Three weeks ago today, I had surgery. I was discharged from the hospital in four days and returned home with my discharge instructions as well as a few rogue instructions from various and sundry healthcare providers.
It was funny, really, when I looked at the one page listing of what I was allowed to do, what medication I was supposed to be taking, and who I needed to call in a pinch. It wouldn't be my surgeon since she went on vacation two days after my surgery. Her partners? Maybe but they wouldn't even know who I was. Luckily, I did not need to call.
When I was home and felt up to it, I went outside for a walk. Lots of friends had told me, "Make sure you walk post op. It's the best thing for you." And so when I saw my surgeon one day after surgery, I asked her, "Is it OK for me to walk?" "Yes, absolutely," she asserted. "Walking is great, but that's it. No running, no bicycling, no picking up anything over 5 pounds." (She must have heard about me picking up the ottoman after hernia surgery!)
One week later, I was walking three miles. And then four. And now sometimes five. Of course it's all the activity I get in a day as there's not much else I'm allowed to do. I'm reading. Writing letters. Reviewing documents. Doing Crossword puzzles. Watching Netflix. And walking.
Last night, I was talking on the phone with my 88 year old aunt who was very happy to hear I was doing well. And when I told her I was walking every day, sometimes up to 5 miles, she quietly and a bit knowingly said, "I know the doctor said it's good to walk but does she know that you're walking five miles a day?" I said, "No, but I'll be sure to tell her at my post op visit."
I realized then that discharge instructions, whether they're written down or spoken, are never explicit enough, never give you enough direction, enough scope. Us patients fend for ourselves when it comes to recovering. The good news is that the body has an amazing resilience and an amazing capacity to heal.
I don't think I've hurt myself by walking this much as I was not setting any land speed records, but I'll come clean tomorrow and tell the surgeon. Maybe next time she'll be painstakingly more explicit with her instructions.