At Home Recovery

A Semblance of Normalcy

It has been quite a while since I last wrote an update for you all, and as you will see, this may well be my last update. If this is destined to be my last update here, please feel free to check out my regular website, which includes my regular blog.

In the time since I last wrote I have progressed from the walking with a stick to not needing any assistive devices aside from the brace, and this includes no stick even when barefoot at home. Alongside that Dr. Koop had a few weeks ago said I should stop wearing the brace at night, and that we could make the brace more flexible (and since I have done those two things). Both of those have made the last few weeks far more “normal”. I found that I sleep better without the brace on, and am no longer half-tripping when standing up with the brace more flexible. All in all those two improvements transitioned my life to a more usual set of patterns.

This past week was even more significant in many ways. At my PT appointment (which are now just every other week) I was given the go-ahead to cease using a bench in the shower, along with the help in part of a nonslip mat. This has meant that the last few days my showering has gone back to completely independent, since all that was left I needed help with was the bench anyway. This has made my daily life get back very close to “normal” in many ways. Today, with the aid of a backpack-like laundry carrier, I did my own laundry, which frankly was the only other bit of regular life that had still been upended by recovery from surgery.

I also had a virtual visit with Dr. Koop earlier this week, at which he looked at x-rays that were taken the day before after PT. Those showed that the bone healing is moving along nicely, which is to be expected given my near entire lack of pain (only have minimal pain sometimes, and really that may just be stretching in the brace anyway). He was impressed with my near-daily walks that average around 2 miles each (though, for PT’s sake the walks can now be every other day, and as it gets warmer heat may be a weather permitting question as to if I go for a walk at all or not). He told me that from here on out wearing the brace is really a matter of stability and comfort, not as an aid to bone healing. As such, with his blessing, I’ve already begun the process of slowly diminishing how much I wear the brace while at home, since my pre-surgery normal was simply not wearing it around the house. For now, that means taking it off after dinner and leaving it off until just before breakfast the next morning, including using stairs in both directions barefoot. Eventually, with the advice also of my PT, I expect to go even more of the day without the brace. Dr. Koop said he’ll see me back in September, when the final post-operative x-rays would be taken.

But, now that I’m officially allowed to wear the brace less, and am walking very close to my pre-surgery normal with or without the brace (just have some gait issues with regard to even my steps out between feet to deal with), I functionally feel about 95% recovered. Yes there are still a number of exercises and stretches to do as PT each day, as well as those appointments themselves, and the bones will still be healing for the next few months, but other than that every part of my life is back to “normal”. You see, that is why this may be the last time I write here, and why I haven’t written here in so long, because I’m so close to feeling fully recovered that in many ways the recovery is far from the top of my mind or daily activity anymore.

You may have noticed that I’ve put “normal” in quotes where I did use it, and used other words to get to the same meaning as well. This gets us to the wording of the title of this post too. Maybe I am physically, as well as in most of my day to day life, getting back to my pre-surgery expectations and actions. But that is about where such “normal” ends. We’re still deep in the midst of the global Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic that went and upended all of our global human civilization in the midst of my recovery. So, not much beyond me nothing will be “normal” for a while, and maybe not ever (the “new normal” as some call it, but really, the world is just in a state of constant flux right now). Even I am experiencing this fully now, and believe that it is part of why I find it hard to think I am as recovered as I am, because so much of everything else is different around me.

But, closer to home, just about 6 miles from where I live, across the river, George Floyd was killed. So though few businesses directly near me were affected by the looting and property destruction (though the gas station across the street to our north was set on fire) I very much do live at the center out of which all the unrest across the nation, and protests worldwide, spread from. That completely overtook the pandemic for about 1.5 to 2 weeks in my ability to think about the world, and also made it hard to focus on what was going on as a result of George Floyd’s death in other places. News of the pandemic nearly disappeared from my awareness as the Blackhawk helicopters were flying overhead during our nightly curfews for so long. So that is very much another aspect of broader society were I am that has changed our course away from “normal”. I mean, I really do yearn for the time when my surgery was the most significant thing in 2020, but we are far from that time. At this point, the surgery will be a footnote even in my history of this year as we grapple with everything around us that is changing our lives forever.

However, even that isn’t all that makes my life right now have just a semblance of normalcy. With my recovery from surgery nearly complete (at least in the day to day of things), other forces take hold again, as do other medical needs (dental work on Monday morning, eye appointment hopefully in a few weeks). So as my physical health, with my right foot at least, begins to level off, other crap, including that which is around constantly, peeks out again. Though maybe those things are my regular too, making just the societal mayhem feed the machine of unknowns. But, as the recovery diminishes the unknowns and sense of living in a not-normal time will very much remain.

Anyhow, very much onward with the fine line I’m walking along right now between recovering from surgery, and feeling recovered from surgery, as well as between being present to those who want my presence and not feeling able to give that. All we can do for the moment is hang on to what we have, and hope for the best we want.

At Home Recovery

Outdoor Walks

The weather is getting more springy here in Saint Paul. Heck, it has reached 70 both yesterday and today. This is a welcome achievement for all of us, despite the continued stay-at-home order. We can have windows open, and also spend more time outside. Though we still should not interact with those beyond our households, this does mean we can see neighbors, and interact with them from a safe distance. Quite a change from just a few weeks back.

At my last PT appointment I was given the task of taking one longer walk a day, weather permitting, outside. So far I’ve done this twice, one to each of the corners of our block. Yesterday I used my walker, but found that much more difficult due to the way sidewalks are built (the breaks between the concrete segments meant that I could not really just go without constant stopping to get over obstacles). The walking itself seemed easier than needing to maneuver with the walker, honestly. After that walk we experimented with what it would be like with the walking stick my uncle Christopher gave us for Christmas a few years ago on my left side, and Eric helping support my right side. This was far more successful, and also enables things like going on the grass to maintain 6 feet of separation from others when needed.

This morning I did my second of these endurance exercise walks using the walking stick and Eric (who would join me on the walk even if I didn’t need him at all, to keep me company and get outdoors himself). I managed to achieve a very close to normal walking gait at times, when not really thinking but just walking and enjoying the nice Saturday weather. I think that this is the way that I will do these walks from here on out. This also showed me a clearer path onwards to eventual full recovery, because I was walking far more normally than I ever have with the walker. It forced me to put weight on my right foot in a way that I’d need to be intentional about not weight bearing through my right arm when using the walker. The ultimate goals with these walks will be to be able to do such walks without relying on Eric, eventually without even relying on the walking stick, and somewhere in there increase the distance first to around the whole block, and then beyond. When we approached the house, Mary took the below video to show off my progress (and document that we’re actually using the walking stick for once):

At Home Recovery

Advice for Newcomers

So… I’ve been stuck at home recovering from surgery since January 16th, 2 months now. Across the world, but certainly as per CDC guidelines here in the United States, I’m sure many of you are now looking down the tunnel of similar isolation as you protect yourself, your family, and your community from COVID-19. I thought, since I have a bit of a leg up on this (although, it does mean in a few weeks this staying at home will flip from being related to surgery recovery to being related to COVID-19), that I should share some advice:

  • Forget about the weather report. I mean, seriously, why bother. You aren’t going anywhere anyways. The most it can affect you is if severe storms risk power outages, so pay attention to NWS warnings, but the daily forecast really isn’t important.
  • Give up on activity tracking like that which the Apple Watch does for the time being. This was definitely a thing for me stuck at home not even walking much, but for everyone who is at home all the time you won’t likely meet your goals. That is just fine. Your health is important and being protected largely by staying home for the time being. If you don’t meet your movement or exercise goals that is fine. Your stand goal should still be met, though. You may even want to disable the activity notifications your device has for the time being.
  • Stay in touch with friends and family using the internet. Social media is one way. But so to is the use of tools like iMessage, FaceTime, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and many more. Oh, and also phone calls. Regularly check in with your people.
  • When shopping is necessary, consider going at low-volume times like right when stores open or right before they close. Also go to local shops for the necessities as much as possible. But hey, I just read that as I haven’t been anywhere except doctor’s appointments recently.
  • When working from home, which remember is my norm anyhow, find a hobby or other fun activity to do, be it on the internet or entirely offline, to break things up. Also it is best to have a given place in your house in which to do your professional work.
  • Perhaps, just maybe, try to stick to a regular basic schedule of when to sleep, when to eat, and so forth. That will be healthier than sleeping more, eating more, and such.
  • Netflix and other streaming services are your sanity’s friends. So are games you play on your devices.
  • Having reputable news sources to read online is a good idea. This will help keep you informed, and sane.
  • Whatever you do, do not panic. Seriously, that will make things much worse (see toilet paper hoarding, for example).

Of course, the CDC plus my advice is not the end of the line. If you have more, feel free to share. Together we will get through the next few weeks to months of this COVID-19 more or less shutdown of good swaths of society.

Also posted on my regular blog.

At Home Recovery

Silly Eric

So, you know that part of my non weight bearing recovery where I was going to stay on the second floor except for follow-up doctors appointments? Bit late for that, all thanks to Eric. Story time:

Over the last few weeks Mary has been complaining that our fancy (but at least a decade and half or so old) front door lock that lets you use codes to unlock it has not been working for her. It has been working just fine for Eric and I.

Anyway, a little bit ago she came home and, again, could not unlock it. But this time, Eric insisted he show her it worked. So, he went outside, with no coat, just a T-shirt and pants in sub 20 degree weather, locked the front door, and proceeded to watch her try and unlock it. She failed. Again. And again. Then he failed. Again. And again. The lock has a normal key too, but neither of them had it. Cadi enjoyed watching this unfold from the front hall. I, less so, hearing it from upstairs wondering if they would need help.

Then they call me. First Mary insisted that Eric ask me for my code (which I’ve used since we got the lock, and that originated from my student ID number at Crosswinds). I tell it to him. They try it. Again. And again. The lock doesn’t unlock. Nuts.

So they ask if I can go downstairs to unlock the door manually, as, you know, you can do from the inside. Mind you, I hadn’t done that while in non weight bearing recovery on my own before. Good news, I figured out how to do it. They got in. Eric could begin to defrost.

He tries the lock with no pressure of the door being closed. It doesn’t unlock. Well, he thinks, should have tried that first. Guess we need a new lock for our front door. But by this time I’m downstairs. So we all eat lunch in the dining room and Eric researches new door locks. I now know I can get downstairs on my own, and have already pretty much been getting back upstairs with no help anyway. Well, in both cases, I still need someone to bring the walker up and down. But still, I get myself on the stairs well enough.

As I write this I’m back upstairs and Eric is off purchasing a new lock. Since technology, as, well, technology, constantly changes and it has been over a decade, we at least get to try some of the benefits of that time. The new lock he plans to buy will still have a way to enter codes to unlock the door, but also work with the Home app on our devices so our phones and watches can lock and unlock the door as well, even with proximity. Apparently this also means we would be able to remotely unlock the door if, say, an aunt or cousin needs to get in and we aren’t around. Maybe we’ll use the codes way less, and also all share one within our family, and still possibly have one for my cousins who are in colleges nearby.

Achievement unlocked: I can get down, not just up, the stairs on my own.

Lesson learned: Try unlocking the door before you lock yourself out.

Adapting Daily Life At Home Recovery


Everyone needs to stay clean, even if they don’t go anywhere often (like me most of the time during this recovery process). But casts cannot get wet. Hence, there is a bit of a dilemma, isn’t there? Well, at first, and still half the time, we’re doing this by just giving me sponge baths. This gets most of my skin clean, but not all of it, and notably doesn’t clean my hair at all. So we do that about every other day.

On the opposite days, though as of now this has only been going for about 2 cycles, I take an actual shower. Firstly, since I cannot stand on both feet for the moment we use a shower bench that we put into the shower so I can sit down. But what we use to keep my cast completely dry is a product that a member of the Gillette Children’s casting staff recommended, DryPro. This is a latex sleeve we put over the cast leg that has a pump to create a vacuum seal around the cast by pumping out all the air. Then I can even place my right leg directly in the shower, and yet the cast will not get wet in the slightest. As such, I can shower (or even take a bath if I want) to get the entirety of my body with the exception of the parts in the cast completely clean, just like before (and after) this whole recovery process.

Of course, I need help getting myself clean like this, unlike when not in this recovery, but at least I can have a way to get quite clean regularly. That definitely helps a bit with regard to feeling better even amidst the (physical and otherwise) pains of this lengthy recovery process.

Adapting Daily Life At Home Recovery

Using my Desk

Since I use a walker to get around during this non weight bearing period I can’t really sit down into chairs that move at all. Yet this is what my desk chair is, being that it turns and has wheels. So we came up with the idea of using the lower drawer of my desk drawers as a mechanism to stop my desk chair from moving that much, to make it possible for me to get into it all on my own (also with the help of a grabber-like thing we keep on my walker to open the drawer with). I then have a stool with a pillow for my right foot under my desk, although realistically a chunk of the time I’m sitting my right foot is down like normal (and my left foot) because that is a bit more comfortable, neither foot bears weight when I’m sitting anyhow, and it doesn’t help to keep either foot/leg in one position for too long anyway (regardless of the recovery).

Adapting Daily Life At Home Recovery

Apple Watch

I’ve decided that I’ll add some posts describing aspects of how I’ve adapted my daily life during recovery, in the hopes that they (along with this entire blog) may help others facing this or similar surgeries in the future. This is the first in that occasional series.

I have changed the default face I use to one set up for surgery recovery. That is, my normal watch face has weather, activity, and such. All things that to be honest I won’t need much during a non weight bearing recovery where I’m going to stay on the second floor of our house save for trips to Gillette for follow-up appointments. I’ve even disabled all Activity and Stand notifications, since my physical movement will be far less for the next few weeks. Instead, I’m using a face that has both the digital time and date large and prominent, so as to be easier to read. Further, along the bottom are quick access to calling or texting my parents, who are my caretakers during the recovery, as well as access to Messages in general. This way, the watch can act as a quick alert system to get in touch with my parents (both of whom also have Apple Watches, and have promised to also keep their phones nearby if ever their watches aren’t on them) whenever needed, even though I’ve asked that at least one of them be home with me at all times (a bit easier with my dad and I working together from home anyway).

I have also put the Breathe app on my watch face. It can guide me through mindful meditation, urging to breath in and out with both soothing animation and rhythmic tapping on the wrist. I read how careful breathing can help reduce pain and anxiety during recovery, and know from past experience how helpful mindfulness can be, so wanted to have easy access to that anytime.

I may even change the watch face colors to match the cast color I have over time…

At Home Recovery

In it for the Long Haul

Been a while since you’ve heard directly from me… I’m home, although still learning the ropes of the non-weight bearing on my right foot. I can get around with a walker quite well, but it is still taking time to also get used to all the help I’ll consistently need to get around and do regular things during these next 8-12 weeks. But my parents are helpful with all that and intend to help wherever, whenever, and as needed. I have a great support system here. I have determined that I really shouldn’t be alone in the house at all during this time.

With a dining/living room upstairs, and having figured out how to use the bathroom and how to sit at my desk many bases are covered. Granted I should not spend much energy on professional work for a while yet. But there are still things easier on a Mac than an iPad, so desk use is important. But my iPad will be getting more use if I’m in bed more, at least at this start of the long haul of recovery. My phone will see less use, my other devices can reach it and are better for my direct interaction at this time. My watch has become more of a way to quickly reach my parents than its usual activity tracking for this time period.

Feel free to reach out to me anytime and we’ll see if I’m up to responding or not. But mostly I’m really glad to be home, in my own normal spaces, and sleeping in my own more comfortable and larger bed. I’ve already gotten more sleep here than I did the whole time I was in the hospital. This next phase of recovery is very much underway.

At Home Recovery

Tracking Meds

Coming home from surgery brings home the task of tracking meds. Alex has done a wonderful job of tracking his regular medications over the years, but when opiates and pain meds get in the mix and his mom and dad have to alternate overnight administrations of drugs, things get a bit more complicated. We tried tracking on paper for a while, but found that confusing enough that it led to at least one (minor) error. So we’ve started something new: an AirTable base for tracking meds.

AirTable lets you create simple bases like this for free. They can be shared with a group of collaborators (like our little family) so that everyone is on the same page. We have created a base where we can plan out the coming medication times noting exactly how many of each pill Alex is supposed to get. We have a space for notes (like how bad his pain is) and a check box to check off when we actually give this dose.

Since everyone can see it from any phone or other device, we all can easily answer questions like “was this dose given?” We can also plan ahead, agreeing on how we taper certain meds (like Oxycodone) and then easily sticking to the plan. And when we talk to nurses, this gives us a very good record of what we have done.

This is just one of many uses for AirTable. We also use it to track our car’s milage and to sign up participants in our faith formation group. Check it out some time!

At Home Recovery

Snow pizza

We are getting through the snowstorm with some pizza and a call from Joanne and Thatcher. This is the sitting room we have set up on the second floor for Alex.