Tuesday, December 1, 2015

With The Holiday Season Upon Us!

My point of view and locomotion changed following surgery 12/14.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Hard to get in the mood for the coming Holiday Season when it's raining cats and dogs outside, temperatures hover in the upper 30s, and memories of last year's Christmas presents are still fresh in my mind!

Today, in fact, is the anniversary of my Holy Christmas! "double-knee" replacement surgery, and a memory of when I still looked forward with great anticipation to having a respected surgeon saw each of my leg bones in two (and each in two places), then grind, hammer and glue pieces back together, with titanium and plastic as spacers.

To say that I'm now totally "good to go" would be a stretch, but in fact we're bold enough to think a few weeks of hiking the trails of Sedona, Arizona, this February might be a panacea to winter's long days.   And, I'm itching, longing to strap on my dusty cross country skis and slide over some of the Island's most beautiful, wooded trails.   None of those activities would have been possible to partake - without considerable pain and difficulty - several years ago.   So, these notions are progress.

I've been asked by many friends, mostly persons who roughly match my age (within a decade or so,  margin of error), "What's it like?"   These friends too, have been plagued with knee problems and are likewise driven to consider modern medical joint solutions.

Let me offer some advice, as I'm always happy to do, in the interest of short-circuiting my answer for what can be both an exhilarating and debilitating experience.

First, I purposely chose to know as little about what was going on when under anesthetic as possible.  I avoided asking too many questions, refrained from knowing the intimate details of the sawing, pounding, glueing, sewing and stapling.  Instead, I chose my physician carefully for his track record, the hospital setting for the same reasons, and then I put my faith behind their successful production numbers.

Now, I would say that it would be smart, in retrospect, to be a bit more involved in the process than I was in order to ensure best results.    For instance, as the illustration above indicates, there are choices in whether or not you wish to have joints that are intended primarily for forward motion (think bowling, jogging) or the qualities of reverse (tennis, rappelling down mountainsides, politics) where back-pedaling is most useful.   Manufacturers cast small imprints in the artificial joints, a tiny "F" for primarily forward motion, and an "R" for primarily reverse motion.  An indifferent surgeon may not bother to check, in which case you could get one of each.   Choice should be made by you, prior to lying on the gurney and receiving anesthetic, or you may get whatever the soup of the day happens to be.  In my case, today I find it far less stressful walking in reverse.

The next piece of advice I would give is to ask for gradually lessened dosages of medication.   Let's be honest:  you can try to mask pain with narcotics, but a by-product of this application of meds to cover up what is basically a brutal operation is that your system comes to an unexpected stop… joined with nausea, depression and an unrealistic view of the world of hospitals, rehab centers and an invalid's life, while your bones mend.

I chose to remove myself from those nasty pills only after I realized I wasn't who I thought I was.

I began to examine my behavior, why I no longer cared to use the bathroom, and the downturn in my activity levels, while my appetite waned.  And, I knew this wasn't characteristically me!    The photo below (taken one week into the opioid regimen) illustrates my experiments measuring my intake with output.    (Apple juice in glass; used apple juice in the decanter.  The toast was a tray garnish I could not eat.)

One week following surgery, as a patient in a DePere rehab
facility, regularly taking opioids.   I had achieved a sort of
physical balance, but the rest of me was still out of whack.

But, for each person, such experiences might be entirely different.   I've talked with several people who not only weathered the experience but were overjoyed with the advantages of one knee replacement, and they willingly returned to the operating table to repeat that experience on knee #2.  

My hat's off to them.  But I say (and did say), "Do it and get it over with!"

So, as I prepare this blog and consider the personal encouragement I can give others,  I'm also thankful for the advent of modern medicine that has given me increased mobility, the objective of my efforts.   Maybe, one day, with practice, I'll be able to jump and run again in forward, as I do now in reverse.

-  Dick Purinton

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How wonderful to see a post (actually two ) from you...I had all but given up hope!

Lee from Iowa