Friday, April 20, 2012

A new conversaton re: total knee replacements

A new path, an unset compass, a vague set of directions and determination would somewhat describe what is needed when you set out on this journey of post bilateral (total knee replacement) surgery.
Yet very little is available on the Net when you research this topic. Oh, there are several in-depth conversations about the actual details of the surgery (TKA). There are a few personal stories shared, but not very many, and none that would apply to me that I could find beneficial.
These stories have been brought forth by older patients; patients that are much more senior than I, so making the connection between them and myself been somewhat blurry. I couldn't totally relate. If you're 55 and I am a young 55 (on so many levels), reading about rehabilitation facilities that patients move into post surgery is somewhat dismal, to say the least...
What I have discovered walking down this path (Oh so slowly) is that total knee replacement surgery is much like pregnancy. Universal while an individual experience at the same time, no one is going to have the same exact experience and yet the experience is pretty much the same for everyone, to one degree or another.
So, I thought I would open a conversation about this experience that may (I hope) proves somewhat enlightening as there is nothing to gage what you are going through when you are going through this. 
Yesterday, I went in for my second post op visit to my surgeon's office. X-rays show that everything is falling into place as it should, the replacements are exactly where they need to be. The x-ray technician, a lovely woman, confided to me that she couldn't believe how great I am doing at 4 weeks post op. My surgeon concurred, I guess, I am way ahead of the curve as to where you are supposed to be at this stage of the game. But, where is that I wonder... as no one really tells you.
They will tell you that most patients are not walking unassisted yet. I am and have been for 2 weeks now. Some patients are not walking unassisted until 3 months post op, it varies. 
As we were leaving my surgeon told Jeff that I was special because no one is where I am this early, I'm not ordinary. But, what is ordinary? No one really says.
 I am walking unassisted simply because no one has told me I couldn't. Has it been easy? No. It's painful and a challenge each time I take a step and place a foot down, but it is getting easier. What does it feel like? It feels like that on each knee, above the knee cap and below the knee cap, that there are like 2 tightly bound tourniquets on each leg that are being pulled. Painful? No, but stiff and definitely different. You're very much aware of this sensation as you walk. This is a passing phase, but again, no one mentions this. It's very common at 4 weeks to experience this, who knew?
So lets talk about a few things that I think are important. Choosing your surgeon is at the top of this list and my advice is to research, research and more research. This usually begins with your personal physician recommending you to a surgeon. Or, a lists of surgeons. Do your homework, research, talk with patients of this surgeon, you can also read online what other patients of this surgeon have to say about their experience, their likes and dislikes. Make an appointment and interview the surgeon to determine if they are the right fit for you.
After my initial interview meeting with my surgeon I knew he was the one for me. He is VERY conservative. He was not about to rush into any surgery procedures, Nor was I ready at that point to accept any approaches to immediate surgery, even though, I knew ultimately that is where I was headed.
We started with me losing weight, I ended up losing 17 lbs. pre-surgery. Post surgery I've lost an additional 10 lbs., if not more, do to pain meds making me ill, there are some things you won't discover until you're faced with them, I hadn't thought about this even happening.
Another important choice is your choice of an anesthesiologist. Originally, I had a woman anesthesiologist appointed for me... after speaking with her I knew she was not the one for me. I went with another anesthesiologist on my surgeon's team- I am not sorry for this choice. He was fabulous and walked me through everything step by step.
The day after surgery, a physical therapy team moves in to assist you. They give you exercises to practice in bed, walk with you down the corridors during your therapy sessions. I will tell you from the 2nd day post op through the 3rd week when you are home- it is absolutely brutal. Upon arriving home you will be appointed home health care and a visiting physical therapy team who will work you to and through the pain. This process will take every ounce of determination and will power to get through not only day to day, but moment to moment. Then one day, you're back, the pain has receeded and you think... that wasn't so bad (IT was), but like childbirth, you forget. And, that's a good thing.
The most important choice you make is having someone at home with you to assist you. In this case, my husband Jeffrey, has stepped up to the plate. I couldn't have made it through any part of this journey without him. He has been my beck n call boy extraordinare. He has cooked fabulous meals, made me laugh, when I've just wanted to pack it in and have a mini-melt down, cheered me on and continues to encourage me every step of the way. My children have been wonderful, calling to check in, dropping by, bringing care packages, get well drawings and cards from my grandchildren. My friends have been so important to my recovery period and I so appreciate each and everyone... thank God for facebook and real time conversations...


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