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5 Things I Learned From A Physical Setback

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This will not be my typical team coaching blog. I hope you read this and get what you can out of it. Please forward it to anyone you feel is an appropriate recipient of this….Your spouse, your parent, your grandparent…your team colleague. Anyone who is experiencing a setback in their physical health.

My orthopedic journey

The years of physical strains along with some injuries had taken a toll on my body. The body that I had felt for so many years was a marvel in recovery, finally hit a wall. My joint issues had started from my football days and then years of tennis, racquetball hiking and martial arts all combined to give me some really bad knees. Genetics did not help as osteoarthritis runs in my genes and DNA.

There were those slow but sure changes that I started to make in my day to day activites. It meant that you start to make subtle changes and eliminate things that you like to do because of the pain.

For me, that was was jogging which always helped to keep my weight down although I was never a BMI stud but at least I was called a big man and not the f word. Then, I started having issues with doing certain yoga poses. Next it was hiking, which I really liked but the up and down was really painful. More going down than going up. Stairs too were a problem. Then when I finally started to question if I really wanted to park that far away from my destination since I knew the walk would be painful… I came to the realization that I needed to do something more than just taking pain relievers and even more injections.

Wait…What was it that the doctor was saying to me??

The orthopedic surgeon told me that on a scale of knees were an 11. I thought that he was exaggerating a bit but the x-rays did not lie. It was bone on bone and those of you in your fifties and sixties know what that means… Ibuprofen, Tylenol, joint braces, ointments and salves and even injections..all designed to kick the can down the road while you struggle with making the ultimate decision, The question is , Do I need to replace the joint or can I postpone this for a while and maybe never have to have the joint(s) replaced. After all, joint replacement is a one way process.

My Decision

I decided that after knee injections had worn off, that I needed to do something more permanent. I chose to have both of my knees replaced. The next decision was to have both done at the same time,something called bilaterally or have them done at different times. The decision to the former is that you have one rehab but you risk more of something going wrong during the rehab. Trust me, the rehab is a big deal for knees. It feels like you are walking on stilts that are weak and the tendons are stretched and need strengthening. By spacing the operations apart, you can use one good leg to help in the rehab of the “fresh leg” and that reduces the risk of complications. It was the later decision I chose and it meant having the same operation done 6 weeks apart. So…in October and November of last year, 2018, I had my surgeries.

My Outcome and My Learnings

I will attempt to tell you all the things that I went through particularly the mind games I had to deal with. I had always considered myself a positive person and I had a good spiritual foundation. This situation tested this faith and made me question many of the positive ideas and beliefs that I held deep within me. I also shared them regularly during my coaching sessions with my team.

I am not sure if it was a lack of patience, the pain from not using opiates which do not agree at all with my body, the unsteadiness or what but this took me into some dark places. I still meditated and was able to do my QiGong to help with my recovery but it was demons that I was facing. Demons that came from deep within me.

Patience may be a virtue but it never been one of my strong descriptors. This lack of patience has helped me in career but in this scenario, it was not helpful. One of the things I learned was the Importance of Physical Therapy (PT) and bringing back the range of motion and strength to my legs and knees. I had always concentrated on Cardio work and didn’t focus much on strength training. I would much rather get on my road bike for a long ride then hit the free weights or the weight machine. Rehab requires you to get going on weight bearing movements and stretching tendons and ligaments that have been put into strange positions during the surgery. The knee prosthesis feels like they put a 10 pound object where a 5 pound object should go. All I can say is that it feels over full. Your PT helps you to get comfortable with your new joints and with this comes more confidence. I know that my continued rehabilitation will take almost 9 more months but staying persistent pays dividends in getting into your car, sitting on an airplane, walking around the neighborhood and even sleeping. Do your PT and stay with it . Schedule it every other day or daily as you would any other appointment. The goal is to be better…much better and stronger than you were before your surgery.

I experienced fear and uncertainty and came to terms with my own physical reality. I was not moving anywhere near as fast or with as much agility as my mind had me convinced I could or should . You have to systematically  reintroduce more and more activities and movements into your daily routine. Walking stairs-up not too bad, down can be scary are just one of the physical things we take for granted. It gave me an appreciation for much older adults that I have seen struggle with stairs and it gave me empathy for them. As a matter of fact, it gave me empathy for other people that have had injuries and have been affected physically. Brave warriors that have been injured permanently in combat, people injured in accidents . Suddenly I thought , what am I feeling sorry for myself. This is a condition that is improving how I live my life. I chose this so that I would have more mobility and freedom of movement, for many years after this. These people were dealt a tough hand and had to learn to live their lives with these new challenges. I suddenly felt grateful for my current health and physical state and looked positively to the future. This has taught me Empathy and I am grateful for my eyes to be opened wider.

One strange thing that I have experienced is a lack of focus that I had not possessed before my surgeries. I am not sure if it is just the body trauma, the effects of going under anesthetic or the pain but it is something that I am aware of and that which I continue to work and improve . I practice mindfulness and fully living in the moment. This is quite helpful in improving my focus and getting back my “mojo”. I meditate using my breath control and focus my breath on my third eye (Google it) when I am inhaling and exhaling. This had really helped to sharpen my focus and it has helped me sleep much better.

Ah…sleeping. Let’s talk about this because it was something I experienced from my first surgery. I know the importance of sleep and the quality and quantity of sleep . I know the restorative and healing power of sleep. The interesting thing that I noticed was that my sleep quality and quantity was severely effected after the surgery. It was hard to find a comfortable spot and I move around quite a bit and each movement woke me up. The good news is that the longer it is from my surgeries, the better I sleep. I get more REM, Deep and Light sleep. It is the light sleep that you get the restorative powers . Time will help with this but while I was rehabbing, I required more time in bed just to get a minimum amount of sleep . For me, 6-7 hours was always optimal but I had to add another hour into my sleep so that I was mentally ready to go. I really understand now the restorative power of sleep and I wonder if I had slept more in my younger days (5-6 was my norm) if I would have had these joint issues. I have come to really appreciate a good night’s sleep. Keep sleep a priority in your life.

Finally, I am back to setting very measurable and specific goals in my career and in my life. I have learned what it means to have a wonderful spouse who was there for me during the most trying times. When my wife Grace and I took our vows going on 39 years ago, we said for better and for worst. Sometimes there are small obstacles that come your way and you work on these things as a couple or a family. These are all part of that bargain but when there are larger, more difficult obstacles and events, it is these that people really show what they are made of. What kind of commitment level they have to one another. My wife showed me that commitment and was and is still with me every step of the way. My gratitude and affection for her has grown immeasurably during this rehabilitation from walker, to cane and then the continued improvements experienced along the way after surgery. I did not see this coming. It is just something I experienced along my rehabilitation journey and I thank Grace for this. Appreciate all the people who are in your life. They are all there for a reason and that reason is for your growth.¬† Show them the love and appreciation. Oh and don’t be afraid to lend a helping hand. I believe we will all experience our mortality sometime in our life. We don’t get any younger but it is important to live life fully…as fully as you can and not allow your mind or the comments of others to limit you. Face Your Fears!

If you are experiencing the possibilities of a joint replacement or if you know someone who is…maybe your spouse, your parent, your grandparent, a team member at work, a friend…the list goes on and on. I hope you will share this with them. I hope they can find some answers to questions that they no doubt are struggling with.

As for me, it is back to my team of Food Ingredient Heroes that I have the honor and privilege and pleasure to work with every day. People who inspire me as much or more than I inspire them. Together, we walk this path and I am so excited for the road ahead. #oarsforward , #coachingthewinningteam , #salessuccesscoaching. #fullkneereplacement



1 comment

  1. Thanks William,
    Wishing you a speedy recovery. A little adversity reminds us of our fortune and our strength. As we learned from our martial training, pain is a great teacher.
    Kind regards,
    Ryan Welton

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