Loose Ends, Sept. 6, 2018

Published on: September 6, 2018

Knee replacement surgery has its ups and downs

Aug. 24 was the four-month anniversary of the day I received a total knee replacement. I’d love to tell you it’s been smooth sailing, but I’d be lying if I did. It hasn’t. 

Yet for everything I’ve been and am still going through, I can honestly say I’d do it again. It’s already on my radar because, according to my surgeon, my other knee is gradually going downhill. I’m certainly in no rush, though. My hope is to put off any second surgery until another life.

Here’s what happened in a nutshell:

Before the operation, so many people told me knee replacement surgery was a piece of cake, that I’d be up and back to work in a matter of weeks. So that’s what I expected.  

Sure, I was on my feet within 24 hours of surgery, but all those cheery prognostications about its aftermath were B.S. I’m convinced the people who made them were either padding the truth or getting some kind of kickback.   

I must admit my case was unusual. Because of human error, a sterile break occurred during surgery. Although rare, this sometimes happens, and it happened to me.

I’ll spare you the details, but my surgeon, a total perfectionist, decided I would be literally drowned in four to six weeks of Superman-strength antibiotics to prevent an infection.

Initially, it was decided I would administer the drugs intravenously myself at home, but I quickly discovered I’m not a nurse and neither is my spouse, so off to a skilled nursing facility I went.

Being in the SNF, as these places are now called, was a mixed bag. I got room service, three hot meals a day and six days a week of inpatient physical therapy, which kept me from going stir crazy.

Unlike many in the SNF, I was ambulatory and able to get my needs filled in a timely manner most of the time. I had a couple of amazing nurses who often saved the day, but the problem was they weren’t always on duty. So I had to be my own advocate. Suffice it to say, it’s hard to ignore a reporter with a notebook and cane!

The toughest part, beyond the pain I experienced, was undergoing six grueling hours a day hooked to an IV. The drugs sapped every ounce of energy I had, and it took me several months after my release to fully recover. I didn’t get an infection, though, so I reckon that makes it all worthwhile.

Four months into my rehabilitation, my knee is feeling stronger and stronger every day. I still have pain, but it’s more of an ache now as my knee heals. I’m able to manage this pain mostly with ice and heat, so I’m weaning off the meds I was taking. That’s real progress, folks.

I can remember crying like a baby during outpatient therapy, when I thought I wasn’t progressing fast enough, and the pain should have dissipated. I felt like an abject failure.

But my physical therapists, God bless them, said I was being too hard on myself and suggested I watch a video of the actual surgery to make me stop expecting so much. I was too chicken though; I kept thinking I might have to do this again, remember? So they showed me some print illustrations, and I got the idea.

For the most part, I’ve since ditched the cane and can do pretty much everything, aside from kneeling, squatting or riding 10 miles on a bike (not that I did that before, but it’s one of my goals). I’ve been told, this time by experts, that it’ll be another five to eight months before my knee feels normal.

If I haven’t totally turned you off by now, I’d like to emphasize the importance of going through knee surgery. Sure it’s painful and a lot of work. But sometimes it’s the only remedy for worn out, arthritic joints and the only way to get your life back.

As of this week, I’m on my own, walking the pool and hitting the gym. Everything I’ve been through the past four months has enabled me to do that. Before you know it, I’ll be skipping sidewalks.

Lois Kindle is a freelance writer and columnist for The Observer News. Contact her at lois@observernews.net.

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