After dealing with decades of chronic knee pain, I decided it was time to get both knees replaced at the same time. Oh yeah, I'm only 47 years old.
The Day is HERE
Surgery arrival was set for 8am with the operation to take place from 10am until 1 pm. I was prepped and the magic of anesthesia did its job. The last thing I remember was the nurse telling me we are getting ready to give some really good meds that will make everything “OK”. She was right. I woke up with people in and out of my face feeling extreme pressure in my legs and a parched mouth. I was in and out of consciousness but finally came around in my room. I had been connected to my IV, 4 nerve blocks, the ET finger heart monitor and to wrap it all up in a nice little bow, a catheter. First time for everything, right. I did have one more thing, NEW KNEES.
After I was all checked out, medicated properly, and beginning to relax, “they” thought it was a good idea for me to get up and walk. I knew that was part of the plan but I thought that was just crazy talk. They were serious. I did a few exercises and I walked from the bed to my room door and back. WOW!!! I walked. They also put in the CPM machine, which stands for Crappy Pain Maker. My knees were moved from zero to 60 degrees for 2 hours each. To my surprise, the pain I felt was no worse than other pain from training or hiking. I was feeling like I had a handle on this and that I was tougher than the average bear. Famous last words…..
Day 2 – I am SUPERMAN!
Of course, sleeping is hard to do when people keep coming into your room checking to see if you need anything, checking vitals, taking blood, giving you your meds, and emptying your trash. But that did not stop me from crushing my two physical therapy sessions. The surgeon, nurses, and therapist all had me thinking that I was made of steel and that nothing could stop me. I was ready to run 400m sprints. And THEN……..
They took my nerve blocks out. Why would they do such a thing?! I was already getting behind on my pain meds AND THEY REMOVED MY NERVE BLOCKS.
RULE #1 – NEVER GET BEHIND ON YOUR PAIN MEDS!
It did not take long for my pain to go from a 6 to an 8. Then physical therapy came in……… I was doomed. She began to try to get me to move and I now know what 10 out of 10 on the pain scale means. I had nausea, my head was throbbing and my legs were going to FALL OFF!!! They even tried to inject additional pain meds (Dilaudid-HP) to help me through. I made it through therapy and the rest of the day was spent in and out of sleep and trying to get caught back up in the pain cycle.
RULE #2 – YOU ARE NOT SUPERMAN.
Day 3 – Out of it.
I have never watched so much College Basketball in my life, I sure was thankful to be in recovery during the 1st week of the NCAA Tournament. I spent my Saturday in and out of consciousness trying to catch my body up to my meds. The Doc increased my meds from every 4 hours to every 2. He also gave permission for the injectable painkiller if needed. I did not want to see any visitors or eat any food. My wife witnessed my downfall. I was in pain and wondering if I had made the right decision to get my knees replaced. I had hit my low point of this journey. On top of all the pain and doubt, I was weak and embarrassed.
Day 4 – Down but NEVER out!
I pulled it back together and was ready to take on the challenge. When my wife (Joy) came in the next day she caught me at the end of my walking therapy and was pleased to see that I had improved. The pain face was gone. The therapist helped me get back on track with my exercises and exit strategy to get the hell out of the hospital.
I had to take control of my pain and my recovery. I had to remember that the doctors, therapists, nurses, caregivers, and my family and friends are there to help me. But it was up to me to make things happen.
RULE #3 – YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR RECOVERY
Day 5 – HOME!
I spent this day waiting for the doc to come in and say, “He can go home”. Of course, he was in surgery and did not get to me until 3pm. I was released around 5pm. I was ready to get out but I was also nervous. I was leaving the care of the hospital and its entire staff to my house where my wife and kids had to care for me. We all got into the minivan and rolled out.
On day 5 I am able to walk with a walker, lift my leg off the bed, and get in and out of the bed without assistance. All moving is painful and I generally feel like a baby giraffe on roller skates. And I actually pooped for the 1st time in 5 days. Yay!!
When we got home, we had to figure out how to do everything the hospital was doing. How to get down on the couch, where to sleep, meds schedule, meals, showering, what do I do with my pee??? You get the picture. A disagreement with my new caretaker was unavoidable but needed to clear the air.
Day 6 – Therapy
My “at home” therapist came for the 1st time. He spent 90min of quality time putting together a therapy program together for me and evaluating my present condition. This day forced me to realize how far I had to go down the recovery road. I was unable to flex (squeeze) my quad muscles and I had a lot of trouble performing the movements correctly because my brain had trouble telling my legs how to move and there was a lot of pain standing in between the two.
Day 7 – Progress
I am now feeling stronger. My therapy is getting easier. I am now able to bend both knees past 90 degrees. I am only using the walker for balance. My swelling has gone down enough to where I can see my leg muscles start to flex during exercise. I have gone 5.5 hours without pain meds. I am pooping every day. Yay!!
Sleeping is an issue and I found I do better on the couch than in my bed. If I work or walk too much during the day, I will pay the price at night. Cautiously aggressive is my approach. Just like everything else in life, I must have balance with my rest, walking, therapy, and pain management.
After 1 week, I realized what an uphill battle I was in, but I know if I can consistently put in the work, I will be victorious.
This may have been a huge mistake.