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Time Just Seems to Drag…Ahead of Myself Again!

I wrote in yesterday’s post that I had passed the five- and three-week mile posts following surgeries. Which in talking to The Kid this morning made me realize that I am, once again, ahead of myself. I am just about halfway between weeks four and five (for the left knee) and weeks two and three for the second knee. I have never known time to drag on so slowly for anything! Maybe it has to do with the fact that being essentially bed-ridden that makes time seem to just slow down to a crawl or that I have so many things that I want to get back to doing that I just can’t. God, I am going crazy confined to bed and television.

I keep searching the ‘net looking for information on bi-lateral knee replacement surgeries and recovery and I swear there are as many opinions, recoveries, options and paths as there are doctors and patients. It seems downright stupid to think that I should have done all of this investigation before the surgeries instead of after; nothing like closing that barn door after the horses are gone. I try to take comfort in the fact that all of my medical teams believe that I am mending nicely – if not ahead of the curve – but it sure doesn’t feel that way to me.

You know, now that I stop and really think about it, I really don’t know what I was expecting during the surgeries and during recovery… I suppose it has been like all the other times I ‘went under the knife’ and their respective recoveries. Let see, I have had tracheal surgery three times before I had the Nissen fundoplication surgery to correct the problem with the hiatal hernia and the GERD (which was causing the scaring in my trachea, just below my vocal chords). Then of course, I had my gall bladder removed, a kidney stone (too large to break up to pass) that was surgically removed. Those two operations were done laparoscopically so it seemed that the recovery was quick and easy. I think sometimes that I was doing the recovery and sparred the brunt of taking care of someone recovering that it was easier or quicker than I really recall. I can tell you this: I am quite done with any more surgical treatments and hospitals. I’ve had quite enough, thank you.

I can’t help but feel like I should have had these knee surgeries some decades ago… while I was still young and relatively healthy and I think recovery would have been so much quicker and easier. I have been counseled though that these joints aren’t infallible and won’t last forever, so having them replaced earlier may just have necessitated having them replaced again (probably about now!), so all in all, I think I am where I should be. I can tell you this, I won’t be having them replaced in fifteen or twenty years. No way!

Tomorrow I start on the second round of physical therapy – this time targeting the right knee, but that will include both knees. I know I should have started sooner, but the pain associated with the second surgery has been off-the-charts for me and I just couldn’t bear to even attempt it before this. It is actually quite the catch-22, as it has been explained, the sooner you begin therapy the quicker the pain is reduced… but it was too painful to start before this. I really don’t think of myself as a wimp when it comes to pain… keep in mind that I have been dealing with chronic headaches since my mid-twenties… but the pain from these surgeries (and especially the second/right knee) has been off-the-charts. Twenty-seven hours of labor with my son was a walk in the park compared to this.

I am so anxious to get back to doing ‘stuff’ that I have lists and lists of things I want to accomplish. I still have a few things to “finish up” from before surgeries and I surely have a ton of new ideas since I’ve been laid up. And it seems with nice spring weather just around the corner, I am so ready to get moving. And actually, after being off work for this past year… I am so ready to go back to the fast pace and excitement of the computer industry.

 

 

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Can I Really Be Getting Better?

So, just past the five- and three-week marks for the knee surgeries. I *think* that I am finally feeling a little better. I had a minor meltdown last week when the pharmacy decided that I’ve been getting just a few too many pain meds and so had to meet with two of my doctors to figure things out. I swear I was convinced that something was wrong with the right knee (the newer of the two) but doc number two did x-rays and his professional opinion was that they were “perfect”.

Still, I am reminded almost constantly that major stuff just happened. I will have that ever-so-brief moment when I wake up in the middle of the night having to go to the bathroom and finding that very first move to be excruciating. Like having a lighting bolt shoot from my knee down to my toes and from the knee up to my waist. I parked the walker in the living room though and have been getting by holding onto furniture and the walls though and taking tiny baby steps for the past week or so.

Monday I begin the second round of physical therapy. Here’s where the conflict between what the body is saying and what I am being told drastically differs. The PT is vital to recovery and if I want to walk without a limp. Babying these muscles is not the right answer. But holy crap in a basket does it hurt for hours and hours following a PT session. Pushing the muscles, even a degree, seems like the totally wrongest thing to do and I am pushing back with the strength of a hurricane. There is such a difference between what the heart says is the right thing and the pain receptors think.

Got the first surgical bill this past week. Nearly made me pass out. Even worse when I realized that it is only the first of two and of course there are a ton of other charges still coming – from the doctors, the physical therapists, the medicines etc.; somehow though I did get lucky with some real kick-ass health insurance and my portion is just a fraction. But a fraction is still a nice chunk of change, especially considering that I haven’t worked in more than a year now.

I’ve been getting to the point of boredom and frustration more quickly lately, which again, tells me that I must be healing. Still not up to the point of working on any projects, not even those I was sure I would be sailing through. I had set up a hand quilt frame to complete the quilting on an antique quilt I rescued from an abandoned farm house, but alas, I didn’t do it correctly and I don’t have the dexterity to undo the safety pin basting so that I can re-do it right. I’ve pretty much done only a bit of coloring as I watch television and fade in and out of wakefulness. There is this great new wave of “adult coloring” lately and I invested in this great set of gel pens that includes glitter, fading and just a huge selection of colors. Here are a couple of the canvases that I’ve completed lately:

Okay, that’s it for the update. Updates are slower as my laptop battery died and so I have to try to either write posts on my iPad or wobble into the office and use the desktop. Just one more thing sitting and waiting for future income to address, like the fact that I’ve broken two throatplates on two of my three sewing machines (making them unusable). The list continues to grow every day of the projects piling up that require income and I am still at least two or three good weeks away from even thinking about going back to work. Sigh.

 

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Two Weeks and Four Weeks: Is This Progress?

Another followup appointment with my ortho doc today. Pain in the second (right) knee has become occasionally so intense that it becomes necessary to have an all out crying jag as a result. And wow, even though I know it, I can’t help it, and it makes The Kid really uncomfortable.

So, today makes two weeks since surgery on the right knee – the second surgery and second knee. Some how I thought I would be further at this point. I can’t help this mantra in the back of my head saying that I  think I made a mistake, although its obvious that there isn’t anything that I can do about it now. I guess I have to try and just do the best I can going forward with physical therapy and pain medication and just trying to be as active as possible. I understand that it is probably the best thing to manage the pain overall.

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This time? Regrets. At least right now; yes.

These past couple of days have been tough. I got home from the hospital late on Saturday afternoon and since, for about two days, I have spent every single moment in pain, immobility, sick to my stomach and frustrated beyond words. But not beyond tears.

I keep setting little dates for myself… just wait 24 hours to see if I am feeling better. Just give it one more night of sleep and surely the pain will start to dissipate. At some point, this has to make a turn – maybe if not a complete one hundred and eighty – enough to give me a sanity break. Right?

‘Cause for the first time since beginning this process, and that includes years of alternative treatments and investigations, therapy and to be perfectly honest, prayer – I have regrets and doubts. I am second guessing this. Of course one never knows the real outcome of something until it is done, I am at the point where I wished I had never headed down this particular path.

I mean, even the first knee was something I would consider successful. At this point last week – before the second surgery – I was feeling pretty optimistic. I mean, I would have had to in order to willingly head back into the hospital for the second procedure.

One thing I have learned is that these things are not “cookie cutter”. I am finding out how different things can and have been between the left and right knees. Somewhere in my thinking, I guess I thought that surgery would be the great equalizer… I mean, once the joint has been removed, it is simply a clean slate for the prosthetic, right? But from the get-go, I know that the pain level has been very different, the incision has been shorter and the general journey has been considerably different for the second knee (right knee) than the first.

And honestly, I could ask and read and research all day but when it comes right down to it, the fact is that this is way more painful this go ‘around. And I think that will make recovery both longer and more painful. And I am finding that I am running short of patience and tolerance and catch myself in crying jags that have nothing to do with the constant dull ache behind my knee caps.

I thought that if I might actually write down some of these words it might help. As I think I’ve stated, I wanted this experience to be reported accurately, at least in terms of how it is going for me. Obviously as the experience has been profoundly different between knees for me… you can only image how different the process could be between people!

Between the pain and the pain killers, I feel like I have no energy, no drive and no imagination or curiosity. All the things that I thought I might enjoy during this downtime have been both physically and figuratively pushed back against the wall where they are but an irritating reminder that I should be accomplishing more. Accomplishing something. Accomplishing anything.

(Oh, did I mention that my laptop up and crapped out on me too! Which means to do anything on the computer, I have actually drag my sorry ass into the office and use my desktop machine. Just one more irritating and complication factor.)

So, once home from the hospital, I gave myself three days to really rest and heal. Sleep long solid hours and eat right (or if not “right” better). Which means, by the end of tomorrow, I should know where I really stand with this knee recovery.

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I Feel A Little Like Punxsutawney Phil

So, I finally managed to get a place where I felt safe enough to open my eyes.Poke my head up, open my eyes and look around. Whew! I think I am safe! Only six more weeks of recovery!

Second surgery done and recovery and physical therapy scheduled to start, I seem to have had a small break in the relenting aching pain in my right leg.

I have so much to write about these surgeries. About me and these surgeries. I know that often you have to digress to go forward, but wow, this has been one of the most painful, difficult and frustrating processes that I have had the pleasure to participate.  I think the one thing that has been most surprising is the vast differences between the surgeries. I mean, there are some differences, but I didn’t honestly think them that much of a difference when I went into this. And I think it is something that you can only know after you are there… you can never second guess something like this.

I can safely say that I will not be rushing back into any kind of surgery in the next decade unless absolutely necessary. Age is just making it more and more difficult to recover as quickly as I used to.

The one thing that I seem to have changed my mind about – oh and there is plenty of time and opportunity for that to turn around as well – is about getting a tattoo. I’ve done some internet surfing on the scars from these surgeries and they are not nice to look at. I guess it will depend on when mine really are healing and becoming scars rather than incisions, but I thought it would be fun to cover them with an interesting tattoo. I heard the experience of “bionic woman” in reference to having had both knees replaced and though it would be neat to have steel plating tattooed over the scars.

And with all my other hobbies and interests, I have lots of options to choose: needle and thread, quilting stitches, wood hinges are some ideas that come to mind, but it will at least give me a diversion while recovering and actually unable to do many of those actual hobbies and interests. If you’ve seen something or have an idea, please send it along. ‘Cause if there is one thing I am it is unique and so my tats must be as well!!

I have been way remiss in writing or posting in either blog over these past couple of months and I hope you are understanding and continue to support me as you have in the past. Soon, I hope this phase will be but one more of the steps to becoming a better me.

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And The Count Down Begins (Again)

So, I am still receiving “high marks” for my continued therapy and exercising even when not being cajoled by the physical therapist. I think I feel like I have already gained so much ground with the first knee replacement and recovery and am really beginning to embrace the additional week that I pushed for between surgeries. After all, with the second surgery the day after tomorrow, the first leg will have to be the “good leg” while I do recovery on the second knee.

It has been an amazing turn of events these past two weeks. I honestly did not feel like that small amount of time would really be enough to feel like I am accomplishing and moving forward. I know the swelling is way down and the bruising – which once covered the entire leg from just mid-level of my thigh – was absolutely terrifying to look at. During the first comprehension hosiery change, I was dumbfounded by the lack of any normal colored skin! It ranged from yellowish red to a purpley-black with shades of deep blue. And this went all the way to the bottom of all of my toes!

Tonight I will peel off the compression hose on my left leg and let the skin breathe for the next day. It will definitely feel good.

I’ve been trying to eat a little better although not making large changes in my diet. More concerned with the amount of what I have been eating rather than with how much. Lots of my comfort food – which good for me isn’t heavy or really bad for me – I am a mashed potatoes junkie! I love putting a couple of ounces of chicken chopped up and sprinkled on top, and this both takes care of my hunger as well as my desire to just feel better. If I had to guess, I’d place bets on having lost about twenty to twenty five pounds in the past four weeks. I guess I will be able to report “officially” on Wednesday, when I check in for surgery.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been fighting the urge to really investigate what is going on during surgery. I glanced at some actual surgical footage and watched the first minute or so of the horizontal incisions across the knee and then one down the length from above the knee to below it and nearly passed out! I’ve never been squeamish about surgery and surgical procedures, but for whatever reason that one nearly made me lose my lunch! I quickly turned it off and have decided that if I really need to review it at some point, it will be at a minimum of three months post recovery. Sometimes it just isn’t necessary!

The Kid continues to make me proud with his attentiveness to my needs both physical and emotional. Every single day I wonder exactly what I did right such that I ended up with the greatest single child ever born. I love that Kid more than life and breath.

With the completion of the first knee’s surgery, somehow word seemed to have hit the job market and phones and email have been off the hook. I loved the time I took off last year – my sabbatical – and the fact that I have the type of career where I can not only think about taking such time off but in fact, can and did, just supports the decisions that I’ve made. But that much time out of the technology sector can be detrimental and am anxious to jump back in with both feet (and legs newly replaced with titanium knees!).

Thank you for hanging in for this ride! Make sure you leave comments and/or send me emails if you have questions about what is entailed in this process. I do plan to go into it with a lot more technical know-how and how it is important not only for medicine but for patients as well.

 

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Shaping The Conversation: Bilateral Total Knee Joint Replacement Surgery

BTKJRP:  bilateral total knee joint replacement surgery

 

Okay, I am ten days out from the first surgery and I am completely amazed at how well I feel and how well I feel I am doing!

There was a short period of time where out of pain and frustration and not enough sleep, I did question my sanity. Or that I had any at all! Of course when I woke up after accidentally ripping out my nerve block and seeing my leg more black than blue and wondering if I might ever bend my knee again I can see where it might be easy to question that decision. But getting the pain medication right, good fitting compression stockings and a few back-to-back nights of solid sleep has made all the difference.

Actually, the one thing that I think has had the most impact is physical therapy. Not only doing it, but doing it right. And not pushing too hard. From what I can tell, I am not only staying on track with the p.t., but perhaps just slightly ahead. It was originally part of the plan, though, that the second knee would have the surgery just a week following the first. There was times that I think that I could have perhaps accomplished it and would have been just that much further into recovery, but now I am seriously glad that I waited any extra week.

This topic will require a lot of discussion, and I want to moderate it. I am sure that there is plenty of medical discussion about the proper time surgically as well as emotionally and psychologically. Consider that most people will be lucky enough to never have to replace a total knee joint (let alone two) nor will most people ever have to experience having one or both replacements just once in their lifetime. And what might be right for one person may be the exact opposite of what is right for another. That’s one reason I want to open this up for discussion and debate.

Another top of discussion is the need and benefits of a really invested support person. Oh, I know that there is a whole team of people in place for my surgeries (and I am still amazed with the level of care that has been afforded me) but having my son around to not only act as an personal advocate, support both mentally, physically and psychologically. To be able to drop the worries of bills, bank accounts and a job to focus primarily on these surgeries is, again, one of those luxuries that everyone is not afforded.

I went on my first couple of “adventures” today- first to Joann’s and then to a couple of thrift stores. I felt pretty confident in my movements and was careful to not over-use my new knee as my “walker” experiences grows. I was astonished by the fact that strangers would go out of their way to assist me and not crowd me or make me feel unsure. I am already very displeased with having to use a walker at such a young age, but I know it is important to use the right tools for the job.

Okay, all of this said, I also have to be diligent about getting proper sleep, nutrition and hydration. And because of my extracurricular activities today, I feel the need to replenish and rest. So, I am off to get a solid’s night sleep.

I’m still shaping the exact purpose of this blog. If you have ideas, questions and/or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you. And of course, photos are always welcome!

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Physical Therapy on Left Knee, Pre-Op Labs for Right Knee

Today’s schedule found the additional testing procedures needed for the other knee surgery on Wednesday.

Left knee was replaced on January 27th. The initial plan was to have the left knee replaced on Jan 27 and then repeating the same procedure to the right knee a week later on February 3. As is always true of plans, there was a hiccup to the plan and the second knee was postponed an additional week.

Since being discharged from the hospital on Saturday, January 30, I have been visited every day by home health and physical therapy. My initial thoughts about having someone in my home every day wasn’t originally very appealing, but any doubts that I soon had were won over by the ease and convenience of my traveling PT’ers. No worrying about traffic or weather or if there was enough gas in the truck or if The Kid was awake enough to haul me off to the other side of town to complete 30 to 45 minutes of work. And I could literally just wake up and do PT in my jammies minutes later!

Seems that I am progressing well and maybe even a bit a head of schedule. I just happen to believe in this situation that that it benefits me the most to be ready for my second surgery as much as is humanly possible. Even though there are days or hours when I have to wonder if I’ve taken on too much, for the most part I believe that this is the best plan in my case. Still relatively young and healthy is going to make the the least painful recovery and being able to realize the most dramatic benefits from this dual surgery.

Okay, that is my quick update to today’s events. On Wedensday morning, I check in for the other half of surgery and then a complete life turn of events into full physical therapy and recovery.

I’d love to be able to answer any questions you might have. And I would love to hear about your experiences. Please do not hesitate to write to me!

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Bi-lateral Total Knee Joint Replacement Surgery

Did that title just rush waves of fear and anxiety through you? I know it did for me!

I had every intention of blogging these surgeries when I first started seriously wanting them and then when things finally started falling into place. One of the things that I wanted to help fill was the void of the personal perspective on having this type of surgery and how it would impact not only my life, but on those lives around me.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Dealing with the initial injury so many years ago opened my eyes about that. But frankly, I think the human brain and body have some amazing abilities to block out specific events and to interpret them differently with the passage of time.

I also knew it wouldn’t be easy to deal with surgeries for both knees at essentially the same time. Nothing is ever about twice as much or double anything… there exists whole other levels of endurance and adaptation when you opt to do it “all at once” as opposed to the staged process.

A little history. When I was sixteen and do my damnedest to ‘keep up’ with my five brothers, I was a fairly avid skateboarder. Not how you think of skateboarders now, but rather, I love to find tall hills and see how fast I could get going. One summer holiday camping trip and I came face to face with the incline that would be my undoing. Once I realized that I was in over my head, there was no turning back or stopping. There was only keeping the disaster to a minimum.

Forty some years later with a fairly physical life in the rear view mirror, the original injury had caused some real permanent damage and almost as much damage to the other knee from overuse and compensation. I had opted to do intermediate treatments – especially in the last decade or so – some with fairly good results. But I knew that there would be a very definite point where the treatments would no longer offer much, if any, benefit. It soon became apparent that it was time for surgery.

It was about this time that my ortho doc finally agreed. I think the only reluctance that there was on his part dealt with the fact that these total knee joint replacements weren’t the long lasting solution we might want to believe. Apparently, even now, the replacement period is limited to ten to fifteen years. So, if you do the surgery(ies) too soon, then you’re looking at another somewhere down the road. So, I think it was the “magic” point of me turning 55 that finally allowed him to say yes to the investigation. But we did move rather quickly once we both agreed it was the best solution.

I wanted to wait until the beginning of a new year, to effectively collect all the benefits, costs and insurances to a single calendar year. We had the doctor’s calendar to work with as well, as he is an orthopedic surgeon and likes to work with the university’s sports team and I was informed of that impact to the calendar as well.

My initial desire was to complete both knees surgeries at the same time – that is, during the same surgical period. I think he was amused at best at my grand optimism, but I was pretty stoic at the same time. We opted to move forward with the plan to replacement one joint, followed by the second knee the following week. Seven days apart.

I didn’t really encounter any real significant complications but the small issue that I did have made me rethink just how quickly that schedule was. Surgery around noon on Wednesday and immediate physical therapy to commence that evening. Two full days later, the nerve block in my leg was to be removed and then the full gulf of pain and immobility was a new obstacle that I was not prepared for. Just another day and a half and I was discharged to home, only to repeat all the steps for the other leg. This includes several hours of presurgical labs and the transportation required and then two days and we’re back at the surgical suite doors once again.

Now, the little complication that I encountered was that somehow on the end of the second day of recovery, I managed to get out of bed and pull the nerve block out of my leg. Not sure if I was groggy from the level of pain medication or out of my head by the fact that I had no real rest or sleep in the 48 hours following surgery, but with all things coming to a head at the same time, I broke. Hard.

Not being the proper nor the best way to remove it I think set me back a bit. By Friday morning, I was screaming in pain… I don’t think I recall this event ever in my life. And of course the very first thought that came into my head, was there was just “no fucking” way I could do the other surgery that soon.

Doc understood. I am sure of it. With that off my forefront of my thoughts, I could just lie back and really take control of my recovery and impending physical therapy.

So, I am finally getting this started and want to put all the information out there for anyone who wants or needs to know this info, from the sterile medical point to the heart wrenching emotional side of it. I hope you won’t be disappointed to join me.

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