LTKR: Six Months of Progress

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I had my six-month post-op checkup today on my left knee. The X-ray looked great and my bend was 110 degrees/0 extension. Some swelling remains and the scar is still “delicate” (but healing well with help of applying Vitamin E/Bio Oil on it daily), but progress continues to be made. I can walk short distances and around my apartment without assistive devices, but still need a cane for either long distances or activities involving a lot of walking. Heat on the muscles, ice packs on the implant area, and the occasional dose of Aleve have also done wonders.

I’d developed a little rash on my leg which initially alarmed me. There are several cases where patients who had any type of joint replacement surgery have developed allergic reactions to their particular implants. When I first spotted my rash near the knee incision, the thought of a reaction first came to mind despite neither having any problems with my right knee nor a history of metal allergies.

My concerns went unfounded; all I have is a little eczema, easily treatable with a special cream.

Sometimes it feels as if we’re going backwards in our recovery; I’ve been there twice (longer with the left knee; complications early on), but while easier said than done, hang in there. Things will get better; maybe not today or even next month, but think where each of us will be in the long run – the pain, early erratic sleep patterns, swelling, or how our scars look nasty in the early post-op stages (among other things) will be worth the prospect of being able to walk again without the agonizing pain or wondering when we won’t be able to walk at all our “natural” knees limited us for long periods of time.

My surgeon said today that I’m doing well for being barely six months post-op. I don’t have to go back for another appointment until September!

Progress can be a great thing.

The Importance of Emergency Contacts/Information in Your Phone

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I was chatting with a group of people during the hockey game this past Wednesday night when the subject of emergency contacts arose. A post taken from the aforementioned chat is one example why we all need to keep such information in our phones.

“Be sure your phones are set up with your emergency contacts. You may have seen my buzz earlier today about my employee’s son who was found unresponsive. On top of it all, his phone was locked and no one could get his contact info for hours. His mom wasn’t called till they figured out who he was and that his mom worked in our department. It was hours later. If you have an iPhone that locks, use the Health app and enter your emergency contacts – can be seen even when locked.”

My niece, doctor, pharmacy, apartment building’s manager, and a couple of neighbors’ telephone numbers are among important contacts on the chance such information is needed and I can’t speak for myself. I also keep a physical list of medications, allergies, blood type, current health conditions, and an alert I have knee replacements. The list is kept alongside my phone where both can be accessed.

Make sure your phone is also fully charged and/or unlocked! Imagine yourself in a situation requiring immediate medical attention. Your phone is discovered with a dead battery or is locked. My own phone is kept unlocked; not only do I have nothing to hide, but also makes important information available to emergency personnel. Both leaving my phone unlocked/charged and keeping updated contacts and history in my purse have come in handy a few times in the past when I’ve fainted, fallen, developed chest pain, or had a seizure while away from home.

In the age of advanced technology, phones serve almost every purpose from holding general conversations to paying for purchases (in some places), accessing the Internet, and listening to our favorite music. Why not add having it as an emergency device…just in case?

One Year After Right Total Knee Replacement

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Recovery from right total knee replacement: January 2015 (top photo) and January 12, 2016 (bottom photo)

First blog entry of 2016! I hope all of you are having a wonderful New Year thus far.

One year ago today, I was undergoing total right knee replacement surgery (RTKR). That morning was freezing rain. Today it’s snow.

I remember waking in the recovery room and remaining there for most of the day since it took a great deal of time for a room to open on the orthopedic surgical floor. I was transferred to the Transitional Care Unit 48 hours later, where I spent a week undergoing inpatient physical and occupational therapy. You can read more here about my first post-op week following RTKR.

Both my knees once again bend normally (the left knee was done September 2015 complete with a few complications), and I’ve gradually returned to life before surgery.

The only differences between now and a year ago are not hearing my knees crack when I get out of bed each morning, being able to walk farther distances with far less pain (if any at all), no more cortisone injections, and best of all – able to once again exercise without having to take breaks because my knees hurt. As you can see on the bottom photo, the scar on my right knee is barely visible, thanks to the miracles of Bio Oil and Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Skin Therapy Oil (I recommend this formula enriched with Vitamin E. Straight Vitamin E oils also work well on some surgical scars).

Running, jumping, and almost any other kind of high-impact work are all but out of the question, but an important aspect is focusing on things I can do. Cleaning house in one day instead of breaking up specific chores like I’d done BBK (before bionic knees), dancing – long as I don’t go  nuts – attending a few hockey games on occasion, waiting in lines without wincing in pain or having stiff knees afterward, and dressing in a standing position instead of having to sit are only a few examples of how new knees gave me back the life I once knew.

I’m even considering the idea of trying a 5K walk sometime this coming summer. The possibilities are endless!

Attitude is everything; it plays a more important role in our recovery than we tend to think. Imagine not summoning up the drive to follow through on physical therapy exercises or basically moving little as possible if not at all because it “hurts too much.” While being in agony from moving our new joints may be pushing things a bit, we have to engage in some form of activity for successful results. Isn’t that why each of us had joint replacement surgery in the first place – to have quality of life? Not following through on post-op care – especially physical therapy and keep moving in general – will defeat the surgery’s purpose.

Life with these new joints aren’t perfect; my left knee feels stiff each morning, both knees have the sensation of me dragging around fifty pounds apiece on damp or extremely cold days, setting off a metal detector on isn’t my idea of fun, and forget kneeling unless I’m on a soft surface. In any case, the aforementioned are only small prices to pay for undergoing a major change in my life.

My only regret? Not having it done sooner!

Happy Holidays!

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I’d like to thank fellow knee warriors and other blog visitors for joining me on this new journey throughout the year and wish you a safe, joyful, and blessed Christmas.

If you already had knee replacement surgery, don’t overdo it! If you’re scheduled for surgery in 2016, my thoughts are with you for a successful knee replacement.  I can now speak from experience in saying you won’t regret your decision.

Christmas Moon

While enjoying the holiday, be sure to check out the Christmas Moon if you can!

Merry Christmas With Love,

Lori

Are You Considering Joint Surgery?

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Factors That Influence Total Joint Surgery Success
Scientists continue to look for the best ways to help decide whether and when to undergo joint replacement surgery.

By Trish McHenry

Total joint replacement (TJR), also called total joint arthroplasty, is booming in popularity, but doctors and patients are still trying to understand which patients with arthritis benefit most – as well as the best timing for these major surgeries.

The number of total knee replacements (TKR) more than tripled and the number of total hip replacements more than doubled between 1993 and 2009, according to a study published in 2014 in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. And some of those surgeries may be happening too early in patients’ course of arthritis.

Read More (courtesy Arthritis Foundation)

10 Weeks LTKR Post-Op: Thankful For My Milestones

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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?

Important Win In The Fight Against Arthritis

 

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Thanks to you and the work of the Arthritis Foundation Advocates, we have a victory to celebrate! Earlier this month, New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie signed Assembly Bill 2477 into effect.

This bill allows biosimilar medications to become available for people with arthritis and other chronic diseases. It’s because of you and your support that we were able to get this bill passed by leading lobbying efforts and testifying before the New Jersey legislature.

Thanks to your ongoing support, we are working tirelessly to advocate for improved access to better care and treatments for you and your loved ones.

As the year comes to a close, take a closer look at our 2015 Arthritis Foundation Advocacy Report Card.

Sincerely,
Ann M. Palmer – President & CEO – Arthritis Foundation