Going on five years of marriage and six years of knowing each other, Lukas and I have already experienced three surgeries as a couple. The first was my wrist surgery and recovery during our 10.5 months of dating, the second was my C-section birthing Tabitha Marie and the latest? Shoulder surgery for Lukas.
Back in February, Lukas was at the gym, being as safe as he knows how, but heard a *pop* in his shoulder. He came home that Saturday morning with a grim look on his face. Uh-oh, he was hurting.
A CrossFit athlete for almost three years. Lukas has been blessed with few injuries. He focuses a lot on form, understanding as a 38-year-old, he’s one of the “old guys” in the sport. He prioritizes stretching and recovery of his body, nutrition, massage therapy and chiropractic care — all the things that equip him to be as prepared as possible to complete his daily workouts. And for good reason because CrossFit has been a life changing addition to our family.
When Lukas and I met in 2016, we both were in good physical shape. Two years and a whole bunch of life change later, neither one of us were physically fit. Migraine forced me into seriously considering what I was eating and drinking which led to a positive difference in my overall health. Lukas had tried running (the activity that kept him in shape for years and years) but it wasn’t working. He’d rolled his eyes often at the “CrossFit” sport for the same reasons a lot of people do today. It wasn’t until eating dinner with a friend of his (a father to FOUR KIDS, a father who was in excellent shape!) shared his CrossFit journey, that Lukas began to open his mind to the idea.
He started researching gyms near our north Atlanta apartment and came across CrossFit Resurgens. Years prior, the phrase “resurgam” was a battle cry for him in the lowest season of his life. It means “I shall rise again”. Resurgens, rooted from the verb “resurgent” is a synonym of this phrase so all signs pointed to this gym being a special place. After three months, he wanted to quit. He wasn’t seeing many results no matter how hard he was working so turned to paying attention to his diet. Starting only with drinking more water, his health positively snowballed and he began to crave protein, veggies and grinding it out daily with his CrossFit family. The change wasn’t sudden but it was sustainable. After a year, the physical results of his hard work and intentionality were evident to all. His fears of having a “dad bod” once Tabby was born were squashed with the support of his CrossFit community and he was in the best shape of his life.
Best shape physically, but also mentally. And this is where the true blessing for our family shows up. Getting to the gym every morning sets him up to show up as the best version of Lukas Fortunato. Best version at work, best version at home. We get the very best version of him because of his commitment to his health — body, mind and spirit — and a lot of that is achieved on the gym floor.
So when he came home on that February morning to tell me about the *pop*, we both knew the seriousness of what it could mean for our family. When we set our goals for 2021, it did NOT include an injury. It included a BABY, it included me becoming a published author, it included us leading even more in our church, it included us reaching farther into our different communities in a continued pursuit of lasting friendships. All of which, we assumed, were best achieved with Lukas being the best version of himself and that included 5-6 days a week at the gym.
After the *pop*, research began. All in all, he consulted with Google, friends and family, and nine professionals (two chiropractors, a massage therapist, three physical therapists and three orthopedic surgeons) to make the decision to go under the knife… or the arthroscopic tools… last Monday (March 29th). I don’t know all the fancy names for what occurred at the hands of Dr. Duralde (the best of the best shoulder surgeon in Atlanta and who we were blessed to have work on him!) but high level there was a rotator cuff repair and something to do with eliminating a developing frozen shoulder.
The average age for people who receive this surgery is fifty-five-years old. As a thirty-eight-year-old, why was Lukas experiencing this? Did this happen as an acute injury, a consequence of lifting too much weight in CrossFit? The answer we received was a clear and resounding no. This was something that was, unfortunately, inevitable over time. Based on his scans, the doctor confirmed this was a slow, gradual, wearing down of the rotator cuff that led to the eventual *pop*. Knowing surgery was our only option for Lukas to get back to any kind of full quality of life, we wrestled with the decision to have it done as soon as possible or delaying until after baby was born. Lots of further counsel and prayer led us to decide sooner was better than later so we scheduled ASAP. God gave us a kiss from heaven in the form of confirmation on our decision based on what the surgeon found once in his shoulder. This is definitely not the case for everyone but in Lukas’ situation, delaying would have been worse!!
Lukas’ dad dropped him off at the hospital so I could help Mimi and Tabby get off to school Monday morning. My anxious energy found a landing place in shopping at Whole Foods and Target while I waited for Dr. Duralde’s “everything went well” call. Hallelujah thank you’s to a dear friend that texted me “want to pray?” and who’s quick call left me with gratitude tears and a heart full of peace while standing in the women’s clothing section of the Midtown Target. After I received the confirmed “it’s all good” surgeon call I talked t his recovery nurse a few minutes later. Speaking with her solidified that Lukas was in fact just fine when I found out the first thing he was asking for was coffee.
Thirty minutes later I was loading my loopy love of my life in the passenger seat of the car and ensuring he did, in fact, get his coffee.
Lukas has been an awesome patient. His insane optimism annoys me at times during our marriage but has come in total handy post surgery. He has hard moments, certainly, and the first 24 hours was nothing shy of hell on earth as we struggled to get his pain managed, but through it all I’ve been SO PROUD of him. I’ve watched him cling to Jesus and worship music during the darkest pain hours, experienced him being so kind and considerate to those taking care of him, and cling to positivity about the road ahead. Tabby knows her “Nigh Nigh” (her nickname for Lukas) has an owie and is the best nurse, always wanting to make sure he has water and an ice pack.
So here we sit, at the end of week one, post-op, me still pregnant with baby Fortunato making an appearance in 11 short weeks, still wrangling a two-year-old toddler, and leaning on our community HEAVILY.
When we set our goals for the year, the theme we picked was “branches and buds”. This theme was rooted in the idea that we wanted to reach further out to our community to establish deeper relationships. Relationships where we relied on people and people relied on us in very tangible ways. We’d already done some of that, but longed for more. Longed for more relationship, more relying, more depth. In January when we set that theme, we thought baby Fortunato would be the catalyst for a lot of that work. HA. Little did we know.
Although I hate to see my husband in pain, there is such beauty in this season. It’s kind of a chaotic mess and that’s (in my good moments) okay with me. There are lessons being taught and memories being made, and above all, perseverance being tested.
“…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3
We’ve watched FOURTEEN families come out of the wood work to help us in physical and tangible ways already, and more through encouragement and checking in and even still more through prayer. Those prayers have carried us. God is SO here. In the good moments and in the bad. He’s here, so close.
The road to recovery has only begun. A friend asked me last night how I was doing and my response “good! Check in on me next week when our parents are gone.” This past week has been a rollercoaster with highs and lows, sometimes happening all in the same hour. Even though we’ll start to settle more into a new normal here soon, I know the rollercoaster of ups and downs will continue.
If you’d like to keep up with us in this season, a dear friend made us a Give in Kind page where I post updates and where you’ll find a list of our needs (like meals). This will also be the place we use to update folks and seek support after baby comes. Here’s the link: Support for the Fortunatos. THANK YOU to those of who who’ve already helped us so tangibly — you reading this blog is a part of that support!! Writing gives life to my soul and keeps me sane all days, but especially in these crazy ones, and you reading gives me reason to keep doing so! So again, THANK YOU!!!!