As I have reported (complained, whined, moaned) on more than a few occasions, I awoke from my knee replacement surgery last June with foot drop on the same leg. In spite of the “this is extremely rare” response from my orthopedic surgeon, the symptoms persisted and my flappy foot proved to be a constant source of annoyance. I was told nerves heal quite slowly. I wore a brace in my shoe to keep my toes elevated to avoid tripping and falling on my newly renovated knee.
The month prior to this surgery I became a member of the Center for Health and Wellbeing located in Winter Park, Florida.
The center is located barely ten minutes from my home (23 minutes by bicycle on the trail leading from my front door to the center’s front door). This Center became an integral, even essential party of my recovery taking me to the door of my “graduation” from physical therapy last week.
Designers of this center intentionally chose the term, “wellbeing” rather than wellness. One implies wholeness, focusing on the mind, body, and spirit; the other is more frequently used to describe physical health. Aside from the fitness center, spin room, and group exercise studio the architecture and other amenities promote a sense of peace and wellbeing. It’s an absolutely beautiful place inspired by nature. There are multiple gardens, including a bamboo garden, meditation grove, aromatherapy garden and a welcome garden with beds of edible herbs and vegetables grown for the Center’s healthy café.
I visit the Center three to four times per week for classes, workouts, physical therapy, acupuncture, or even lunch. I’ve been there with such regularity the staff calls me by name. I credit this Center with exponentially improving my quality of life.
I remember the day I limped into Advent Health Sports Medicine and Rehab located on the second floor of the CHW for my initial evaluation. My knee demonstrated considerable improvement. The flexion in my foot however, was so restricted I could not raise my foot sufficiently to fit even a single piece of paper under it.
Justin, Meagan, and Chap cajoled, encouraged, electrocuted, and cared. “Some day soon, we will be able to fit a bible under your foot.” Chap assured. They liked my name. “Mrs. Kitchens!” Justin would call from across the room. “How are we doing?” I remember the breakthrough in September when my flexion went from -55 degrees to -15. My trio of therapists clapped and cheered. It was then I knew I would regain the use of my foot and my brace would no longer be a staple of my wardrobe.
“Justin, I think I’m ready,” I tentatively said last week at the beginning of my physical therapy session. “Ok, Mrs. Kitchens, let me measure.” Crawling on his belly, measuring tools in hand, he compared foot flexion. “What about my slacker toe?” I asked referring to my big toe that had stubbornly refused to join the others in their steady improvement. “The flexion in your right foot (injured foot) is better than the left!”
A few weeks ago I visited Shooz on Park Avenue to buy a celebratory pair of shoes to replace the neon orange sneakers I’d been wearing since June. “You had a foot drop?!” Charles exclaimed. “No one comes back from foot drop.”
It felt like a miracle. Eight months of therapy in the PT office, home, and Crosby Center had paid off! I had my foot back. I could wear real shoes again. I can climb stairs without fear. I can walk my dogs around Baldwin Park. “Meet me at the front Mrs. Kitchens.” Justin handed me a cowbell as I approached the desk. I’d heard the bell wrung by others during this exit ritual. I’m not sure if I believed I would be exiting on such a high note.
Maybe it was that silly cowbell or the hugs they gave me that made me pause to savor the moment. I was filled with such gratitude. So grateful for the support and faith demonstrated by friends and family, and so grateful to the Center for Health and Wellbeing for helping me heal my spirit and my body.