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Sunday, September 14, 2014
This Was My Summer for Surgeries
by Susan Lipstein
This was my summer for surgeries. The first was to fix my cervical spine. The need for it was clear; recovery was surprisingly speedy. The second was the controversial one--to replace my arthritic hip. The cautions from good friends and physicians in deciding whether or not to have the surgery ranged from, "This should help you walk better" to "Because of your underlying Multiple Sclerosis, you may never be able to get out of a wheelchair and walk again." The decision was overwhelming. But after much thought and discussion with friends, professionals and family, Steve and I decided to go for it. Deep down I knew I'd work hard to regain my strength and walk again, better than before. In the end, I had to trust myself and what I know to be true.
The hip replacement surgery went well, taking less than an hour and a half. That afternoon in my hospital room, as is often done, I went for a short walk, not a wheelchair ride but a walk, with my new hip. It was almost anticlimactic. There was no mention of the weeks of discussion and worry. There was never a question by the hospital staff about whether or not I would walk. Of course I would. That's what people do, walk with less pain after a hip replacement, even on day 1.
Only in retrospect did I think once again about the importance of being still and looking deep for that quiet voice that has always spoken the truth to me. That voice had been telling me that there was no way I'd end up in a wheelchair after surgery. I had heard it but brushed it aside when presented with alternative outcomes.
Our Jewish tradition teaches us that during this month of Elul we are to spend time each day in silence. This is a gift. It gives us the opportunity we seldom take, to become still and listen to that voice I believe is within each of us.
But this was the obvious moral of the story. What happened beginning with the first day of the first surgery is what continues to touch me. Hours after surgery a friend and physician at the hospital stopped in to see me and see if I was ok, if he could do anything for me. Both friends and family have continued to check in with me daily, send cards and emails, flowers and plants, call on the phone, bring food for fun and sustenance, chocolate because they know me well, stay with me while Steve gets his much needed exercise, and just spend time with me to visit, share stories, and laugh, empty handed other than with the very important gift of their time and caring. The lesson I'm learning from my friends is that sharing yourself in any way that works for you is what makes true friendships and giving. What's important is to be present, even if I do so with nothing in my hands.
During this month of Elul, we are to participate in acts of tzedakah and loving kindness. As is true throughout the year, these acts don't have to be huge or require a lot of money. It may mean just showing up.
Susan Lipstein and her family moved to Clayton in 2000. She currently works as a Parent Educator for Clayton Schools' Parents as Teachers. Community interests include The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis, The Spirit of St. Louis Women's Fund, The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Teach for America and College Bound. Susan is dedicated to children and their families and to excellent, accessible, and equal education for all.