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The Hawk's Nest

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The Hawk's Nest

A new knee is put to the test

Walking along the lake was the perfect outing for us. We had been in the house for several days—even though the winter was mild—and we needed to let the wind blow through our hair. On this January day the temperature was “light jacket” warm with a blue sky and mild breeze; even just sitting on a rock in the sun was comfortable. I got a couple of pretty good photos of eagles that seemed to be there for our viewing pleasure.

Neither the perfect day, the eagles nor the fresh air were the highlight of the day trip for us though. This adventure came just two weeks after my wife Linda had a total knee replacement. We had been to the doctor before the walk for her first post-operation visit. He said her recovery was going well, so well it gave him goose bumps.   

She went into the surgery with the intention of making the most of the procedure, an avenue to making her life even better. If the stories of the painful recovery were true, she looked at them as just a part of the process. They would not get in her way.

The first day home she started walking as far as she could in our house with a walker. There was a while when she did the “granny short-step;” you know, one step, pick up and move the walker, then one more step. By the second day, she was pushing the walker around like a grocery cart and was questioning its necessity. On the third day, on the recommendation of the home health physical therapist, she replaced it with a pair of ski poles and made her first post-op trip up the steps to our second floor successfully.

Before the day on the lake, there had been more physical therapy including a few miles on a stationary bike coupled with stretching and strength building exercises. One unexpected surprise was that she was reducing her use of pain meds; she didn’t need them. As a nurse practitioner, Linda tells her patients to stay ahead of the pain because it is difficult to catch up if it gets too serious and may get in the way of recovery. Therefore, when she started reducing her pain meds, I questioned it. She said she just did not need them and as soon as she felt any pain coming, she would take some—and she did.

She had set an intention before surgery of a full, fast, yet sensible recovery that would enable her to get on with life unimpeded by pain. Becoming a poster child for total knee replacement rehabilitation, as her physical therapist called her, was not an intention.

Since that first walk there have been several more mostly refreshing winter walks along one of the many lakes in our area or on a trail in a forest near our home. We are careful—and it has been a perfect winter for us, not to walk in snow or ice yet.

These are not just walks that will give strength and flexibility to her operated knee, they are also treks into a new world of pain-free activities. These travels bond Linda to the new knee that she embraces, and opens opportunities for both of us—so I too must support the whole process and embrace her healing as if it were my own.

I think the healing began before she even entered the operating room. She knew the surgery without the right mental attitude and work on her part was nearly a waste of time. That attitude allowed her to show love for her knee before surgery and thank it for the many blessings she had received with it. She did not feel she was a victim, never thinking of it as a bad knee, simply as a knee that had worn out through many years of blissful use. She accepted the pain as a symptom, a reminder that a correction was in order to continue an active, full lifestyle.

As I observed that attitude, I have no doubt that it, coupled with her hard work and dedication to a complete and gentle recovery has aided her remarkable recuperation.

We are loving our winter walks together and look forward to them as they continue into spring and summer. I believe we are hiking away from a world that includes pain, sometimes limiting pain, and hiking into an unlimited pain free world for both of us.

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

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