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Surgery Update: 2 Weeks Post-Op

 Hiked up to Wahclella Falls one week after returning home from the hospital, a week and a half after surgery.

It's been exactly two weeks since my most recent lung surgery, a week and a half since leaving the hospital. I've been focusing on the recovery and obviously haven't been posting.

Since my surgery two weeks ago, I've walked 38 miles, most of which has taken place in the last week. Right now I'm doing about 6 miles/day and am starting strength/mobility work with weights, resistance bands, and rope.

At my post-op appointment today, after hearing how much I've been walking, my surgeon said something to the effect of, "well, that's got to be a post-surgical record," which in reality it probably is, unfortunately...

Since starting the original surgery recovery blog four years ago, I've talked to hundreds of people around the world, and thousands have used what I've put together on the blog. When you interact with this many people in any context, patterns start to emerge. Here are the major patterns I've noticed:

  1. No one knows the optimal way to recover from open-chest or other serious chest surgeries (this includes doctors), because there is no medical-professional position whose job it is (yes, really), and most patients don't have the skills (not to mention the overwhelming, frightening uncertaity that comes with having major surgery for the first time) to do the research and build recovery protocols.
  2. People generally fall into two perspectival categories after surgery. They lead to completely different outcomes, and they are expressed implicitly when others ask them about their medical condition. We answer either, (a) "I get spontaneous pneumothoraces (collapsed lungs)," or (b) "my lung has collapsed several times."
  3. If you're on the wrong side of both numbers 1 and 2, you're going to have a very frustrating, resentful, and painful life...unless something changes. I say this as an observation, not a prediction or warning. Almost everyone is on the wrong side of number 1, but I'd say roughly a quarter of people who go through major surgery respond with (b) from number 2.

The problem with saying "I get spontaneous pneumothoraces," instead of, "My lung has collapsed several times," is that the first means that you identify with a pathology (an illness, dysfunction, or trauma). The second merely describes an event that happened in your life. We could analyze these two phrases semiotically, but I imagine that wouldn't be much fun for anyone but me.

The point is, it is very easy to identify with a serious pathology, because these experiences have a way of forcing all other concerns completely out of your mind. Questions people like to ask patients like, "are you nervous about the surgery?", and questions people like to ask each other like, "what would you do if you thought you were going to die," become bizarrely foreign when you know you're having major surgery.

This is admittedly an odd analogy, but those sorts of questions (when you're the one having surgery) feel the same as when people ask me, "Do you think it's cool that you're half Korean?" (yes, people ask this). It's just a bizarre question about something that never comes to mind, not offensive, just a bit of a blind but honest question. From my/this perspective, questions like this and like, "are you nervous/what would you do?" aren't bad questions, they're just aren't relevant to the person who is expected to provide an answer. They're more accurately just questions for the person asking them.

So from here, I'm going to do at least two follow up posts to this one.

  • First, I'll write on perspective: how perspective is everything, what it actually means to say that perspective is everything, and what we can and can't expect perspective to do for us.
  • Second, I'll post a very in-depth, comprehensive preparation and recovery protocol for people to use for major surgeries. This will be the most comprehensive guide to chest surgery prep/recovery currently in existence, and both my surgeon and pulmonologist have told me that I'm more of an expert than them on these matters...of course, I can't actually provide any sort of medical treatment or conduct surgery (thankfully), but I can tell you what works and how to do it.

Thankfully, I happen to be very well-versed on both scientific methodology and technical language, as well as compiling/synthesizing/turning it into actionable protocols. I've also come to rather deeply understand nutritional biochemistry and endocrinology over the last ~4 years, and this played a huge part in my absurdly short recovery time.

For scale: my first surgery recovery lasted roughly 6 months until I was as active as I am now (2 weeks post-op). My second surgery took roughly 2 months to get to the same spot, due to some very serious research and strict protocols. I'm not 100% recovered yet, but exactly 2 week post-op, I've beat my 2-month record, which my previous surgeon said was the fastest he'd seen in his 40 years of practice.

There are certain demands that I haven't had before that I'll have to figure out (like teaching full time, i.e., talking for 9 hours/day 5 days/week, which takes some pretty fit lungs), but I'm putting together new protocols for those challenges and am looking forward to beating my deadlines.

[Click here and I'll let you know when I publish future posts.] (You'll need to click a confirmation link in an email it sends you.)

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