As I was waiting for my que to come up for surgery, I remembered an ESPN show on Picabo Street, an Olympic-level skier. About a decade ago, she ripped up all 3 of the ligaments in one knee in a high speed skiing crash. After the surgery, she wrote down a date and kept it close: it was the date of the next Winter Olympics. As soon as she could move even a tad, she began rehabbing. Even down the hospital halls, bands around her legs, bandages around the knees.
I have nothing that severe, luckily. But as I found out post-op, being cut up changed everything. I learned why, after the staples come out, I'm being put on 6 weeks of light & limited duty - - - essentially, medically ordered to not lift anything too heavy or too strenuous, and to keep my activity easy.
I realized how much my abs are used in even the most innocuous tasks. I needed help to sit-up, much less get up. It took me 5 minutes on one occasion to take a pee, and that left me slightly winded. It is recommended that you try to walk within 6-8 hours post-op, to begin strengthening the abs: after nearly 10 minutes of slow walking, I felt wiped out. I'm mainly a side sleeper, I can't sleep well on my back. Thanks to the morphine there, because I couldn't turn myself or sleep on my side even when I could. For a guy who just a week before could easily run 2 miles and do pullups and lift heavy shit to be reduced to this was frustrating. But, like Picabo, I had a date and a goal. I also had milestones I had given myself. Things like sitting myself up, walking an extra lap a day, turning to the side, getting off the IV, etc. I'm pretty damn patient. I also remind myself that had I not already been in pretty good shape, that things would have been worse.
They also gave me a breathing apparatus with a ball in it with adjustable resistance (fancy that). Inhale, and keep the ball levitated as long as possible. I was to do this 10-15 times an hour. That sucked, too. Like the walking, this was to strengthen my lungs. After surgery in the abdomen, ab muscles are asleep, the diaphragm weakens and it hurts to breathe so one begins to breathe shallow. Do this long enough and your lungs weaken, fill with fluid, and pneumonia sets in. This will either lengthen your hospital stay or increase your chances of not walking out of the hospital at all. I caught myself thinking that I was a weakling there, too;)
The other stuff was just manageable inconveniences. I was on a liquid diet for the first few days, again, gentle and clear. A couple of days post-op and I had my sister get me a can of Sprite, which I thought was safe but that bloated me up pretty bad so I learned sodas were not part of the plan. So there went my plans to have my brother get me a Coke Icee at Burger King! The fruit juices seemed almost too sweet and they scrambled my stomach up. Between the IV and all the liquid, I was wizzing a couple of times an hour: this I guess meant getting up a lot. They also had something attached to my calves to massage them, to prevent blood clots from forming. Not bad, and it felt great, but it added steps to me getting up because it was attached to a machine with hoses.
I didn't lose my humor or wit, and that kept me smiling. I would joke that one day I would con the nurses into getting me a cheeseburger (never did get the cheeseburger, did get cookies as I got better). In phone conversations, I was still silly. I watched a lot of German TV and Comedy Central. Phone cards were free. The morphine made my pain tolerable and my sleep possible. And thanks to my laptop, everyone was either a chat or email away.
And sure enough, milestones started to drop. 2 days post op and I was turning myself using the rails, my arms, and my back (thank god for chins and pullups, eh?). Next day, I was standing up by myself and my intestines were starting to wake up. Then came solid food (low fat diet) and the occasional cookies. The evening of the 26th, I was removed from the IV and the morphine, I only get hooked up for antibiotics. Tomorrow, September 28, the drain tube comes out and I become an outpatient for 5-6 days to see how I do. If that goes without a hitch, I'll be back in Africa to finish things up. I am now about 203 pounds, 16 pounds lighter than when I was admitted to EMF in Djibouti. Not the way I wanted to lose it, but I'll maintain.
Which brings me to the 6 weeks of light & limited duty. I tried to find ways to incorporate weights but nothing big to start getting back in shape. Ab stability training. Submaximum weights with a 4-6 rep range. But what I am starting to lean towards is just using the elliptical a few times a week, walking in the mornings, maintain the low fat diet I have here, and doing mobility work. Might not sound great and it would be boring to blog about but what are 6 weeks of getting my body recovered and ready compared to what might happen if I rush things? Sure, I might be skinnier and a little less strong but I know how to get that all back and then some. And I don't need more, or worse, setbacks.
Besides, the 6 week thing amounts to a Navy order once the physician issues it. Nice to not have choices, sometimes;)