Surgery is a Team Sport

Last week I received news of the strong likelihood of another surgery – surgery number nine. What I thought would be day surgery to release my knee so it will bend past 90 degrees was inaccurate. The release my surgeon will perform is a complicated procedure involving re-entry into my rebuilt leg and pulling apart the muscle from the scar tissue.


Surgery is a team sport.

My experience with surgery goes something like this: You leave your house in a taxi at 6:00 a.m. and arrive at the hospital two hours early to get ready. After you put all your clothes in a bag to pick up later, you are wheeled into a cold operating room, met with bright lights and a team of nurses, specialists, technicians and doctors.

While you’re in there, you are not alone.

In the operating room you are made to feel welcome and as comfortable as possible. One memory I have was when a technician seeing me wheeled in said, “It’s you again. Where are my flowers?”   To which I replied, “I’ll bring them next time!”

Eventually, after poking and prodding, the anesthetic kicks in and you drop off to sleep. But not before you move through the discomfort of lying on the granite-like table and try to stay strong in spite of the nagging anxiety you feel.

When you wake up everything changes and your recovery begins.

Surgery is a team sport. Recovery is not.

The pain is intense as you start pumping the morphine and adjust to your new reality. When you wake up your marathon of recovery begins. No one else can run the recovery race for you. Lots of people are there to support you, give you water, drugs, therapy, and cheer you on, but you are the one who has to make the effort and put one foot in front of the other.

What lies before you after the surgical team is finished with you is the looming challenge of climbing recovery mountain. The pathway to healing and recovery varies from person to person. My experience could be described as going through several cycles of surgery and recovery.

What’s fresh in my mind is the strong probability of yet another surgery performed by an amazing team I trust – followed by a recovery marathon I will have to step into as soon as I wake up.

Recovery involves:

  • pain and suffering
  • healing from the trauma of surgery
  • adjustments to new realities
  • emotional ups and downs
  • Physiotherapy
  • trying to live life at the same time
  • finding purpose while you’re in it

I end with the words of TV personality Meredith Grey who summarizes the interplay between surgery and recovery on Grey’s Anatomy:

After a trauma, your body is at its most vulnerable. Response time is critical. So you’re suddenly surrounded by people – doctors, nurses, specialists, technicians – surgery is a team sport. Everyone pushing for the finish line. Putting you back together again. But surgery is a trauma in and of itself, and once it’s over, the real healing begins. It’s called recovery. Recovery is not a team sport. It’s a solitary distance run. It’s long. It’s exhausting. And it’s lonely.

The length of your recovery is determined by the extent of your injuries. And it’s not always successful. No matter how hard we work at it. Some wounds might never fully heal. You might have to adjust to a whole new way of living. Things may have changed too radically to ever go back to what they were. You might not even recognize yourself. It’s like you haven’t recovered anything at all. You’re a whole new person with a whole new life.

Surgery is a team sport. Recovery is not.

What has been your experience with surgery and recovery?
What advice would you give to someone facing surgery or recovery?

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About Cam Taylor

I'm help people live inspired, focused and tenacious lives. I work as a coach, facilitator, author, and speaker.
This entry was posted in Adversity, anxiety, Emotions, Endurance, grieving, Growth, healing, learning, Pain, Perspective, Preparation, purpose, suffering, surgery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Surgery is a Team Sport

  1. Oh, my friend, I am praying for you.

    God to enfold me,
    God to surround me,
    God in my speaking,
    God in my thinking.
    God in my sleeping,
    God in my waking,
    God in my watching,
    God in my hoping.
    God in my life,
    God in my lips,
    God in my soul,
    God in my heart.
    God in my sufficing,
    God in my slumber,
    God in mine ever-living soul,
    God in mine eternity.
    Ancient celtic oral traditions – carmina gadelica

    Here is one other choice Celtic prayer: Lang may your lum reek. (Long may your chimney smoke.)


    • Cam Taylor says:

      Thanks Keith – did I ever need this prayer today! And I love that last short prayer about the chimney – brings a smile & rings true at the same time! Be blessed today yourself!

  2. Dan says:

    Hey Cam
    Feeling for you. Praying with you.
    Wish I could give some meaningful advice, but my two surgeries were not of the same nature.
    In my case, the best advice from the medical team was to hurry up and pass gas so I could go home.
    Doesn’t seem to fit here.

  3. Colleen says:

    I think this happens on an emotional and spiritual level too, whenever we face major renovations of any kind. Unfortunately, in these cases, the surgery (trauma) does not always performed by an obvious team, let alone a supportive one. But when God opens our eyes to see his hand in it all, we can also see the team involved in our transformation.

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