Saturday, January 23, 2010

Two Snaps and a Twist

I was sitting in my doctor's office not believing what I was hearing.
"Knee replacement is your only option" said my doctor. "But what about my age?" I said. My doctor shook his head, "I believe in quality of life. I don't treat age.". All my previous doctors would turn a blind eye when I walked into a waiting room hobbling like Fred Sanford and now I had finally found a doctor who was willing to help me! I was sick of the quacks I had formally been dealing with. The answers to everything were shots, meniscus repairs, taking out screws, replacing screws and removing scar tissue. None of these things ever worked.

We set my surgery date for May 11th. However, I had to attend a mandatory knee replacement clinic one week prior to the surgery. I was the first person to arrive for the clinic and was met by a jovial woman named Sue. She had a twinkle in her eye and rosy cheeks. Immediately I could feel the stress leaving my body since she looked a lot like Santa's wife. "Well my goodness you sure are young. Our class will be filled with young people today. In fact this is the youngest class I've had yet." I felt relief. At least I knew I wasn't going to be the only "youngster" going through this procedure.

People started filing in the door. I looked back and figured these were the grandparents of the young people who were going to be arriving any minute. As I stared at the door after the last person came through I heard Sue say "welcome everybody. I am so glad you could make it. Boy we sure have a young class today." I looked around. There was a woman on a walker that looked like she had a shrunken apple head. She had to be at least 80. I believe the youngest person in the room excluding me had to be at least pushing 70. My God, am I in the right room. Maybe this was a class on bladder control and I had mistakenly gone through the wrong door. Sue went around the room and started handing out booklets about what to expect prior, during, and after knee replacement. I definitely knew I was in the right room.

Okay, I know what I expected prior to knee replacement; I would need tranquilizers by the bushel until I was on the verge of passing out. During knee replacement I expected to be under anesthesia and after surgery I expected to have so many narcotics coursing through my body that I wouldn't even realize I had surgery until my knee was completely healed and I was walking like a normal person and not like a Hobbit.

My partner Kelli planned on taking off work and wanted to know approximately how many days she should plan for. Sue told Kelli that she could go back to work as soon as I got home since I would be motoring around on my walker. All Kelli had to do was make some meals and throw them in a plastic bag that I would have tied around my walker.

Sue then proceeded to tell the class about a doctor who had knee replacement and was running to work after eight weeks. I plowed through the pages of the "what to expect booklet" and right there in bold black letters it said exercises to avoid: running, skiing, having sex for at least six weeks (I didn't think that would be a problem for the class as most of them had probably not had sex since the late 80's, early 90's. The apple head lady probably hadn't had sex since the great depression).

The booklet specifically said that once the knee replacement was completed we could do light exercises like fishing. What the hell? Since when did fishing become an exercise? I could see if one was on a bass boat and got pulled over the side by a big fish and dragged halfway across the lake because he decided that he wasn't going to let the "big one" get away and finally realized that it was a fruitless effort and there he was in the middle of the lake and had to swim back to the boat. Now that's exercise. Sitting in a lawn chair on the deck with a pole in the water waiting for the bobber to go under while drinking a 12 pack of Natural Light just does not sound like exercise.

After the class we all hobbled down the hall to have our blood work, EKG's and all the other junk required before surgery. I felt good. Kelli and I went to Starbucks. I told her that my mother's friend (who will remain nameless to protect her identity) said this surgery would be "two snaps and a twist." She has had two of them on the same leg, so I figured she would know best (the hussy). I knew I would be on my feet in a couple of weeks and back to work within a month. After all, one of my co-worker's grandpa's cousin's sister-in-law's mother was on her feet a week after surgery and she was 80.

The day of surgery I felt fine. Kelli and I came up with the mantra that "I tell my body what to do, my body doesn't tell me what to do!" I felt that this surgery would be like any of the other 62 I've had in the last three years, maybe just a little more painful. I should have known that wasn't going to be the case when the anesthesiologist came and wheeled me into a room to have a pain pump installed into my groin that would numb my knee for 2-3 days prior to discharge from the hospital. This was the latest, greatest thing and PCA machines were virtually extinct. I was to receive "happy drugs" that would make me feel so relaxed I wouldn't feel a thing. Yeah right. I immediately felt him trying to put the wire in my groin. "Hey I feel that!" I yelled. He told the nurse to give me Versed which usually knocks people for a loop and they can't remember anything. I was laying on the table as they talked about whatever and I felt him ram that wire straight into my groin. It felt like he was pushing a pencil into my groin. "Holy crap" I yelled "I felt that!"

"We're all done now" he smiled. "See you in the operating room." "Great, that sadistic SOB probably won't even put me to sleep before they start cutting on me." Suddenly I didn't feel so calm.

Before I could relax, I was being wheeled into the operating room. As they pushed me through the door, I saw all of these people wearing space suits, before I could ask what was going on, I was knocked unconscious.

I woke up as I was being wheeled into my room. I had asked for a private room and was willing to pay the extra $100.00 a day for MY privacy. Unfortunately they didn't have any private rooms available so I was put into a two-person room. However, I was alone which was nice. It was late in the day when I got to my room, so I did not have PT since it was after hours for the PT staff. I really needed to go to the bathroom, but my right leg was "dead" from the stuff in the pain pump, and I couldn't get myself out of bed. I hit the nurse's button and in walked a nurse tech. "I need to go to the bathroom" I said. She whipped out a pink bed pan and I slipped it under me. It immediately collapsed. I was sitting on a flat bed pan but I really had to go. "Umm, my sheets are wet" I said. "Did you pee in the bed?" the tech asked. I wanted to yell "what do you expect lady, you give me a bed pan that collapses all the way down to the bed, why didn't you just tell me to pee on the sheets to begin with?" However, I held my tongue and shook my head. I hope they had a plan B because I knew I would have to go to the bathroom again at some point during my stay.

Sometime later in the evening I heard them wheel in another patient. My curtain was closed, but I could hear her say "I wanted a private room, I don't want to share a room with anyone else!" "I second that" I thought. Sometime later the curtain was opened and this lady was staring at me. "My name's Arlene. I broke my hip taking care of my husband who is in hospice care at home. I'm having surgery tomorrow. I'm 78 years old." That was a lot of information from a complete stranger, but I felt really bad she broke her hip taking care of her dying husband. "I'm Meredith, and I had a knee replacement. I'm really sorry to hear about your husband." "Don't be" she said. "He's a bastard." I was at a loss for words so I just said "oh, okay." Arlene whipped the curtain closed.

I noticed that my gown and bed kept getting wet. I also noticed there was a lot of fluid building up inside the Tegaderm patches they had covering the wire in my groin. I kept having to have my gown changed. My leg now had feeling and my knee was hurting like Hades. I buzzed the nurse. She came in and I showed her what was going on. She brought me pain pills that I required every three hours. I was miserable. I wanted to gnaw my leg off. This was definitely worse than the other 62 surgeries and I realized Sue was nothing like Santa's wife. She was a sadistic liar. The biddy.

The following day the anesthesiologist came by to look at my pain pump. It was obviously not working. "I'm going to give you a bolus of the numbing medicine and I will be back later." He shot the stuff in the port and nothing. I already knew the wire wasn't in correctly because I was leaking like a colander. I buzzed the nurse after writhing in pain for a couple more hours and told him I wanted to take the pain pump out. He took off the Tegaderm and I pulled the wire. The wire came right out. It was barely in. Right then my surgeon came to check on me and I told him what was going on. He stormed out of the room and within seconds one of the almost extinct PCA machines was in my room.

Arlene was muttering gibberish over on her side of the room. She kept asking me if she sounded "sexy" when she talked and then she would demand an answer. What do you tell an ol' gal of 78? You tell her of course she sounds "sexy." Geez, it was obvious they had her more stoned then most people who attended Woodstock. In the midst of her hallucinations the surgery team came and took her away. I hoped she would be okay, but I don't think anything could've killed her, she was a feisty old bird.

It was late morning the second day when everything started going to hell in a hand basket.

After several attempts of going to the bathroom in the collapsible pink bed pans and techs who wanted to kill me along with the laundry staff I attempted to get out of bed. I called the nurse's station. "I need to go to the bathroom and need help getting up." I think I heard a collective cheer coming from the nurses station. Okay, this is the honest truth. I think whenever I needed to be lifted from a hospital bed or escorted to the bathroom, all the nurses and techs get in line and weigh themselves. They also measure their height and whoever is the lightest and shortest gets sent to my room. Within seconds a five feet, 95 pound nurse and a tech who was slightly smaller and weighed slightly less came to escort me to the bathroom. I stood up and walked halfway to the bathroom. I started to get the spins, I broke out in a cold sweat and I felt like I was about to pass out. Now I'm no heifer, but I think the heaviest thing these two gals have ever lifted is a can of diet coke. They have me under the armpits and we are all swirling around. One tech let go to get some help leaving me with the 95-pound weakling. We are bobbing back and forth when finally reinforcements arrive. With no regard that I almost took a header they all led me to the bathroom and the reinforcements left me alone with my two techs whom I chose to call Laverne and Shirley. I guess they didn't realize I would need to get back to the bed. I just sat there with my head down trying not to fall out. Laverne and Shirley are outside the door so I could have my privacy. I had almost croaked and they are leaving me, an unstable patient, locked in the bathroom. "Hey, I need to get back to bed, I think I'm going to pass out!" Laverne opens the door and Shirley is standing there. Both of them grab me by the armpits. Okay, we've been there done that and clearly these two can't manage me alone but they are intent on not giving up. They are going to give it one more go. Laverne lies on the back of me so I can't fall backward while Shirley pulls my walker toward the bed. They are both grunting and sweating. I am sweating and weaving but we make it. Laverne and Shirley slap palms, tuck me in and head out the door. It would have been funny if I didn't feel like I was about to die.

Sometime later the nurse came in for blood work and vitals. I knew something was up. My pulse was 126 and my blood pressure was 54/42. About an hour later my surgeon walked in and said I need blood transfusions. SAY WHAT??? There was only a small blurb in my "what to expect booklet" saying anything about blood transfusions and the booklet said it is extremely rare to need a transfusion after knee replacement.

As I lay in bed without the strength to move, I decided this was undoubtedly the worst surgery I had ever experienced and I had many prior to this one. I wasn't able to do any PT because my blood pressure was so low. I kept having incidents with the bed pans and I could tell by the faces of the techs that they believed I had never been potty trained and the "collapsible bed pan" excuse was just a ruse.

Finally after four days I was released to go home. I still looked like death warmed over, but I guess they had decided I could go home and dope myself up with super strong drugs and pee in my own bed.

I lost 20lbs, developed an infection, started bleeding from the blood thinners and developed a hematoma on my knee the size of a large plum. I had what the doctors referred to as "a difficult recovery." You think?

Eight months later, I still have issues with my knee. It doesn't straighten out so I walk with a limp. People tell me I'm lucky I can walk at all. Hell I was walking before knee replacement. It wasn't like I was slithering on my belly. People tell me it could be worse and that's true. I could still be in the hospital telling Arlene that she has a sexy voice. Shudder....


  1. Oh my gosh you have been through such an ordeal. I am glad that you are ok...but how difficult things must be. I am glad that you posted this though because it is amazing to look back on the hard times in our life and realize how tough we women are!!

    I am a new follower. I saw you on the follower section over at MBC. I hope you will follow back as well. I am doing some great giveaways right now and I love meeting other mom bloggers. It is nice to meet you and I look forward to following you blog. ~Juliana from A Blonde Walks Into A Blog

  2. Following you from FFF on MBC!

  3. Wow. I understand knee pain. I had surgery myself but not as severe as you, Just arthroscopy. Sorry to hear about all the other complications you had. Best wishes to you and your recovery.

  4. Hey there! Visiting from MBC--the funny moms. WOW girl! I think after the horrendous ordeal you've been through, I would happily crawl with my teeth if I had to! Surgery....yikes! In the beginning when the guy was jamming wire into your leg...OUCH!

    Hope you find relief soon!

  5. Yikes, I'm sorry you've been through so much!!!

    I'm now following you through MBC :)

  6. Oh, that sounds like quite the ordeal! I'm so sorry! STill, I cracked up all the way through!

    I am now following you from MBC!

  7. Following you from FFF on MBC !
    When you get a chance check out my blog and follow me back ! :)


  8. I am following from MBC!

    Jeanette Huston