For 500+ mile the car bumped along the pre-interstate roads of the 1960s. My ear throbbed constantly, symptom of the inevitable ear infection following a week swimming at the lake in Minnesota. Each jolt of the vehicle sent sharp pains into my jaw and skull. The excruciating pain limited my swallow and speech. Crammed into the car with my parents and three siblings, I found little comfort and no rest.
Shortly after we arrived home, our neighbor doctor came to the house (the good ole days) and administered a shot of penicillin. Within an hour, I was feeling fine.
These memories came to mind as friends and I bemoaned the slow recovery from illness that we experience today. Although I often lament my current physical limitations, I remind myself that I couldn’t walk without a cane a year ago. Age becomes undeniable as we watch our bodies recover function but not to the level of our previous ability.
Deconditioning. The word humored friends until I pointed out that it is a medical term describing “a complex process of physiological change following a period of inactivity, bedrest or sedentary lifestyle. It results in functional losses in such areas as mental status, degree of continence and ability to accomplish activities of daily living. It is frequently associated with hospitalization in the elderly.”
Okay, I didn’t quote the definition to them. I was well-acquainted with it from my work in physical rehab clinics.
Limited by illness
Elderly. That’s us. My friend and I recalled when we could go to work when sick. Now, a slight malady sends us to the couch where we can’t even enjoy a good book because of mental distraction.
I am deconditioned by years of decreased activity thanks to arthritis. Two years was required to recover 95% from the hip replacement, only to be followed by a torn meniscus which could not heal because of arthritis. It is almost a year since the partial knee replacement. I do not expect to climb stairs comfortably again.
My body’s pace
The forced exercise I adopt to assist me in recovery often sends me backwards. I experience my slow but best progress when I follow the advice of my physical therapist for posture and gait, then let the body determine the rate at which it will respond.
Yes, I am frustrated by my limitations . . . but, I can walk. Which means that my body can still heal. For that I am grateful.