With Thanksgiving around the corner, I’m sure many of you have a great deal for which to be thankful. What are you thankful for this week?
Today marks ten weeks since undergoing left total knee replacement surgery (LTKR), and while recovery had its rough spots, I’m thankful for the progress I’ve made in those ten weeks. Here are a few milestones I’ve reached since September 14, 2015:
Walking with a cane. I used a walker for at least 2-3 weeks after leaving the hospital because I was still experiencing degrees of weakness from blood loss. Once I felt stable – and with encouragement from the in-home physical therapist – I started using the cane. I don’t think I need to elaborate on how empowering and liberating that felt.
Walkers can be bulky and cumbersome, not exactly the best assisting device to use when trying to get things done. However, if a walker makes you feel stable, then it’s a good idea to stick with one until you’re strong enough to advance to a cane (or crutches).
Housework. Cleaning house, cooking, and doing laundry still take a little more time than my pre-op housekeeping routine, but find myself less exhausted if certain chores are broken down into smaller tasks. For example, my kitchen and bathroom can be cleaned one day, and other rooms finished the next. Laundry is divided into smaller loads than the usual two; while a royal pain at times, it’s lighter and easier to transport from my point of view.
I have to sit when folding clothes and use a utility cart to move clothes from washer to dryer. If you have household help, by all means utilize it much as possible; otherwise, find ways to get things done without overextending yourself. Your new knee will thank you.
Getting off the strong stuff. Here’s where things get tricky for people who had any type of joint replacement surgery. You get some good narcotics while hospitalized and perhaps about ten days to two weeks following discharge. Don’t get in a tearing hurry to gradually withdraw from them if you’re still having mind-blurring pain.
Asking for more doesn’t make you a “druggie” or whatever label someone wants to pin on you. Joint replacement surgery is painful, especially knees. It’s your body; you know it better than anyone. On the other hand, if you’re like me and got pain management down to a science within several weeks, you should be okay to wean from narcotics and eventually try over-the-counter goodies like Tylenol, Motrin, or Aleve, to name a few. My medication box is never without Aleve or its equivalent.
Standing in the shower. I’ll be the first person to tell you how spoiled I’ve become since having a hand-held shower nozzle and having the bathtub converted into a walk-in shower. For the same reason I used a walker after leaving the hospital, I took advantage of the shower stool.
One day when I started regaining strength from iron levels returning to normal readings, I had a successful attempt of standing in the shower and have been showering the same way since. As for the shower stool, it’s now used for physical therapy exercises between outpatient PT visits. A person has to be creative once something’s intended purpose is no longer needed.
Getting out of the house. Possibly the best thing to happen during my past ten weeks. In early post-op days, most of us are going to experience being shut in, albeit temporarily. Like experiencing “cabin fever” during long winter months, not able to get out and enjoy life prior to surgery can drive us a bit stir crazy. I’ve been there not once, but twice this past year after having both knees done on separate occasions.
A person can only read so many books, watch so much TV (in my case, mostly sports), spend time on social media, or work on whatever indoor projects usually enjoyed before an itch to venture outdoors sets in. The first time I went somewhere weeks following surgery was pure heaven. Running errands and being around other people never felt so good. I was tired and my knee sore a few hours afterward, but worth every moment of using ice packs and popping a couple Aleve.
Setting off a metal detector. With unusually warm weather during early fall in my part of the world recently, I decided to take advantage by traveling downtown and sitting in on a one-day court trial open to the public. Many places now have metal detectors and courthouses are no exception. Needless to say, I set off one of them. I didn’t make a fuss; only emptied my purse and showed the guard incision scars on my knees (Luckily, he was a nice guy. “Oh, you had that done too!”).
In any case, I should get a card from my doctor if I want to do a similar venture in the future. Setting off metal detectors can sometimes be embarrassing, but keeping a card stating you have joint implants should make things go smoother.
Walking around the house without a cane. Funny how this began: I’d gone into the kitchen one morning to make coffee and feed my cats. I sat at my desk not long afterward to work on the latest book project for a while before having to stretch my legs (sitting too long after knee surgery isn’t a good idea, least in my opinion).
I reached around to the back of the chair where I usually kept my cane…and it was missing. Turns out I somehow walked from the kitchen to my desk without thinking to use it. While I don’t use my cane in the house, it’s with me when going out. Sidewalks around my parts aren’t the most even, and I’m not about to attempt negotiating curbs and steps without using the thing (especially using steps with no hand rails if I can’t altogether avoid those).
Dressing without the “tools.” Occupational therapists sent home a reacher (which I nicknamed ‘Mr. Pinchy’, sock aid, long-handled shoe horn, and a device to help pull up my affected leg. I didn’t need the leg pull or shoe horn very long (I don’t wear shoes in the house anyway), but Mr. Pinchy and the sock aid came in handy for some time before I was able to put on my socks and pants without the use of either device.
The leg pull, shoe horn, and sock aid now sit on a closet shelf and Mr. Pinchy hangs near my desk for other purposes (such as reaching in high places).
Squatting. No, I can not yet do deep squats, but I’ve come a long way since the early post-op days. Don’t bend too far, though; you’ll feel it in ways that are less than enjoyable.
Walking half a mile. As we heal, it’s not abnormal to gradually gain confidence in our new joints. This past Saturday morning, I intended to enjoy a short walk in the brisk air. That “short walk” turned out to be half a mile, and my knee hurt like h-e-double-hockey-stick the entire weekend. Perhaps it was the knee’s way of informing me not to go completely nuts. I treasure my independence, but I guess some things aren’t meant to be done yet, especially since still being less than three months post-op.
With the holiday season and a new year approaching, I can’t wait to see what the next ten weeks have to offer.
What are you thankful for this week, bionic knee warriors?