Sunday, June 19, 2011

Contemplating the Happy Dance

Twenty years ago one of my brothers and I walked up a mountain in Arizona to scatter our mother's ashes in an area where she loved to hike.  Sometime during that walk, my knees began to hurt and swell.  Back home, a doctor diagnosed me with osteoarthritis.  I began treating the symptoms with OTC drugs and through the years, moved on to stronger prescription medication.  By the end of 2010, however, they had all become ineffective.  I was told,  "When it's time for surgery, you'll know it."

They were right.  When I was unable to sleep well at night, I realized it was time.   There was no hesitation because folks  who have had or know of someone who's had total joint replacement (TJR) universally comment, "I'm sorry I waited so long."   My date with the knife was June 10.  I was in the hospital at 9:00, surgery started at 11:30 and was completed by 1:30.

Let me say:  when I woke up there was no joint pain.  The hurting parts had been removed and replaced by "hardware".  Although I'd been told that the effects of the anesthetic would linger for up to 48 hours, that evening after surgery, I was assisted in moving from my bed to a chair.  And I was assured that I should put my full weight on my leg.  It felt wobbly, but it didn't hurt!  

During the overnight, I was visited hourly by the nurses who checked my vital signs and asked me if I needed anything.  I wanted to say, "Fewer visits", but understood that they were monitoring my condition. 

The incision is seven inches long and "sutured" with 25 staples.  Bruising is extensive and swelling interferes with bending my knee.  I repeatedly told the staff that I didn't have pain, just discomfort in the tissues that the surgery had impacted.  With feeling returning to my leg as the effects of the spinal ebbed, on Sunday I was assisted through a series of exercises that include knee bends, straight leg raises and the heel slides.  The heel slide is simple, but diabolical.  It is done by lying with the leg straight and slowly sliding the heel toward the tush as far as I can pull it, then allowing the heel to slide back until the leg is straight again.  There's a lot of discomfort, particularly when the therapist "assists" by pushing the foot a tad farther than I can pull!  But I must admit that in spite of the distress caused by stretching those muscles, my leg feels much better when the exercises have been completed.  A dose of vicodin helps, too!

I came home Monday, three days after surgery, and found the porch decorated with a plethora of flamingos in celebration of my return.

On Wednesday, I visited the physical therapy facility and on Friday, had my first therapy session.  It started with eight minutes of pedaling.  No pain!!!  I felt as though I could have pedaled much longer.  The now-familiar knee bends, leg lifts -- 20 of each -- were next.  But only 15 heel slides.  That's because the PT had saved five in which she pushed, probably watching for my eyes to roll to the back of my head!  A few more activities and then, at the end the session, I was introduced to the Squeeze and Freeze appliance.  This apparatus includes a shin-to-thigh sleeve that was wrapped around my leg and some chilling material pumped into it to "ice" my leg.  Ahhhhhhh.

I hope progress to recovery is speedy.  I want to get the right knee done before the end of the year.   I see the surgeon in a week to have the staples removed.  I'll ask him then if we can pencil me in on the schedule.

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