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When recovery is a test of character

Published January 25. 2014 09:01AM

Life has a lot of strange twists.

Last week I was writing about nursing home angels.

This week, if all goes according to plan, I'll be a patient in a nursing home.

When nothing I did could stop the pain from a tear of my gluteus medius tendon, I went to see an orthopedic surgeon.

Didn't like what he had to say so I went for a second opinion. Then a third. They all said the same thing: Only surgery would repair it.

"If you wait too long, not even surgery will help because there won't be enough tissue to attach it," said the last surgeon.

Faced with getting worse instead of better, I agreed to the surgery.

But then the doctor threw an unexpected curve ball. He said after three days in the hospital, I had to go to a nursing facility for two weeks of rehabilitation.

A nursing home! I almost jumped out of my chair. Nursing homes are for old people, right? How did I turn into one?

I've been warned recovery will be tough. Six weeks using a walker and three months of no weight bearing sounds like a lifetime for someone as active as I am.

"I can drive, right? I ask the doctor, thinking I can at least drive to the library for a steady supply of books.

He looks at me as if I'm dense. "Of course not. No weight bearing means no driving," he says.

I'm a bit dazed when I leave his office after I agree to the surgery.

What's the worst part, I ask myself. What bothers me the most?

To me, almost as bad as the long recovery time of "doing nothing" is the fact that I have to go to in-patient rehab for two weeks.

Overflowing with worries and anxiety, I knew I needed to talk though my fears with someone - someone who didn't say, "Oh, don't feel like that. It will be fine."

I am filled with faith and I firmly believe Jesus is always with me. But sometimes I need Him to send one of his people. And through experience I know He always does.

In church on Sunday, I prayed fervently that Jesus would send the right person to ease my anxiety. My prayer was quickly answered.

After church, I had an appointment to check out another nursing home. Much to my delight, it was more like a country club setting than a nursing home. The rehab section was in its own wing and everything about it seemed "just right." There are plenty of on-site medical specialists, including a wound specialist.

The nursing supervisior took me for a tour, showing me the workout room and was forthright but upbeat about what I could expect during rehab. By the time she was finished, I had more than confidence in the place I had downright enthusiasm.

I honestly can't wait to get there. First, I have to get through the surgery and the hospital stay without anything going wrong.

I'm still strung out worrying about my lifelong inability to handle any pain pills, much less the morphine they say they I will need. I turn into a sick, limp puppy unable to lift my head when I've tried pain meds in the past.

To tell the truth, I'm so worried I can't sleep at night.

I turned to Scripture to find solace and was taken with this verse

"Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your lifespan? O, you of little faith."

Can I be a person of faith and still worry? I struggle with that question now but I know that eventually fortitude will kick in and my qualms will be replaced by calm.

My wise friends tell me this experience will be a test of character.

"I found out when we go through experiences like your long recovery after surgery we never know what we will learn about ourselves and what others will realize about us," said my friend Karen.

Ohhh, I believe that. I believe this will be a teaching experience, both for me and for my husband of four years. It will teach both of us how strong our relationship really is.

I already know it will teach me humility. I always have been the caretaker, never the one who needs care.

It is extremely difficult to have to depend on someone else for every simple thing. Some of you already might have discovered that.

For 12 years, I took care of my late husband, Andy. I always knew I had the easy job and he was the one with the difficult role.

Through all that Andy endured two strokes, three cases of cancer and several hard surgeries I never heard him complain or say, "why me, Lord?" He was an inspiration to me and to a lot of other people, too.

I will never attain Andy's level of patience or inner strength. But I will work hard to pass the character test my friends tell me is in front of me.

By the time you read this, if all goes well, I will be in rehab, learning to get by on a walker.

I've sent my next two columns to the paper in advance because I won't be writing in rehab.

Hopefully, some day soon I'll be able to tell you I am regaining my old life - or at least as much of it as I can.

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