Three days post hip replacement surgery a small team with a large ambulance transported me to a rehabilitation facility. While there, I began to heal from the invasive procedure and relearn the act of walking.
Handfuls of medications came periodically throughout the day. One hour before physical therapy, pain medication was generously doled out so that I could tolerate the pain from the simplest of leg and hip movements.
The days spent there seemed to meld together. Each day was about taking care of basic bodily functions: washing, changing johnnies, taking packs of medications, learning and relearning the crucial hip precautions, physical therapy that left me reeling and baby steps with the walker.
My concentration faded into a mere blur. People magazine seemed difficult to follow. My fantasy before the surgery was to read and write as I recovered from the ordeal. For the first couple of weeks, the written word seemed like nothing more than hieroglyphics.
During the long nights at rehab, I laid on my back, unable to sleep or modify my position. My body temperature could not properly adjust and sporadically throughout each night I found myself drenched in sweat and shivering uncontrollably.
I could barely organize my thoughts, but managed to press the “help” button. As if by magic, a woman instantly came to my bedside and whispered, “How can I help?” “What’s wrong?” Through chattering teeth I told her I was freezing cold and dripping in sweat. “Everything is wet,” I said. “I just need to get dry and warm.”
She responded calmly, “You’re okay darling. This is normal. I’ll get you all set up. Just relax. Just breathe. You’ll be better than new in just a few minutes.” She carefully put my limp body into her arms and moved me to the chair next to my bed with guardrails. Her strength made me feel safe.
First, she slowly took off my wet johnny and replaced it with one that was deliciously warm and soft. My heart rate slowed down and my respiration began to smooth out. Next, she changed the bedding one layer at a time. She attentively slipped me back into bed and told me to relax my body for now I would be able to drift off to sleep. And so I did…
About an hour later I again found myself in a cold sweat, feeling scared and out of control yet again. I pressed the button and back she came, with the same patience and compassion as the first time. We went through the cycle repeatedly. Never once was there a delayed reaction to my call for help or a hint of annoyance in her demeanor, even though my bedding and night clothes needed to be changed night after night, a minimum of five times.
The surgeon called my condition “thermo-disregulation”, which sometimes arises as a side effect of a major surgery. I dubbed the nurses and nurses’ aids “the angels of the night.” They consistently came to my rescue and in a matter of minutes, made everything better so I could feel safe again.
These women had beautiful hearts and gentle souls. Many of them looked as though they had been through their own life traumas, but each time they came I felt like there was some kind of divine intervention.
I feel so humbled and grateful in a bizarre sort of way for this lesson in kindness and humanity. Thank you to my “angels of the night”.
Who are you grateful for in your life?