My Knee Replacement Journal – Part One
June 21, 2013 | My Jottings
Afternoon/evening, Sunday, June 9, 2013 — I am so happy and a little nervous to be on my way to Stillwater, MN for this Minimally Invasive Total Knee Arthoplasty. And feeling so grateful that Michael and our gals are being well cared for at home, and being able to ride down with Danny and Su and Jessica (Danny’s daughter and Su’s stepdaughter) is pleasant and fun. I’m also thankful that Su and I are doing this whole adventure together, both of us having our right knees replaced by the same surgeon on the same day in the same hospital! And there’s a Chipotle in Stillwater! A wonderful last meal before the top of my tibia is sawed off and a bunch of space-age Smith and Nephew parts are drilled and screwed and glued in. I’ll have to get up at 5:30 a.m. to scrub my knee for three minutes with the special antibacterial soap they provided.
Early morning, Monday, June 10, 2013 — I’m so thankful that Su is coming with me for my early morning admitting process, and that she’ll have her surgery at 10:00 a.m., right after my 8:30 time. I feel nervous but fairly settled that I will take the medical team’s advice and have a spinal anesthetic rather than the general anesthetic I’ve deeply enjoyed for other surgeries (wisdom teeth, knee arthroscopy, etc.) The thought of leaning forward while my bare backside is exposed so a stranger who says he knows my spine well enough to stick a long needle in between my vertebrae is very daunting, and I’m trusting God to get me through. I’m also not thrilled about the necessary bladder catheter, but oh well.
Early afternoon, Monday, June 10, 2013 — That spinal anesthesia was a snap! I felt nothing! The sedative they gave me during the one-hour operation kept me asleep the whole time too, so I can’t remember any part of it, thank the Lord. The nurses are friendly and efficient, kind and attentive. I am not in much pain as my anesthesia begins to wear off, and I feel my feet and legs begin to tingle. The surgery went fine I’m told, and after my dinner of beef broth, grape juice, sherbet and water, I call my family back home and tell them I miss them but am being well cared for. I also learned that Su was not able to have her surgery right after me. Boo! She needs to build up her potassium level first for absolute safety, and is scheduled for tomorrow. It must be so hard to psych yourself up for something huge and then not have it happen. She and I are in rooms right next door to each other, and the nurses’ station is right outside our rooms. The pain starts to kick in and I ask for something, which they keep telling us is important. They want to stay on top of the pain and they don’t want us to be heroes and wait until we’re 8s or 9s on the 0-10 scale. So when I hit 6-7 I ring the bell and they inject something magical into my IV. I watch The Bachelorette on my wall-mounted television, and when it’s over I’m ready for sleep.
Early, early, early morning, Tuesday, June 11, 2013 — The nurses work in pairs, and the late night/early morning gals assigned to me slip in quietly, apologetic about waking me up to take my temperature, blood pressure, oxygen level and respirations. They give me my pain pill (Percocet 5 mg.) and a Vistaril, which is an antihistamine to counteract the common side affect of Percocet: intense itching. I go back to sleep easily until the nurses come in again at 4:00 a.m. to repeat the same routine. Something new for me — they take my temperature by sliding a small thingamabob over my forehead.
Morning, Tuesday, June 11, 2013 — I’m still on a liquid diet so for breakfast I get cranberry juice, beef broth, coffee and sherbet again. The juice tastes wonderful, the broth okay, and I let the rest go since I’m not feeling very hungry. I pray for Su, who’ll be having her knee replacement surgery today provided her potassium levels are good.
Noonish, Tuesday, June 11, 2013 — the catheter is removed, I sing the Hallelujah Chorus, and the Physical Therapist comes in with a walker to get me up and around. The first time I ease myself out of bed and step down on the floor I’m ready to see if that torturous knee pain is gone, and it is. Wow. There’s plenty of surgical pain because of all the tissue trauma my knee went through, but no more arthritic joint pain. I can use the bathroom in my room now, and am encouraged to take a few walks around the nursing station each day. Limping is discouraged, since it uses the wrong muscles. We’re told to walk slowly without a limp to build up the correct muscles.
Late afternoon, Tuesday, June 11, 2013 — Su’s surgery went well and she’s back in her room with Danny and Jessica to rejoice with her. I’m rejoicing too and will see her later so we can both marvel at how easy having the spinal anesthetic was. Dinner can now have some solids in it, so I’m given orange juice, cream with my tea, and something so unremarkable I truly can’t remember what it was. I didn’t eat it. I’m supposed to go home tomorrow but am wondering how that will happen now, since Su had her surgery a day later and will stay an extra day. Danny and Su will give me a ride home. I think about checking into a hotel for one night until we can all head home on Thursday. Family members offer to drive down to Stillwater to pick me up the next day, and I’m pondering what would be least stressful for me. Yes, I’m thinking about how to make things easier on me for a bit of a change.
Late night, Tuesday, June 11, 2013 — I’m slowly walking to and from the bathroom, and around the nurses’ station, and my knee is quite swollen, which is why they keep those lovely white compression stockings on your legs after a surgery like this — to help keep swelling down and to prevent blood clots. It’s hard to bend my knee more than an inch or two. By the time the two nurses I’ve named The Angels of Mercy come on to the late night shift, I’m hurting and can’t get comfortable. In spite of being given two Percocets every four hours I’m beginning to writhe in bed. I’m not saying much, but I feel like moaning or crying, and my eyes fill with tears. I can feel just how much my knee has been through. When my Angels of Mercy (Denise and Angela) ask in their merciful voices how the pain is, I can’t answer and the tears fall. They are instantly at my side, one to give comfort and tell me not to worry, the other to deftly inject some Dilaudid into my IV, and in minutes there’s relief. But in my mind I’m saying, “Dilaudid? Isn’t that super super strong? Wow. I can’t believe I need Dilaudid.” The writhing stops for a while, but by 4:00 a.m. I need another injection and discouragement sets in. How will I go home in a few hours or to a hotel room so that I can stay one more day to get a ride with Danny and Su? (Most of you reading this know my husband Michael has Parkinson’s and can no longer drive. He stayed at home while I went to the hospital 3 hours’ south of us. And since I was with dear friends, I saw no need to ask any of my children to come down with me to sit by my bedside and fetch me water. They could be so much more helpful at home where Michael and our Fosters needed them.)
Early morning, Wednesday, June 12, 2013 — Dr. Palmer comes in to see how I’m doing and in typical understated surgeon fashion says, “I hear you had a little pain last night.” Oh yes, yes I did Dr. Palmer. He decides I should stay one more night and I’m grateful for that decision in many ways. I want the pain to be under control before I go home, I’d like to ride home with Danny and Su, and I think the extra day of physical therapy would do me well. I thank the Lord for the fact that I’m not going to a hotel or asking a family member to drive down to get me. I wonder if my body kicked in and arranged for the extra stay somehow by letting more pain break through. Breakfast is white Farina, which I don’t eat, a piece of white toast with margarine, which I reluctantly eat, orange juice, tea and a soft boiled egg. I pass on the egg. Today I have one more injection of the Dilaudid and then won’t need it anymore.
Afternoon, Wednesday, June 12, 2013 — The Percocet every four hours takes the edge off the pain, but I’m surprised that it doesn’t take it away completely. I guess that was an unreasonable expectation. Physical Therapy is torture but I work hard with grimaces and gasps. To tighten my quadriceps muscle as much as possible and do leg lifts at the same time makes it feel like the entire knee capsule has hot nails poking into it. Range of motion is a big deal to Physical Therapists helping knee surgery patients, and I learn today how impossible it is to bend my leg back toward my butt. It’s shocking how little it moves, and how much it hurts when it does move one inch. Su is doing fantastic, and comes to visit me in my room, using her walker like a pro. We marvel about how we’re actually doing this together. The meds make us drowsy enough so that scintillating conversation isn’t an option, and soon Su returns to her room so we can both rest some more. I’m mostly using a cane now. Su’s adult step-daughter Jessica buys some Reese’s Miniatures and puts them on my pillow while I’m at therapy. She knows they’re my favorite candy, but I wonder if I should leave them be for awhile since sugar doesn’t register in my mind as I’m trying to think of all the things that aid a body in healing. 🙂 (I did bring them home and think how generous and thoughtful Jessica was for this, each time I treated myself to one or two from my nightstand drawer. Ha.)
Evening, Wednesday, June 12, 2013 — Su and I know that we’re going home tomorrow and we both keep saying, “Can you believe we actually did this? Can you believe that horrible pain is gone?” We both have more physical therapy and I’m wondering if my leg will ever bend back normally again. From what I’ve read, there is a lot of hard work ahead. I talk to Michael on the phone and realize that he can’t make himself understood on the phone anymore at all. I talk to my daughters and am grateful that things at home have gone well. I know I’m feeling better because I ask about Edith and Mildred the Schnauzers and look forward to seeing them soon.
Morning, Thursday, June 13, 2013 — Rice Krispies and milk for breakfast – I eat two spoonsful. Tea, a slice of orange, and whole wheat toast with butter, after I asked if they had the latter two. I have one more physical therapy appointment and should be released late morning. Every single nurse who cared for me was loving and tender and wonderful and knowledgeable. I wish I could remember all their names and feel sad that the drugs make things a bit fuzzy. But I haven’t forgotten Cheryl, a fantastic nurse who felt like a friend right away. She wheels me to the pharmacy to buy my prescriptions, she picks out my cane to take home, she helps me get settled in the car, which takes some time since my right leg won’t bend much, and she is the last one from Lakeview Hospital that pours out their mercy and love on me. I am overwhelmed by it. I think a patient expects good care, but I’m not sure that many patients expect love and gentleness and nurturing encouragement.
Afternoon, Thursday, June 13, 2013 — The drive home is pretty good, considering two out of the four of us are bandaged, post surgical and need to ice and elevate our legs. We stop at a rest stop on I-35 to use the bathroom and I chuckle to myself as I walk slowly with my cane, knowing that I must look truly old now. As we do all the gymnastics to get back in the car, I press the front seat bar and the seat slides back and bumps Su’s knee and she cries out in pain. I feel horrible. Please Lord, don’t let it cause her pain for long. We play a game on the way home, naming bands we can think of, old retro candy bars, and something else I can’t remember. Ha. When I arrive home I am thrilled that I can go up the stairs from the garage to the kitchen, and the dogs greet me with sweet little yips and whines. They smell my bandaged knee. Michael is relieved I’m home, and it’s wonderful to be here and think, “Lord, you got me through! You have provided for us in every way!” I spend most of the evening with my leg elevated on pillows and with ice packs applied. They drilled into our heads that we are to ice 20 minutes out of every hour. That’s a lot of lying down. But I want a good result so I do it, day after day.
Early morning, Friday, June 14, 2013 — Home. My soft flannel nightgown is so much better than a backless hospital gown. And even though it’s June, it’s chilly here and we have the furnace on. I am trying to walk the fine line between being up and active and doing my satan-inspired exercises twice a day, and resting and icing for hours on end. I have a black Velcro contraption that nicely holds two flattish ice packs, and is wound around my knee and fastened with Velcro strips. I am on my back a lot, my wrapped right leg on pillows.
I’ve been craving Golden Delicious apples and a little peanut butter to dip them in — you can see the bowl at my foot. 🙂
If you have made it this far in my little journal, you should win a prize. I’ll have to think about what kind of prize to award for your perseverance.
I’ll add more soon — it gets a whole lot more exciting, I promise you.
And the people said Thank you Jesus!
I’m thanking Him too….