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Surgical Reflections

So for the past month, I have been recovering from foot surgery, or perhaps more specifically, toe surgery. What’s wrong, you ask? A story is needed.

This past summer I attended World Youth Day in Poland. Rachael, one of my students, had a bad cold and was unable to sleep under the stars at the papal mass site. So I stayed behind with her (Keeping my record of not sleeping outside at World Youth Day in tact!) and we decided to walk by ourselves to the papal pilgrimage route. We thought we could take a bus to the route which by itself is only about 2 miles or so, but the buses were shut down because of the proximity of the papal motorcade–so we had to walk a much longer journey. About 10 miles in total. However, at one point we were stopped and this happened:

So cool.

We did eventually get to the mass and somehow found our group. After the mass we began to depart and once again the buses were a problem. Overcrowding, buses and streetcars were often at a standstill, or not showing up at all. In the midst of all this, there was a crazy rainstorm…and I do mean rain. This made the buses we saw even hotter than they usually were. One passenger wrote in the fogged up window the words “Help us”, which made us all giggle. So we made the collective decision that it was better to keep moving on foot than to be stuck on a steamy, smelly and stagnate bus or streetcar.

It was a wet but a good decision. We did make it back to our hotel well ahead of those vehicles. Rachel and I totaled 20 miles and over 50,000 steps on my fitbit for the day. Whew!

Now what does all this have to do with foot surgery? Well, a bunch of things. One is that I developed bad blisters on my heels and on the 4th toe of both feet, I had two really huge blisters. I also suffer from heel spurs and have for years. So for me, it was indeed the agony of de-feet.

I called my wife and asked her to make an appointment with my podiatrist for when I return. At that appointment he pointed out to me that while my feet hurt, that was a manageable problem with some good ibuprofen. Heel spurs are not something that you want to have to correct with surgery, Stretching is really the solution along with good shoes.

However, the blister on my 4th toe (on both feet) was so huge because those toes were both crooked. They were curling under the third toe and the friction was causing these huge blisters.

“Whenever you do a lot of walking, this is what you are going to face.” the doctor said. “What’s worse is that these toes are just going to get worse and that’s going to be a real problem.”

So some minor surgery was needed. He straightened the tendons and bone and then inserted a pin into each toe so it would heal properly and then stitched up the toe. Recovery time is 4-6 weeks. Limited walking and absolutely no driving.

So I have been sequestered in my home for this time with the exception of doctor’s appointments. Friends have been gracious with transporting me to the doctor and doing some shopping for us (My wife doesn’t drive). It’s also been an opportunity for me to reflect. I’ve thought a lot about how tough it must be for older people who aren’t as mobile, or for people who have limited mobility issues for longer periods of time. While my pain wasn’t awful, it was bad enough, especially the first two days. I began to pray in solidarity for people who suffer from chronic pain, with no relief.

I’ve also been unable to shower. So it’s been sponge baths for the past month. I’ve taken to sleeping on the couch as it’s easier to elevate my feet there without bothering Marion. A warm shower and my own bed will be things I treasure soon. I imagine there are many who wander the city streets who would relish these things as well.

My dearest wife has been a real trooper. She’s been waiting on me hand and foot and has cared for me so well. Haze the dog has never left my side, knowing of my need for comfort. He is a great, great pal.

I also found myself joyfully reflecting on many of the gifts of the past year. My trip with a bunch of glorious students to Poland this summer, was one of the real joys of my life. A mentorship relationship with one of my old students has also brought me a lot of joy. Two new colleagues at work have made life less stressful and fun to be at work. There are always fires to extinguish at work as the director, but these seem to have lessened.

The loss of a student is never easy and we faced that this semester, along with much end of the semester drama, that I won’t bore you with here. But we still stand committed to God in our work and hopefully will continue to lead others into a more deep relationship with God as well. I’m grateful for my colleagues in campus ministry and for those we work alongside in student affairs.

Today, I ask for prayers as the pins are removed from my toes. I will need to find out what’s next in recovery, but I hope for a return to work soon. Most of all, I am grateful for the gift of youth and mobility which I still have and I look forward to another 20 miles of walking somewhere, where God will accompany me, helping me to find more of what God hopes I can find.

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