Five weeks ago today I underwent a total knee replacement.
Just prior to the surgery, the anesthetist gave me the choice between having a general anesthetic (being put to sleep) or regional anesthetic (being frozen from the waist down). He said that “they” get better results with a regional. As i wanted the best result possible, I chose the regional.
When i was wheeled into the operating room i felt quite anxious. i knew that i would be hearing all the sounds of the surgery – the whirling of the saw, the pounding of the hammer but thought to myself, if there ever was a place to practice mindfulness of the breath it would be right now.
Once i was positioned on the operating room table, the anesthetist asked me if i wanted something (a drug) to help me relax. I told him not right away but if i felt i needed something i would let him know.
The surgeon spoke to me and said that he was optimistic everything would go well but to not hesitate to have drugs if i needed them. The surgery began – i took a deep breath and started to focus on my breath. I choice to focus my practice by feeling the breath in my abdomen. Throughout the surgery, I could hear the sound of the drill, hammer, and saws. I could hear the nursing staff and the surgeon talking but whenever i felt carried away by sound I brought myself back to the breath.
Sometimes i needed to use a word (in – out) to stay centered but for the most part, i was able to return to the breath over and over again. I don’t know how long the surgery lasted but before i knew it, i was wheeled into the Post Anesthetic Care Unit (Recovery Room).
What is remarkable to me is that I was able to undergo this relatively major surgery with no medications. My vital signs (blood pressure, pulse and respiration) stayed within the normal range throughout the surgery.
Could I have done this without mindful meditation and focusing on the breath? I don’t think so as 5 years previously i had my other knee replaced. That operation was quite a different experience – i needed medications to quell the anxiety. My blood pressure and pulse were elevated and the surgery seemed to last forever.
It is with gratitude to the practice of mindful meditation and focusing on the breath that i write this post today.
With warm wishes,