I was on my back, in a hospital gown, in the surgical prep room. An IV tube was attached to my arm. The anesthesiologist was rummaging through needles and talking to the medical student who was accompanying him that day. The doctor was describing the spinal block he was about to give me.

Nurses and aides flew in and out, giving me Tylenol, adjusting warm blankets around my legs.

My husband, Paul, had just left. He’d wait at home for the call that my full knee replacement was complete and I was in the recovery room. Then he’d come to fetch me home.

The surgeon arrived. He looked at my knee. It was very swollen, even more inflamed than my advanced arthritis would seem to warrant.

And was that a rash on my kneecap?

The surgeon was concerned. The nurse practitioner was frowning. The nurses looked worried. Then, the questioning began. Had I found any ticks on myself lately? Had I had a fever or any other symptoms that might indicate Lyme disease?

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I hadn’t. I’d noticed the mild rash when I was sitting outside the day before my scheduled surgery, but thought it was heat-related. It seemed to have faded by bedtime, but now, under the harsh hospital lights, there it was.

The surgeon sighed. He didn’t want to take any chances. They would do blood work and test fluid from the knee to make sure everything was medically in order. Then, we’d reschedule the surgery.

I nodded as I fought back tears. I was devastated, unable to speak. Everybody patted my shoulder and murmured soothing words as they headed out of the room. The medical student hung back, asked me a few questions, intrigued by my weird case.

Then I was alone — with my extremely dark thoughts.

I’d had to prepare myself mentally, as well as physically, for this procedure. It was to be my third surgery in a year. Last October, I’d had a hiatal hernia repair. Then, in March of this year, a full knee replacement on the right side.

I was getting to be an old hand at this, but that didn’t make it easier. There were complications with the hernia repair, and I’d spent a week in critical care as result. And I knew that I would have intense pain for a day (at least) after the anesthesia wore off this time. There would be weeks of discomfort, filled with hours of physical therapy, exercises and icing.

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I had pre-op jitters. I dreaded my future ordeal. Still, I was ready.

I’d retired in June after 32 years as a school librarian. I figured I had five weeks of summer vacation until the surgery at the beginning of August. Then, I’d be in recovery mode for about six weeks. After that, I could begin my retirement life. I wasn’t sure what that was going to look like, because I first had to get back on my feet — literally.

Back in the prep room, a tiny technician arrived pushing a big cart. She chattered cheerfully as she drew my blood. Next, the nurse practitioner came in and stuck a big needle in my knee. I am not afraid of needles, but I squealed at the pain of that one.

Soon, I was dressed and making my way back through the hospital, to the entrance, where Paul was pulling up. I managed to make it until we were halfway over the bridge before I unleashed a full outburst of tears.

Paul said, “Would you like to stop at Dunkin’ for an iced coffee?”

Well, of course I would. In fact, I couldn’t think of another thing to do. I’d cooked meals and otherwise organized my life to be out of commission for a few days, and hadn’t expected to live anything like a normal life for a few weeks.

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Back at home, coffee in hand, thoughts whirled through my head. I couldn’t go through the preparation for surgery again. Now, I had the anxiety of waiting for test results. Suppose there was something seriously wrong with me? Meanwhile, I was still walking on a “peg leg.”

Hey, this was a way to occupy my time. I could fret nonstop.

The next day, Paul and I traveled to the coast. We went on a leisurely walk (me with my hiking sticks), ate fried seafood, admired the views. My head cleared a little, enough to realize that I had only one option. I had to just keep going.

At least, I thought, chomping on a delectable bite of haddock, I would be able to enjoy a few more weeks of summer.

I do like a silver lining. That was one. So was the fact that all the tests were negative. My surgery was rescheduled 16 days after the original date.

I plugged away at life even though I felt I was in limbo, biding my time. I set schedules and worked on projects, though I knew I’d have to give them up for weeks after surgery.

Finally, the day came. The surgery went perfectly. And much to my surprise, given all the pre-op angst, I am healing quickly. In this fourth week, I am almost walking normally.

I let go and let life take its course. Looks like that was the right choice for both mind and body.

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected]

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