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Archive for July, 2012

Frankenknee

Here it is, sans most of the adhesive strips put on by the surgeon’s PA a few weeks ago.  I haven’t frightened any small children yet, but I’m looking forward to doing so.  (The surgeon is of course not responsible for the wrinkles–nearly 70 years of hard living are the culprits here).

I learned a bit about human nature this morning.  I made my first solo trip to the grocery store.  As I gimped toward the store from the parking lot, I noticed a woman walking near me, keeping pace.  Then she noticed me and my walker.  Suddenly she sped up, nearly running.  I got to the store just in time to see her commandeer the last available electric cart.

Had she not done such a fine imitation of Larry Fitzgerald on his way to the goal line, I would have shrugged this off as an example of “first come, first served.”   But as I drove to yet another store, I worried about people who have more difficulty walking than I do–does this happen often?  I sure hope not.

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The Walker Adventures

I’m slowly improving.  My stamina is coming back, as demonstrated by a successful early morning wrestling match between me and the trash bin, which had been turned over by a gust of wind.  (Three weeks ago that episode would have sent me back to bed for a nap).   Hauling the trash out to the road while deploying a walker is one chore I haven’t yet mastered.  Many thanks to my neighbor, who is doing that for me, and to Mr Desert and Desert, who took the trash out to the bin early on.  I still haven’t figured out how to get the trash from my wastebaskets to the bin with efficiency (much less grace).  I finally settled for filling the trash bags only partially so I can either attach them to the walker or drag them behind without tearing them.

Sweeping the floor is another chore that’s giving me fits.  It’s hard to use a broom well with a walker.  Either I miss the stuff on the floor altogether, or I sweep too hard, thus sending cat hair and other detritus under a sofa.  Have to sweep regularly around here because a stray piece of dry cat food will bring ant central onto my kitchen floor.  I’m contemplating getting out the vacuum today and doing all the tile floors in the house.  Wish me luck wrestling with that thing–I have central vac, which I love, but the damned hose is twenty feet long and hence a recipe for possible disaster.

I hope these problems will soon be things of the past for me.  My knee is getting stronger, and every time my therapist measures with his goniometer, he gets better readings.  (In case you are wondering, that’s a goniometer in the picture.  When I asked how it got its name, thinking it had been invented by someone named “Goney,” my therapist said that “gonia” is the Greek word for “angle.”  Therefore, the gadget measures angles!  Ta da). This is important in recovery from knee surgery because patients must be able both to straighten their knee (to 0 degrees) and bend it to 120 degrees within a certain time frame.  Otherwise, the surgeon does what is called an “anesthetic manipulation” which sounds too frightening to contemplate.  At the moment I’m at 2 degrees extension, and I achieved 113 degrees reflexion on Friday.  Go team!

Friday my therapist also taught me how to walk with a cane, and my knee held up well while I walked back and forth between the parallel bars.   It felt like being let out of prison.  But when he challenged me to venture onto the open floor, I balked.  He wisely pointed out that it wasn’t my knee that was holding me back.  I know, I know.

These improvements have really raised my spirits, though.  Maybe some day I’ll be able to join the many folks who have told me and Trep that recovery from total knee replacement surgery is a piece of cake.  Yeah, sure.  But now I can at least write without irony–

Onward!

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Whine!

This recuperation stuff is not for the weak of heart.  My days and nights are spent watching bad movies on teevee, sleeping, and reading easy novels, on the one hand, and going to therapy, doing painful exercises, and cursing the damned walker that will never fit into the small places I want it to go.  Things are pretty grim when one looks actually looks forward to going to therapy.

It’s easy to get depressed about the lengthiness of recovery required by total knee replacement.  If my doctor had been completely honest with me about this, I might never had undertaken the operation.  When it was over, he told me that I should have had it done years ago–“your knee was a mess,” he said.  Yeah, but I got around with a brace and or a cane, neither of which I can do now or for months to come.  When I told my wonderfully cynical sister what the doc had said, she said:  “Well, what else is he going to say?”

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Men in Rehab

There is much to be learned from two weeks spent in rehab.  Most important:   it’s easy to fall into a funk when you are hurting.   And the quickest way to fall out of such a funk is to watch people whose plight, and pain, is much worse than your own.

Rehab offers plenty of  examples.   A bearded man who unfailingly wore a Yankees ball cap and whose right foot had been amputated.  He was learning how to wear a prosthesis, but he maintained unfailing good cheer and was loved by all who met him, therapists and other patients alike.  Or the two women, one of whom had had part of a foot amputated, who kept the exercise room laughing as they joked and teased one another about their prowess on the various machines.

The facility I was in featured excellent therapists and efficient, sympathetic nurses.  There was kindly Luke, an extremely capable physical therapist who had a doctorate from that school in Flagstaff, and who sat on my toes while he bent my knee into positions it most emphatically did not want to take.  (I was tempted to goose him when he did that but never quite worked up the courage).   There was stolid Max, who apologized for  waking me up in the middle of the night to administer those painful Lovenox shots in my belly.  And Cathy, who kept up a funny running patter while she gave me a shower (which is no mean feat when the showeree is wheelchair-bound–and slippery).

In some respects, a stint in rehab is a good thing.  Patients are waited on hand and foot.  If you want something, you ring a bell and someone comes to help.  The paper was delivered every morning.  Pets visited on Sundays.  The staff were always willing to talk about their lives and professions, even in the middle of the night when pain kept us awake.  A number of nurses were from Africa, and I learned a bit about the politics of Ghana and Camaroon.  These folks uniformly reassured me that America is the greatest country in the world.  Point taken.

Unfortunately, my expectations about gender were confirmed in rehab.  I met no women patients who complained about their plight–even those who were in serious trouble physically.   I suspect women were so delighted to be waited upon for once in their lives that they saw no reason to complain.

Men were a different story.   An old geezer interrupted my therapy one afternoon to complain about everything–the food, the rooms, the staff.   While he threatened to get somebody fired, the therapist treated him with more generosity than I was able to muster.   Very late one night, a sweet nurse named Ophelia, also from Africa, came into my room in tears–a male patient had thrown a walker at her.   I asked if she had reported this to her supervisor, and learned that the guy had thrown a walker at the supervisor as well.  Another fellow ranted his way up and down the hall every evening around sundown, yelling that he would get so-and-so fired, that he would “go all the way to the top” to see it happen.  One evening he had to be subdued, and the subduer was a black man whom he called “pimp” and “whore” and that other, inevitable, word at the top of his voice.

Apparently men do not appreciate how wonderful it is to be waited upon, because they have been waited upon most of their lives.  Instead, they appear to resent their loss of power and freedom so much that they are willing to make utter asses of themselves.

So what else is new?

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The Big World of Little Adam

From 6? weeks to 14 weeks, on a few occasions when he’d hit the ‘pause’ (paws?) button

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It doesn’t seem possible, but I’ve been home from rehab for a week now.  Most of that time was spent sleeping/resting.   I have found a wonderful physical therapist whose office is only a few blocks from home, and I see him three times a week.  My opinion of physical therapists is now very high–they can work miracles.

I hope to write a couple of longer posts about my experiences with surgery and rehab, but I’m not quite up to that yet.  Hope I don’t lose the gist–I composed some humdingers in my head (or did I only think they were good because of the pain pills?) while lying in one of those uncomfortable head-raised beds.

I couldn’t have undertaken this surgery without the help of Desert and Mr. Desert.  They are wonderfully helpful and sympathetic friends.  Yesterday, for example, Desert drove me to the grocery store, where I got to drive one of those electric carts for the first time (she stood well back when I was in reverse), and she took me to the post office and bought stamps so I could pay my bills, and then she took out the garbage.  What a friend.  Dunno how I got so lucky.  Thanks, you two.

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