After I had my limb reconstruction surgery, most Monday’s Diane and I would make the 2 hour drive to Kings College Hospital in London. Every week we would be greeted with the same welcome “you need to go for blood tests and x-ray”. The blood tests I can handle as you take a numbered ticket and can see where you are in the queue. Even though I have to wait, I know what is going on. The x-ray on the other hand, drives me mad. I have to register my name at reception, Diane finds a stool to put my leg up on and then we wait. An hour goes by and Diane goes to get us both a coffee. Then another hour passes. Then there’s that moment when people who arrived after you are called before you. “That’s it” you think “they have missed me, there has been a mistake, my name has come off the list”. You then say to yourself “if I haven’t been seen in the next 15 minutes I will talk to the receptionist” (you have probably experienced something similar at your Doctor’s surgery). My name is still not called so I make my way to the desk. Every week I am given the same reply “we are very busy today, you are still on the list, don’t worry”. In other words you have not been forgotten about. Finally you get seen. After the x-ray you are sent through to see the consultant and then you go through the whole process again with more hours of waiting, I sometimes feel sorry for the consultant as he appears around the corner with a file in his hand – we all look up hopefully and in our minds we are saying “please pick me, don’t forget me”. After 4-5 hours we are back in the car on the way home.
Sometimes in life we are looking at others around us who seem to always have a healing story up their sleeve, or that happy relationship we crave and think, “Hang on God, what’s wrong with me? I am sick of waiting, have I been forgotten? Am I still in your plans?” When you’re out of action for a period of time it feels as though others get used to not having you around, life carries on.
We are conditioned for a fast-paced life, we are in the results driven business. I am learning again that healing is gradual. Since the surgery, I have been on a variety of medications, mostly varying strengths of pain relief with the plan to gradually reduce them. Last Sunday I woke up and thought “my leg isn’t hurting too much I won’t take any of the stronger pain killers today”. By mid-afternoon after having snapped at my teenage daughter over lunch I couldn’t stop my emotions, I just started crying, I couldn’t stop myself , I was out of control. I was scared and didn’t know why this was happening – maybe I was having a breakdown, it was all too much, I was confused and frustrated and my anxiety was sky high. I described what was going on to family members in the nursing profession who then explained you should never just stop a strong medication, you have to reduce it graduation over time, otherwise you would have the reaction I was having! I have now got my medication balanced again.
Around the same time as this “cold turkey” experience my little girl was having her plaster cast off. She had broken her leg at school seven weeks earlier. There is never a good time to break a leg but a month before your dad/husband has major surgery is particularly bad. I was so excited about her having her cast off as it meant one less person with a broken leg in the house, one less person who can’t walk. Disappointingly although the cast was off, she refused to walk on it, preferring the comfort of her zimmer frame. She has complex special needs and gets very anxious about most things in life. You can see the fear in her eyes, she is so scared of what will happen to her if she uses her leg again. Again it’s a gradual process, where we have to learn to celebrate the small steps in life. I am finding it so frustrating but we have to be patient and go at her pace. Pushing her will only make things worse. We’ve learned this the hard way far too many times. Two weeks on she still shows no sign of walking but we have faith it will happen.
Physical and emotional healing takes time and the two are often linked. Sometimes I feel I have treated prayer like a magic wand, “give me what I want right now” so I can get on with my plans yet sometimes the instant fix isn’t good for me. Through my slow healing I am learning a lot. I am still having days when I wake up after another night of being uncomfortable, feeling totally depressed, yet there are also days where I wake up so grateful for the love of my family, church and friends. I am trying to commit myself fully to my gradual healing of me as a whole person and not just my leg. Don’t get me wrong, if it gets speeded up in any way you will not find me complaining.
I now have a couple of weeks until I am back to more blood tests and x-rays and inevitable, more waiting. Despite the frustrations with the hospital visits one nice thing that can happen in the waiting rooms is you meet other people who also have frames attached to their legs. You instantly become friends as you can have conversations you can’t have with anyone else – “how long has your frame been on?”, “what pain control are you using?”, “have you had any pin-site infections?” and we all roll our eyes at the number of people who ask “do you take it off at night?”. It’s good to know you’re not alone, others are going through the same process as you. In the same way when Diane and/or I talk to another parent with a child with special needs there’s comfort and shared understanding about the frustrations and difficulties as well as the immense joy and pleasure this brings, even when it is not spoken about. For the things that are seen it is sometimes easier to strike up those conversations but I can promise things like anxiety, challenging relationships, trying your best to bring kids up, everyone is going through the same stuff, so wherever you are today reading this, whether the challenges are known or you have kept them to yourselves – you are not forgotten.
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