Saturday, March 14, 2009

I'm on the post-operative coast

I have been trying to think of how to relay my surgical experiences and just how much information to put “out there.” Getting total knee replacements at the age of 52 is really young to be going through this but with everything that I have experienced like; 1) Been hit by a truck while crossing the street, 2) Gained a lot of weight, 3) I have osteoarthritis. All of these factors have each played their part in the need for this replacement and the yet to be discussed other knee that also needs to be replaced.

Going into have this surgery was not as simple as the many other surgeries that I have had. I was not so certain that this would be the answer to my being able to feel that I can be more mobile again. Surgery was not easy going into the OR and the surgeon did not even acknowledge that the reason for all of them to be gathered there had entered the room. It was all hurry up and get this done and move on to the next one. It is very hard laying there with a drape up so you can’t see what is going on and yet you know that they have pulled your ever so lovely hospital gown up to your waist and your girl parts are exposed for everyone in the room to see. One has the feeling that you are being violated and you’re just laying there and letting them do it. In fact you signed up for actually let them do this to you! Is even worse! I had opted for the new type of anesthetic called a femoral nerve block. They insert an IV into this nerve in your groin area and it continually blocks any feeling or sensations to your whole leg. And then they place an epidermal in your spine so you now have no feeling in either of your legs. You are still conscious that your hospital gown is still pulled up to your waist and everyone is seeing your girl parts!

As I lay there and know that they are having troubles with getting the 4 screws that have been in this knee for over 12 years. I can hear the drill trying to back those screws back out of my shin bone and I can feel them pounding with a hammer just to expose the heads of those screws. Other times I can feel them shoving and hammering metal on metal as they try to attach the replacement into the correct position. And yet I am not worried about all of this! I have this disinterested point of view even though I know it is my leg and my bones they are hammering, chiseling and sawing: You just don’t really care that much. The reality comes when you finally see the sixteen and a half inch long scar that this procedure has left on your leg!

Now it is seven weeks since the surgery and I putter around the house pretty good and I still walk with a limp but that will eventually go and the scar is healed and has begun to fade but it is still a very long scar and it is not pretty to look at! Not that anyone ever actually sees my knees!
The first few days that I could catch the bus and go to class on my own was extraordinary! The second day I could do things on my own I went to the library and to lunch and it was great just to sit there eating and reading a book knowing that I did not have to consult with anyone on how long I could be there. Now after doing this for three weeks it has not lost its rush!
Am I back to normal? By no means can I say that as I still get tired and if I spend too much time walking I do have some pain. Sleeping at nights is the worst. My hormones are totally out of whack so I have night sweats. Now that I sleep with the ceiling fan on it seems to be getting better. But still some nights are hard because it seems that you can’t get your leg nerves to calm down to get to sleep. So those are the nights I get up and walk around until I feel tired and then try to lay back down only to have to repeat this over several times in one night. It’s 3 am and I am still not gone to sleep yet. This is all part of this I am told now that I have done the surgery. This not a simple recovery in fact it is probably the longest recovery that I have experienced. But they only warn you against the regular surgical problems like infection, nerve damage, and bleeding. They never tell you that your life is not going to be the same for months after. That going up and down stairs to do laundry is exhausting and tricky carrying a laundry basket of dirty clothes or that it now will take you at least an hour to hand wash your dishes because you can’t stand at the sink that long, or the strange feeling that your surgical leg is now longer than the other one! In fact it really is now that you have replacement in that is a full knee joint and not the worn one that you had.
Now you look for new opportunities to do your physical therapy and practice counting because you need to count how many of each exercises you do. And trying to remember just when it was you took that last pain pill. I would write this stuff all down but I would probably forget where I put the list. So for now I am coasting! Yes that right coasting through everything I can possibly find and someday I will feel like I used to and hopefully even better but for right now I am coasting!