Thursday, April 23, 2015

Reflections on a new knee

Funny how surgery can throw you for a loop.

Fifteen days ago, I had a knee replaced. Pulled the 1950 chassis into the OR, went to sleep and woke up with a new part. The old knee saw me through 64 years. Not bad for original equipment. I could say that they don't make them like that any more, but that's not true. Blood and bone and sinew continues to be manufactured into humans on a daily basis. Thanks to modern medicine, the old, worn-out stuff can be replaced. Knees, shoulders, hips, heart valves -- all available for the asking and the affording.

I took the long route to replacement. Despite daily pain, I had the left knee scoped the same weekend Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. I watched round-the-clock hurricane coverage almost guilt-free. The weather was glorious in Wyoming and I would have felt awful staying inside to immerse myself in tragedy. But I had an excuse. For the next decade, I relied on exercise and Alleve and occasional steroid injections. Finally I got the word from my orthopedic doc. I had four options. I could do nothing, always a popular option for us procrastinators. I could rely on the calming ministrations of Alleve. More injections. Finally, surgery.

This is elective surgery but should not be undertaken lightly, especially if you're a heart patient, as I am. Dr. Shannon sent me to my cardiologist and my family doctor. After a battery of tests, including a stress test that wasn't too stressful, they cleared me for surgery. Meanwhile, I wrecked my car. There was no replacing parts in my Ford Fusion. Totalled. Not something you want to hear about your favorite car or favorite human. So, I got a total car replacement.

Until Jan. 2, 2013, I had been a stranger to hospitals. I was ten years old the last time I was a hospital patient. I was 62 when dragged to the ER with a heart attack. A five-decade hiatus -- not bad. My heart attack and subsequent surgeries made me comfortable with hospitals. I almost look forward to visiting them now.


Knee replacement surgery takes less than an hour. The surgeon applies a tourniquet so staunch the blood flow. The experts work fast. Soon I'm in the recovery room wondering what the heck happened. I'm hooked up to oxygen and IV. My left leg was being flexed by a CPM. Must move that new knee -- no rest for the stunned.

So here I am -- 15 days out. The pain is lessening. Dr. Shannon's assistant removed the 32 staples that sealed the incision on April 8. Doctor's orders say I must keep moving and keep recuperating.

OK, doc.


Sam said...


This explains why the blog has not been updated for a bit. Glad you had this done. My father in law has had both his knees done while in his 80's and did well. Virgil said the key is to do the therapy! So, do the therapy!

New knee, new car. Good luck.


Michael Shay said...

Lots and lots of therapy. It all hurts. That's what the docs promised -- pain. For awhile.