Knee replacement surgery has been something that I’ve needed for the last 12-15 years. In 2001, I broke my knee while standing. As odd as it sounds, it happened. I had arthroscopic surgery to correct the issue then. Unfortunately as the years progressed so did the osteoarthritis; by 2010 my cartilage was almost gone.
Over the last couple of years I’ve been trying to plan and get ready. As this is not a quick recovery, I knew I would need to be off for at least 2 months, maybe three, all depending on how quickly I heal and how quickly my new knee adapts to my body.
I read a few blogs, and videos about knee replacement, but did not want to go in with any expectations based off what others experienced.
Knee Chronicles; Week 1
I spent the first few days before surgery, getting my apartment as ready as I could, cleaned, laundry, packed my hospital bag, made sure bills that needed to be paid, were. Swam, cleaned the car, and took naps. I knew that the next few weeks were going to be hard and very trying. I took some much needed mental days to prepare my life and hang with my pups since it would be awhile before we could cuddle again.
If you have the ability to do this, I highly recommend it.
Hospital Day 1
Average Pain Level: 7
My friend spent the night and we woke at 5am got ready and drove to the hospital - checked in around 730. After admission, we are taken up to the waiting room and finally back to the room around 11:30 where they then stuck me, poked me and got me ready for my surgery. This involved cleaning my leg and knee. IV’s were placed in my arms (UCLA is a teaching hospital and the first go-round didn’t quite work…i.e. it looked like I had a drug problem)
Did I tell you I HATE needles? HATE!!
The prep also involved locating a specific muscle under your knee through ultrasound, which involved shoving the machine under the knee, to locate the area in which to inject. It is a very painful process and it hurt like hell but it was over in 10 minutes.
My surgery was to begin around 10:30 but was slightly delayed. A small wait and into the surgical room I went. There was a slight issue while giving me an epidural in which my sciatic was hit by the needle. I had a very uncontrolled twitch and pain in my right leg. They re-adjusted and my lower half went numb (did I mention this was a teaching hospital…). Apparently my first incision was at 2:06, Kara knew this I don’t because I was not awake thank God.
I had heard that I was going to be awake, but after getting into the surgical room, I do not remember much. The mask. The catheter and I was out.
After recovery, they wheeled me back to my room.
I was walking an hour after I got back and the pain was actually fairly calm. Not sure if that is the right word but the “hurt” was different; it was a I hurt for the we-cut-you-open-pain instead of the your-knees-sucks-pain. I have a feeling I’m going to regret not having this done sooner, if you have any knee issues don’t put it off, get it taken care of because you’re missing out on all aspects of life. My thought every time somebody would ask me to go somewhere was how far do I have to walk??
I won’t have to do that anymore.
PT taught me how to get out of bed (properly), how to walk with a walker so that way I could go to the bathroom. How to pivot, and really how to get around. You are however not allowed to do this by yourself, a nurse, is required to be by your side.
The first time you walk, there is a odd sense of separation from your knee and the rest of your body. Your knee is new. It has no strength. It has no idea how to function and believe me that moment when it decides to buckle. You will turn white. Relay on the staff and friends and family to help you get out of bed, get to the bathroom etc.
Humility is gone. My back end flashed the nurses and my friend so many times that I should have purchased a temporary tattoo that said “Kiss My Ass”, just for fun!
A big part of the recovery and pain management is through the use of ROPIVACAINE sodium chloride, a nerve blocker which is injected at the top part of your leg. A drain is placed in the surgical area to remove any excess blood that builds up; this prevents clotting and other issues and is removed when it slows.
The first night was pretty uneventful. I slept off and on; they checked on me every couple of hours, drew some blood, checked my pulse and BP throughout the night. I woke again and had a full breakfast.
Hospital Day 2
Average Pain Level: 10
You begin to feel a bit more like yourself. Doctors visit, nurses change shift, you start seeing familiar faces. Actually felt like I slept better.
I was at this time still connected to the IV’s, I also had a surgical drain which removes any excess blood that builds up; this prevents clotting and other issues that can occur. It was removed later that afternoon.
The nerve blocker was leaking quite a bit and eventually pulled.
I spent time in PT and learned how to walk up steps; curbs and how to get in and out of a car. Working on these simple tasks is extremely tiring. You have zero energy. All your muscle strength you had prior to surgery is GONE. I mean GONE.
Rested. Got cleaned up and spent the evening walking around. My friend Mary came by and visited and the three of us spent the evening laughing and talking. They recommend every hour getting up moving around doing something. So we took a couple of laps around the floor.
Unfortunately this was also the night the nurse decided that instead of waking me to give me my much required and needed pain meds, she’d let me sleep.
Because the nerve blocker was leaking, I had no real controlled pain management. This meant at 7am, when I woke, I woke feeling EVERYTHING. I woke feeling the bones, the implant, the incision and the staples. I thought I understood pain. I thought I knew what my body would do when EVERY nerve, muscle, bone was screaming with pain. I didn’t pass-out, I wish I could have passed out. It was the worst thing (physical pain) that I have EVER experienced.
I do not wish that on anyone.
Due to the amount of intense pain I experienced, I had to stay another day. I was exhausted from crying and exhausted from being in pain and exhausted in general. Even though you’re on medication that makes you sleepy, you don’t sleep and the sleep you get, you’re not sleeping very well.
Ended up heading home Sunday. Happy to leave, happy to finally get to my bed, my pillows and my life. It was the best rest I had in a long long time
Home Day 4
Average Pain Level: 7
It’s been 10 days since my surgery. I have been dealing with pain on and off for the last few days trying to determine how to be comfortable how to live my life everyday.
Aka my new daily routine…
Lay there and determine how bad I have to use the bathroom; which lets face it I’m no longer 20 and have to pee pretty much soon as I wake up.
I am 5’4 and for recovery at home they recommend you purchase a seat riser for your toilet unfortunately when I attach a seat riser my feet no longer touch the floor.
Anyone need a unused toilet seat riser?
After I struggle with waking up my new knee, I scoot to the kitchen to make coffee. I then try to stand straight putting equal amounts of weight on both knees and legs as I wake up for the morning.
My normal morning routine would take me 10 minutes now takes 30 minutes or longer. It is exhausting. Muscles that you had in your legs no longer work. The amount of time spent building the strength to handle knee replacement surgery literally feels like it’s been wiped clean.
I spent all summer swimming working out walking at least 9000-10000 steps a day. I dropped 25 pounds in that process, it wasn’t enough.
My muscles literally felt like they were picked up set off to the side, then put back in my leg. My leg has been a kaleidoscope of color. The back of my legs look like the only color options available that day however were purple, blue, more purple, a little bit a red, and some black for some spice and a dash of red.
I’ve had a few very hard nights, moments where I just laid there and cried. I should be happy right? I should be elated that I have a new knee. But my mind just dealing with the pain, the lack of sleep and not being comfortable was exhausting.
I do and I am however…
Right now, my pain has just changed. Right now it’s an intense pain, so until that subsides, which I start PT tomorrow, I know It will take time before I feel right, before I actually feel like myself, before I can once again sleep on my side.
Oh yea.. Another fun fact. You have to sleep on your back, this is not an option. So I’ve had to learn, how to do this comfortably. They want you to have you knee as straight as possible.
I now understand why people say they would never do it again, the pain is intense. While my story is a very unlikely event that occurs, I ask myself everyday. Would I still do it?
Yes, I would go through EVERY moment of pain, every ounce of tears cried because I know, that in 2 months, my ability to walk, to explore, hike and see more of what this world has to offer me is within my reach.
For me, until I can walk a mile, until I can hike a hillside, I will not be completely happy. I will not celebrate the new knee, until I know, I've earned it. I will continue to push myself to get to that point.