Saturday, June 30, 2007

Perfect Love Casts Out All Fear

I believe it. If I know how perfectly I am loved, it casts out fear. Sadly, I can be a slow learner. Fortunately, God is patient. I've been through some pretty rough sessions of physchological and physical pain. Psychological as in anxiety, depression, fear. Physical as in cuts, bruises, broken bones. It seems that all pain is a mixture of mind and body.

Can I escape all further pain in my life by completely embracing God's perfect love for me? It does not seem possible from where I stand. What does seem possible is that a greater and greater knowledge of his love gives me greater and greater respite from pain. As a practical matter, therefore, I would be wise to pursue a greater knowledge of God. Not just so that I might escape pain, although that would be an adequate reason. I can also create less pain for others as I understand who God is and conform my mind to his.

I cannot compare my own pain or fear to yours. I can pray that you would know greater and greater freedom from pain as you draw closer to God. I cannot compare my own knowledge of God to yours. God is infinite, I am finite. My own knowledge is supsect and subject to further refinement. Nonetheless, I can pray that you would know God more and more. This is not a contest between you and I. This is a race we all must run. May God bless you with the ability to run it well. May God bless me as well. Let us rejoice that we are running without distracting ourselves by trying to decide who is running faster or farther.

The knee pain is still fierce enough to prompt me to continue the narcotics. But I am experiencing healing and comfort. What a joy to feel myself getting better. What a great opportunity for me to learn a bit more compassion. Thank you, Lord.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A New Morning

A fresh start. A new day. It is amazing how much difference one night of sleep can make. Perhaps it was just time in God's plan for me to feel better. Perhaps new supplications were fired off to God by friends and family. Whatever, the reason, I woke up feeling great this morning. My sleep was the usual concatenation of approx 2 hour naps with a bit of medication, food, or reading in between each nap. Nonetheless, I awoke feeling as though the world was new and I have been given another shot at using my time to glorify God and serve others instead of dwelling on my pain.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Pain and Fear

I've dealt with fear most of my life. Chronic fear is called anxiety. The best diagnosis so far for my decades long struggle with anxiety (and sometimes, depression), has been Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Fear exacerbates "real pain" and can even make pain appear in the absence of any organic cause (i.e. the "it's all in your head kind of pain").

Having total knee replacement supplied plenty of the "real pain" sort of pain. I knew going into the surgery that my pain would be difficult to manage with opiates because I have been using that strongest class of pain medication to daily just to cope with the chronic arthritis pain. Since I had the arthroscopic surgery on March 2 that did not go well, I had been using even more of the opiates.

Tomorrow will be the second week anniversary of my surgery. I spent four days in the hospital right after the surgery and went back for another four or five days after my recovery at home proved too painful and difficult. Here is a description I wrote for a friend:

Stabilizing the pain meant going to ever higher levels of narcotics. A 5 milligram oxycodone tablet would be typical of what you are given following minor surgery such as having your wisdom teeth removed. You might be prescribe one or two tablets every four hours as needed for pain. So you would max out at about 12 tablets/day. That is how much I was taking just before my June 11 surgery.
By the time I was released from the hospital the first time, I was taking the equivalent of 32 tablets each day. However, I never really got control of the pain and became increasingly dysfunctional during my few days at home because the pain made it very difficult to do my physical therapy exercises and to pass the time by reading, etc. I just couldn't concentrate..

Finally the night of Father's day, I barely slept at all. I tossed, turned, moaned, and the minutes ticked by very slowly. I struggled all day Monday, until I found myself writhing in pain and crying out during an afternoon trip to get my blood thinning medication checked. The blood lab nurse insisted that we get me to a doctor right away. It took a couple of hours and a lot of pain, but eventually I was settled into a hospital bed and full of morphine on Monday night, June 18. The doctor adjusted my oral medications until I was able to use them and not use the morphine pump at all. However, now my daily dose is the equivalent of 72 of those 5mg oxycodone tablets each day.

Most of the past couple of weeks my memory and ability to read or write has been all messed up by the pain and the medications. It is just the past few days that have gotten better. So I know that you visited a time or two and please believe me when I say that it meant a lot to me. However, my memory of the visits is sketchy. I know that at times I was falling asleep while folks were talking to me.

The nurses became very alarmed a couple of times when my breathing rate slowed to 6 breaths per minute while resting or sleeping. This is considered to be in danger zone and possibly leading to death. However, an oxymeter was used regularly to check my blood oxygen levels. They were always excellent even during very slow breathing. I have also had trouble with episodes of extreme OCD anxiety symptoms. It made life tough on the nurses and very tough on Barbara. I get all panicky and rigid about small thing like how my books, glasses, medicines, etc. are arranged. The episodes are bad and I think they cause other people to feel like they are walking on egg shells around me.
This deal of retiring and having major surgery simultaneously does complicated things. Too often I strayed into thinking such things as " I worked 33 years to get to this!"
or "Shit, I missed my peak. It is all down hill from here on out.". Kind words from a friend really help me battle off those particular lying spirits.

I am sorry I haven't posted much or commented much lately. I have struggled with poor concentration and blurred vision. Plus I suspect my intellectual capacity is severely impaired.

I am gradually getting better. Assuming I continue to recover, I hope to be writing a lot more soon. Mean while, any and all prayers are appreciated.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


It has been very difficult for me to concentrate my thoughts enough to write in recent weeks. Retiring after 33 years at HP has been a fairly big distraction all by itself. I have a few fears about my ability to make a successful transition to a new vocation. I even have a bit of recurring anxiety that perhaps I am falling far behind on all my e-mail or missing deadlines for the latest set of assignments. It is sort of a phantom missing limb pain!

But the big Kahuna is my fear around the surgery I have scheduled for tomorrow. It is almost inconcievable that the surgeon will cut a foot long gash in my leg, pull all the tissue out of the way and then use a power saw to remove then ends of my major leg bones.

I am sorry to say that I have been placing too much trust in modern pharmaceuticals to get me through this. Unfortunately, a little over a week ago the surgeon informed me that I have developed a very high tolerance for morphine like drugs. Consequently he may have trouble controlling my pain without stopping my breathing. I figured that there was something pretty remarkable about the fact that I could take 10 or 12 Vicodin-like tablets every day and still go about my business as if it were no more than a handful of tylenol. It has been especially disturbing that even a dozen major pain killers each day were barely enough to take the edge off the knee pain that I have been suffering.

The good news is that there is no doubt left in my mind that this surgery is necessary.

It is also rather nice to realize that it has been years since I have been this anxious. I struggled with anxiety for decades. Even a business trip or an upcoming presentation for work could be enough to trigger anxiety very much like what I am now having in anticipation of major surgery.

I realize now that my trust in opioids was misplaced. We are very blessed to have the medications that spare us from so much of the pain that our ancestors had to endure as a matter of course. Nonetheless, there will be pain, even very serious pain, in this life. Even if our bones are left intact, our hearts may be broken. Therefore, this is a very good time for me to remember that my trust must be in God and his goodness. He allows me to endure a lot of suffering, but his plan for me is perfect and all of this will be used to work good in my life.

May God bless each of you who may read this. May he give you the faith to believe that all things are being worked to a good purpose in your life. May he give me the ability to be an authentic example of how to trust him.