Ribbons and Robots

Pattye Snyder Health Guide
  • Last weekend, I again volunteered for our annual Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis. It had been scheduled for the previous weekend, but was rescheduled when our area was suddenly hit with 12” of snow and ice—bitter temperatures, and icy winds. It was a little hard to recharge our enthusiasm-batteries, but as usual, the energy and support of our community made this event a huge success and earned a nickname for this year’s race: “The Peoria Blizzard Run!” For me, the friendships and encouragement of our arthritis community really DO help with the tough spots—the painful challenges that those of us that have arthritis must face.
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    A friend stopped by the registration table to check on my post-op progress. She was accompanied by a very bored 8 year old daughter who suddenly became alert when we began talking about my stainless steel hips and “legs.” When I told her that some grandkids call me Gramma Robot, she stared at me with a look of total horror and fascination. She then hit me with every question any patient has ever asked their surgeon! When she asked what I do when I get cold, I replied, “I put on a coat.” After briefly pondering my reply, she continued the barrage. She wanted to watch me walk, wanted to see my metal “legs,” even wanted to feel them. (I think she was VERY disappointed to hear that you can’t actually see the metal, and that my legs actually feel like real legs!) After her mom and I tried to explain about my arthritis, I’m sure she left me with lots of “cool stuff” to tell her very best friend—and I felt kind of like Superman!

    Yes, my hips, thighs, 1 ankle and 1 foot are really “cool” when I stop and think about it. It’s way too easy to get caught up in the aches and pains not only of arthritis, but of those that accompany recovery from arthritis surgery and therapy. It’s also way too easy to feel sorry for myself on those pain-filled nights—with the challenges of struggling up and down stairs, the frustrations of trying to pick up some little thing I dropped, even the wipedout feeling I have after FINALLY getting completely dressed INCLUDING socks and slip-on shoes. I know that, in general, many of these aches and pains will subside, and one of these days I’ll even be able to tie my shoes. (Since I live alone, that can be frustrating—I tried to teach my dog to help, but she refused!)

    At this stage post-op, I’m doing very well. My surgeon has agreed for me to start swimming daily to begin to build up my strength. Patience isn’t always my best virtue! I KNOW that gradually gaining in strength and endurance will take time, but it would be much nicer if it happened more quickly. Although I am back to many of my daily activities, I avoid crowds for fear of getting tripped or falling. Our recent ice/snowstorm left me homebound again from fear of falling.

    I find that I get tired easily and admit to being the world’s worst at “taking it easy!” I spent one weekend recently baking cookies for Christmas with one of my 4 year old granddaughters—she is very cute (and VERY verbal)—after 2 days, I could barely climb my steps at home and had to take a couple of days to recover! I still have some swelling in my hip that makes me often feel like I’m sitting on something. (Yes, I HATE the new SUBWAY ad about the guy with the “fat pocket”—of course his was from saving money, not having had surgery!)

  • Although I know I’m far from being strong enough to take off on another adventure, I DO think a lot about the friends and experiences from my trips that have impacted my life. I watched a young boy in Botswana with a stick and an old car tire—he was wearing a parka and 1 shoe. When a friend asked why he wore a parka in 95 degree heat, I replied, “Because he owned it, and someone gave him only 1 shoe, so he took turns wearing it on each foot. Yet he was gloriously happy in his uniform, playing in the dirt with his tire and stick—he didn’t need anything else.
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    Many of the natives I’ve met on Africa’s deserts have changed me. Their hands are always reaching out—NOT because they want something FROM me, but because they want to do something FOR me. By American standards, many would consider them very poor—I think they are incredibly rich! Big boxes with shiny bows, sparkly lights on Christmas trees, fancy cookies, tons of presents—these are not important—THINGS are not important. Family, health, simple foods and basic values, sharing a smile and a quiet peace—THESE are important to them. I loved the shy giggles from the women in one Masaii village when I joined in and TRIED to learn to dance with them on a dusty hot day in the desert. The quiet grins of schoolchildren in a small village of Costa Rica when I donned a huge flowing skirt and gamely attempted to dance with them. (I KNOW I’ll never make America’s Next Top Model with a brightly flowing peasant skirt, a sweaty T-shirt, and dusty hiking boots!) In Rome on a Saturday, watching the processional of young men in their cassocks entering a cathedral to become priests, and later hearing the haunting echoes of their acapello voices soaring through the high arches of the church—another quiet peace. I even felt soothed as I listened to the soft calls in the jungle late at night in the rainforests along the Amazon.

    Watching the timid sparkle of tiny stars on a early morning December sky, feeling the soft feathery puffs of breath as my new grandson warmly cuddles against my shoulder—I don’t need a fancy box to feel happy and rich; there’s too much to see, do, and feel in spite of my OA. YES, I DO feel special—I’m eternally greatful to modern medicine that I CAN have surgeries to replace or repair what is necessary. I’m greatful that research is continuing to help us all live more productive lives with less pain. I’m thrilled that I could become Gramma Robot so that my world of adventure is just a beginning!

    Have you had joint replacement surgery or do you have questions about it? Share your story or post questions on the OA Message Board!
Published On: December 14, 2006