Monday, October 13, 2014

Elul Project - Laura

Introducing guest blogger Laura Abrahams Cohen, who also contributed an essay about thankfulness and walking to our synagogue's Elul Project (see previous entry for my contribution). Enjoy - Aaron

Elul 2014-5775
I am thankful for the blessing of good health at the start of the New Year!  My adventure started over a year ago with some hip pain. Not quite ignoring the discomfort, I began Zumba exercise dance classes in September 2013.  After all, my outdoor pool had just closed on Labor Day and one DOES need to exercise.  Surprising myself, I liked the music, which I’ll admit is different from classic rock’n’roll and the Grateful Dead which form the sound track for my life.  Soon I needed to see the orthopedic doctor again because the pain began to become alarming.

We needed to pin down the real problem which involved navigating the healthcare system. I am thankful to have health insurance through my employer.  By November of 2014 I got the official word on the results from the MRI—hip arthritis.  It had progressed rather rapidly from a year earlier when the x-ray showed not much of anything.

By this point I was looking for solutions to the mounting discomfort.  Temporary help came from a cortisone injection into the joint which provided exactly five weeks of relief.  No repeats of that relief were possible.  By early February the words “hip replacement surgery” were spoken. Oh my, this would take some getting used to. Zumba went on hold for a while.

The months from February to May 2014 brought acute pain and real disability.  Driving my car resulted in my not being able to stand up and walk when stepping out of the car. My leg from knee to hip completely cramped up (to protect the deteriorating hip joint).  I resorted to keeping a hard folding chair in the back of my car.  I would hobble to the back of the car, take out the chair, sit down and shift around in an effort to be able to stand up again and walk.  Usually it worked, but sometimes it did not. My colleagues at work began to see me have trouble walking and sympathetically asked if I was OK.

By late February I scheduled the surgery.  I probably should have scheduled it for sooner but we had three happy occasions coming up in April and May which I didn’t want to miss. The date was set for June 3 so that we could celebrate at a cousin’s wedding in Austin; travel again to my uncle’s 90th birthday in Ottawa-- at which he surprised everyone present including his children by turning the already happy occasion into his wedding to his long-time girlfriend; and celebrate with our son Jonathan and his fiancĂ©e Alyssa at their engagement party.

At WalkMS in April, the fundraising and awareness project of my team the Mitzvah Squad for the benefit of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society there would be NO WAY I could walk the three mile route. I borrowed a scooter from Aaron to cover the course.
I was worried about the upcoming surgery—no joke.  I tend to be easygoing-- taking things as they come.  I’m a veteran of three c-sections and gall bladder removal.  But this was BIG, and it involved rehabilitation and physical therapy as well as the time off from work to accomplish these things.  On the morning of my total hip replacement surgery I couldn't walk and had to ask for a wheelchair half way down a long hallway.

My surgeon promised me that when I stood up from the surgery I would not have the pain that plagued me for months leading up to the repair.  He is right. The recovery is amazing and miraculous. He and his staff were helpful as were the physical therapists in getting me through the adventure.
Prior to about 40 years ago, hip replacement was somewhat experimental. Since the 1970s the techniques that are now in use were developed and are quite successful.  The first U.S. hip replacements began only in 1940.

I got advice and encouragement from growing list of friends who have either had joint replacement surgery or are close to someone who has had it.  Everyone spoke of the terrific results and said they wished that they had done it sooner!

How fortunate I am to be living in 2014/5775 and to have access to this repair. I often think about the devastating pain that all the humans who have had the same problem as I suffered from in the history of humanity until just 40 or so years ago. I think of the majority of humanity today with no access to our amazing first world medical system. 

Especially at this time of the New Year I do not take this blessing for granted.  I’m working on my rehab with daily walking, swimming and physical therapy exercises.  I am hugely grateful to have recovered from this problem. I am thankful for my new beginning with my pain-free leg. I’m even glad to return to my work and my regular routine after a well-timed early-summer outdoor-pool-season rehab.  I’m looking forward to returning to those noisy fun Zumba classes.

Laura Cohen