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Home with fake knee

May 2, 2017

Photo on 5-2-17 at 3.40 PM

Monday, May 1, 2017

Now it’s been two weeks since my total knee replacement surgery.  Man!  For some reason the thought makes me sweat.  Even sweatier since watching a graphic Youtube video of a group of doctors and nurses working in blue space suits with yellow rubber gloves.

Youtube.  Hell, you can see almost anything you want.  About six years ago, these people from Idaho were stranded in our town with a broken down Ford Explorer fan pulley.  I just googled the make, model, trouble, and — lo — I was soon looking over the shoulder of an experienced car repairman narrator.  Well, it was July, fairly early in the day, and my nephew and I fixed the car good enough for them to make it almost back to Idaho before the part failed a second time the next day.  I found their unwanted criticism of my mechanical skills laughable.  I mean, I did all the work for nothing!  I even bought the replacement part with my nephew’s credit card.  Youtube makes difficult procedures like fixing a car–or arthritic knee–look easy.

Anyway, you can see from the paragraph above how much trouble I have staying focused mentally.  After returning home with my new knee I needed to pop pain pills a couple at a time every 3-4 hours, day and night.  What a nightmare!  I felt like someone had whacked me really hard on the leg with a stick.

I say this advisedly, because I am a retired pharmacist who has worked in home health care, in hospitals, in supermarkets, for the government, in uniform, with white coat, with no white coat.  I know the language of health care.  Doctors, nurses, oxygen.  I speak the strange language and understand how orders are written and carried out.  The surgeon is apt to say to her assistant, “make him to feel as if he had been beaten by a stick.”

A week ago last Friday my lovely wife of nearly 50 years pulled the car . . . . Know what?  I can’t remember if she drove the car up to the hospital doorway or if someone else did.   You know, a valet?  Could have been either way.  I was kind of zonked then.  I do remember having trouble getting from the wheelchair into the car.  Maybe a nurse pushed the wheelchair?  Couldn’t have been.  I think P. pushed me in the wheelchair and I steered a sort of cart with my belongings ahead.  It was just us, because we got on an elevator that was damned full.  I guess a nurse could have been along with us.  Yes.  In fact, I can almost remember her name.  Almost.  It was Carmen.  No it wasn’t, it was Rhonda.

My brain was foggy from the oxycodone tablets I had been taking.  P. had had the prescription filled at St. Vincent.  I noted the RPh’ initials:  J.S.  Then a little later, P. said a pharmacist sent his good wishes:  Jay Stott.  Jay and I used to work nights at Deaconess Hospital in the mid-1980s.  Thirty years ago.  He ended up working a career as a sales representative for the Eli Lilly Company.  When I worked my career in Public Health out on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, Jay used to bring his “dog and pony show” to our clinic to interest our doctors.

Where was I?  Oh yeah.  P. took me the six blocks to our home and I hobbled up the stairs the way I was taught by occupational therapy at St. Vincent:  Up with the good, down with the bad.  In other words, you step upward with the leg with the normal knee, bringing the operative knee in second.  Going downstairs is the opposite.  You step down with the injured leg first.  I discovered the next day that if you carelessly step down with the good leg first, the bad leg just about pitches you forward down the steps (and, I suppose, onto your head, or more frighteningly, onto your surgical knee wound).

I had borrowed a walker from the old man two doors down, so P. had it all ready for me.  I grabbed its hand-brake equipped handles and shuffled myself into our room, to my side of the bed.  Before long (an hour, perhaps) I was lying on my back with oxygen flowing into the nasal prongs and with my left knee wrapped up in the bubble wrapped network of ice water pumped by a motor in the lid of six-pack-size cooler.  It was good to be home out of the clutches of the officious nurses.

Not only couldn’t I remember the nurse’s names, I didn’t even remember my own, although they asked me what it was every time they gave me a medication, also my birthday.  They asked me my birthday to make certain they gave the correct patient the medication.  I was so desperate to get a medication for pain I gave the nurses no gas, no jokes.  My recollections about life in general improved once I got out of there.

Life at home seemed like one trip to the bathroom after another.  The desire to urinate woke me every hour, it seems.  Then I flopped back the covers, swung my legs around so that I was in the seated position. Wow the pain was intense, but I had to pee really bad.

I had to uncouple the water supply to the cold pack on my knee, and I was good to go.  I could leave the oxygen cannula in place because the hose was, like, 50 feet long.  At first I collected the handlebars of the walker, using it to stand.

After a couple of days the walker’s owner came to the back door to the house and made me give it up, so I learned to stand without it.  After a couple of trials, shifting my weight from one leg to the other, I walked quietly and slowly to the bathroom, turning mid-flight to land on my butt on the toilet seat, kicking my operated leg out at the last minute to avoid the pain of bending it.  This must have looked beautiful in the darkness of our room, this pirouette.

I had some internal bleeding at my surgery site that manifested when I gave myself the second of two heparin injections.  This made for some florid bruised areas on my butt, all down the back of my leg, and on my foot.

After using the toilet I’d hobble back to bed, possibly pausing to take an oxycodone tablet, sipping some water from my official St. Vincent Hospital water mug.  I started out taking home 90 oxycodones, but I took them 2 at a time every 3-4 hours throughout the day.  Hard to do the math in my head, but in moments of lucidity, I figured I was allowed to take up to 2 tabs every 4 hours, or 6 times daily.  Comes to 12 tablets a day times X days equals 90 tabs to start with.  An odd amount, but I figured I was given about a week’s supply.  Specifically 84 6/90 / 12 tabs = 7 1/15 days.  I checked my pill bottle.  A whole scad of tablets remained, so I felt less fearful about running out.

Many people had advised me to diligently practice the physical therapy exercises.  The more important kind of these extend the knee joint range of motion.  Sounds harmless enough, but their utility is great.  You try to make your knee hyperextend by resting your heel on the edge of a table or chair and allowing gravity to push down the center of the leg. Another stretches the ham strings.  Did you know we have three ham string tendons?  One pushes down until the pain is nearly unbearable, holds it for several seconds, then relaxes.  And repeats.  No wonder that I have pain.

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One Comment
  1. C. Jackim permalink

    I call the “up with the good, down with the bad”. The “ratchet” maneuver. It’s how I go up and down stairs with chronic polyartharititis syndrome 🙁

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