Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Total Knee Replacement Surgery

Today starts the third week of recovery from my knee replacement surgery on June 9, 2010.  It has not been a fun experience.  Pain is the key word to describe all aspects of recovery.  There hasn't been a single moment when it wasn't there, usually at level 8 or higher, even while under the influence of Vicodin every four hours.

I've been trying to find that happy moment between sleep, therapy and pain to record my experiences but until now my brain hasn't been functioning well enough to write about all that I hope to be able to record here for the world to see (at least for those who may want to read about my experience before they do it themselves).
I have to say though, everyone, including Doctor Fitzgerald's staff, Tops Surgery Center staff, friends and neighbors, and especially my Judy, have gone well beyond what I expected from them.  In fact, they are the energy behind where I am today.  And they constantly assure me that where I may be disappointed in my progress, the truth is that I am coming along well.  At least I was until the last three or four days when my energy level dropped to near zilch.  Where I consider it a disappointing setback, they look beyond it and say there's tomorrow and the next day and the next day, until I can truthfully feel that I have recovered from what has to be the most difficult surgery I have ever encountered.

I will try to briefly explain why the need for surgery in the first place.

I've had bad knees for as long as I can remember.  Nothing dramatically wrong with them, they just ached a lot when standing on hard surfaces for long periods.  Then about seven or eight years ago I had a serious pain in the left knee that would not go away.  I went to Doctor Fitzgerald, an orthopedic surgeon at KSF Orthopedic Center. He diagnosed 'torn meniscus' as the cause and suggested orthoscopic surgery to repair it. 

During the surgery he recorded clear images of the interior of my knee, pointing out each step he was taking and showing images of a growing arthritis problem which I would eventually need to address.  Seven years later I told him, "I'm back."

(continued later when I get my wits back)

I'm now into my fifth week of recovery.  Yes, it still hurts, but not nearly as much as before.  I'm having a lot of problems with cramps.  My therapist told me that it may be due to a lack of hydration.  Could be, I pee a lot, mostly due to the drugs.  So I try to drink a lot of water.  Even that doesn't work well because if I drink a cup or a quart I almost immediately pee a cup or quart.  I just can't keep it in me.  Anyway, the cramps hurt a lot.  But I've also got a problem with my sciatica.  All the way from my hip to my toes is in constant pain.  Nothing helps relieve it and to make matters worse I can't sit for very long anywhere.  We went to a burger place a couple of days ago and I had to stand up a number of times the pain was so bad.

I'm also behind on my therapy progress, mostly because I was anemic for about three weeks and could not complete my therapy sessions.  The timing was bad because it was when I was suppose to be making the most progress.  As a result, the doctor ordered a device which I will wear on my knee a few hours a day.  Each day I tighten a screw or something that straightens my leg.  The last measurement showed I was -5° off plumb.  I need to be 0°.  I'm told that it's very important or I will always walk funny and be less than stable.

I'm still taking Vicodin but in considerably less amounts.  On average, I take maybe one tablet every six hours, but if the pain is bad enough I will take one at four hours.  At least I'm not taking two at a time like in the first few weeks.  I supplement the Vicodin with Tylenol or use Tylenol only if the pain isn't that bad.  I would like to be off Vicodin completely by week seven.  That's when I end my therapy sessions at the health center.

Even with all the problems I'm having now I still plan to have the right leg done later this year or early next year.  I think the right leg will be much easier to deal with because I've never had problems with cramps or sciatica in the right leg.  Plus, I've kinda learned what works and what doesn't work.  Hopefully, they will give me some other kind of pain meds.  Vicodin just doesn't do the job that well for me. 

I'll update again in a few days.


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