On December 1, 2021, I had my right knee removed and an artificial, titanium knee inserted. During the first two weeks, I seriously questioned if I had done the right thing. The pain, even with opioids, was almost unbearable. The pain was what I would later call “raw pain,” more intense and perpetua than giving birth. It was physically, emotionally and spiritually draining.
When I asked for input from those who had had this surgery, I heard everything from, “I was out for lunch with my friends in three weeks,” to “I had pain for nine, yes, NINE months!” Every person’s experience was so different. Mine was marred early on by extremely low blood pressure and then, ugly looking blood blisters. The blisters set me back at least two weeks, a late start at the beginning of the healing.
Why did I say yes to such a painful procedure? That knee had been giving me problems for years, but it was not until it gave out on me, twice in one day, pushing me into a decision-making mode. The second time I fell, I bruised several ribs on concrete in the backyard. Luckily, this took place at home, but it could have happened anywhere.
The x rays showed the lack of cartilage between the two bones. So, this surgery would probably have had to have happened at some point in my life, and I voted for sooner (and younger) rather than later (and older).
I truly did not comprehend the seriousness of the possibility of infection until the doctor insisted on a Friday afternoon that he make a house call the following morning after his rounds at the hospital. He had never done this before. It was at that point that he gave instructions to 1) treat the blisters with a special dressing, 2) take antibiotics for ten days, and 3) stop all home physical therapy (which quickly became a problem).
After listening to a story online yesterday, I realized how serious an infection could have been. A man entered the hospital for knee replacement surgery, got an infection that traveled throughout his body, was put on life support and died a few days later.
When I sign paperwork before procedures, I hardly ever read all of the fine print--especially the rare but potential side effects. Do you? Who wants to focus on those just before going under anesthesia?
In all but a few cases, our yes is usually a naive one. We read risks and benefits, and most of us entrust ourselves to science and statistics, many of us to God, not really knowing the outcome of our assent. The results may not be fully known until years after we whispered that short but powerful word, yes. This surgery is called “elective,” and that is what it is. It was not life-saving, but it could be life-giving. It could also have been life-taking.
When you accepted that job offer that sounded so good, did you even envision that the work environment might be toxic to you? When you planted those adorable, sweet smelling flowers, were you aware that they were so invasive that they choked out all but a few of your perennials?
A friend shared with me a true story. A priest friend was on vacation, sitting and reading a book on the beach. A beach evangelist was walking around, introducing himself to the people on the beach and asking them if they had a personal relationship with Jesus. When the evangelist approached the priest, he asked the same question. The priest replied, “Yes, unfortunately…” We may feel uneasy with this response or we may smile knowingly and be fully aware of the cost of saying yes.
Recall the naive and humble response of Mary, the mother of Jesus. “Here am I…let it be with me according to your word.” If she had had any idea of what lay ahead of her (watching her son die on a cross), would she have still said yes?
Of course, there will be times when we wish we’d said no, thank you, when we’re in the thick of the pain, disappointment or feelings of failure. And, there will be times when we wish we’d said yes as we imagine what might have been (and it’s always good!) Or we may be so doggone grateful that we said no when our wisdom kicked in!
One of the things I love most about God is that nothing is ever irretrievable or irreversible. We might live with the consequences of our choices, but we can always change course especially in how we perceive outcomes.
I am now in my 9th week of recovery after surgery. At my last appointment, I was told that I would need manipulation of the knee area to break down the scar tissue that formed during the first two weeks after surgery--those weeks we waited for the blisters to shrink. That means that I will once again undergo anesthesia and intensified pain, but only for a time. The breaking up of scar tissue will enable my knee to heal as it should. I anticipate being joyful in a few months!
Remember, there are two sides to every yes. Never all one or the other. Our lives are like a braid with joy and regret interwoven around it. And in most cases, there IS no fine print to read beforehand! Even if there is, we are in the habit of signing on the line without reading the entire document. We move on and trust that our choices will be in some way life-giving or enhancing. Yet, it's not always about visibly living a better life. It’s what happens within us while we are living out our yes.