Knee Replacement Journal — Part Three

July 11, 2013 | My Jottings

Monday, June 24, 2013 — I wake at 5:50 this morning and clump to the kitchen to get things started for the day. My knee is stiff, stiff, stiff, but the scar has healed pretty well and I never got an infection. Yay! Tomorrow is our first day of summer Bible study in my home. I’ve been hosting this for 11-12 years now, I can’t remember. Twelve women will be gathering for seven weeks, going through Priscilla Shirer’s newest study entitled “Gideon — Your Weakness, God’s Strength.” Well, that is timely for me, wouldn’t you say? I’ve definitely got some weakness going on, which is the point of the daily exercises I’m doing. Or supposed to be doing. Sometimes I can face them and sometimes not, because to do a quad set, which is to lay with legs outstretched and then contract your quadriceps muscles as tight as you can, moving the knee cap up and down, is to invite four hot nails to be shot into the four corners of my knee in an instant. I can do ten easily. Fifteen okay. Twenty and the nails get shot in by an invisible nailgun someone is holding. Gah. I tell myself that if my floors are not swept and furniture dusted, the women who come tomorrow will not care. And I believe it when I tell myself that, so all I do is pick up, set out some extra folding chairs, and pray that God will be with us. After dinner I fall into bed and realize I might have done a bit too much, because even though my knee doesn’t look very swollen anymore, it feels swollen. The nurse in my surgeon’s office says all the internal structures of the knee are still very inflamed and swollen, and it’s time to start taking Ibuprofen three times a day, as well as the mild narcotic I’m still taking for pain at night. I have learned the correct way to pile pillows underneath your leg when you’re recovering from knee replacement surgery.


In case you were wondering, these are not my legs. My legs are much longer than the ones in the picture, and my thighs are a little more flabby and dimpled than these. (Actually they’re a lot more flabby and dimpled than these.) These are also not my feet — mine are longer and narrower. Nor is that flat belly mine. But I do stack my pillows in this manner every night now, and it’s comfortable and helpful. It’s actually hard to foresee a night when I don’t obsessively pile some pillows under the covers and gingerly position my right leg on top.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 — The Bible study was wonderful today and it was such a treat to see the women who mean so much to me. I have a sense that God will use Gideon’s story to speak deep things into my life this summer. After dinner I drive to the salon where I’ve been having my hair cut for years now, and Bobbie gives me the Judi Dench look. I also have the twice a year highlights put in, and my eyes have adjusted to it and I no longer think it looks orange. If you never read about the trauma I endured when I thought my daughters had talked me into getting my hair dyed the color of a baby tiger, you can click here to read about it if you like. When I return home my knee is swollen and painful from perhaps doing too much today, and I grab the ice packs from the freezer, and after settling everyone else in for the night, I go to bed with my summer read: the whole series of James Herriot’s life as a vet in Yorkshire, England. Utterly transporting.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 — I take one of our Fosters to the doctor’s office this morning for her annual boob-squishing. She laughs when I call her mammogram by that name. “Okay gals, it’s time to go get your boobs squished,” I always say, and they both giggle. Driving is okay, but there’s a numb spot on the right side of my right knee that feels more numb (if that’s possible) when I drive for very long. I take our gal to work after her appointment and return home, giving thanks that there’s nothing else on the calendar for today. I come home and Michael and I lay down for a morning rest, and I ice and elevate, ice and elevate. It makes a difference. It feels like the rhythm of my life has changed dramatically, and if I have one thing on the calendar that’s a lot. I am focusing on healing. In the afternoon I go to my Physical Therapy appointment and close my eyes and sigh when she massages the tight quadriceps and around the knee. When she starts in on the recovering kneecap of my right knee, my left leg shoots up in the air involuntarily and a sharp inhale and an “OH MY GOSH!!” escapes from my mouth. She apologizes and avoids the kneecap from then on. We have fast food for dinner, because I am out of energy and ideas.

Thursday, June 27, 2013 — Tonight is SAGs, and I’m so looking forward to going. Instead of meeting at a restaurant for our monthly get-together, we’re going to Pat’s new house. She bought a charming little bungalow in a lovely neighborhood a few miles from my house, and we’ll have pizza and salad and strawberry shortcake. Gail, who has her doctorate in Physical Therapy, thinks my knee looks amazing and says what I’m doing for a person only 2.5 weeks post op is truly great. She asks me to walk for her, and notices right away I’m swinging my leg out a little, and reminds me to deliberately avoid that. I do not want to train my brain that way. I’m retraining my brain as well as my knee. I’m encouraged. To the point of tears. Thank you Lord, for Gail. And for Pat. And for Lorna. These beautiful women who have been blessing my life for over ten years now.

Friday, June 28, 2013 — Michael and I have been married 32 years today. We would normally go away for a weekend to celebrate, but not this year. It’s totally okay with both of us. We reminisce a little bit, and he and I go back and forth, sharing highlights and beloved memories. “The day Sara was born,” Michael says. And we go over her home birth all over again. “Remember how we had to turn the furnace up to 90 degrees since there was no incubator?” Other things we say to each other in gratitude for 32 years: buying our first home, Michael making our first home a place of peace and beauty when I thought it was almost uninhabitable when we bought it, walks in the beautiful Lester Woods just two blocks from our house, weekend trips alone, visiting Scotland, England and Ireland in January of 2007, making it through parenthood and having our children still on speaking terms with us, the wonder of grandbabies, our cherished pets, knowing each one of us has never touched another, praying together and the intimacy that brings, harsh words forgiven, stubborn hearts softened, diseases diagnosed, and God’s love and faithfulness through it all. This reminds me that He will be faithful to my knee. He will be faithful to me and He will be faithful to my knee. I decide today to entrust my knee to Him.

Saturday, June 29, 2013 — I am supposed to attend a bridal shower today for the only daughter of a long-loved friend and pastor’s wife, but woke up knowing I can not. I’m sad not to go but my day will be, can anyone guess…icing and elevating. It’s unsettling to me how quickly my knee begins to swell (not visibly so much, but inwardly I can feel it acutely) and how much this impairs even simple bending. I turn to the internet to see if others are saying the same and am relieved once again when I see how normal this is. One woman shares on a message board that her swelling wasn’t really gone until she hit the one year mark. My friend and knee partner Su and I talk at least once each day, checking on each other’s progress or regression. What a blessing it is to go through this together. I thank God for a dear friend for this journey like no other. After a rest and some reading, I make a birthday cake for a little celebration we’ll be having tomorrow.

Sunday, June 30, 2013 — Laying low yesterday is making today a bit easier. I don’t think if you saw me walking down the street you would discern that I had a knee replacement 20 days ago, but you might say, “That woman is not in a hurry to go anywhere, and is very deliberate with her steps.” Today our family is celebrating Jeremy and Carolyn’s son Elijah’s 10th birthday. We meet in the late afternoon at Lester Park under the pavilion. There are hot dogs and brats with other picnic foods, and I take the birthday cake I made for Elijah. He requested chocolate cake with Virginia Sooter’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate frosting. Michael and I sit at the picnic table and watch the little ones run around in their bathing suits, splashing in the river, enjoying the playground slide, and I give thanks for these eight grandchildren the Lord has blessed me with. Michael and I decide to go out to dinner to celebrate our anniversary two days late, since we aren’t going away this year. We decide to go someplace close by, a nice Italian restaurant we don’t frequent that often. He has the parmesan encrusted walleye fillet and I have their special, which is a small Filet Mignon and their version of panzanella. Since my knee won’t bend like a normal knee yet, I have to keep my leg stretched out under the booth, and by the time our dinner is over my knee stops murmuring and starts hollering. I’m surprised no one else in the restaurant can hear her complain. We drive home and I get evening meds ready for our fosters (who’ve been away overnight), then clump back to our bedroom to put on my plaid flannel nightgown. Ice and pillows. Ice and pillows. Sighs and prayers. Sighs and prayers. I meditate on the two verses from Psalm 40 I have sitting by my bed, and remember that recovery from knee replacement surgery can take months. I tell myself that this vice-like grip will loosen someday. I thank the Lord that my leg is completely straight now, no more Valgus deformity, and no more deep achy arthritis pain. I tell the Lord I trust Him and with His help I will be patient and I know He will eventually set my feet on a rock and make my steps secure. I take my Bayer aspirin (to prevent blood clots), fluff the pillow underneath my head so I can read a couple of beautifully written chapters in All Things Wise and Wonderful, help Michael with his covers and kiss him goodnight, smile at Edith and Mildred as they circle and get settled at our feet, and turn out the light.


  1. Dorothy Sooter says:

    Oh how I wish I was there to help you. You are doing everything right
    which will show up in time. I don’t know if you remember a call I
    made to you when I was able to walk across the room about 8 weeks
    after I had broken my ankle. Your dad was still asleep and just had to share how excited I was and thanking God for His power of healing.
    I pray that each day you see improvement. When I was doing the therapy
    I told the gal that I would never play golf again. She wanted to know
    why and I told her I did not want to ever hurt my ankle again and be
    so handicapped. She said playing golf would be a very good exercise
    and to walk on the beach in the sand would be very good. I took her
    advice and am so grateful for all things God guides us through. Please
    give Michael a big hug from me.

  2. Just Julie says:

    Thank you Dorothy — your words touched me and gave me encouragement today. If you were here I would have you make your chicken enchiladas — yum! Love you… xoxo

  3. Roberta says:

    What does it say about me that I read your accounts of pain and struggle and faith with great attention and interest? It says the sharing of your suffering with hope speaks beyond your immediate situation. I think it offers a “how to” in times when we are “knocked off our feet” by physical and emotional difficulties. Julie, you are always looking for, and finding the good—to remember, to hold onto, and to look forward to. I hope you keep this journal and perhaps share it widely! You inspire.

  4. Just Julie says:

    I think what it says about you is that you care about people, have a true power to encourage those who are struggling, even those you’ve never met, and you have the patience and curiosity to pay attention to details. Once again Roberta, I read your comments and thanked God for you. I pray you sense His love and care for you today, my New York friend… xoxo

  5. Nathaniel E. Hamilton says:

    thanks for info… I guess there is no set standard (or even range of values) for how long after a total meniscectomy I’d have to wait to get a knee replacement. I’m 56, obese, but formerly a very strong and muscular person. My bones are extremely dense per the orthopedist who read my xrays and MRIs before back surgery. But the bone on bone can’t be good! I hurt when I walk and limp nearly constantly. I wear Dr. Scholl’s well cushioned walking shoes but nothing helps short of staying off my leg. I’ve heard from many others who have had knee replacements that they don’t want to operate on obese folks, and that they want you to be older. Why prolong the pain? I do NOT want to be on pain meds till they okay the procedure. And with insurances and coverages being in flux these days for political reasons, there’s no telling when this can happen. Thanks and prayers for your comfort as much as possible.

  6. Just Julie says:

    Hi Nathaniel, Thank you for your comment. I’m only 55 and I had a knee replacement — they’re doing them earlier now. I have what’s called a 30-year knee — for “younger” folks who need their knee to last longer than the previous 15 years. I’d look into it! God bless you… xoxo

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