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Bi-lateral Total Knee Joint Replacement Surgery

on 3 February, 2016

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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