So, for those of you who missed it, here’s the update/explanation for my absence: On February 8, I had my right knee replaced. Even to me, this still sounds like a “meh” in the world of bodily modification–it’s not even as if knees are interesting gooshy bits: They’re dry and chewy and we don’t even notice what they do unless they stop doing it. Well, wrongo, Mary Lou. Total knee replacement is a Big Fat Hairy Deal, considered to be one of the most painful surgeries out there with one of the longest recoveries. Everybody told me this beforehand, with the result that I was terrified out of my tiny brain.
It’s exactly 9 weeks later, and despite having told myself beforehand that the several months of recovery would be GREAT for my writing, I have only now re-surfaced to tell y’all about it. Writing is hard when you’re distracted by pain and the need to move it/ice it/be gracious to all the medical professionals in your face.
Where to begin? Well, for those of you who are sciencey, this link from my orthopods will give you pictures of the anatomy in detail. For the rest of you, they basically sawed off the cartilage-bearing parts of my knee joint off (what cartilage I had left, this being The Problem) and replaced it with this shiny titanium baby:
(Only I think my spacer is ceramic. I’ll have to remember to ask.) This did indeed hurt quite a lot, I’m not going to lie, but it also was NOT the-most-horrible-pain-I-have-ever-had. (That trophy is shared between kidney stones and my worst menstrual cramps: I am a pain professional!) I had both local injections (to help with the immediate pain post-surgery) and a spinal with so much sedation that I didn’t know a thing until it was over–I was as much a non-participant as if I’d had a general, with less recovery yuckies.
The physical therapy team at the hospital showed up on schedule that very afternoon to get my slacker butt out of bed so I could stand on the new knee starting immediately. (I don’t know why they do this. I will ask my real PT when I see her this Friday at my first outpatient visit. Bean counters should note that yes, outpatient PT only starts at the two month point.) This standing thing is made challenging because pain, and also because those numbing injections make you super wobbly. PT don’t care; PT don’t play. There is a fairly brief window where it’s mobility v. scar tissue formation.
This did lead to one of the most painful medical things I’ve ever had done (up there with endometrial biopsies), which was the main PT forcing my knee back on Day 3. This produced a level of screaming and crying that embarrassed me a bit but was totes called for–and I am NOT a wussy. (In fact, I once got sent home from critical care during one kidney stone because I was too controlled about it–they didn’t figure on it being my umpteenth stone. I had an infection, btw.) This range-of-motion thing isn’t quiiiiite the emergency they claim, as the surgeon bends the knee (duh, to make sure it works) before closing. No other PT person did this to me (and none will again, bwah ha ha).
However, it did put the fear ah Gawd inta me bigtime, and I hustled my butt into all those knee bending exercises out of fear that I would once again fail to please. (Bear in mind that I was out of my gourd on pain meds, etc., so was not my usual spunky Advocacy Lass self for quite a while.) As of now I am at 110 degrees of flexion (my heel almost touches my butt), and can straighten the thing out almost completely! (This translates to “rock star.”)
The four and a half days in the original hospital were the worst part of the whole thing. Not so much pain, but I have a well-behaved cat’s reaction to Things Not My Usual Litter Pan, and the food was atrocious beyond belief. The room was claustrophobic, and in the middle of this whole adventure, despite support socks that cut into my fat little legs and annoying booties that auto-inflated, I got blood clots in my lungs. (Maybe not from the surgery. Hematological workup pending next month.) Not too seriously, but I’ll be on anti-coagulant meds for a while to come. Sigh. I miss you, Vitamin K rich veggies.
And this was one of the best hospitals in Boston. Sigh again. But, seeing as I had 37 stairs awaiting me at home, my next stop was rehab, about which more later.