On Dec. 16, I underwent a left knee replacement. People tried to prepare me for it, but even with everyone’s best intentions — I could never have imagined what the last five weeks have been like. It’s been good and bad, ugly and beautiful, painful and uplifting.
I’ve known this surgery was coming for a year or more now and I scheduled it very carefully between the fall semester and spring semester so I wouldn’t miss work. I knew it would affect my holiday season, but I figured the payoff would be worth it. I bought all Christmas presents before, I got a stack of books to read and projects to work on, and I cleaned up my house from clutter so I wouldn’t fall over it. I got all the aids to help me bathe, go to the bathroom and get around.
But I wasn’t prepared for the emotional roller coaster ride I was going on.
Some notes about my recovery:
* The hospital stay was even worse than I feared. I had to wait six hours for a room after surgery and got stuck in the cardiac cath lab recovery room where they had no bathrooms and I had to pee in a bed pan — humiliating. The nurse never realized my ice machine didn’t work and I had no ice on my knee the first four hours after surgery. After I got into a room that night, it got a little better. I couldn’t wait to go home after two days.
* Home felt great after that. The boys and Tom fussed over me and took great care of me. But to be honest, the next few days are a blur. Just going through the motions in a fog left over from anesthesia. The only thing I remember is desperately trying to find a way to get comfortable. The recliner I had hoped to use broke a leg one of the first time I sat in it, Another chair was too low, so Tom bought risers to make it sit higher. After a day or so, one of the plastic risers broke, sending me to the floor. Thankfully, I didn’t hurt my knee again, but it was a challenge to get me up from that floor. I finally convinced Tom to buy me a new recliner, which has been my safe haven since.
*Therapy has been as expected — tough and painful at times — but rewarding as I regained more strength and movement. I really pushed myself and it has paid off so far.
* I didn’t get to read that stack of books. I have read two books in the last six weeks. I have been working one for two weeks now. Normally, I can read a book a day with ease. But I just can’t concentrate — anesthesia fog and pain pills? A project I promised a colleague I would read was a struggle and finally I had to give up. Then once Jan. 2 hit, I dove into my online photography class that I would teach from home in three weeks, which took up all my non-nap time.
* Christmas was kind of a blur too. The highlights were the visit from my mom (who Tom and Brett picked up and brought to our house) and the dinner at Mary’s house. My mother missed me desperately and really was so worried about me until she saw me. She called me almost every day and got upset when she couldn’t find my number. Even now I’ve gone to see her a few times, she clings to me and almost doesn’t want to let me go.
* I discovered the world out there sucks for disabled people. I used a walker the first four weeks and you won’t believe how hard it is to open doors and get in some places. Those great grocery riding carts for the disabled and elderly are terrible for people who had knee replacements because you can’t stretch out your leg on them. And there are not enough handicapped parking spaces at most restaurants.
*But most of all, I’ll remember all the blessings. Friends who came to see me, one even came to cut my hair at my house! Cards and phone calls were nice the first few weeks as well. My friend Dan was my cheerleader as he had the same surgery three weeks before me. He called to check on me and encourage me to do the PT. Others who had the surgery in the past also wrote notes of encouragement and that meant a lot.
*I’ve been keeping my eye on the prize. That’s been my phrase in the past when things were tough. My prize this year is a Caribbean cruise the family is planning to go on in June. My goal is to walk pain-free on the beaches of St. Maarten, to walk steps up to the pool on the top deck of the ship and to enjoy time with family without getting left behind.
This surgery has taught me a lot. I can do whatever I set my mind to, I have lots of friends that care about me and I’m lucky to have such a great husband and two sons. And it reminded me and will continue to remind me to keep my eye on the prize.