Like most busy single parents I often ignore aches and pains as well as working through minor, but irritating illnesses such as colds or the flu. It’s probably because I always think that whatever it is will go away and it usually does.
In 2004 I got a pain in my right knee that did not go away and instead of going to see a doctor I opted to ignore the pain even as it continuously got worse. It took me over a year and the constant nagging of friends to finally go see a doctor.
I was lucky enough to find Dr. Kevin Gingrich. He was an orthopedic surgeon who had his practice, at that time, at Warminster Hospital. Dr. Gingrich explained to me that my knee cap had separated from my knee and that I developed severe arthritis in that knee. I needed to have a total knee replacement, but due to my age he was hesitant to suggest the surgery.
It is known in the medical field that an ideal candidate for knee replacement is someone in their 60s. People who have it done younger are at risk for having to get another one done 15 to 20 years later probably because they’re more active; that they put more wear and tear on their joints.
I was given monthly shots of hyaluronan injections which were very painful, but it did make my knee feel a little better for about a year. One day I went in to get my monthly injections, but went hobbling back in a minute later because the shot had worn off. It was then decided that I had to have the surgery.
I chose to wait two months because my first grandson was about to be born and I didn’t want to miss that. The pain was excruciating especially if I walked in my bare feet. A simple task of going to the bathroom in the middle of the night required me to put my shoes on and it got to the point where I would go to sleep with them on just to get a slight break from the pain.
Finally the day came and I had the surgery. There are people who will tell you that recovering from knee replacement surgery is the worst, but I beg to differ.
In 2000 I underwent neck surgery where they had to put screws in my vertebrae. That recovery is horrible so when I compared my knee surgery to my neck surgery I found that recovery from knee surgery was a lot better.
Maybe it’s just me, but it probably also depends on your threshold of pain. Sure they give you drugs, but you still feel it and no matter how much they give you eventually they’ll start to wean you off before your knee is completely healed.
Your stay in the hospital depends on how well you heal. I was there for about two weeks and, no, I was not the ideal patient. I didn’t want to stay in bed, but I didn’t want to walk around either. It was to the nurses delight that I started to willingly sit in my chair. Warning: The hospital will not discharge you until you walk around.
Your recovery also depends on which knee was replaced. Oddly enough the right knee takes longer to heal than the left knee. Prepare to be out of commission from six to eight weeks. This will include driving and going to work.
I wanted to go home so I walked around the nurse’s station as fast as I could before I could pass out. Imagine a race for people using a walker.
Prior to leaving the hospital they equip you with a couple of items that will be delivered to your home such as a potty chair and a shower chair. I already had a cane and crutches at home. My new best friend, the walker, who I named Clara came home with me. I officially felt like a senior citizen.
Before I left they ran some x-rays and discovered my left knee was starting to go bad so they gave me injections to cease or slow down the deterioration. It’s been six years and I haven’t had any problem with my left knee.
About 24 hours after you’ve made it home, a medical supply person will bring your two seats as well as a CPM (Continuous Passive Motion) Machine that goes under your knee, lifting it up off the bed, and it will gently flex as well as move the knee. This machine reduces scar tissue from growing on your new knee and prevents the muscles don’t atrophying.
Although I didn’t think the recovery was that bad up to this point, it got bad when I had to go to physical therapy about a month after the surgery. My physical therapist was horrible. This is Mahleah-speak for she was really good at her job. I had to go several times a week and just to make sure I got there they would send a van for me.
Staff at the office would ignore my screams and threats as the therapist bent my leg and applied pressure. She would put me on a treadmill and then stand there to make sure I did it.
Afterwards they would give me a grape Popsicle which was the equivalent of your mother kissing your boo-boo when you were little. Sure it’s a nice gesture, but it didn’t really help.
It took about six months before I was able to get around on my own with the assistance of first the walker and then a cane.
So the lesson that can be learned from my experience is to always see a doctor if you hurt one of your joints or if you experience pain.
You also have to acknowledge that even after you have fully recovered, there will be things you cannot do. I could no longer drive a car with a stick shift or wear high heels. Ignore those commercials promoting a certain type of knee surgery by showing people down on their knees gardening. No, you won’t be able to do that either.
You’ll also have to forget about playing basketball, football, hockey, parachuting, and running or jogging. Walking is highly encouraged as is swimming.
Don’t worry. You won’t end up sitting in a rocking chair on your porch knitting unless you already sat on your porch in a rocker knitting. People who have had knee replacement surgery do go on to lead completely active and mobile lives. Even me.