Sunday, July 18, 2010

Knees, Part Two--In the Hospital and on to Rehab

After the surgery, I spent four days in the hospital. While I've had surgery before, I've never had to stay overnight in the hospital. As many have said before, you don't get a lot of rest in the hospital. I was awakened a couple of times a night for a check of vital signs, and the lab work was always done at the crack of dawn.

The physical therapy people showed up twice a day every day that I was in the hospital. My room opened not only to the hall but also to a PT work-out area. Around 10:00 in the morning, I'd hear a knock on that inner door; it would open, and here would come the PT team. Getting up was always difficult. Because of the femoral blocks, my legs stayed numb and kind of stupid for almost the whole time I was in the hospital. Anyway, the PT people would get me up, and I would stagger into the work-out area. The first day, I was able to take only about 20 steps. Every day, I was able to go a little further, but to call what I was doing walking is a bit laughable.

On the fourth day, I was transferred from the hospital to a PT rehab unit at another local hospital. During the transfer, my pain meds ran out, and I didn't get another jolt of anything for hours. Needless to say, my first night at rehab was awful. As the nurses took my history and did all of the other stuff they have to do when a patient first arrives, they also told me that I would be expected to get up and get dressed Monday through Saturday. Additionally, I would have breakfast and lunch in the dayroom with the other rehab patients. Each day, I would have 3 hours of therapy. Saturday afternoons and Sundays were rest times. Thank goodness!

The rehab sessions themselves could be real bears. At first, I couldn't do the exercises very well at all, and I could only walk about 30 feet down the hall. By the time I left rehab two weeks later, I could walk 350 feet (with a walker), and the exercises had gotten a little easier.

Life in rehab was not just about the exercise. I found that I also became interested and invested in my fellow rehabbers. Many of them were elderly patients. A few had had strokes, but there were other joint replacement patients there, too. The day I left, two patients were admitted who had had hip replacements. Obviously, I felt a kinship with the other joint replacement patients. It was really nice to have others pulling for me when I was working in the gym, and I liked being able to cheer others on, too.

Monday, July 12, 2010

New Knees, Part I

I'm on the other side of knee replacement. I had surgery on June 7, so I'm beginning my 6th week of recovery. It's been--and continues to be--a long and often torturous road. I thought I would write about it before I forget about all of the highs (!) and lows.

Before I had surgery, I lost my beloved Spenser. I didn't think he would be with me for very long after his birthday, but I wasn't ready to lose him. He fought hard, but finally he was just too tired to keep going. I still miss him.

On to the surgery. I don't remember much about the day of the surgery. We (my sister and I) got to the hospital around 5:45 am. I was the first case of the day for my surgeon, so things moved pretty quickly. I had my blood typed and cross-matched, was hustled upstairs to outpatient surgery (even though I most definitely was not leaving the hospital that day), and then the nurses got to work. I was surprised at how fast things moved. In previous surgeries, none of them as major as this one, the old adage of hurry up and wait had held true. Not this time. Before I knew it, I was being wheeled down the hall to the elevator, on my way to the surgery holding area.

In the holding area, things continued to move fast. At one time there were four or five people--OR nurses, anesthesiologist, etc.--all doing something to me or telling me something. My head was reeling! After an IV was started, they wheeled me into the operating room. The anesthesiologist and one of the OR nurses did an epidural. I remember that the doctor asked if I felt anything, and I told him that my toes were tingling. He laughed, and said, "That's good!" They laid me down, and we all talked for about 2 seconds. Then I was out.

I have no memory of the recovery room at all. The next time I was conscious, I was in the hall, being taken to ICU (typical for a bilateral knee replacement). I saw, or more accurately heard, my sister and the friends who had waited with her during the surgery. I'm not sure I opened my eyes, but I do remember hearing all of their voices. The next time I woke up, I was in ICU. At one time there, I was cold, so I pulled the sheet up over my head. I thought, "Maybe not a good move since you're in ICU." I didn't want to doze off again and then find myself in the morgue. LOL.

I spent one night in ICU, and the following morning I was moved to a regular room. Before I made the move to my room, though, the physical therapists showed up. Not quite 24 hours after surgery, they stood me up and had me take a couple of steps. No rest for the wicked!

More to come later!