Three months ago today, I entered the hospital on an early morning drizzling with freezing rain to begin a new journey I’d put off for the last couple of years. Viewing ads of joint implant recalls, lawsuits, people who felt worse instead of better after surgery and how some screamed in agony during physical therapy…
…but if I wanted to maintain my independence and walk without pain, I had no other choice.
Every other treatment for my Grade IV osteoarthritis failed and TKR was the last stop. I wasn’t totally lost on knee replacement having its risks – any kind of surgery does – but the biggest risk crossing my mind was if this procedure also failed, I would likely have to resign myself to a life of pain and practical immobility.
Knee replacement surgery was a chance I had to take; I’d put off long enough having it done.
Turns out, TKR was the best decision I made. Most of my fears were nullified, I made it through the first difficult weeks following surgery, and look at my scar with pride knowing I no longer have to deal with a cracking, swollen, and painful right knee. I’m hoping for the same success when I return to the hospital later this year to have my left one replaced.
Here are some pointers I’ve picked up in the last three months and would love to share with my readers and fellow joint replacement warriors.
20 Things I’ve Learned From Knee Replacement Surgery:
1. Don’t take the horror stories to heart. Patients are all different; some will have longer recovery times than others.
2. No matter how painful or difficult, attending physical therapy will be one of the best things you can do for your new joint…and yourself.
3. Drink lots of water.
4. Always have stool softener on hand; narcotic pain killers can cause some wicked “back ups” to your system if you know what I mean.
5. Pay no attention to those joint implant recall commercials. Unless your particular implant has been recalled or a class-action suit filed, you have nothing to worry about.
6. Positive attitudes benefit the healing process more than you think.
7. Vitamin E, pure cocoa butter, and Bio Oil can be your incision scar’s best friends.
8. Be warned; the early weeks following TKR will be rough. You’ll be buzzed on pain killers, your energy level almost nonexistent, experience weird food cravings or not want to eat at all, the interest in sex shot down the drain, your leg is black and blue for at least three weeks, painful physical therapy, draining incisions, and emotions swinging back and forth like a pendulum, just to name a few goodies, but all part of the healing process. All these aspects are after effects of TKR: anesthetics used in surgery, blood loss, removal of the damaged joint, and of course adjusting to the implant. Strange as it sounds, your body is also “grieving” over its loss of a natural part while having to deal with it being replaced with a foreign object.
9. If your body tells you to take a nap, do it. You’ll be exhausted following surgery and Lord knows hospitals aren’t always the ideal places to get any real rest.
10. Recliners are your best friends during early weeks of healing. You’ll see a lot of each other for at least a month minimum.
11. Make sure your furniture is raised several inches before you come home. I once made the mistake of sitting on my sofa without having it raised during my first night home from the hospital and it took almost 45 minutes to get up. I can laugh about it now, but it wasn’t so amusing at the time.
12. Pre-op workshops are vital. You’ll get ideas what to expect before, during, and after surgery.
13. Pre-op physical therapy exercises will benefit you in the post-op recovery process. Do them at least two to four weeks before your scheduled surgery.
14. Never say “I can’t,” but say “I’ll try.”
15. Contrary to some beliefs, it is best to get TKR during the fall/winter months; imagine a summer at the beach without worrying whether or not you’ll be able to negotiate a walker on the sand, or worse, having to sit out most of the summer fun because you’re still worn out and in pain as part of the recovery process. There’s a running joke that the seasons in my part of the world are winter, more winter, construction, and football/hockey, so having TKR during the winter months wasn’t a big deal. I’m actually waiting until at least October to have the left knee done so it will be completely healed by the time Spring 2016 rolls around.
16. You may need to alter your slacks and jeans. For some strange reason, TKR adds a little height to some people, or at least appears that way.
17. As I’ve mentioned in previous entries, it takes at least 12-18 months for the joint to be “normal,” so if you aren’t you aren’t yet running marathons eight weeks after surgery, it’s nothing to worry about.
18. If something looks or feels “off,” contact your doctor. It may not be anything abnormal or serious, but better safe than sorry.
19. Sleeping naked and your operated leg sticking out from under the covers are a big help if you’re one of those people whose incisions/scars are irritated by anything on them. Stocking up on shorts is also a good idea.
20. When you “turn the corner,” it will be one of your best days ever.