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How My Many Surgeries Have Prepared Me for the COVID-19 Pandemic

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When you have some of the diseases I have, you will undoubtedly go through a number of surgeries. It just goes with the territory. It is what it is. C’est la vie. One silver lining in this, however, is that the lessons I’ve learned in the time surrounding surgery (and believe me, you have quite a lot of free time to ponder the intricacies of life while recuperating) may be applied to other aspects of life.

During surgery recovery, time stands still. Days blend. Monotony becomes daily living. Things do not go according to plan; I did not plan for life to suddenly stop so I can have a medical emergency. It is disappointing. You no longer have control over your own life. It can seem as if the world is spiraling into chaos and there is nothing you can do to fix things. You are in pain from sun up to sun down and from moonrise until the last star fades into the morning light.

Soon, you get used to the new level of pain until it’s a gentle buzzing annoyance in the background, yet you still can’t shake it. You forget what day it is. You can’t leave your house. Goodness, you can’t even leave your bed for the most part. Social interaction among family and friends consists of phone calls and social media communication — if you even have the effort for that.

Disinfectant becomes your friend and sterilization is a must to avoid infection. Infection means a backslide. Infection means more days in isolation. Infection means possible hospitalization and then who knows what? Infection means you are back to square one or even less. Infection is bad. Doctors consistently remind you to avoid infection at all costs. “Call us at the first sign of infection.” Information packets read, “to prevent the spread of infection…” Does any of this sound familiar?

Reading this paragraph through the lens of a COVID-19 world gives it a totally different tone than it would have a year ago when this current pandemic either seemed like something from the far past or some dystopic future.

Having had many surgeries, I’m used to the downside of things. I’m not a stranger to the hopelessness that hits you in the face like a slammed door when you are told you will be housebound for three months except for going to see various doctors. Essential outings. I’m not immune to the fear of the unknown and the greater fear that washes over you like a tidal wave when expert after expert after expert reiterates the fact that you are in a high-risk group. I’m not naive to the worry that comes when walking or wheeling through those hospital doors, no matter how many times they have opened their arms to you and beckoned you in with familiar sights and smells.

However, having had many surgeries, I also see the flip side. The positive aspects of operations. The success stories. The positive outcomes that are on the other side of the hill if you find the strength to somehow keep moving forward moment by moment and step by step.

I truly hope we can get through this current pandemic as one gets through a tough surgery and all of the aftermath. Yes, we will have some bruising. We will have scars that act as daily reminders of what we have endured. We will need physical therapy, and some may need emotional therapy. We will need help post-surgery. Needing help or a caretaker does not make you a burden. All of this will be necessary to varying degrees for different people and that is OK. Individuals heal from surgeries at their own pace, doctors say.

Why should this be any different?

Some will have open wounds for weeks, months, years. Some will barely need rehab in order to regain their strength post-surgery. But the surgery will be successful. We will make it through the surgery. The scars will always be visible, but they will fade in time, and they will solely be a reminder of all that we have overcome. The team that helped us recover from surgery will become a forever support system, a circle of friends. We will regain our prior strength. In fact, we will build more muscle, more bone, more heart than ever before.

Like a surgery that rebuilds our body when something goes awry, one day, this will pass and be a moment in time that shaped us, formed us, molded us, and we can add it to the tale we tell about how we’ve become stronger than ever before.

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