A Piece of Cake

Monday morning I learned a difficult lesson; I didn’t have my pain meds under control!!  When trading out the IV clicker for pills the previous night, I underestimated the amount of pills that I would need to compensate.  As the morning progressed, I found the pills giving me shorter periods of relief.  In my typical fashion, I tried to grin and bear it, but finally found myself with too much pain for too long.  In serious need of immediate pain relief, my nurse gave me a direct injection of Dilaudin, a heavy hit of narcotics.  This landed me in “Alice in Wonderland” while Shannon wiped the drool from my face.  For the longer term, they raised my regiment of Oxycodone and Lyrica which I have since found to work pretty well.

My rough morning continued into the afternoon as Physical Therapy stopped by to start getting me to move around.  I immediately recognized my instructor from a previous surgery as a militant drill sergeant with no tolerance for pain.  When he smelled fear right at the outset he seemed frustrated already.  Three days out from surgery, his goal was to get me standing.  My response, “I don’t see that happening today.”  I was still having severe nerve pains that would shoot through my body when I moved in certain unknown positions.  His response, “if it’s pain you’re concerned about, we can get some pain meds.”  I really didn’t want to overmedicate just to force myself to stand a couple days earlier, but as I tried to make the slightest move forward, I realized meds were going to be required in order to make it through this session.  We took a short break while I got a second hit of Dilaudin, which soothed me just enough to get me sitting up at the edge of the bed, but not standing.  This seemed to fulfill his minimal requirement, so he disapprovingly let me off the hook for the rest of the day.

I was so relieved that the session was over, and my brother Ryan walked in for a visit at a great time as I needed some support.  Unfortunately we had no time to talk.  Not more than fifteen minutes after finishing PT, occupational therapy came through the door.  Ryan left me to fight this battle alone.  My designated trainer expressed great excitement about the exercises we were about to work on together, but I couldn’t help but feel frustration as it sounded exactly like what I had just struggled through with PT.  I was led through a number of hand gestures that must have made me look ridiculous to anyone looking through the window with binoculars.  I sat on the edge of the bed as I had in PT, but with the added challenge of meeting progressively longer time requirements.  Occupational therapy, I have no occupation!?

After a challenging day it was great to have several supportive family and friends stop by for some very welcomed visits for the remainder of the evening, as well as help us celebrate Shannon’s birthday.  Also, after several months of corresponding by email while on the road, it was great to have Craig and Carolina DeHond visit again.  So great to see Carolina recuperating and doing well after her own difficult surgery.  Not the birthday party I would have preferred for Shannon, but still a lot of fun of fun under the circumstances.  Happy Birthday Shan!!


About bhoefen

Going on a road trip.
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16 Responses to A Piece of Cake

  1. HP says:


    Congrats on sitting up! That’s an amazing accomplishment – and so soon after surgery! I suggested to Shan that you might try yoga and pilates – as these will strengthen the core muscles you are probably using in new ways now. I also recommended the Lululemon “happy pants.” I’m full of great ideas! 🙂

    Sorry to hear about the drill sergeant you have for PT. Maybe Ed and Rich can come by and school him in some SDT. Seriously… a colleague of mine is good friends with the woman who’s in charge of PT at Walter Reed. She works with soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan – many of whom have had amputations. Let me know if you’d like me to get her contact info. Maybe she could do a phone consult and give you a better sense of what to expect and some things you can do on your own w/o the drill sergeant?

    Thinking of you guys always. Hugs!

  2. Ray Ferran says:

    Wow. Drooling, sitting up AND a party, sounds like a full day.

    The hardest day for any PT seems to be the first, now it’s behind you . Wishing you the best in continued recovery. I’m sure you’ll be up and getting around in no time

  3. Dawn DeBadts says:

    Hey Bret, No first of all Happy Birthday Shanny-Hope you get lots of presents lol

    Now for a comment about Dilaudin. Brett did it feel like there was a “shield” surrounding your body and you couldn’t move and then you smiled and went to sleep? That was my friend a few years ago.
    Just askin,
    Love Dawn

  4. Jessica says:

    First – Bret you look amazing! Smiling and joking – just like always. (I’m not sure if you are genuinely smiling or just dopey from the pain meds? Also, you don’t look dirty or smelly – I’d still give you a hug.) I’m sorry to hear you are in pain, but I think you made the wise choice in not trying to tough it out…

    Second – Chocolate dome cake. Yum! Happy Birthday, Shannon!

  5. ramhead says:

    Bret my name is Eric Larsen and I have been introduced to your blog here in Roanoke VA by an old school aquaintance of yours. You have more people than you know watching your story. We are all amazed with your enduring strength and persistance towards living each day with gratitude and grace. My friend will be posting something special that we put together for you in studio here soon. …. If you hear a uke thats me. You are an amazing person. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Debbie says:

      Hey Eric! I’m in Roanoke as well..I’m Bret’s sister in law! Would love to hear what you’ve got going on?


  6. Sally Leeson says:

    Bret I was thrilled to see Dr. Baumhauer’s name on your surgery team list! She is fabulous – I just had foot surgery for bunions and hammertoe in January and she was just great. Did you know that she volunteered last summer in Viet Nam and again this past winter in India? I’m so glad she was on your prestigious team of surgeons.

    You are doing great – sitting up and even trying anything else for the rest of the day is remarkable to me. By now you are probably moving around a bit more. Take it easy – only you know how you really feel!

    Still thinking and praying for you. Happy birthday (belated) to Shannon. Who knew you’d be celebrating in a hospital room?

    Thank you to Cousin Mike and whoever else it was that suggested that Amputee Rap – so funny! Such a great sense of humor. I can easily see you in that video or one similar to it, somewhere down the road. You are such a great writer, a rap would probably be fun.

    Once again, thank you Bret for all your inspiration, courage, sense of humor, and for just being you!

    Sally Leeson

  7. Marianne Borrelli says:

    Hi Bret and Happy Belated Birthday to Shannon! Well that will be a birthday Shannon will never forget. These have got to be the hardest days of your entire life….. And you are slowly getting through them. You continue to Guide us through your grueling daily routine with humor and laughter.! Mike I loved the amputee Rap video. Didn’t know if it was ok to laugh or not!!!!
    Glad they have you up and moving so soon. Someday you will thank the PT drill sargent!!! But probably not too soon. Have Shannon bake him some cookies. Maybe that will soften him….. but then again you want to get on the road again and that’s his aim!!!!!! Hopefully everyday will get easier for you. THanks for sharing all of your ups and downs with all of us. I have learned so much from you. You are my hero!

  8. Fred Borrelli says:


    your strength is amazing – remember the hulk got his power from exposure to stuff in the lab so myabe you are on to something with those drugs. The therapy will get easier as time goes by so stick with it. Shannon happy b-day to you – love that smile!

    Glad to see Strong is taking care of you – let me know if they don’t and I will call my friend in Ortho – he has pull there I hear. If that doesn’t work we will pull in the heavy hitters from cardiology.


  9. Cousin Mike says:

    I sent you the link to this guys pole vault video, but you’ve gotta check out his youtube channel:
    Pretty neat what a guy with only 1 leg can do.

  10. Christine says:

    We’re so glad that all this is behind you. We know that the days ahead will be challenging, but between you and your wonderful support system, we know you’ll get through it with class and determination.

    I was thinking that your “tree like me” no longer fits. Now, perhaps you are an oak, strong and stately. Or maybe a sugar maple, bringing sweetness into other people’s lives. Maybe you’re a willow. You certainly have been able to bend. Whatever, you are a very special person.

    You too Shannon….Happy Birthday!

    Love and good vibes,
    Christine & George

  11. Jessica Scott Wolfanger says:

    Just wanted to let you know we’re thinking about you Bret and hoping you’re back home soon!

  12. Muhammad says:

    Glad to hear that the surgery went well and you’re already making progress in moving around. You should definitely consider sitting up a noteworthy and significant milestone in your recovery. Congrats and keep on fighting!

    As for Shannon…HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  13. Wes and Paula says:

    Ah, the wonders of wonderful empanadas! Not something we usually associate with Yankeeland, but glad for you that they are available. Never having even heard of them before, I first encountered them following a 30K along the San Antonio River. For energy, balance of nutrients, and taste, I’ll hold sweet potato or pumpkin up against the meaty variety any day!

    A very happy birthday to you! No longer a teenager, I suppose… 🙂

    I’ve just learned there are two separate areas where postings can be made. I’m not sure whether you look at the postings under the “My Story” part of the site. There is an invitation there, that I’ll not repeat here. The short story is: as soon as you’re able, we’d love to have to come and enjoy Springtime in the Texas Hill Country.

    We continue to regularly lift you up in prayer. Speedy recovery from the surgery, rest and comfort, and a peace that passes understanding are high on the list.

  14. Carolina DeHond says:

    Oh Bret,
    After reading your blog , I’ve come to realize just how difficult PT and OT was for you especialy that day 😦 I know you told us about it but seeing the pictures brought tears to my eyes 😦 I hope the PT & OT people lighten up on you.. feel free to use the “C” card!!!!!
    Congratulations on sitting up and standing (although not mentioned in this note)!! Those are HUGE accomplishments!!

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY again to Shannon! You truly have a GREAT Wife!! I was very impressed to hear, she has not left your side (Craig was with me everyday for 10 days while I was recovering).. even to the extent of sleeping in those uncomfortable pull out lazy boys 😦 Shannon- you are an inspiration of what true love looks like 🙂 Your family has also been so amazing with you- we are so HAPPY they have been by your side through your battle with this nasty cancer!!!

    It was our honor to be able to visit you, Shannon, Jim and Betsy! You are such a wonderful family!! Thank you for your encouraging words on my recuperation! It means a lot that we CCS friends stick TOGETHER through thick and thin!!!
    Hope your PT and OT weren’t as bad today!
    Take care,
    Carolina and Craig

  15. Ashley says:

    I think PT schools look for the “drill sergeant mentality”, as I’ve had several PTs go through the executive graduate program I run and all are exactly the same 🙂

    I’m glad that Carolina and crew were able to visit! I’d love to take a trip up North and meet all of you!

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