Surgery is Like A Long-Haul Flight

Photo by 贝莉儿 NG on Unsplash

I’m two weeks out from a hip replacement.

It’s the first surgery I’ve ever had, and the first anesthesia. (I’m the mother of two children, but I had both of them naturally without drugs.) So I was a bit (understatement) apprehensive about this whole process. Now that I’m done with it, I’m convinced it is a modern miracle.

It is two weeks out and I’m walking most of the time on my own, using a cane to go up and down steps. I’ve had very little pain which I’ve controlled mostly with over-the-counter meds. This morning I saw my surgeon and he cleared me for driving. I’m walking without a limp for the first time in years, and I feel great.

Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

But in the run-up to the big day, I felt like I was preparing for an international trip (which I am very familiar with, since I go to France every year). And the more I thought about it, the more I realized the similarities. The morning after my surgery, as I lay in my hospital bed, I grabbed my journal (because I go nowhere, not even the hospital, without my journal) and wrote all the parallels:

— There’s a lot to do the day before, and as you are doing it, you feel you are preparing to be out of commission for 24 hours or longer. Which you are. You’re packing a bag, setting an alarm to be certain you’re not late, deciding what you’ll take to read or watch or write in while you’re away.

— As you prepare, you experience a slow mental and emotional process of letting go of control. You have no choice but to leave your physical well-being totally in the hands of others.

— You leave one place (a particular city or the room where you are prepped) and wake up somewhere else (a different city on another continent, or the recovery room).

— You’ll see the surgeon or the pilot for a few minutes before and after. In the meantime, you’ll be served by nurses and flight attendants. And, with the exception of the ones on that Paris flight last March, they are among the kindest and friendliest people in the world.

— Which is a good thing, because you must rely on their goodness. You push a button to get their attention. And sometimes (through no fault of their own) it takes them a long time to come help you.

— You’re captive in your bed or seat for the duration, except for brief visits to the bathroom.

— It gets really uncomfortable lying in bed or sitting in a cramped seat for hours on end.

— The food is awful, but you eat it anyway, because there’s not much else to do.

— Your usual sleep patterns will be upset.

— In the aftermath, you’ll feel foggy from either the anesthetic or jet lag for days.

And in both cases, at least in my experience, the results are totally worth it!

I’ll be back to writing regular posts about writing soon. In the meantime, you can peruse a dozen years of articles on writing on my website.