Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Final word: Lessons learned from my knee replacement

It's now officially three weeks since my knee replacement and I'm finally easing back into the mainstream. The operative word here is easing. It will be half days of work for a little while. I feel extraordinarily blessed being on the receiving end of a great surgical procedure and now attentive physical therapy at OFC.
Three weeks is not ordinary and believe me I'm not yet at normal speed. In fact, I find myself shuffling around the house in my slippers rather than walking. What a pitiful sight. No wonder I don't have house guests.
I would not encourage anyone to expect three weeks as some kind of norm especially if your job is more physical than mine and whose isn't. In fact, sitting for a long period of time is NOT recommended and neither is walking or standing too often. You have to find the situation that is "just right" for you, baby bear.
OK, that said, I did want to end this serial saga with some questions I received from those contemplating knee replacement. If you've been following this blog, the following answers will make sense. If you haven't, well, you have some catching up to do:
Knowing what you know now is there anything different/more you would have done prior to surgery in preparation for your recovery?
I would have done more stretching exercises to loosen up the tendons/muscles surrounding the knee. I knew they were tight going in because I had neglected exercise and then the pain was reducing my flexibility. Now most of my therapy is trying to improve my extension.
Did your outpatient physical therapy start immediately upon your discharge or were there a few days of in-home therapy?
The therapy starts immediately (it was next day for me) at the hospital with a “therapy camp.” These are with other people who have undergone either hip or knee replacement and we do basically the same routines. Some people (depending on their physical condition/age) would be transferred to a place like Pathstone to complete their therapy. It also depends on who you have at home. If no one or if the care provider needs some help, then for sure they will discharge you to a rehab center.
Physical therapy – how many days a week is it and for how long?
It starts out at three times a week for about six weeks. I made some pretty good progress so mine will probably be only four or five weeks.
I live in a two story home – how difficult were stairs to manage your first week home?
Stairs? Are you kidding? You'll have trouble negotiating that edge of the rug. Seriously, plan on living on the first floor for the first two weeks at least even with a care provider.
How long did you have to give yourself shots (of the anti-coagulant)?
Ten days. It really wasn’t that bad. Just something very new for me.
When do you expect to drive by yourself? Was your surgery on your driving knee?
As long as you are on pain meds, don't drive. It took me until the start of my third week, when I dropped the pain meds during the day did I do some driving. And frankly that made for a long day. And yes, it was my “accelerator knee” that was worked on. I would plan on probably driving four weeks after surgery.
Did you ever consider having the surgery elsewhere? (I had a second consult in the cities so am pondering my options)
A few things to consider: The consult after surgery. Do you want to drive that far or will you be staying in the cities? The physical therapists and surgeons know each other here and what each can offer. That knowledge has to count for something. And the advice I received is the same I will pass on - go to someone who has done a lot of these and, in fact, will be the one actually doing the replacement. I had no intention of being a final exam for some intern.
Any general advice about my thought process in knowing what I need to know?
The hardest part of this is not the surgery. Nor is it the hospital stay. It’s the therapy. It will be difficult right out of the chute. But it gets better – slowly. I don’t know how to take care of the sleep deprivation other than to say it doesn’t last TOO long. Be patient – look at the destination, the end result and not the here and now. I can tell you it not only gets better. It IS better than living with the pain. I expect to be not only pain free in a couple of months but looking forward to getting back to snow shoeing this winter. My time was pretty well spent at home with work with no problem. Because it was very short-term attention span. I was able to continue writing editorials and my blog so my “fogginess” was not as great as I had last time. I think the drug used eight years ago with my last replacement - Vicodin - was terrible. The one this time – Percocet – was much easier to tolerate. Reading a novel or a book? I found myself re-reading a lot of pages and eventually just stuck with doing crossword puzzles to keep the mind active.

LAST BIT OF BIG ADVICE: If you are on regular prescribed medication, DOUBLE CHECK AND TRIPLE CHECK the meds you are given at the hospital. Ensure they know UP FRONT what you are taking. When they call to double check your meds, have your list in front of you. If you have someone who can be a patient advocate for you, let that person know the same information. Give that person the Health Agent power necessary. This is really were most things can go wrong – medicine mixups.
Finally, thanks to all who sent their prayers and good wishes. It apparently worked. And now, back to your regularly scheduled blogs.
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