So, I have some news…
Those of you who follow me on social media will already know about this but on April 20th I received a Total Knee Replacement for ShitKnee. I kept this quiet until after the surgery because, well, I was nervous and I didn’t want to make anyone else nervous. I’m giving that way.
But it was all surprisingly … well, easy isn’t the right word, especially seeing as I threw up in recovery, then twice in my room from the opioids in the anesthesia. Let’s call it routine. Ramón got me to the hospital at 6 AM, we were shown to a pre-op room where I got gowned and bonneted up and they got my IV started. I was pleasantly surprised when my surgeon, the anesthesiologist, the internist who would be monitoring my recovery, and the charge nurse all stopped in to say hello and answer any questions I had.
I then handed my glasses over to Ramón and they wheeled me off to the OR (which was way more brightly lit than any OR on a medical TV show) and I sat up while they gave me an epidural block. The procedure now is to give a spinal block and a couple of locals in the knee in addition to the general anesthesia, all of which help greatly with pain mitigation. I laid back down, blinked, and the next thing I knew I was in a hallway and my mouth felt like the Sahara.
A nurse came along and gave me a cup of ice chips, which I slowly sucked on until my stomach decided that it was not having with that and promptly regurgitated a gush of fluid that felt way more voluminous than a handful of ice chips would have produced. One nurse said, “Oops, there she goes,” so they took me back to the pre-op room and got me cleaned up, bless them. A little while after that I was transferred to my own room.
And holy crap but hospitals have improved since my last knee surgery 38 years ago. I had a private room with a bit of a view, a nice big bathroom that was easy to hobble into, and a pair of awesome nurses named Gail and Abe who took splendid care of me. My thigh muscle felt a bit crampy from the tourniquet used during the surgery and the muscles along the back of my knee were burning from being manually straightened on the operating table, but the pain meds kept everything down to a dull roar.
Unfortunately I threw up two more times, but this time they had emesis bags nearby and I was able to hurl into those (Gail said that she was impressed I was able to hold it in until she could get me a bag. After I stopped throwing up I explained that I didn’t like making unnecessary work for people). After they gave me Zofran in my IV and my stomach calmed down I got a nice chicken sandwich for dinner and all the water, ginger ale, and jello I fancied, along with a PT session and an OT session. The PT walked in during my second hurling and he told me later that he felt so sorry for me because I looked like I was throwing up my toenails.
The next day was spent having a bagel for breakfast, walking the length of a hallway and back to my room, and learning how to use the ice machine I would be taking home with me. This is a genius little dingus that is essentially a modified cooler with a pump in the lid that pumps ice water (or in my case water that has been chilled by the addition of frozen water bottles) through a hose to a bubbled pad that you can velcro around your knee or other joints. This kind of cold compression therapy reduces blood flow, nerve activity, swelling, and inflammation in the joint, and helps a lot with pain. I had the pad wrapped around my surgical dressing and ACE bandage while I was in my hospital bed, and the nurses would disconnect me when I needed to pee.
By that afternoon my early morning bloodwork had come back all clear, I’d dressed myself and gotten ready to go, and my surgeon blessed my departure. Ramón drove me home and poured me into the guest room bed, where I was supposed to spend two weeks recovering. That being said, I was well ahead on the curve due to my pre-hab exercises (the hospital therapist was surprised that I could lift my leg without assistance and shocked that I’d walked the length of the hallway the day after surgery). When I couldn’t get comfortable Saturday night I decided to very carefully climb the stairs to our bedroom, where I’ve been sleeping every since. I now set up a routine where I sleep up there and spend the day downstairs so I’m only going up and down stairs once a day. I use the guest room for resting, napping, doing my home PT exercises, and reading when Ramón wants to watch anime.
As for the last ten days, I’ve spent them relaxing and letting my knee heal but getting in enough activity to encourage said healing and stop the joint from developing any adhesions or other issues. My surgical dressing is now off and the incision looks extremely good and should heal beautifully as long as I keep it clean and tend to it. I still have a fair amount of bruising around the knee and down the leg, but that’s to be expected, what with the ends of two bones being carefully cut off and replaced with titanium bits.
More importantly, I’ve had two outpatient PT sessions so far at the therapy place connected to my surgeon’s offices and they’ve been extremely pleased with my progress so far. My surgeon was a little concerned about me straightening out the knee and keeping it straight, but I have this hard foam cushion with a U cut out of it that I insert my heel into when I’m lying down and let gravity pull my knee straight. Yes, it’s unpleasant as it sounds, but it works.
I was even kind of naughty this morning. Technically I’m not supposed to drive for at least two weeks and preferably six weeks, but that’s mainly to make sure that 1) you’re not driving with opioid painkillers in your system (I haven’t had any since 4/24) and 2) you can bend your knee adequately and put enough pressure on the brake and gas pedal to operate the car. Well, Ramón was still asleep and we were out of wet cat food for the J Crew, so I went out to the car to see if I could get in and work the pedals without pain. When I found out that I could, I drove to the pet food store and brought back a week’s worth of food. Ramón just grinned and shook his head when I told him about it later on. Mind you, that one little trip wiped me out for the day so I’m not going to be doing the food shopping any time soon, but it’s nice to know that if I do have to drive, I can.
So that’s where I’ve been for the last two weeks. I have to say, I am so happy I got this done. I can already feel the difference in the knee, and once it’s fully rehabilitated I’m going to be more mobile than I’ve been for 38 years. After that, look out.