Adrift

I am recovering nicely, with some pauses for the agony of physical therapy.  I have made a decision to wean myself off of pain meds, and Tylenol is my new go-to for discomfort.  The last two days have found me a little mushy in spirit, and I figure that as soon as I am free of darvocet, I will be in a better place.  At least I hope so.  I have driven myself  to meetings twice (unsanctioned), and I did fine.  I just get so tired!  Showering, washing my hair, dragging the gimp leg around- these are such menial activities- yet they take the starch from me.  I hate that!  I know, day by day all will be well.  Napping is something I never did before, and now it is part of each afternoon.  My staples will come out tomorrow, and I am off Coumadin.  I do not see my Doctor until June 2nd for a review, and I am determined to go in without a limp or gimp. 

I had my surgery at the same place I had my babies, Hinsdale Adventist.  It was somewhat comforting to see the Creation murals as I checked in.  No matter how routine the procedure is, there is advance praying involved.  In fact,the chaplain prayed with us before anesthesia was administered, and I appreciated that, especially after all the possible disasters associated with a spinal block were explained.  It is always a fun distraction to see Steve bow his head and try to be solemn.  

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Dr. Michael Collins, the ultimate pain reliever. ( I hope) 
There are fancy pants medical centers like Rush with great orthopedic reputations, but knee replacement does not require a reinvention of the wheel.  My doctor, Michael Collins of Hinsdale Orthopedic, is pretty much limiting his practice to knees these days.  He scoped me last year, saw there was no cartilage, and said I should wait till the pain really limited my life before I got a new knee.  As I grew less able to do everyday things, I pushed.  Finally I convinced him that I needed to rejoin a life that included walking and exercise.  Seeing your brother with heart grafts at age 57 will stimulate the urge to exercise like no other incentive.  
Dr. Collins could probably do this surgery in his sleep.  He has remained at the forefront of knee replacement with the use of custom DePuy replacement parts, built to order based on a CAT scan.  The essential benefit is that the joint does not require the sanding and filing to insert because it is calibrated to the owner's leg.  So the surgery is shorter, with less anesthesia.  He also was among the first to embrace the Polar Care 500 to reduce swelling.  I have that sweet puppy at home for any future injuries or emergencies.  I suppose it could ease a hangover.  Having my surgery close to home made it possible for Steve to pop in and out and maintain his routines.  I would have pouted if he wasn't there when I was helpless, and I told him so.  I was not going to leave this to chance, and pout.  It turns out, I should never have worried.  He was my constant companion.  He and Dr. Collins bonded at 6:30 am over their aversion to Chatty Janet, or Janter as the kids call it.   I blame morphine.  Steve blames me.
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 Sweet Steve, spending his days with me.   
Dr. Collins has 12 kids, and if he is even molecularly like Steve, he loves to work to escape the chaos of family.  He also has written two books and plays in an Irish band.  I guess I should feel fortunate he took time off to tinker with me.  He is all business, and his business is knees.  That gives a patient a great deal of confidence.  
This past week was Nurse Appreciation Week, and I never got around to saying a public thank you to the caregivers who surrounded me 24/7, regulating all the bags of stuff, monitoring me, warming me, cooling me, teaching me, and pushing me to feel better and take on challenges.  Their patience and wisdom assured me.  I was glad to be in the safety of a hospital rather than released, as is the protocol for the new minimally invasive surgeries.  I could not have taken such good care of myself.  I would have been confused and overwhelmed.  As it turns out, three days is the perfect distance between fear and confidence.  The nurses paved the way. What a hard job, and an important one.   
My best boost came from my daytime nurse tech- a firecracker named Margo ( I think Margaret, but they shorten their names to attach themselves to your morphine hazed head)  She taught me to get up out of bed to walk to the washroom.  That ended up being the turning point for me- I could brush my teeth, wash up, comb my hair, and plan my exit strategy.  She was energized, positive, and loved her job.  She wasn't there the day I checked out, but I will never forget her assistance. 
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Gus and Janet, cruising the halls.  
They hospital has a passel of physical therapists, and they gave me the tools to toddle home with safety.  When they open the stairwell, and tell you to go on ahead up the stairs, you gasp.  But then they show you how to do it safely, and you have a "get out of jail free" card.  My last few sessions were with Gus, and he gave me some simple clues, like "go down on Hell (bad leg) and up on Heaven (good leg).  When the brain is trying to purge morphine and anesthesia, those little  shortcuts are a help. These were the people who strapped me into the motion machine and challenged me to get to 100 degrees flexion before I checked out.  I made it-barely. Now I have tilted to 118 with a great deal of pressure and pushing.  I still cannot lay the leg totally flat, but it will come, in time.  
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The motion machine, taking a break; my feet, enjoying their freedom.
Dr. Collins does not send the machine home with the patient.  I am now my own flexion guru, with a tortuous assist from Kristina, my house calling physical therapist.  I know that avoiding scar tissue and adhesion is the goal.  Torture and extreme manipulation is the methodology.  It is a beast.  I cry and cringe so much that Black Lab Mabel stands by protectively. It is the first time in her 9 years that she has demonstrated loyalty.  If I say "stop" Kristina  will stop, but it is hard to lower the bar on myself. She says they are not allowed to say "no pain, no gain" but it is understood.  
My last recovery methodology has been to buy the ugliest shoes in America, MBT rockers that will encourage me to walk correctly.  Apparently I walk flat footed;  I need to stretch my tendons and ligaments or I will be forever stiff. These shoes force me to walk in a heel/toe pattern.  I bought a particularly ugly model, on sale for $100.  It may be the best hundred I spent so far, if I can undo the damage caused by walking lock kneed.  However, all my pants are flood pants now, and that is a bitch, because these clod hoppers require disguise.  Again, no pain, no gain.  
Steve has been a wonderful caregiver, and I know how glad he will be to have me at 100% again.  It is just beyond reach- but I see it.  It has taken a village of professionals and friends to carry me along to this point, and I will never forget all the kindness.  As I reconnect the mosaic pieces of my life, which has been affected for two weeks by fatigue and a short attention span, I am grateful to every one who has helped physically, spiritually and emotionally.  There is no turning back.  I am armed with a new knee and I am dangerous.  I have a rocking cane to enforce order in my universe.  Now I am going to nap.  

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  • Janet, it sounds like you are doing a fantastic job of rehabbing yourself (along with your entire support system). Good for you! Work hard, but take care and perhaps we will see you in the Chicago Marathon one day! (okay, might be a bit ambitious, but...)

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