Knee Replacement Surgery– Five Observations

 

Therapy tools
Therapy tools

For most of my life, I have been healthy and am still healthier than not–so no chronic illnesses, hospital stays, or  unusual restrictions (other than apathy and the don’t wannas.) When I developed osteoarthritis a few years ago, it was a minor inconvenience that gradually became an increasing instrusion into my life.

      1.  Attitude determines a lot of what we think we can/can not do.  –  Stairs were something to avoid, if possible.  (I still found that most of these impediments were psychological.  If the weather was nice and I was chatting with friends or listening to good tunes on my iPod, the activity was no problem to accomplish.)
      2.  The nursing staff makes medicine nicer/kinder/approachable. – I  had right knee replacement surgery on Friday and had to stay in the hospital for a single night. (It was my first hopital experience as a patient.)  From my first referral by my primary care physician, through the intermediate steps of PT, accupuncture, and orthopedic referral) to the actual surgery, the nurses were the ones who had the time to answer my questions, listen to my fears, help me to the bathroom, brought my medications and meals, made me feel like a person and not   some speciment on which to practice medicine.  (Don’t get me wrong, the doctors were nice and all were skilled practicioners, but the nurses took the time to see the person behind the patient.)
      3. The second night and the third day are the worst.  –  As my friends (who have already had joint replacement) tell me, they give you really good drugs in the hospital so  pain management is a piece of cake.  (One of those wonderful nurses had also told me that this period would be the worse and that each day would get better after that.)  When I came home, life took about 3 hours to  sledgehammer me into reality.  Between 3 pm on Saturday, and about 4 pm on Sunday, my medications were not touching the pain.  (In retrospect, I should have accepted the nurse’s offer for some oxycodone before I left the hospital, but I was not in pain and did not want to use oxycodone anymore than I had to because of it’s addictive qualities.)  Last night was better, but I was still needed remedial training on bringing my overnight medications into the bedroom next to me rather than leaving them in the room where I had spent my waking hours.
      4. Use it or lose it–PT will set you free. –  It’s too easy to sit in your chair with your meds and ice machine.  It’s a hassle to haul your carcass and your attendant walker to the bathroom.  You are stiff, cranky, and just  want life to be ‘normal’.  It is more likely to get back to ‘normal’ if you do your PT and make an effort to move each hour.
      5. Your friends, family,  and support system are as an important part of your recovery process as your medical team.  My husband, Bob, has been a wonderful help, bringing my meals upstairs, going to the store to fetch the medications or my favorite grande skinny iced vanilla chai.  My friends have been supportive with texts, phone calls, flowers, cards, and offers to visit.  Both of my sisters have offered to come stay with me for a few days, if I need them too. (As much as I truly cherish the offer, I think we are all relieved that Bob will make their offer unnecessary.)
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32 thoughts on “Knee Replacement Surgery– Five Observations”

  1. Congratulations on taking the big step and surviving it. Friends who have had knee surgery tell me much the same things that you report. It’s no picnic, but neither was having bad knees. And post-op pain is temporary.

    If I had to pick out one of your five observations for special attention, it would be your one about nurses. Having a daughter-in-law who is a nurse, I can tell you that they are a caring, patient-focused lot. It’s in their genes, I swear. They see people at their worst, when they are in pain and are cranky, lonely, and scared. Somehow, they manage to stay upbeat and empathetic. I could never do that myself.

    A nurse’s primary role is palliative. A doctor’s is healing. They are fundamentally different but interdependent. It would be a mistake to expect either to do the other’s job as well. Like you, I have spent mercifully few nights in a hospital. Like you, I have been grateful to have true professionals on both ends of the team.

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  2. Having had many, many hospital stays, I can fully attest to the miracle of nurses.Without them I probably wouldn’t be alive. Hang in there. Sending good thoughts to you for a speedy recovery.

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      1. Sadly, I am in the throes of a cold. Head full of cotton. Swollen glands. Tis a misery. I’m sure in a few years I’ll forget all about it. Until then, pass the tissues. 🙂

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  3. You are braver than me: I should replace both my knee caps but happily living with the pain for over twenty years even if I must say as the years pass the pain increase and some day is not a pleasure at all.😭

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    1. Thanks, GP. I hope you are feeling better too. I’d be happy to offer free, if not good, advice on the procedure but it might be better to see how I do in a month or two. They’ve told me it may be a year before the stiffness abates. Hope your better half is not too inconvenienced by her knees. I’ve found that stairs are the worst things to deal with. And stairs can include something as stupid as stepping on/off a curb.

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    1. Darren, I’ve heard wonderful things too, including septuagenarians that have taken up skiing. (Not quite that ambitious.) I’d just settle for walking at a regular pace and not finding stairs or curbs the enemy. Thanks for commenting.

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  4. I’m actually fighting to have a knee replacement right now. At 41, it’s not ideal, but I have major malformation in my knee (probably knees to be honest) that is creating long term instability which all came to a head this summer. At 41 I’m using a walker and a shower chair. The doctor doesn’t want to do the surgery because I describe my pain as a 1 or 2. But there is nothing else that will give me back my ability to walk. Kinda frustrating. I hope your recovery goes smoothly 🙂

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    1. Thanks for reaching out. I hope you get the surgery and will allow yourself to realize you deserve to have the best life you can manage. Congratulations on your huge weight loss. I lost 40-50 pounds 5 years ago and have kept it off, but have never managed to lose the rest. I get so tired of people saying the losing weight is a panacea for all ills. It certainly helps, but it is not the solution to everything.

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      1. Thanks so much for responding. I meet with my surgeon again next week. And thanks for the congratulations, honestly I lost weight for me and it’s really the first time I have been able to successfully maintain what I’ve lost. So I’m pretty stoked about that. Sadly all the years of them telling me my problems were due to my weight instead of actually investigating the cause made me miss out on having it corrected years ago, like in my 20’s. It makes me angry sometimes but it’s not something I can go back and change now.

        I hope your recovery is continuing to go well.

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      2. Thanks for your best wishes. Maybe if you honestly feel you can raise your pain level to a 7 or better, it may help convince your surgeon. Sometimes we have to soldier on, but we shoot ourselves in the knee by doing so.

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  5. You are so right, Paul. This is a marathon, not a sprint. And when the true devotees tell you that you awake from surgery and there is no more pain, they are lying through their teeth.

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