The humble kneecap
I have had obvious problems with my left knee for the last ten years. The x-rays explained the less obvious. That my kneecap has never been flush with its trochlea (the groove the kneecap sits in). It was this off-groove misfit that caused pain, instability and irregular episodes of bursitis (ouch)! Given that running had been my sport of choice since I was seventeen, the medics were surprised I had been able to engage in as much sport as I had (sailing, swimming, cycling, aerobics, etc).
Exercises = Easy Medicine
The least invasive, happiest option for me was to do the exercises recommended to keep my quadriceps muscle as fit as possible. They do the wonderful job of keeping the kneecap correctly aligned. Easy medicine, and a daily commitment I enjoyed. I could also incorporate them into my Yoga and Pilates classes. Best pain management on the planet and it worked for nine years. However, more frequent bouts of bursitis (which prohibited me from driving and made walking with crutches mandatory) forced me to reconsider the options.
Pre Surgery Meditation
I made the decision to have a kneecap (patellafemoral) replacement. I had been meditating specifically with my surgery in mind, and bringing myself to mindfulness when the thoughts entered my waking consciousness – electing to choose positive thoughts. This in turn effected how I felt about it: so not fretting over a negative outcome, but looking forward to restored knee function and being able to live my life engaging in the activities I love. Consequently, in my meditations I visualised a fully-functioning, healthy me with a new kneecap.
There was a small chance that my whole knee joint might require replacing, as the x-rays could not show the state of the rest of the joint. So it was agreed that ‘we’ would prepare for the larger job but hope only the smaller procedure would be required. Consequently, in my meditations I saw only a fabulous new kneecap. I had illustrations and images of what a new kneecap might look like: some shiny metal, cement and a ‘button’ (which is the actual kneecap). I am a very visual person, so it was easy for me to picture this gorgeous new kneecap integrating very well.
From the moment I entered the hospital, I allowed myself to be in a meditative state and aware of my breathing. I consciously collaborated with every cell in my body in an easy and gentle way to get through the experience. I felt incredible joy, gratitude and grace. I so wanted to cooperate in this new experience.
My brother had accompanied me to the hospital and stayed with me in the hours before surgery. We chatted easily, and at one point we were laughing like children. Call it nerves, excitement, fear – whatever it was, it just reinforced that everything was going to be alright.
Every staff member I met with before surgery was kind, helpful and friendly. Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Mister Surgeon, and the Anaesthethist (with whom I had a wonderful chat about the unscientific element of ‘how to measure consciousness’). I high-fived him for that one and said how much I would like to carry on the conversation another time. I had a spinal anaesthetic which is typical for orthopaedic surgery, and a first for me.
Post Surgery Meditation
When I came round, the Recovery Nurse was by my side. I whispered ‘what procedure have they carried out’? She checked my notes and said, “a Patellofemoral replacement” . I high-fived her. Yay – I have a new kneecap. I was so happy because a) this was an indication that the rest of my knee joint is healthy and b) this was the outcome I had so hoped for.
I was taken back to the ward, and so commenced my first night in hospital. As I lay in bed, I was acutely aware of feeling grateful. I meditated and welcomed my new kneecap; I had waited a long time for it, and integrating it into my mind/body space had already commenced in a safe and secure way. I also thanked my right leg for working so much harder over the previous months to keep me upright, moving forward and strong. I touched each leg, because I could, and making that physical contact was and is, always so important for me. It is reassuring and enables me to settle.
Meditation can take a minute. Don’t feel bound to spending a long time in an uncomfortable position for longer than is necessary. You can take yourself where you need to go. Commence with a few deep breaths and bring your consciousness to wherever in your body you feel the need for support. I’ll be sharing some specific meditations in upcoming posts, so pop back when you have time in the coming weeks.
On a broader level, I believe this ‘knee’ surgery is healing on a deep level, and is an opportunity for me to move forward in a new way in the coming months.
I have since written to the Hospital (Ipswich Hospital, Martlesham Ward) thanking them for a great first visit, acknowledging staff by name where I could remember, and told them how important each kindness was to me.
- How great that first cup of tea post surgery tasted. The Nurse made sure I told her exactly how I liked it, so she could get it just right.
- The kindness of the Nurse who checked how I was at 3am in the morning when my light was on and I was reading.
- The Nurse who brought me a sandwich at 12:15am even though it was a really busy Friday night. Manna from the Gods as it was the first thing I had eaten in almost 24 hours.
- The Nurse who changed my sheets. She was kind, sensitive and reassuring. She also opened my window for fresh air and drew the blinds so I could see a little bit of sky.
- The Nurses who collectively kept an eye on me when my blood pressure was particularly low, to ensure I didn’t fall.
- The Physiotherapists who got me up and moving; full of encouragement and support.
- For the fantastic collective cooperation between all the staff on the Ward for the best interests of your patients.
It’s scientifically difficult to prove that any pre-surgery meditation was responsible for my experience. But you see I wasn’t looking for anything to go wrong. I wasn’t expecting to have a bad experience. I had purpose in meditating to have a great experience and outcome; or at least I chose to make the very best of my experience. I considered it an adventure, a time of curiosity, an opportunity to see behind the hospital walls I passed so many hundreds of times in my car on the outside, and to completely trust those on the inside. Result!
So I’m looking forward to a good old ‘knees-up’ later this Summer and a new pep in my step as I stride into the future.
How about you? Have you had any in-hospital experiences where meditation has helped?