After sustaining a serious knee injury it was concluded that I’d need to undergo a double level derotation osteotomy, tibial tubercle distilisation and medialisation and MPFL on both legs to regain my capacity to walk. I have decided to document my recovery. Click here to read part I and here for part II.
I had a dream. A dream vivid as reality but filled with oddities that could not possibly be true.
Dreams show a truth we can’t yet fully embrace. A truth that has been chained up in our subconscious, ready to slip out when given the chance. So when we dwell in the realm of the night we see fragments of what we do not yet consciously accept. We see a reality cloaked in surrealism and strangeness to make the message we dread to face dismissible as fiction perhaps.
A couple of nights before my first round of surgery I found myself in a soft hospital bed. My legs numb and swaddled. Having just woken up from my anaesthetic I felt dreamy, but not dazed enough to miss that something was off.
“I can’t move my legs,” I whispered, confused as a sense of panic started to bloom in my gut. “Don’t you worry,” a nurse whom I hadn’t seen before said to comfort me. “The surgeon is on his way and he will explain everything.” Her words, though well intended, made me feel more unsettled.
Hopelessly I tried to wiggle my toes, only to find I felt none. I managed to rock my hips from side to side, but everything underneath my pelvis remained motionless.
“When we cut you open,” the surgeon said after finding me in a state of impending hysteria. “When we cut you open we realised your bones aren’t simply misaligned. They are in fact no human bones at all. We found fishbones. Half a skeleton to be precise.” I raised my brows. “We decided to reunite the bones in your right leg with the other half of the skeleton which was hidden underneath the muscles of the left leg.”
Fishbones, I thought. A mermaid tail. “We have reconstructed your tail, so that we can release you in the sea once you have recovered. So you can be reunited with your tribe.” His eyes sparkled with excitement and compassion. “What about the scales,” I asked, because I had never detected any on my skin. ” We have carefully created them so that you will fit in properly. They will shine bright in the ocean. Bright like gems in the light so that your kin won’t be able to miss you when you pass by. We wouldn’t want you to feel isolated or rejected.” I smiled happily.
“Dreams show a truth we can’t yet fully embrace. A truth that has been chained up in our subconscious, ready to slip out when given the chance.”
The general anaesthetic was the aspect of my surgery that I feared most. The pain, I thought, can be controlled with the right painkillers. An aid I can rely on when I choose to do so. Similarly doing physio exercises to regain my strength would depend entirely on my own discipline. Accepting sedatives that ferry you to the land of the unconscious asked for the opposite entirely. It demands you to give up control. To place your fate in the hands of a qualified other. To trust that you will wake up again. As a human with a fixed leg.
Yet I woke up as a mermaid in my dream. And while there was never a chance this surreal surprise would come true in reality, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the casualness with which the transformation was accepted by both me and the surgeon.
Why wouldn’t I wake up as a mermaid? Not the literal kind, but a metaphorical kind. I have never been inclined to find any truth in dream interpretations of others – if I had been I would have reason to feel concerned given that mermaid-related dreams are linked to treacherous behaviour and misfortune according to the web.
My heart tells me another story. It tells me both rounds of surgery will be transformational. They will not give me a fishtail so I can be set free, but a pair of functioning legs that will give me the ability to wander around without fear or restrictions. A metamorphosis into my new self.
A self that has taken onboard the love and care offered in trying times. A self that has learned to trust others more than ever before. A self that shines in spite of the enormous scars on her legs. A self that feels like me, but that is not held back as much.
That metamorphosis has begun with the fixing of my legs and it will gradually continue afterwards. A path that won’t be easy for me, but one I need to take as my dreams so clearly revealed to me.
- My mother, who had been looking after me until this day, went home. I initially felt overwhelmed by the thought of surviving without her presence knowing I wasn’t able to do much. But the two friends I live with were absolute stars and helped me so much. I also had asked other friends to pop by during lunch time to help me with tasks I couldn’t perform. Both these things were lifesavers.
- Pain had lessened a lot at this stage, meaning it was easier to move around. Wearing the brace for many hours a day did cause me discomfort, especially at night.
- I tried lowering my medicine intake because I was unhappy feeling dazed. I gradually cut out most of the pregabylin and replaced oxycodone with codeine.
- My wounds were healing alright, though one didn’t close properly so I had to return to the clinic to make sure it wouldn’t get infected.
- Towards then end of this phase I started with hydrotherapy. It was challenging to get in the pool because my brace needed to be worn at all time whilst moving around on land. Walking freely in the water felt great however.
- I also started land physio. This was a lot more challenging because I wasn’t allowed to walk. But even the slightest sense of movement made me incredibly happy.
- I had an x-ray taken on day 33 and it showed great healing progress. As a result I was allowed to stop wearing the brace and to practice walking again.
- My leg was very weak and sore, but in spite of that it felt stable whenever I put weight on the foot. As I walked slowly, I realised how different the position of everything in my body was before. The difference between the left and right side was indescribable.
- Unfortunately I developed severe pain in my sciatic and peroneal nerves, from buttock to mid-lower leg. This nauseating pain made walking, or anything really, an ordeal. My physiotherapist gave me some stretches to do in order to improve the gliding of the nerve.
- The pain caused by my nerve and the situation altogether started taking a toll on my back. The pain was strong and immobilising so I went for a massage in the hope it would ease the pain.
- After about two weeks, the pain in my sciatic nerve gradually eased. Pain in the peroneal nerve remained intense a while longer.
- My days were filled with physio and hydrotherapy appointments, exercises, icing and on day 48 I started working again. I found my first physio appointment spectacular. I was attached to electrodes to measure how much energy the muscles in my leg generate. Something that made sense when I saw it, but it had never occurred to me that you could measure this. My muscles averaged a five, quite low given that 200 is considered normal.
- By this time my nerve pain was less prevalent, making it easier for me to do my exercises. My ligaments remained very sore and still caused a lot of pain on day 77.
- I loathed taking the bus to work, so I challenged myself to walk to the office like I usually do. First half of the way and after two weeks the whole way, with one crutch. My leg responded well to these 45-minute hikes. Not bad, given I usually walk the route in half an hour.
- Hydrotherapy remained an enjoyable experience. It helped me feel fully how stable my leg really is post-operation. Physio on land was a lot more challenging. Certain exercises on the reformer are great, but others cause a lot of pain, especially in my ligaments. Pain that’s perfectly normal and the physiotherapist was happy with my progress in spite of it.
- The surgeons were quite happy with my progress as well so we decided to plan my next surgery as soon as possible, on day 77. This felt daunting at first but I realised more and more how necessary it would be to have that other leg done. The left leg started hindering the development of the right leg.