“I’ve heard it’s more painful than childbirth.”
Those were the comforting words one of my colleagues said to me as I left work the day before surgery to correct what my doctor said was a “very large bunion” on my right foot.
For years I’d noticed the big toe on that foot had started drifting to the right. For years, I ignored it.
I’ve been a mid to long-distance runner for almost 30 years. For me, any type of foot surgery meant no running for an indefinite period of time. It was a fate I was not willing to face, even when it started to really bother me about 8 months ago.
I’d love to say that being a responsible adult, I decided my health wasn’t worth playing with. But in the end, I made the decision to have the bunion corrected at my goddaughter’s birthday party.
It was then that my cousin Dan took one look at my sandaled foot and announced, “You have grandma’s feet.”
The very next day, I made an appointment at the South Florida Sports Medicine Institute in Pembroke Pines. I was not ready to have grandma’s feet.
My doctor told me I would be having a Chevron bunionectomy. (Great, I thought, there’s a Chevron station just a stone’s throw from my development. Your gas purchase today has earned you a discount for bunion surgery.) Turns out, this type of surgery was named after the doctor who invented it.
Three days before my procedure, I received a call from the Weston Outpatient Surgery Center for my pre-op interview.
“Are you allergic to anesthesia?” I was asked.
“I don’t know. I’ve never had surgery,” I replied.
After accepting the fact that I was a medical freak for having escaped the surgeon’s knife for almost 50 years, I was given my pre-surgery instructions.
Most of them made sense.
No ibuprofen, no vitamins, no alcohol. (I guess cocktails for breakfast to overcome my fear the morning of the surgery were out of the question.)
The last requirement, however, completely baffled me.
“Please wear 100 percent cotton panties,” I was told. I didn’t dare to question why. Perhaps it was because cotton was much more absorbent when it came to cleaning up the inevitable result of fear of surgery. But we won’t go there.
The next 24-hours were a twilight sleep-induced blur. It all went extremely fast, and I’m happy to say, it all went extremely well.
The next few weeks were filled with gratefulness and appreciation — gratefulness to my surgeon, Dr. Bollo, the staff at South Florida Institute of Sports Medicine, the team at the Weston Outpatient Center, my anesthesiologist whose name I can’t remember but whose Miami Heat headgear helped me hang on to reality as I was drifting off to sleep, my physical therapists, Belinda and Eddie, without whom my goal of running six weeks after surgery would not have been possible.
One especially poignant moment came as I struggled to shut the car door after slipping into the passenger seat after a visit to Blockbuster a few days after the surgery. From out of nowhere, a little boy showed up to close the door for me. Thank you, not only to him but to the mom who taught him to mind his manners. Thank you also to my friends, coworkers and family for their concern and help during my recovery.
But most important of all, I’d like to give a great big shout-out to Kelly, who made sure the refrigerator and pantry were well stocked with everything from spinach to Milano cookies so I could have all my favorites during my recovery. Who took time off from work to see me through the first few days. Who kept track of my medicines when I was too out of it to know what I should be taking. Who knew exactly how long I should keep the ice pack on my foot. Who even now, over a month since the surgery, keeps reminding me of what I should and shouldn’t be doing to help the healing process.
Now, as far as the more painful than childbirth thing, I’ve never given birth so I am not really qualified to discuss that. I will tell you that looking at my new foot is like being reborn.
I never did find out why it was so important to wear cotton panties. But who cares. I can’t wait to slip into a brand new pair of sandals.