Tuesday, 10 January 2017 17:01

On the mend with new insights on life

Written by  Harold Bales

On Nov. 30, 2016, my left leg was amputated below the knee after a nine-month effort to save it. Because of some complications, I spent 29 days recovering to get well enough to return home from the hospital. I still have some healing to do before I can get started on the process of getting ready for my new, artificial leg.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all you dear friends for your prayers, thoughts, good wishes, cards and letters. I was so swamped with letters and e-mails that it will be impossible for me to answer them all. They ran into several hundred. I know you will forgive me and understand when I finally read messages from you and offered this little prayer: “Thank you God for this friend of yours and mine who spoke to you about my great need.” I was a pretty sick puppy for a long time and I was never forgotten.

I learned lots of important lessons during this adventure and I am thankful for each insight. I learned what terrific doctors, nurses and therapists we have. I also learned that I need to be careful around these angels of mercy. You all know what an incurable jokester I am and how I love to crack one-liners. I kept my beloved Judy on pins and needles with this habit because she was afraid they would mistake my mirth for dementia and keep me hospitalized longer than necessary.

For example, one doctor asked how I was doing one night before Christmas. I replied I had spotted some wise fellows traveling on camels from the East and that shepherds near Bethlehem had been put on notice about a big star in the sky. I later learned this was reported in a meeting of those caring for me as a possible example of hallucinations. I cleaned up my act after that!

I am grateful that my bad reaction to morphine wore off after several days and my mind cleared. One of my doctors said, “You don’t handle narcotics well, which is probably good since you have been a minister more than 50 years.”

I am more sympathetic than ever for those who suffer in the grip of powerful drugs. The drugs were terrifying to me, taking me into dark and frightening places.

It is great to be on the mend now. I have frequent bouts with what we call “phantom pain.” This is that strange phenomenon in which your brain plays tricks on you and makes you think your limb that was amputated is, in fact, still with you. Yep, it’s truly weird. It can be more painful than the real thing. For me, it feels like a sprained ankle or a cramp in the calf. It is sort of like an ingrown toenail glowing in the dark. You can say, “Now toe, you can stay awake and glow all night with pain if you wish. But for me, I’m going to go to sleep!” That little trick doesn’t work.

I’m thankful that phantom pains usually go away. Much of the misery of life is like that. It goes away and is replaced by the joy and pleasure of life. At least that’s the way I see it. Even if you lose a leg, hang on to the other one if you can and be thankful!

Harold Bales is a retired Methodist minister who lives in Concord. He enjoys hearing from his readers, so send him an e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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