Instant old

March 6, 2007

After coming home from the hospital and spending a few days with my recovery schedule, a somewhat unexpected thought entered my mind: “Oh. This is what it’s like being old.”

I don’t intend to lump the elderly into a stereotype; after all, there are clearly lots of different ways to grow old. But ticking off my primary complaints from the first few days home does add up to something that reminds me of the elderly:

  • Water retention. Debbie has already written about the swelling in my feet, ankles and calves. Believe it or not, this was what bothered me the most for the first few days home. This is probably because a) I don’t have much experience with it, and b) I hadn’t really spent much energy anticipating it before the surgery. It’s definitely an unpleasant sensation to gain that much weight more or less instantly (I gained at least 15 pounds after the surgery, and possibly more), and it’s odd to feel like you have big thick elephant legs as you walk around. I now have more empathy for women and their monthly water retention issues, as well as anyone who’s ever bought a big fat Lay-Z-Boy recliner. Ah, putting the legs up! Bliss!
  • Slow, deliberate movement. As a relatively young person, I’m used to being able to move without expending much conscious thought. If I need to hop down the street to run an errand, I just do it. My body follows the goals of my mind. Since my surgery, this is no longer the case. Now just about every movement is proceeded with a little mental plan: “Hook the ankles under the bedframe to lever myself out of bed.” “Don’t tug too hard on the refrigerator door.” “Take the stairs one at a time.” It takes a lot of energy to plan your movements this way.
  • Weakness. Not much surprise here – I expected to have to rebuild my strength, and that’s exactly what’s required. The biggest component of that rebuilding is the walking program. After getting home last week, I started walking four times a day. Sounds great, right? Except that the first day I could manage (and was expected to do) only five minutes at a time. For someone who’s used to rambling all over the city at a brisk pace, getting winded after five minutes is a humbling experience.

It’s easier to consider these challenges now that I’ve been home almost a week and have seen improvement in each area. Water retention is now effectively gone, I’m getting good at doing everyday stuff without straining my chest, and I’m feeling stronger. Today I’ll have done three walks of eleven minutes each.

Undoubtedly the memory of these experiences will fade over time, as I continue to improve. But I don’t think I’ll ever look at an old person walking slowly down the sidewalk in quite the same way again.


3 Responses to “Instant old”

  1. Lisa Grider Volz Says:

    I know this is really wierd, but I ran across your blog recently while doing some reunion research. I think I went to elementary school with you – I mean,how many Shawn Grunbergers can there be? I just wanted to say “hi” and I’m sorry to hear about but your surgery, but glad to hear you’re not going through it alone. I hope you are feeling better.
    Hang in there.
    Hope this blast from the past doesn’t freak you out.

  2. Lisa, you must be the last person I ever expected to hear from! I’ll send you email and we can reminisce about our lives… gulp… thirty years ago!

  3. Lisa, I tried emailing both of the addresses you included with your comment. One bounced and I’m not sure if you got the message sent to the other one. If you see this, please email me at shawn (AT) deepstorm (DOT) com.

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