Smurf’ing Through Life plus An Epiphany in the Shower – Insights into Disability

Today I learned:

1. Smurf’ing Through Life: Since my initial Smurf-based post, I have been curious if other people speak “Smurf” as well as my four year-old. To test this out, and simultaneously amuse myself, I decided to try an experiment.

The plan: Casually replace a verb with the word “smurf” in a conversation and observe the reaction.

  • Test #1 – Starbucks: “Can you smurf me a grande non-fat latte please?”
  • Test #2 – indepedent sandwich shop: “I’ll have a turkey sandwich, and can you smurf me a chocolate chip cookie too please?”

The outcome: Other than getting exactly what I asked for, I noticed no reaction at all. People understood what I wanted, and were not phased by phrasing.

This raised a few questions: Were they even paying attention? Were the scenarios so routine they were only listening for key words? If yes to either of those, what does it say about how they are approaching their jobs and their lives?

This taught me a great lesson in being present and listening to what someone says rather than just listening for what I expect them to say. After all, what kind of life are you living if you just smurf your way through it?

2. An Epiphany in the Shower – Insights into Disability:

This section of the post requires a disclaimer. I am not disabled and in no way do I intend to offend anyone by trying to draw a parallel between my recovery from a relatively minor knee injury with related surgery and any permanent disability. It is simply that two weeks of dealing with limited function and mobility has taught me a few lessons about accessibility and treatment by others.

It hit me in the shower this morning.

I hate baths.

More specifically, I hate being forced to take baths. They are tolerable when you want one, but not when you need one. I’ve been taking baths for 2 weeks due to an inability to stand in the shower (and a restriction against getting incisions wet). As I enjoyed my first hot shower in what felt like forever it struck me that I simply didn’t want to get out.

This got me thinking about other things I have noticed in the last two weeks – things I would never notice if had no functional limitations. The lessons are interesting, and tell me a little about things I normally take for granted:

  • Few people hold the door. I am on crutches. You can see me and hear me coming. In many cases you just passed me on the way to the door or elevator because I am so damn slow. You can see I don’t have a free hand. Why then won’t you do me the courtesy of holding the door?  Obviously this is not true of everyone, but a lot of people – my guess is 15-20% – are either completely oblivious or just plain mean.
  • Driving is awesome. The bus is terrible. Walking to the bus is worse and trying to do so on crutches is worse still. Cabs waste money. Waiting for rides from family and friends sucks. Being in control of when I come and go from places is a simple pleasure that I look forward to enjoying again soon.
  • Carrying things kicks butt. If this was going to go on much longer I think I would invest in a jacket with about 100 flexible pockets that I could stuff full of everything I would need for the next 12 hours.
  • Rain is the enemy. It makes paths – particularly those made of marble – into a beautiful and gleaming death trap.  Plus, with crutches you can’t carry an umbrella.
  • Snow and ice are the enemy’s evil siblings.  A couple inches of snow and I was a prisoner in my own home. My neighbour – a very nice guy – did a great job clearing my path and sidewalk without being asked, but I was still not able to go out because a good chunk of the rest of the world doesn’t take the same care to make the walkways clear and safe. My guess is these are the same 15-20% of people referenced above.

My hat is off to both to those who need a bit of help to get by everyday, and those who selflessly help them. Two weeks of it was difficult to endure. A lifetime would be much harder to accept. Keep your head held high, and don’t worry I’ll get the door, even if the other guy won’t.

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I am an Idiot, plus Inspiring Action with Why’s not What’s

Today I learned:

1. I am an idiot: Admittedly, some may tell me this should not be news or at least it should have been an assumption going in. Regardless, I didn’t make it past 7:15am before the label was applied this morning so at minimum this is earlier than usual.

As I prepared for work , 7 days post ACL-reconstruction, my wife looked at me like I was nuts.  This in itself is not unusual, but she is a physiotherapist so when rehab is concerned I need to listen (even more than I usually do, of course).  I continued to prepare until, as I struggled to pull my socks on, she muttered “you’re an idiot.

This helped snap me out of it, and we had a good discussion on surgeon recommendations, rehab principles and recovery.  Suffice it to say, another day at home for me. A good reminder that I don’t always know best, but at least my wife does.

2. Inspiring Action with Why’s not What’s:

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

– Simon Sinek

The goal is to sell people on why you do what you do. What you do is simply the proof of what you believe. Within Simon Sinek’s Ted video (linked below), he draws together this concept with several engaging examples – Apple, TiVo, and the Wright Brothers – but for a business leader or manager the most tangible example from my perspective relates to Martin Luther King Jr.

In jest, Mr. Sinek quips “He gave the I have a dream speech, not the I have a plan speech.”

This struck a cord and immediately made me consider how I have addressed my team in the recent past within activities like staff meetings, project planning sessions and 1:1’s.  It served as a good reminder that too often we emphasize what we are doing – what the plan is – not why we are doing things.  This is not to say we ignore the why, but rather we don’t always lead with it, and perhaps don’t give it the time and credence it deserves.

Importantly, in management the why must be tailored to individuals and the team.  For example, when I think about one large project I worked on in the past, our why messaging was at a corporate level, and it didn’t sell the goal at a personal level.  In the end, people follow for themselves – not solely for the money but for whatever else is intrinsically driving them. Selling your staff needs to get personal, in terms of why it is good for them. Get your Why right and you will have no trouble getting your team on board for the How and the What.

Link to Simon Sinek on Ted.com, plus graphic from guidedinnovation.com.


The Best Laid Plans, plus Why I Wouldn’t Succeed as an Addict

Today I learned:

1. The Best Laid Plans…often go awry.  In an earlier post on preparation to work from home post-ACL reconstruction,  I subtly (?)  bragged about how well prepared I was to remain effective during time out of the office. By day 2 it became clear, despite IT support and “successful” testing, all tools are not equally reliable.  The IP phone on my PC is a bust – it keeps cutting out.

Can you hear me now? Nope.

The good news is today I learned many of the free tools available are more reliable than those we pay for.  Google Talk and Skype have saved the day, and not added any cost to me or the company. No IT support either – plug and play, just like things should be.

2. Why I wouldn’t succeed as a drug addict:  It’s plain and simple. I just don’t have the stomach for it. For 2 1/2  days following surgery I was nauseous and dizzy. I felt weak and  couldn’t stand to be on my feet for long. Using the crutches to cross my house made me feel like vomiting. My mind was foggy and I couldn’t concentrate. I was feeling as though the recovery period was going to be much worse than I thought.

Today it finally occurred to me that maybe it was the pain medication, not the surgery, that was the problem. I decided to go cold turkey and kick the drugs to test the theory out.

It was a good decision.

Within 2-3 hours the fog lifted. I was immediately more functional, both physically and mentally. The knee pain, despite no pain medications, is exactly the same if not better, too. It was an interesting lesson. It turns out the surgery wasn’t as bad as I thought. I am just not very good at doing drugs.


Perpetuating One Stereotype and Disgusted by Another

Today I learned:

1. Perpetuating a Gender Stereotype: I hate to say it, but there is no denying it: Girls are natural caregivers.

Following surgery I was worried my little ones would be too rough on me or too demanding.

Two days in and nothing could be farther from the truth. In addition to an overwhelming desire to see my “owie”  every 5 minutes, they seem to possess an innate understanding of how to take care of people. There is no jumping, no rough play, no crying, no demanding. I am being showered with hugs and kisses, gifted with cards and artwork, and lent even the most treasured of stuffed animals if they might conceivably give me some level of comfort. Pillows are adjusted, paths cleared for crutches and snacks retrieved. Nothing but the best for daddy.

I have no set of boys to compare this behaviour too, so it is possible this would be true of all kids, but I don’t get the sense that would be the case. My only real knowledge of little boys comes from the fact I was one once, and I hate to say it, but I don’t think I possessed the same patience and understanding at their age.

2. Disgusted by Another Stereotype: “Linsanity” looks good on the NBA. Ever since the Grizzlies left town in 2001 I have sought out, and enjoyed, every new reason I can find to despise the National Basketball Association. I still hold quite a grudge.

2011 Lockout?  Petty greed, on both sides. I was sad it ended.

Lebron’s  prime-time signing?  The best of bad TV.

Ron Artest becomes Meta-World Peace?  That would never happen in hockey.

Out of all of it though, I haven’t enjoyed anything more than “Linsanity.”

For two straight weeks, media outlets have been tripping over stereotypes – firings, inappropriate headlines, embarrassing graphics, over-compensation, and just generally making fools of themselves. It appears just about everyone in or around the NBA doesn’t quite know how to act when an Asian male (born in L.A. for goodness sake!) finds success in the league.

The one exception in all this of course is Jeremy Lin himself who seems to be taking his sudden rise to fame with a sense of grace and humility. No embarrassing quotes. No off colour remarks. No over-the-top chest pumping. He just keeps showing up and proving his game night after night. This is one of the few opportunities I can think of – Steve Nash aside – where we can learn something about how to behave properly from an actual NBA player. The NBA finally has a good story to tell, and it seems they just can’t find anyone to appropriately tell it.

 


Bed Rest in the Digital Age plus Over-Prescribing Meds

Today I learned:

1. Bed Rest in a Digital Age: Prior to yesterday’s ACL reconstruction, I had two previous arthroscopies on the same knee in the early-1990’s. It was almost 20 years ago but I have two vivid recollections:

  • Dialling my own home phone number from downstairs to make it ring upstairs so I could ask my mom to bring down some ice cream, without getting off my lazy butt. I remember this, partially, because she reminds me of it every chance she gets.
  • Watching ALOT of crappy TV.

As a high-school student who actually attended all my classes, this was my first exposure to the Soap Opera genre. Try as I might I never took to Days of Our Lives and General Hospital, but there just weren’t many other options in those days.

The world is different this time.

I stacked months of reading by my bed in preparation for the down-time but one day out of a general anesthetic and still hooped up on pain meds, my head is not so much into books.  Instead I have watched a few shows recommended by friends on Netflix – The Hour and Justified are favourites so far – and watched a work-related webinar.

As I look at myself now, surrounded by my iPhone, iPad, and macBook Pro, as well as my work laptop and blackberry, I have a sense this round of bed rest will be very plugged in. This blog may in fact prove to be therapeutic as it forces some form of daily creation, rather than consumption.

All the technology comes in handy too – this time I have 4 separate devices that I can use to Skype my mom to see if she can drop by with a bowl if Ice Cream.

2. Over-prescribing Meds:  On discharge from hospital I assumed I would be sent off with a small script for T3’s, but in fact I was given a prescription for a fairly heavy narcotic.  Interestingly, I was prescribed 60 tablets which my close friend (a pharmacist) described as “an awful lot for knee surgery.”

Taken at the recommended dosage of 1-2 tablets every 4-6 hours, the 60 tablets would be depleted at a rate of between 4 and 12 per day. Essentially, worst case I have 5 days of meds, but best case I have 15 days (or more if I don’t need them frequently).

This made me wonder: Why prescribe so many tablets?

Surely if I am in so much pain that I run through these meds at the fastest pace then someone should see me before 5 days to assess the problem. Alternatively it could be that I will have so many tablets leftover when I am done that they end up sitting around in my medicine cabinet long after I need them. This invites abuse by me or someone else.

I trust my doctor – I think he’s great and I am sure he did a good job on my knee – but I wonder how much thought went into the follow-up medications.  It may be that he assessed me and felt a large prescription was safe and low risk. I hope that is the case.

It seems to me though that it is more likely the script size was just a convenience factor for both him and me – an attempt to reduce follow-up visits just to write a new script. If that is the case then I am not too impressed. A smaller prescription would potentially catch and save problems at both ends of the spectrum.


Fasting Goes Slowly plus Before and After

Just a brief, knee-themed, post today as I spent most of the afternoon under general anesthetic for ACL reconstruction. I consider it a moral victory that I made it in under the wire today by blogging on my phone from the recovery room! Pardon any spelling/grammar issues. I will clean it up post morphine induced stupor.

Today I learned:

1. Fasting Goes Slowly: Apparently a blanket rule applies. No matter what time your surgery is scheduled for the following day, they force feed you the same message: No food or drink after midnight.

This hardly seems fair. I am sure the guy with the 8am booking barely noticed he missed his first coffee of the day, and he would have been in post-op recovery room before his tummy even started to grumble. On the other hand, with my 1:45pm time slot, I had to suffer through the entire morning and into the afternoon void of anything at all.

The worst part of my painfully slow fast was a toss up. It might have been making my kids breakfast – the little ones dined on vanilla yogurt with fresh strawberries and mangos, while I wasn’t even supposed to lick my fingers. I think though, the worst part was the caffeine headache that kicked in at 10:17am when my body realized it was not going to receive the latte that it has grown so fond of. If it wasn’t that, then it was the man in the waiting room openly salivating over his plan for a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast at 1:03pm.

That all said, the question for me is this: Why is there an across-the-board midnight rule on fasting before surgery?

I can’t find a reasonable resource that explains why my fast needed to be 14 hours when someone else gets off with only 8 hours. In fact, Wikipedia even suggests 6 hours is fine. Without a plausible explanation then, I am left to assume this rule exists because some hospital administrator assumes I can’t do math and count back 6 or 8 hours. Next time I am going to beg for the early spot and then order a take-out brunch delivery to the recovery room.

2. Before and After: A knee looks very different in the morning before a surgeon starts digging around in it than it does afterwards. I suppose I didn’t really learn this – it seems rather intuitive – but I was able to obtain the photographic evidence to back up the lesson.

Before – right knee with all the pieces, sans a ruptured ACL, where nature intended:

After – right knee with a piece of hamstring tendon now fixed in place where the ACL once was. I assume the old ACL (not pictured) is in a waste bin somewhere. The rest is on ice:

20120220-185258.jpg


A Tale of Two Bicycles and The Nesting Man

Today I learned:

1. A Tale of Two Bicycles: You enjoy your bike ride around the neighbourhood more today…

…when you know the only bike you will be riding for quite some time starting tomorrow is this one:

2.  The Nesting Man: Prior to the birth of our two kids, my wife went through a predictable cycle of nesting. The walls were painted, crib assembled, clothes and diapers bought and arranged. Everything was ready much earlier than necessary, and all the work seemed to satisfy whatever innate instinct she was experiencing.

I didn’t really get it all until this morning, when some sort of abbreviated pre-surgical version of the phenomenon seemed to kick in for me. Today I became The Nesting Man.

It all started when I woke up with a sudden urge to go grocery shopping. Knowing I am faced with about 2 weeks where I will barely leave the house, my sweet-tooth made a pre-emptive strike, trying to entice me into shopping for a bunch of junk food that I can enjoy in the surgical recovery period. Thankfully, this desire was easily killed with a review of my Basal Metabolic Rate.  At about 1850 calories per day for my age/height/weight, you quickly realize that if all you plan to do is lie in bed all day then you can’t afford many empty calories!

Next came organization of my work and play spaces. I setup an office in the kitchen printer et. al (to avoid the stairs to my regular home office). I also made sure all the fun things I might want in the day (books, music, electronics) are within reach of my side of the bed.  Once everything was good to go, I moved on to other things that could weigh on me – unreturned emails, anticipated bills, laundry – anything I might need to do in the next couple weeks.

Oddly it all helped, and now I seem to have moved on to whatever the male equivalent is to a woman’s “just get this over with already” stage.