Post-op

As I mentioned earlier, on Monday I had surgery for a total replacement of my left knee. Long story short: it went better than I could have ever imagined.

The first thing I was to say is how wonderful the staff at the hospital was. Everyone there seemed to focus on making sure that a) I knew what was going on around me and b) that I was feeling OK. To illustrate this, I took a pano of my view from my bed:

Hospital wall charts
Hospital wall charts at the foot of my bed

The charts have most of the information I needed. The leftmost chart shows what I should expect for my progress after the surgery until I am discharged; the center chart has the name of my doctors and nurses, along with notes on what I had already done; and the chart of the right lists all the medications I was on, what they were for, and what other effects they might have. When a new shift came on, the first thing the nurses did was introduce themselves and write their names down. This was very helpful to my drug-addled brain!

Speaking of drug-addled, I don't remember anything from when they wheeled me into the operating room until when I was back in my room. However, my wife spoke with me as soon as I came out of recovery, and said I told her about several things that happened as they were prepping me for surgery, as well as some comments about waking up in the recovery room. I don't remember any of that! Apparently whatever sedative they gave me didn't interfere with short-term memory, but prevented long-term memories from forming. It's so odd to have someone talk about things that you told them, and you have no clue!

I got precious little sleep that night. First, there is the problem with being awakened every few hours for blood pressure / heart rate measurement. But the main problem was that I had to put my surgical leg into this foam block that elevated my heel an inch or so above the bed. That may not sound like much, but the effect is to force my leg to stretch, as there was nothing supporting my knee. That constant stretching is essential to getting the full range of motion back, but oh man was it painful, even after taking the opioid painkillers! However, after 3 nights of using the block, it feels fine. Making progress like that is always encouraging.

The day after surgery they got you out of bed early to do some physical therapy, and then later had classes for "The Joint Club": all the people who had had joint replacements the previous day. The nurses and physical therapists went over all of the exercises we would need to do for the next 6 weeks, making sure that everyone was doing them correctly. They also answered all the questions people had about what they should expect. I left there feeling that I knew just how things would progress. Boy, was I wrong! But in a good sense – my progress has been even better!

I've gotten a good range of motion back, although I still have a ways to go. I can walk without using my walker, but always use it for safety reasons: one fall and I could undo everything. I do the physical therapy exercises 3 times a day, and they can be very painful! When I'm doing them I keep reminding myself that this short-term pain will result in a much healthier knee in the long run.

And no post-operative report would be complete without a shot of the scar! Well, it's not a scar yet, but yesterday when the nurse came to inspect the wound and replace the dressing, I managed to get a shot of it: 32 meticulous staples that look like I have a zippered knee!

Post-surgery knee with staples

You can also see the compression marks on my skin. Apparently blood clots are a potential complication of this type of surgery, so besides exercises to keep the blood flowing, I have to wear compression stockings on both legs for 6 weeks. It ain't pretty, but if it keeps me healthy, so be it.

I'll try to post one more follow-up in a few weeks with my continued progress. Until then, back to the PT!

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