Not A Leg to Stand On June 15, 2013Posted by alwaysjan in Health, Personal.
Tags: Health, Knee Pain, Strawberry Festival, Torn Meniscus, Total Knee Replacement
When I last wrote about my knee in 28 Days Later, I was four weeks out from Total Knee Replacement (TKR). I’m pleased to say that at six weeks, I no longer wanted to die. And just as my doctor had predicted, by the time I hit that 12-week mark, I was in love with him.
I went back to school after 10 weeks, as I’d exhausted my sick leave and was on Extended Medical Leave (1/2 pay). I was a little bit nervous about my ability to navigate the stairs, but ultimately I did just fine. And it took me all of 10 minutes to regain control of my classroom after being out for so long. It was all good. Too good?
Okay, my right knee now makes a THUNKing sound (which is good way to teach about onomatopoeia?). I asked my doctor about this and he said, “Well, your knee is all titanium and plastic, so what do you expect?” It’s not like it was in Silent Running mode before. Point well taken.
I was floating up and down the stairs at school. Heaven! Then my LEFT knee began acting up. A shot of Cortisone did the trick. My husband had tickets to go to The Strawberry Festival in Yosemite to meet up with his best friend from kindergarten, Anne. I love Anne because she remembers more about my husband’s childhood than he does. Approximately 20 some odd people were to converge at Camp Calamity. Oh, how aptly named.
Neither my husband or I had ever been to Yosemite. Finally, we were going. Oh what fun we would have.
The first night was great. The camp was set up so that there was a long table for all of us to gather. The women’s restroom wasn’t too far. Who could ask for anything more? Okay, the ground was uneven, but our hosts had laid out artificial turf and rugs so that it was the ultimate outdoor space. They had this down as they’d been doing this for 31 years. I was in awe of just how organized they were. We slept the first night on an air mattress. Oh, what a difference it made. This was going to be fun. (I’d never uttered the words “camping” and “fun” in the same sentence before.)
The second day we got in Anne’s car and she drove us to Hetch Hetchy. We walked down the road and across the dam and through the tunnel. I couldn’t believe how easily I could walk. I hadn’t walked this far in years and kept waiting to be in pain – but I was fine.
When we got back to Camp Calamity we dined and then as the sun began to set, we set off to the Music Meadow. The paths are traced with white chalk, so it’s easier to walk. We hadn’t gone far when I stepped off the path. My left knee twisted as I slid into a hole. I would have fallen to the ground if the two guys walking next to me had not grabbed me. The pain was exquisite. So I was carried me back to Camp Calamity. I was laid out on a chaise lounge and someone made me a wicked Margarita. My husband, Richard, soldiered on to the Music Meadow. When he returned, I was immobilized and had to be carried to the tent. Not a good sign.
I’ll cut to the chase. We drove back to Los Angeles the next morning as I had to have people carry me to the restroom. Talk about humility. I was wheeled into the hospital ER where it was determined that I had no broken bones. My entire leg was encased in a knee immobilizer and I was sent home with pain meds.
The hardest thing was writing to my students’ parents that I’d injured my OTHER knee. I was out for four days while awaiting the results of an MRI. Meanwhile, our collection of crutches was ever expanding.
The MRI showed a torn meniscus, a Baker’s cyst, and some arthritis, but I was given the okay to go back to school. I managed for two days and then everything went south. By the last day of school when I had to clean out my classroom, I was limping and in excruciating pain.
I finally met with my doctor. I now have arthroscopic surgery scheduled, but he couldn’t fit me in before my trip to the UK, which was to be my reward for having the TKR. I had this same surgery on my right knee in 2006 which compared to the TKR was a piece of cake.
So I’m hobbling. I have been ordered NOT to pivot. I ice my knee three times a day and try to keep it elevated. This was not the summer vacation I envisioned. I’ve warned my Lesley/s in the UK that I might not be up to doing the Highland Fling. I might have to just be put in a wheelbarrow and taken to the local pub?
So if my readers wonder why I’ve been errant in posting, it’s because I’ve been waylaid once again. At least this has made it impossible to put my foot in my mouth. I, however, choose to see the glass as half full. Cheers!
Photo Credit: Drawing by Daniel
28 Days Later – After Total Knee Replacement Surgery January 20, 2013Posted by alwaysjan in Health, Personal.
Tags: Gratitude, Health, Humor, Knee Replacement Recovery Time, Total Knee Replacement
I’ve never gone so long without writing a new blog post, but then I didn’t know that Santa was bringing me a new knee for Christmas. Nothing says Merry Christmas like jingle bells on a walker. Ho Ho NO!
Six years ago when I had arthroscopic surgery on my right knee for a torn meniscus, the surgeon informed me that I had the knee of an 80-year-old woman. I was considered too young for joint replacement, so the “conservative” measures began. A strap on knee brace that made me look robotic. I saw the look on a student’s face when they got a glimpse of it one day under my skirt and ended up doing my own Show and Tell. The kids thought it was pretty cool. But, in reality, it was hot and itchy since it was all synthetic. Then there were Cortisone injections that did nothing. And for two years, I worked with a personal trainer to strengthen the muscles around my damaged kneecap. I was on prescription meds, but the doctor worried that ultimately they could damage my liver. “Geez, if I’m going to blow out my liver, I could just do that with alcohol,” I said. The doctor nodded sympathetically.
Meanwhile the two flights of stairs at my old school loomed. Up and down a dozen times a day. Some days people asked if I was limping. A peg leg was beginning to seem like a viable option. My last option was an injection of an organic substance made from chicken combs (I’m not naming names). It was worth a shot (no pun intended). Oh, the jokes about whether I would sprout feathers or lay an egg. But a week later, the pain had only grown worse.
On a walking field trip to the nearby bookstore, I winced and hobbled. I resorted to doing my Lamaze breathing. One of the oh-so-nice parents asked delicately, “Are your wearing new shoes?” By the time we arrived at the bookstore, I had to sit down. If I was a boxer, I would have been down for the count. Later I hobbled back to the school and then home to book a sub. That was the end of November.
I went to see a new surgeon. He thought I was one of the less than 1 percent who have an allergic reaction to the chicken combs. Great. But, when he said he could do the surgery just before Christmas it was music to my ears. He pulled no punches, “For the first 12 weeks you’re going to hate me, but after that….you’re going to LOVE me!”
So, it’s been a month now. The three days in the hospital were doable as the IV painkillers did their job and you’ve gotta love those nurses. I was even visited by a volunteer with “Happy” the therapy dog. But then it was time to go home. The night before I was released my husband returned to find boxes lined up on our front porch. Enough equipment to start a convalescent home. Hey it’s three seats in one – a chair, a commode AND you can sit in the shower in it! Oh the look of horror on my husband’s face. “I’m no nurse,” he said proclaiming what has always been obvious. It was seeing me using a walker that unnerved him the most. When after a week I finally decided I needed to get my hair cut, he drove me up to the side door, let me out, then sped away so no one would see him with me.
Each morning I settled in for the day on the couch with my leg in the CPM (Continuous Passive Motion) machine. Our dog, Layla, didn’t appreciate losing her el primo spot on the couch to this whirring machine. I’d hoped to read, but mostly I laid in a zombified state while my knee went through the spin cycle. My husband, Richard, is an amazing cook so I was served breakfast each morning with the admonishment, “You better not get used to this!”
I don’t know how people manage to go through this operation who have a family who expects them to soldier on. I literally did nothing but watch movies and read. I followed comments on my blog. Friends texted daily. My husband usually works at home upstairs, so if I needed something, he was only a text away. He cooked three incredible meals a day.
Initially a physical therapist came to the house. After the first visit she informed me I’d need ice next time – and not for drinks. After two weeks I graduated to outpatient therapy. I actually drove to my first appointment, feeling like I was finally out amongst the living.
It’s now 28 days later. The guy hauled away the CPM, so Layla has reclaimed her spot on the couch. Last Thursday the physical therapist kicked my butt. He had me on my belly with something like a dog leash attached to my ankle that I had to pull on to raise my leg behind me. S&M. That day I told him my new nickname for him was “The Mangler.”
“If you don’t climb the mountain, you can’t see the view” is a quote I often tell my students, so I shall continue to claw my way up the mountain rock by rock even on days when gaining a foothold seems almost impossible. I can’t complain. I have insurance and I’m in pain because I’m getting better not worse. I’ve done the math. I should be “in love” by St. Patrick’s Day though I have to go back to work before then. I’ll have to settle for being “in like”.
So for this and all my family and friends who’ve been there for me, I am so grateful. Santa may have brought me a new knee, but he also brought me a new appreciation for all that is truly important in my life. Happy New Year!
To find out what came next, read Not A Leg to Stand On.
Drawing by Colby