Saturday, June 28, 2014

"Side Effects"

I celebrated my new knee's three-week anniversary a few days ago.

Things continue to move forward, although the pace of recovery has slowed a bit. I am exercising twice a day, but some of the numbers (degree of extension and flexion) are a bit stuck. I guess my body's still playing  catch-up with all the work (exercise) I'm doing. My mood is generally good. It really helps to know that all is fine. Having had unsuccessful surgery in the past, my thankfulness for a good surgical outcome knows no bounds.

Interestingly, I have noted a couple of physical side effects of the surgery that have absolutely nothing to do with my knee.

The first side effect is the almost total disappearance of the chronic cough that has bothered me for about TEN years. I have gone through numerous tests and tried all kinds of products (both over the counter and prescribed by specialists) to get rid of the cough. Nothing worked. But the minute I came out of surgery, the cough was practically gone. The only reason that I can imagine for this quasi-miraculous event is that something was somewhat out of kilter in my throat and that the tubes they no doubt put down my throat during surgery (I had to have a general anesthetic due to back problems that made using an epidural a less than optimal choice) pushed things back into place. I have coughed a couple of times in the last three weeks, but probably no more often than the average person coughs. Extraordinary!

I have also lost a bit of weight since surgery. I suppose this could be viewed as not particularly surprising, although I have also been extremely limited in the amount of movement I do (I normally average about 10K steps a day; now, the number of steps is so low, I'm not even wearing my Fitbit), There's not a lot of calorie burning going on, though as I type this I wonder about the effort my body is going through to simply heal. Up until recently, I've taken most of my meals in bed, since sitting for any period of time brought on further swelling and discomfort. But I definitely have not been trying to limit the amount of food I eat. I just eat what I feel like eating and admittedly, it does seem like somewhat less than what I usually eat.

I also found that during the first ten days or so after surgery, I felt absolutely no desire to eat sweets. As a rule, I am very fond of sweets and I therefore tend to "watch" my consumption fairly closely. My cousin came over with a box of gourmet cupcakes a few days after I came home from the hospital and I was downright disappointed to see them. I at a half a cupcake during her visit and I think I had a bite more of another one in the days that followed. My husband and kids ate the rest. My younger son's girlfriend baked me a lemon cake and I just adore anything with lemon. I was literally able to eat only a crumb of it. The rest was enjoyed by other family members. As time goes by, my friendship with sweets is coming back. I have enjoyed a square or two of chocolate after supper from time to time. I don't think this aversion to sweets will last very long!

I am somewhat curious and slightly concerned about loss of muscle mass due to inactivity. However, although I am still passing a lot more time than I normally do in bed, I think I can honestly say that this is a far from inactive recovery. I am doing some very demanding exercises twice daily--yes, even on the weekends and statutory holidays! So I'm not going to let this concern get to me too much. I'm sure I'll be fine.

Recovering from a total knee replacement is quite the adventure.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bionic Knee Adventures

Knee surgery has come and gone and of course, there's lots to tell. I've been doing almost daily updates on my Facebook page, but not all my readers here are following me on FB, so I owe you all a long update.

The surgery itself went very well. This, in itself, was such a relief. I had a total hip replacement 11 years ago that had to be revised only 8 months later, so I went into this surgery with a great deal of trepidation. Of course, this time I had a different surgeon at a different hospital and the surgery was on a different joint, but it was difficult not to be scared. Long story short: everything was fine and I am flooded with relief.

My surgery was on June 5 and I was already home on the afternoon of June 8. They had me up and walking the day after surgery on a walker and I left the hospital on two canes. I never even went through the crutch phase. Again, this was a huge difference between this surgery and my hip surgery, where complications were such that I wasn't even allowed to put my foot on the ground, much less weight bear for several months...twice, due to the two surgeries. Today, with my new knee, I'm already walking a little bit around the house without a cane AT ALL! I am taking showers on my own with the help of a tub transfer bench (though I could probably do it without the bench at all) and I am easily navigating the stairs both inside and outside the house.

Now, all of these wonderful things don't mean that a knee replacement is a walk in the park. Far from it. In fact, a normal hip replacement is vastly easier to recover from than a knee replacement.  My knee is very swollen and it feels like it's being held in a vice grip. I'm still sleeping half the night in a rather uncomfortable leg splint to make sure I don't leave my knee bent for too long.

And the exercises I have to do twice a day! If you hear someone screaming, it may very well be me! It's absolutely normal to feel intense pain while doing the exercises. You are instructed to faithfully take your painkillers 40 minutes before exercising no matter what. The painkillers are morphine based. This is serious stuff. Fortunately, I know that I am not developing any addiction to the pills. When I don't need them, I feel no need to take them. Hopefully, the exercise pain will lighten sufficiently within the next 5 weeks or so and I will be able to rely on Tylenol Extra Strength alone.

So that's the update. I'm back, pretty happy and working super hard.