, appreciated my humor, walked through what I had experienced, was experiencing, and would experience during this recovery. There was a lot, but here it is in short. He helped change my mindset. Rather than thinking of the pain as “OMG, what’s wrong with my tibia?” he got me thinking of the pain as “This is the recovery process of a trauma, and your muscles need to work.”
The body can really atrophy in a very short period of time. Matthew encouraged me to start moving my leg; I have no cast, no swelling or tenderness, and all my vitals indicated that I was feeling great. He gave me a scrip to begin physical therapy, and in the meanwhile, to do what I can to move my right leg: knee bends, ankle circles, hamstring stretches, and so forth. Nothing strenuous. Nothing weight-bearing (I’m still seven weeks away from that). Just little things to keep my body sharp.
And, simple as it sounds, that change of mental focus has done wonders for my mood. I’ve been like a Labrador with a fresh steak bone. I’m just like WOOT! ever since. Even though I’ve had a positive mindset about this whole thing, let’s be honest: pain is emotionally exhausting, physically debilitating, and very difficult to fight through. The encouragement of my PA was just the wind I needed in my sails to get through this week. I’m still pretty wiped out in the evenings and by no means am I pain-free or over the hump.
But, yeah: better every single day.