During the dark days of May, a common question was "what is your long term goal after surgery?" My answer was I am flying to Frankfort on August 13th, 90 days after surgery and I need to be ready to ride a Zeppelin on August 22nd. That usually sent them looking at how much pain medication I had taken and what the reports from my psych exam were. I really got the feeling that most of them thought I was talking crazy when I talked about riding a Zeppelin. I wasn't, the flight was already booked, pre-paid non-refundable of course. I went and looked up how fit I needed to be to fly, I needed to be able to walk to and from the craft without help and climb and descend 6 or 7 steps.
When I first started walking after surgery, I was concerned about making it. Walking was a challenge, and stairs were (and to some extent still are) my biggest challenge. In inpatient physical therapy I told them what I wanted to do, and they said, "work hard and you can do what you want." In some ways I have worked hard, in others I have not been as faithful to my therapy as I should have been, and I have gained 10 pounds. But, I am able to walk, quite well on regular surfaces. Stairs are doable, good handrails really help.
On the morning of August 22nd, I went out of the hotel without the cane, I drove to the airport, the walk out to the craft was easy, the stairs were not an issue and I was able to get up and walk about in the cabin. The Zeppelin ride was magic. It just sort of floats up, it moves gently, once we were 500 feet in the air, we were allowed to take off seat-belts and move about the cabin. It was fantastic. When I booked the ride I was not sure I would be able to move around in the cabin (I booked this like two months before surgery) I was having so much trouble walking I figured I would do well to make in into the seat on the craft. I am so much better - I am near normal.
When we landed there was one email I had to send, a picture and thank you email to the lead surgeon. It was a very personal moment for me, I couldn't talk about it for 30 minutes. Even now it brings a tear to my eye.