Lessons in Recovery

It’s been four weeks since surgery to repair my Osteo Chondral Defect – a broken left ankle and torn ligaments. Recovery hasn’t been easy, but it hasn’t been as difficult as it could have been. I’ve learned some lessons during the past month. All of them can be applied to principles of leadership.

  1. A systematic problem-solving approach is necessary
  2. You will encounter roadblocks when you least expect it
  3. Taking a break is as important as staying productive
  4. You can empower the outcome

A systematic problem-solving approach is necessary

A few days after surgery I was given the okay to shower. Wait…my shower is a bathtub. I’m not going to be able to step into the tub when I only have one working leg. Even if I could get in with one foot, I can’t stand on that one foot the entire shower without risking a fall.

After trying to shower by sitting on the side of the tub, I realized there had to be another option. Thankfully, my sweet husband brought home a shower chair he’d purchased. Now I could easily get in and out. He also put a stool in the tub that doubled as both a foot rest, and a place to put the shampoo, cleanser, and soap. The challenge of simply showering became far less troublesome.

My shower set-up

The second problem to become quickly apparent was leaving the house and getting into the car. Thankfully my right ankle allowed me to drive just fine, but getting to that point was a cardio workout.

I came up with a step-by step system which decreased much of the stress.

Step one was to get out the door with everything I needed.

My view from front door to my goal – the car. Those two steps are what I tripped on and caused the injury in the first place. Whenever I’d have to go somewhere, I’d have to take the scooter and crutches.

Step two was to get the scooter down the steps and waiting for me

Once the scooter was pushed down the stairs, it would run into the back of the car and stop

Step three was to heft the scooter into the back of my van while standing on one leg

I’d used the crutches to get down the stairs, then on one foot I’d heft the scooter into the back of the van. It fit quite nicely.

Step four is to get from the back of the car to the drivers seat on one leg

The side door of the van was opened, and the crutches were placed behind my seat. Then I could hop to the drivers seat.

All steps were reversed when I got to my destination or back home

You will encounter roadblocks when you least expect it.

Two days after surgery I got into the car (practicing the above process), and drove to Issaquah to teach a 4:20 class at an office park in the conference room on the building’s second floor. Upon arriving, I parked near the side door, which is where the handicapped parking is marked.

I quickly noticed a problem. There was a sign on that door which read: “Entrance closed, please use front door.”

Knowing there were steps up to the front door, I began to make my plan as I scootered around the corner. Yep. I was going to have to get myself and the scooter up 3 concrete steps in order to get into the building.

Seeing no one around, I had no choice but to do this alone. Thankfully there was at least a banister I could grasp with my right hand while carrying my teaching supplies. Doing so, I hopped one step at a time while I dragged the scooter behind me with my left hand. If I let go of the scooter, it would roll back down the steps, and I would truly be stranded. There are so many parts of this process which could have gone awry, but they didn’t. I made it to the top with scooter and supplies. I was exhausted, but empowered.

After the class was over, there were parents of my students available to help me down the stairs with scooter and supplies. I’m thankful for moms and dads!

Two weeks after this incident, I discovered the elevator in the same building out of order. I got into the building just fine, but now couldn’t get to the second floor to teach my class. By this point, I was wearing a boot and using a crutch to get around instead of the scooter.

A student found me stranded and carried my bag of supplies up the stairs for me. I took each step very slow with my boot and crutch. With labored breath and perspiration pouring down my face, I may have given the receptionist a piece of my frustrated mind. Her lack of empathy and responsibility made me even angrier. Customer service is dead.

I had to get myself down the stairs after the class in time to get to another class starting 20 minutes from then in a location 20 minutes away. Maybe I should have taken some time off, but hey I made it work.

Roadblocks, shmoadblocks…I knocked ‘em down instead of allowing them to knock me out.

Taking a break is as important as staying productive.

A week had passed since surgery, and I posted pictures of my foot on Facebook. Facebook physicians began to diagnose all sorts of horrible conditions: infection, cellulitis, gangrene, etc. I admit it wasn’t pretty. My foot was extremely red and swollen.

At the insistence of several “commenters” I emailed the surgeons office with pictures of my foot. Should I come in? Is my foot going to fall off? What if a blood clot kills me instantly?

“Are you resting?”

“No.”

“Are you icing your foot?”

“Yes, but only about once a day.”

“Are you elevating it?”

“Not really.”

The physician’s assistant chastised me kindly, and told me I needed to take care of my health. She was confident it wasn’t infected, but that the blood was pooling in my foot because I wasn’t elevating it, nor acting on the other instructions I’d been given.

Alright, alright. I took her instructions to heart and took the day “off”. I didn’t attend a meeting that evening and sent my regrets. My foot looked much better by the next morning. I realized I had been trying to maintain my regular schedule while my foot needed that expended energy elsewhere –  to heal.

Sometimes “pro”ductivity, may actually be “con”ductivity. I learned there is always a good, better, and best option to every choice. I was making a good choice to stay on top of work, but I was not making the best choice to take care of my health.

You can empower the outcome

Nine days after surgery
One day shy of two weeks post surgery I had the stitches removed
I was doing so well at 13 days post surgery, I was given the boot!

Preparation is key to making any outcome successful. Prior to the surgery I’d been working out, eating right, and generally taking care of my health. I believe those actions bolstered the healing process.

Oh, I’ve taken a few steps backward in my muscle building endeavors, but I hope my body’s cell memory will be recalled quickly, allowing me to strengthen my legs again with weights and cardio. My dogs have been sad but patient without their daily walk.

It will take time to get back to where I was, but at least I’m not starting at ground zero. Maybe ground six?

Four weeks after surgery
Four weeks after surgery. I was told I no longer needed the boot, and could walk without any assistance.

My injury was an Osteo Chondral Defect (OCD). OCD also means Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I’m sure I obsessed about the tasks I wasn’t getting done; which drove me to compulsive actions to prevent disorder in my home and work life. Remember, I’m not a patient person. However, I’m grateful this chapter is coming to a close.