Recovering from Knee Replacement: The Power of Powerlessness


By Lorraine Iverson. I have always had a strong resistance to the concept of being powerless. Power and control have gone hand in hand for me. And, although I have relinquished some of my control issues over the last few years, I've still felt strong ownership of my power. I like the idea of being a powerful woman, being able to make things happen. Achieving what I set my mind to. That is power, right? Over the years I've attended many 12-step programs with friends and family and accepting that first step about powerlessness always bugged me. It seemed to me that giving up substance abuse was a pretty darn powerful step. Well, my friends, I have been rendered totally powerless this last week and it's been a huge ass-kicker, much bigger than I anticipated. I had a total knee replacement of both my knees. Why, you ask? I'm asking myself that as well. So far the best I've come up with is: I don't learn my lessons easily, I'm completely nuts or my doctor is a masochist. Or maybe all of the above.

So here I am again looking for the meaning of life in a large pile of pony poop. With lots of time to reflect on this situation I've come up with a couple teachable life-lessons for Ms. Power Player. Concepts like humility, gratitude and a deep respect for healthcare workers are just the beginning my insights.

To start, there's nothing like a bedpan to bring you right down to humble. No explanation needed there. Following that lovely experience, was finally being able (with the help of two nurses, a belt and a walker) to make that next trip to the potty. That filled me with such gratitude, I cried.

I've also gained respect for other peoples’ pain. This power trip I've been on, up until now, I would tell others to “buck up, push through it, grow a pair, no pain no gain.” No more. Moving forward, I will honor your pain and how you choose to deal with it. I'm choosing to fight through mine but I have much more reverence for your choices. Several years ago my mother gave into her pain and stopped walking. I've been angry about that for a long time. Now I am better able to understand it. Her’s was a combo punch of pain and fear. Luckily, I do not have the fear that crippled her. But I can relate to the pain.

I don't feel like I can write a three-step blog post here to explain or fix this situation. This is more of an observation of my current circumstances and how I am reacting to them and to ask you to observe yourself in life's extreme moments. Look at how you hold strength, power and control in your toolbox. What can we let go of and what do we need to nurture ourselves to get through a tough physical, mental or spiritual challenge? How about a large serving of patience?

Good place to start.

Patience is not one of my personal strengths. I am now having to cultivate that attribute. I have come to realize that hospitals don't move fast. Unless your heart stops beating or blood is squirting from an artery, there is no sense of urgency there. "I'll be right back," means a minimum of a half hour. "No problem" translates to a committee will convene and make a decision by tomorrow. "We're checking you out right now," means expect to go home in the next day or two. If you try to move things along any faster, it takes twice as long and your blood pressure skyrockets. So I am learning to surrender and grow some patience. I use the long wait times to work on my projects, meditate or do my rehab exercises.

Another lesson learned while wallowing in powerlessness was that it is not who I am. I am a strong, motivated individual with goals and aspirations. Pain, frustration and anger cannot run my life unless I relinquish the reins. I keep working my rehab everyday, cheering myself on to a full recovery and the opportunity to live my dreams.

The feeling of powerlessness has already morphed into a feeling of regeneration.