Post op in Paradise; adjusting to the pain

After my first surgery, my doctor told me after about 3 days that I could probably stop taking the acetaminophen/codeine combination. It made me drowsy and one of the complications is  constipation. Besides, the ibuprofen was a strong dose, and it also helped with the swelling.

I thought I would follow the same protocol this time, but again, I underestimated my pain level this second time around. I woke up on day 4 and decided I wouldn’t take any Co-dydramol. By midday I broke down and took my dose.  At bedtime I decided to skip it again. The next morning I was back on it, but I only took one instead of two. Tapering off in this way, I think I had stopped taking it by the end of Day 5.

Meanwhile, I was trying to eat fruit and fibre. Co-dydramol really can make you constipated.

I started feeling more alert, which gave me more incentive to use my brain and planning skills. I went to work on some of  my projects. I could read without falling asleep!

I still experienced a lot of swelling. My foot swelled up when I was sitting. It swelled up if I stood too long. It fell asleep sometimes when I had it elevated. I started feeling cramps in my foot. My back and knees started to tighten up due to the awkward sitting positions and lack of exercise.

For the first two to four days, there was a lot of pain and swelling, but doing nothing at that time is easy. It’s the next 2 weeks that are difficult. Bathing or showering without getting the dressing wet is exhausting. Sitting with the foot up while trying to type something on the computer is very uncomfortable after about 30 minutes. Depending on someone else for your meals is frustrating, and humbling.

I started making the morning coffee after about one week. I wake up before my husband and I need my coffee. I’d given up having an omelette for breakfast, although he does cook eggs. I started eating cereal, or yogurt and scones or croissants, which were a nice treat.

One week post op, I ran out of the prescription ibuprofen, so I started taking my own. It was half the dose, so I noticed a difference in pain control. I also noticed that it was really hard on my stomach. I took the regular, over-the-counter ibuprofen for a day, then I stopped. After that I had to pay more attention to what my foot was telling me; to sit down and elevate it!

At this point, I started noticing the large pile of laundry, the dirty toilets, the dust on the furniture. I don’t have a cleaner, or a helper as they call them here. My husband finds it challenging to do all the cooking, errands and grocery shopping as well as his work. I started trying to do a little each day. The first day, I probably overdid things. The next day, I was sore, swollen and exhausted, so I did very little. I try to do one chore each day now.

Household chores remind me of what it would have been like to have surgery in the winter in Canada. Our house with two staircases wouldn’t have worked. I’d have had to set up in our living room. I wouldn’t be able to start going in and outside so easily on the treacherously slippery sidewalks.

Here, I can relax on the deck for the entire morning, eating breakfast, doing puzzles, reading and surfing the internet. If I’m energetic I can hobble down to the pool and relax on a recliner. It is either blissfully quiet, except for the sound of the sea, or I am entertained by the goings-on of the island.

That is how my recovery has been going. One day, I feel great and think I can do more. The next, I need to rest, which is pretty easy when you can sit outside and enjoy the sound of the waves.  The next day I have a better idea what I can handle. My next big step would be getting the stitches out.

A letter to my daughter: thank you, I think

Dear Daughter,

As I child I was very sensitive and I found that quite painful. I was told I might need to develop a rhinoceros hide to survive in the world  I slowly developed my hide, but my suit of armour was more of a shell.

If I hadn’t had the shell, I would not have survived high school, university, and my internship. Even though I said F.U. and I transferred to a different program I really did survive internship, because I made my shell even harder and more impermeable. My shell got me through.

I remember my younger self as a slightly self-centered person who didn’t let people in. Sometimes that came across as anger. No one could see under my shell, my armour, except my very closest friends. I sometimes took it off when I was alone in my safe place where I could cry myself to sleep. I didn’t even take it off the first time I fell in love. I mean I was really in love but I couldn’t let him know that, could I? Obviously that relationship didn’t last. No one was allowed in.  I wanted to be a nice person and a good person, but not soft and emotional.

I’m not sure who I was kidding. I couldn’t read “Love you Forever” without getting all teary-eyed. Movies still made me cry. I just didn’t let people get too close. I let your dad in. I let him see who I really was, although it took years.

My darling daughter, you changed all that. The minute I learned I was pregnant, my shell grew to protect both of us. I had only really let your dad in before that, and some very close friends.  When you were born, I was totally vulnerable all over again. I didn’t even realize it was happening, but my shell was becoming porous.

You are such an open, loving and giving person. You live and love with passion. You demanded my love and complete devotion from the moment I laid eyes on you. Quickly, my shell began to dissolve. I tried and succeeded to keep it around us for a few years.

Your brother came along and finished the job. I couldn’t protect all of us from hurt. I could protect us in so many ways and take care of all of us, but our hearts were open and vulnerable.

I am no longer protected by armour. I am completely vulnerable to the world. I  think it’s from living in a hot place.(I jest.) My heart is easily won. I care about everyone around me. I worry about everyone, including people I’ve only recently met. I feel protective towards anyone who would dare to embrace the world with your passion. I meet people who have a shell like I had, and I want to pass along my strength. Their shells need to dissolve in their own time, but I understand.

I thank you for helping me to open up again and let people see my love and hope and vulnerability. I rarely feel anger. I feel despair and I feel hope.I feel caring and compassion. I feel what others feel and it is scary. I feel sadness and happiness. I feel love, and it sometimes hurts, but mostly it feels good. Most importantly, I feel okay about letting people see how I feel, and if it really is anger, it’s aimed at injustice, stupidity and insular thinking.

I miss you! Thank you for letting me in.

Love Mama

Recovering in Paradise: showering with Tortuga and keeping my feet up

With two different prescriptions for pain medication filled, I fully expected another easy recovery from this second bunion surgery, at least from a physical point of view. I was surprised then, to find that the pain and swelling the first day were significant.

First of all, I had to take the medication with food. That meant waiting for my husband to make breakfast, as I was supposed to do absolutely nothing. I was also experiencing a headache, probably from caffeine withdrawal, having had my last cup of coffee at 6 am the previous day.

Usually I wake up and make the coffee in the morning, then either I eat cereal or I make an egg dish. That way I have some coffee in me before I start cooking. I’m grateful that my husband made breakfast for me, at least for the first few days, but that first day my head was exploding by the time I got coffee. I’d waited for breakfast to take my pills, so they still hadn’t started working. When my doctor called later for an update, my pain was down to a 3 or 4 on a scale from 1 to 10, but I estimated it at a 5 or 6 when I first woke up.

I was relaxed enough and comfortable enough by the time the meds started to work. I updated my Facebook, Snap chatted with my kids and read. I started doing Sudoku and crosswords again. The first two days post-op I was instructed to do nothing, to keep my foot elevated above my hip, and to only get up to go to the bathroom.

After my doctor called, I peaked under my elastic bandage and realized that my gauze dressing was soaked through with blood. It was dry to the touch, so must have bled the night before. I emailed him and he replied that I should come in the next day, which was only a day early, for the wound check.

The printed instructions from the doctor said I could take a shower the next day, as long as I protected my foot with a plastic bag. We find that Tortuga Rum Company bags are very sturdy and make a good cover, and my husband had made a serious effort to collect several in the time leading up to the surgery.  The taping is the tricky part. If you aren’t careful of the folds in the top of the bag, there could be an unseen opening for the water to seep in. For that reason we double bagged my foot and my husband taped it up so tightly I thought he was making a tourniquet.

That first day I kept the shower very short, being unable to put any weight on my bad foot.  I was still in good shape then, so it wasn’t too exhausting to stand on one foot and try to keep the other one as much out of the shower as possible.

We visited the doctor and he cleaned up the wound. He noted a lot of bruising and said the bleeding was good. It shouldn’t be trapped in the wound. He poked and tweaked at my stitches, which was a little bit painful, but more of an irritant to my foot. Once the foot was all wrapped up again, he got me a wheelchair to get to the front door and instructed me to keep the foot elevated.

Wow! I had a shower and a visit to the doctor in one day! What with going up and down the stairs to get in and out of the apartment, I was tired at the end of the day. Maybe I wasn’t in such good shape after all!

Once we got home, I played some computer games and emailed family to let them know how things were going. After dinner I had an early night. I planned to continue my  focus on rest and healing. My next couple of days my goal would be to taper off the pain medications.



Surgery in Grand Cayman; my experience

I can’t really compare my experience here with surgery in Canada, as I was only a child when I had a tonsillectomy. I wasn’t present for my father’s surgeries, so I only have my own experience in Cayman to talk about.  I’m sure it’s a mix of British and American style procedures. My surgery was in a private, for-profit hospital, but the team was completely British or Caribbean.

I thought I would describe in greater detail what it’s like to have surgery here, at least from my point of view.

After ten days of having no ibuprofen or aspirin type medications, and 3 days of no alcohol, I checked into the hospital. I’d had breakfast at 6 am as my surgery wasn’t scheduled until 2 pm. I’d had nothing to eat or drink since 6. I arrived at the hospital at 10:45 where they took me to my room. For my first surgery I had a room to myself. This time I had a roommate, also waiting for surgery.

I was given a hospital robe to wear; yes the glamourous kind with the open back. It makes it very easy to go to the bathroom, but awkward for getting in and out of bed and up and down off stretchers without baring one’s butt.

I was also given some disposable foot covers and hat. I put on the hat and one foot cover, leaving one foot uncovered for the bathing that was to come. I was started on an intravenous drip to keep me hydrated. I would have nothing else to eat or drink before evening.

Unfortunately, even though I wasn’t drinking anything, I had to walk my IV pole to the bathroom with me at least 3 times, all the while trying to keep my robe from opening wide at the back.

The nurse came in to wash my foot very carefully for 3 minutes. Those were her instructions. She then put the disposable slipper on that foot. Not long before my surgery she came in to put the antibiotic dose through the IV. In the meantime, my surgeon popped in to say hello, give me post op instructions and make sure I had my post op shoe from last time. That saved us $45!

Not long after my antibiotic dose, someone from the anesthesiology team came in to wheel me to the operating room. There I met my OR nurse, an older lady who was very kind and very thorough. She checked and double checked my file to ensure everything was ready and I was ready, etc.

One thing I noticed at my first surgery was that everyone in the OR was male. I have seen many more male nurses here than I ever worked with when I was a dietitian in a hospital. I don’t know if that’s happening everywhere, but I like the balance. This time, the first nurse I met was female and the member of the anesthesiology team who did my pre op interview was female. The anesthetist was a man, as is my podiatrist.

Once in the OR, I felt something happening to almost every part of my body. I was getting a clip on my finger and a blood pressure cuff on my right arm, while the anesthetist was putting something into my IV that made my left hand feel temporarily frozen. My surgeon was preparing my foot and I was also getting little snaps put on me in various places, I assume to connect to sensors to keep track of my heart rate and breathing. I was given an oxygen mask to hold over my nose and mouth, and I took deep breaths while I listened to the sound of my own heartbeat in the room. Occasionally, the blood pressure cuff would inflate. They started the anesthetic and I was feeling very calm and very drowsy.

I woke up in the recovery room with someone removing a tube from my very sore throat.  I had those little nodes in my nostrils connected to a tube leading from an oxygen supply. My foot hurt more than the first time. I was very sleepy. They wanted me to wake up, and I did, very slowly. I was taken back to my room. My roommate had returned while I was gone, but the curtain between us was closed.

The nurses must have had a shift change on the ward, as they had last time. I had a new nurse. I had been given something for pain in the recovery room, so my next dose would be at 8 pm. They brought me a meal of soup and crackers and ice water. Oh, I was thirsty! The soup wasn’t exactly clear, but it was ok. The crackers were dry and flavourless, so I broke them up and put them into the soup. That made both soup and crackers more palatable.

My husband texted our family to let them know things had gone well. I got some nice texts back from them full of love and good wishes.

Before I could eat, my nurse came back to take me for an x-ray of my new foot. That went fairly quickly. I’ll need another x-ray in a few weeks.

I was still sleepy, CNN was on the tv, my husband was sleepy, and we were both dozing off. My roommate was told she could go home. She just got dressed and walked out. I wonder what kind of surgery she had!

I finally got another dose of painkillers and another dose of IV antibiotics. As soon as the antibiotics had run through, I was allowed to get dressed. I’d kept it simple with a dress, but I still had some difficult moments trying to keep my weight off my foot while I went to the bathroom and changed into my clothes. I discovered those snaps all over me. I was tempted to keep them and take a picture. I felt sort of cyborg-ish! They came off easily, though, much more easily than the adhesive tape holding my IV line in place in my hand!

The nurse helped my get my things all into my bag and helped me into the wheelchair while my husband brought the car to the front door of the hospital. I got into the back seat so I could put my foot up on the seat, buckled up and away we went.

It was pouring rain when we got home, so my husband had to get a bag for me to put over my foot. I have to keep the dressing dry! I hobbled up the stairs and into the house in the pouring rain.

I had instructions to keep my foot elevated above my hip and no weight-bearing. That was a little difficult going up the stairs to our condo. Later on, my foot swelled up so much I thought it would burst, even though I immediately sat down and raised it onto a pillow.

I had meds to take before bed which helped with both the pain and swelling.

I will describe in future posts what it’s like to recover from bunion surgery, but I’d love to hear if other hospital surgery experiences are similar. I found the first surgery to be a little easier on me, although the surgeon said the second one was easier for him. The staff was busier this time and I didn’t have a private room. I also had more experienced staff on the ward last time, but I have no complaints about the care I received.






Science, human decency and politics; one of these is not like the other.

With a lot of time on my hands lately, I’ve been on Facebook a lot more. This subjects me to a lot of unwanted information. I have friends of every political stripe. I have friends from various walks of life, and from a few different countries, too.

I get posts from “Occupy Democrats” and from “Justin Trudeau Not” and from Unite Conservatives. I see articles posted by friends who are the smartest people I know. One thing I’ve tried not to read, but can’t always help, is the comments. I lose my faith in the human race when I read the comments.

Since when did being compassionate and caring become a “liberal” value?  Why is science being treated like a liberal conspiracy? When did smart and educated people become the”left wing elite”? I started life as a conservative in Canada, which isn’t even close to being as right wing as the Republicans in the US, and I admit I’ve become more open minded as I get older. Why can’t I be in favour of pipelines and immigration? I am first and foremost a member of the human race and I believe we are all in this together. No man or woman is an island. No country, whether island or not, can stand alone.

Speaking of islands, I can’t begin to understand politics on this island, so I just follow the news and try to keep up with what is going on. I know less than ten people here with the right to vote, so we don’t discuss local politics a lot. Still, there is a lot of that anonymous comment syndrome here, too.

I am so tired of all the bickering and the stupid tweets coming from people who should behave with more dignity and compassion. I’m tired of the trolls and the blanket statements by the followers of one faction or another. I’m tired of the ignorance.

I’m not American and I’m tired of the American news. I turn on the Canadian news and I get American news. I have exactly four American friends on Facebook, yet my news feed is flooded with American news and debates and outright insults towards one party or another.

I’m most dismayed by the complete disregard of some groups towards science and fact. I saw a t-shirt I want. It said: Science, It’s not a left wing conspiracy. Seriously, one would think so these days.

My solution should be to avoid Facebook and any social media, but my options are limited these days. I’d love to go sit on the beach while my husband goes for a walk, but I don’t want to risk sand in my dressing. I’d love to go for a walk, but I wouldn’t make it very far. I’d love to swim, but I still have stitches. I’m stuck here with my feet up, reading mindless insults. (I know, don’t read the comments!)

I’ve taken to doing puzzles offline. Yes, that means on paper; crosswords, sudoku, any word puzzles. I’ve got hundreds of books on my e-reader. I just finished one that was pretty silly. A lot of the free books I download are pretty silly, but you know, that beats internet comments.

The obvious solution is to re-read some of the great novels I brought with me, or to take on another learning challenge, like a new language. Now that I’m off the serious meds I might give that a try.

A little panic; a mini-bucket list

January has been a bit of a crazy month. I haven’t posted anything, or even attempted to post, because of various family commitments that came up suddenly this month. What a way to start the year.

This past week and this weekend, I’ve come up with a sort of bucket list. It’s not really a “bucket list”, but more of a “what will I miss in the next few months” list while I recover from another surgery.

I have to admit that I’m already feeling panic. I have a cold this weekend and if it turns into anything worse, my surgery will be cancelled. I’ve been torn between wanting to fit in as much as I can, and trying to get some rest to get rid of the cold.

So what have I been trying to do? I’ve been doing all the pre-op stuff that has to be done; blood tests, meet with anesthetist, read my instructions, stay off booze and any aspirin or ibuprofen type pain killers. So far, so good. It is frustrating to wake up with a sinus headache, admittedly after over indulging in wine for the last time, and be unable to pop an Advil.

I’m also trying to cook as much as I can, swim every day and exercise as much as I can possibly tolerate. It’s hard to do nothing and it’s even worse if I already feel like a blimp. I want to be as fit as possible before surgery.

I know I’ve gone through this before, but it might be different this time. I know my family members have all survived joint replacements on a major scale, but I am still feeling occasional panic, again, at the thought of going under.

I’m trying to do as much as I can, partly because I want to fit it in once more before I’m laid up, but also to keep myself occupied. I want to be around people, visiting and socializing, because when I’m alone I get a little scared. I get a little depressed at the thought of doing nothing for another two weeks to a month.

Farewell to 2016, Wishing a bright and beautiful 2017 to all

I’ve been reading a lot lately about what a terrible year 2016 has been. In the world at large, it probably has been a very disappointing year. I don’t usually get political, but Britain, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? USA, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

Okay, I got that off my chest. There is also the issue of many beloved famous people passing on. We don’t necessarily know them, but we feel like we know them. They were not old people. Many of them were contemporaries of my generation. Some were very young. Some, I was looking forward to their next projects, like Alan Rickman and Anton Yelchin.

We lost brilliant medical people, too. People who probably saved countless numbers of lives.

Back in Paradise, life goes on. Our economy may be affected by political events, but otherwise, we’ll continue to enjoy the beautiful weather every day and to dread the hurricanes every hurricane season. We’ll join our neighbours and friends for drinks and meals. We’ll have Happy Hour every weekend. We’ll swim, snorkel and dive. We’ll talk about how the world is going mad.

I am encouraged by the thoughtful discussions inspired by recent events. I’m hopeful for the future, based on the young people I’ve met this year. They stand up for what they believe in. They speak out against racism and bigotry. They are brave. I have lots of friends younger than I am, but I’ve never had so many younger people that I consider to be friends, who are closer to my kids’ ages than to mine. It’s refreshing and it’s inspiring to watch them and think about the future. They are not the scientists and entertainers we’ve lost, but maybe they, too, will help make the world just a little bit better. I know they have for me.


Leaving Paradise: Life challenges made easier

We’re off island as they say in Cayman. We’ve fled the Christmas and high season madness for six weeks to spend Christmas, not in the deep freeze of Canada, but in sunny Southern California. It’s not Cayman hot here, but we’re getting some very nice weather.

The thing about being here is that it’s so easy to go for a walk or even a hike. It’s not too hot and we won’t be hit by a car or attacked by dogs. There is also a pool. It’s quite a long pool, so swimming laps is that much easier. I can do 20-25 laps and get the same distance with fewer turns than I do at home doing 50-60 laps.

Unfortunately, it is the Christmas season, and I’m in full treat-making mode. We are also in close proximity to the best Mexican food outside of Mexico. In fact we are only about an hour away from Mexico, so we have Mexican food everywhere. Have I mentioned how difficult weight loss is when consuming Mexican food regularly, not to mention shortbread and tarts?

We also find alcohol much cheaper here, but fortunately that hasn’t yet affected our consumption. We’ve limited ourselves to wine with dinner and the occasional cocktail while the sun is going down.

My shoulder is much better and I feel energetic enough to do both a swim and a walk now. I think I can fit in some yoga and a strength circuit. I attempted push ups again for the first time in weeks, but I’m not there yet. Don’t pull your trapezoids  if you can help it! It’s painful and affects so much of your day to day life.

Yes, the challenge to eat healthy and lose weight is actually a much greater challenge here. The exercise part should be easy.

One thing we do have going for us is the abundance of fruits and vegetables. Everything is so fresh when it’s grown just a few miles away. We enjoy the local Farmers’ Market and stocking up on beans and greens and oranges and grapefruits picked yesterday. The market also has tamales. As I said, it’s a challenge!

Life challenge update: now what?

My father said to me the other day, when I finally remembered to call in the morning before his lunch, “This getting old is not for the faint of heart.” He is 26 years older than I am, but I know exactly what he’s talking about.

I felt great on Saturday morning, did a few extra lengths in my swim, did a 10 minute strength circuit later, and felt fine. We went out for the afternoon to check out the last of Pirate Week. It was really windy so it felt lovely to be out and about downtown. We stopped for food, talked to some tourists, and checked out the pirate ship. By the time we walked back to the car, my feet were sore. I didn’t think much of it, but later on at home, I really needed to put my feet up.

Later, in the evening, I was overcome by fatigue. I waited for the fireworks, which we were able to see from our place, but after that I was done. Even the lovely neighbourhood bonfire couldn’t tempt me.

I was in bed, sleeping, shortly after 9:30. For me that is unheard of! I am a night owl! Midnight has nothing on me! I slept for at least 10 hours.

You would think I’d wake up feeling refreshed, but no. I woke up feeling tired and sore. My shoulder was sore. Days later, my shoulder is still sore. Swimming seems to help, or maybe it’s just that the water numbs everything a little.

Here’s the thing: I’m afraid to get this checked out. Maybe I pulled something and this is only something temporary. At this stage of life, I’ve been discovering that the little aches and pains are a sign of something bigger. Apart from the fact that our insurance coverage for doctor visits has run out for the year, I’m just not ready to go for another x-ray and find out that yet another joint is defective. I’m afraid to find out that swimming is actually bad for it. What forms of exercise do I have left?

No, getting old is not for the faint of heart, but I’ll figure this out. My aches and pains are nothing compared to what my own parents have gone through and what many people live with every day. I still have so much left to do and to offer.

There’s just one thing bothering me and that’s the fact that too long at a keyboard also seems to bother my shoulder. I’ll have to find a way to improvise on the writing.


What it’s like to retire in paradise: part 2

Many people come to live and work here, but they generally have a short term plan. They are on a work permit. They are young and have other aspirations. Some of them stay here. They meet people and sometimes fall in love. Sometimes they leave together. Sometimes they have families, keep working and after a few years, have to leave for their rollover.

When you come here to retire, as we did, there is no work place to meet people. We have no intention of moving on, at least until our residency certificate runs out. We meet people; people our age who came here years ago and decided to stay, but who are still working, and young people who are here for a few years.

Some of the people we’ve met have become good friends. We enjoy socializing together and make a point of trying to see each other. Others I’ve become fond of, but we really only talk and socialize because of proximity. They are not here for a long time and I know we’ll miss them when they leave.  That’s the downside of life here. People leave. If people stay it’s because they already have an established social circle and community. Our building is a small community itself, so that anyone moving in or out changes the dynamic drastically.

I’ve become attached to some of the young people here, and they’ve made me appreciate my family even more than I already do. I worry about them sometimes. The lifestyle here can be very extreme for a young expat; long work hours and lots of drinking and partying outside of work. Some of our friends have found a more moderate path, some have not. The work doesn’t change. There are busy seasons in almost any field of work whether it’s accounting, the financial business, tourism or health care.

I’m happy to have met the people that I’ve met here. They are from England, Canada, the United States, Cayman, Bermuda and Costa Rica. People we meet in passing are from Jamaica, Honduras, South Africa and the Philippines.

The downside of retiring here is obviously the distance from family and old friends. Sure, we can visit them or they can visit us, but it’s not that easy. We make it to Canada a couple of times per year and it’s honestly a whirlwind. It can be a little stressful trying to see everyone. It’s expensive to fly here and it’s not convenient from Western Canada.

I miss our kids. Between their visits here and our visits there, we only see them every few months. We seldom have our whole family together. I can’t be there to give them hugs when they need it.

We would love to host Christmas, but our parents are beyond their travelling days and the trip here is a killer. I feel sad that they’ll never see where we live.

All that said, living here is very serene. Amid the turmoil of the political events in the world, we can sit on our deck and look out at the sea and it soothes the soul.