05 December 2010

surgery and pain

Success! That's the first and most important thing I want to note.

On Nov 19th I had surgery: abdominal reconstruction and revision to my residual limb (sounds gruesome, but those are the technical terms). Both surgeries were planned, and I was lucky to have them both done the same day. Three days later, I woke up (the day before Thanksgiving). As usual, I have dim memories of very bizarre dreams during that time. Anaesthesia seems to do that to me. Discharged on Nov 30th, I've been home for five days already.

Recently I participated in a study about chronic pain (actually, the study continues; I've completed the first portion of the study) and it has made me think more deeply about living with pain. Over the past two years, I had become accustomed to living with a certain degree of pain. Largely controlled by medication, my pain level ranged between 0-3 (on the standard pain scale of 0-10, where 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain imaginable). If it reached 3, that usually meant that I had forgotten to take my meds. But now, recovering from surgery, it's different.

Every morning, I feel like I've been beat up. Everything is sore and achy and my surgery sites are particularly sensitive. Two percocet, one neurontin and a cup of coffee later, and I'm ready to move around a little -- enough to get myself bathed, dressed and fed. But my movements are limited, both by pain and by doctors' orders. I'll be ok with this for a short while, but I can't imagine living with pain for the rest of my life, as do some people. Already I've learned my limitations: pain impacts my ability to concentrate, to plan for the future, to maintain an upbeat frame of mind. Luckily for me, the pain will recede as my body heals.

Also, I try to keep meds to a minimum. They dull my thought processes and reduce my stamina. (I'm trying to get some work done!) I read about the success of acupuncture for treatment of phantom limb pain. Once I'm recovered from these recent procedures, I'm going to give it a try.

Best wishes to all for a pain-free year!


I've been making hats -- lots and lots of hats. Because I've been experimenting with stitch patterns (and therefore learning how to calculate sizes), my results have come out to be all shapes and sizes. Some very large, some small. So far I've made 10 or 12 hats: some will go to friends and family, but so far I've finished seven for charity. Maybe I'll get 10 done by the end of the year.

While in Mali, I met a lot of Peace Corps volunteers (PCVs). I've decided that I'm going to send the hats I make to the PCVs in Bandiagara and have them distribute them as needed. Who better, I thought, to understand local needs and be able to receive and easily distribute my small gift?