Anyone who has had knee surgery (specifically total knee replacements) is well familiar with the recovery process. Sometimes healing and returning to function is relatively quick (as was the case with my right knee) while other times bring complications and longer periods before returning to normal.
The journey with my left knee was a long process – eight and a half months, in fact. Total healing takes 12-18 months, but I was spoiled from quickly bouncing back after the January 2015 surgery on my right knee. Unfortunately, the second post-op period wasn’t as simple.
From bleeding out during surgery on my left knee, dropping blood counts, blood transfusions, painful physical therapy, days I nearly passed out, the whole lower leg (including my left foot) remaining swollen for months, walking everywhere with a cane, not being able to clean my apartment without either taking ten-minute breaks between each room or having to split tasks into separate days, and forget standing long periods of time or using a regular cart for grocery shopping without dealing with agonizing pain later. Short of a few recommended sitting exercises in addition to the physical therapy ones, any degree of working out was also out of the question. As result of the latter, I regained lost weight and then some.
I finally turned the corner in mid-May with small steps at first: gradually walking farther distances without the cane (with little pain or no pain to boot), all the cleaning chores done in one day without breaks, and once again able to comfortably stand while folding the laundry, to name a few examples. I still take my cane when going out, but it’s mostly used to negotiate hill sides, potholes, and uneven sidewalks.
When I recently started working with a health coach, she suggested joining a gym to help further strengthen my knees and shed the regained weight. I shot down the idea at first; expensive membership fees, potentially being locked into contracts, and horrifying thoughts of exercising in crowded gyms among scornful, mocking eyes of strangers didn’t exactly excite me. I have some equipment at home and felt content doing my thing there.
The health coach then brought me to a Planet Fitness that opened near my home a few months earlier. The place changed my negative views of gyms moment I walked through their front door. Friendly, well-informed staff, great equipment, small classes, lots of perks for affordable fees, no contracts, and – most important – I felt comfortable working out there. As of this post, I’ve lost almost 25 pounds since mid-May.
Joining Planet Fitness may have been the best post-op thing I’ve done for myself. Sure I felt odd wobbling around the huge building on my cane at first, but when someone in a wheelchair came in one day for their own workout session, I couldn’t help but think to myself “If they can do it, why not me?” I continued to push forward despite the rest of my body remaining sore the first few days.
Yesterday was the best day since joining Planet Fitness. I not only walked through the entire gym during my latest session (entire workout takes little over an hour) without my cane, but also had confidence to wear shorts for the first time in heaven knows how long. In addition, I neither became winded nor had to stop because of pain while spending 30 minutes on the stair climber machine. Progress!
A man came up to me while I was working on free weights. He apparently noticed my knee scars and apologized for interrupting. He admired my courage and added his mother also had knee replacements done and dealing with other health issues. He’d been trying to get her to come with him for workouts with a goal to make herself feel better both physically and psychologically.
I certainly hope he succeeds one day; we’re the ones who are living with these new knees, why not use them to our best potential?
I now have a new goal in place: walking the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk in late October. Needless to say, I’m not putting all this training to waste, love a new challenge, and always dreamed of doing a 5K walk.
Turning a post-op corner is the best day ever – least in my opinion – especially after long period of dealing with limitations. Be patient and stay optimistic, difficult as it may be at present; the magic corner will happen!