About two and a half years ago, I was scheduled to have a knee replacement. The surgery was cancelled practically at the last minute (OK, less than 48 hours, which is pretty last minute in surgery terms) because a blood test showed that I had had a relapse of Grave's disease (hyperthyroidism). The very calm endocrinologist, with a slight Spanish accent, said to me (and this is almost a perfect quote): "My dear, I suggest you cancel the surgery. You could have a stroke on the operating table." Surgery cancelled.
I have been on medication for my thyroid since that day in November 2011. I'm now down to a tiny, tiny daily dose, but since we're not taking any chances on a relapse, I'll probably take this dose forever...and keep my own, slightly wonky thyroid. I much prefer this to having my thyroid removed. It still pretty much does the job and I rather like it.
Now that I'm in solid remission (it's been well over a year since I got down to this practically symbolic dose of medication), I'm once again scheduled to have my knee replaced. Contrary to my thyroid, my left knee is a true mess. It was a long time coming and the mess is an unfortunate combination of heredity and a barbaric medical treatment that I, and thousands of other children, underwent in the early 1960s.
Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was a child, children who were pigeon-toed underwent a treatment called "bars and boots" to make their feet turn outward rather than inward when they walked. For several YEARS, I slept on my back, wearing little boots that were screwed on to a bar to keep my feet from pointing inward. The treatment worked beautifully...on my feet. But it did a bit more than it was designed to do and pulled my legs out of alignment too. Today, if I stand with my feet turned in (pigeon-toed), my knees face forward. When I stand "normally", my knees are turned outward. It doesn't make for beautiful legs, but beautiful legs are not a pre-requisite for a healthy life. Good knees and good hips are.
The upshot of this is that my knees don't "track" properly. Exercising on the bike or the elliptical trainer just makes things worse. Most days, I'm alright walking, even fairly long distances. But last years, for instance, I had to walk down a long escalator that wasn't working. Escalator steps are much deeper than ordinary steps and, being metal, they're much harder on the joints. Result: I could barely walk for several days. Recently I did--well I don't know what I did to set my knee off, but again, I was in severe pain for several days. This is not a life.
So, on June 5, I will be celebrating "new knee day". After having a total hip disaster almost 11 years ago, I feel somewhat apprehensive, but that's to be expected. I'm going with a different surgeon this time who has, as said to me after looking at the X-rays, "devoted his life" to knees like mine. Apparently, ballerinas often suffer the same problem--that's about the only thing I have in common with a ballerina!
Knee rehab is much harder than hip rehab. Apparently the pain is something else and you are highly encouraged to take your oxycodon or percocet (very addictive drugs aka "hillybilly heroin) religiously, especially before going for physiotherapy. I have no worries about addiction. I've been on percocet before and all it does is dull my pain. When the pain starts subsiding, it gives me major headaches. I hope to be off the stuff within hopefully a few weeks.
Please do not tell me about your hairdresser's brother's friend's sister who had a knee replacement and is now doing competitive dancing. I heard too many wonder stories about hips before I went in for a new hip and came out much worse than I had started, resulting in a second, mediocre surgery.
All I ask of my little band of intrepid readers is lots of good wishes, good vibes and, if you're of the religious persuasion, prayers for a successful surgery and healing.
Ursula Le Guin, 1929-2018
8 hours ago