knee replacement rehab: day 10

sidewalkOn October 30, I logged my 4th knee surgery. High five me, because those frequent flyer surgery miles are beginning to stack up. What makes this surgery more interesting for me is that it wasn’t a repair, scope or ligament transplant. I got the replacement. I think that means I get the extended warranty AND the “free” undercoating package upgrade. Since ownership of a brand new cobalt chrome replacement knee comes with new responsibilities, I also need to upgrade its support system. Today is the tenth day since my surgery and I had a nice walk this morning. It was 0.82 miles, just around the block and a little more. But I would like to start at the beginning so I could explain why I wanted to write about robot knees and learning to walk again. Here we go.

The first day, I woke up high. The nurse was telling me that it was almost time to take a little walk, and that my snack would be ready after that. Looking down the bed, I saw my left knee slowing moving in a little motorized cradle. This device looks impressive when you are still coming down from the anesthesia and the Oxy is just starting its fluffy cushion ride. Also, my legs were wrapped up in a bunch of blue cloth and velcro straps. I asked the next person who came into my room about that and they said I was wearing a STD to keep the swelling down. I laughed, they laughed with me. They then helped me up, showed me my walker (yikes) and we took a few steps out into the hallway. Then I ate a little, slept a lot, and pretended to watch TV while my wife Leslie looked kinda worried.

The next day I found out that the blue leg wrap thing was actually called an SCD, which stands for Sequential Compression Device. It is like a milking machine for your legs. It has a cold pad built in somehow for the surgery side and it felt great. Then there were more visits from new staff people in the room, who showed me some exercises to do while I was in bed, and more walks in the hall. I was still pretty high, so was very agreeable to any and everything they wanted me to do. Leslie looked a little less worried and when she smiled it seemed like things were going OK. By the evening, I was asking the nurse, again, if my catheter could be taken out, and all they would say is that the doctor would be talking to me about it soon. I also asked about going home and they said maybe on the third or fourth day. And they did finally take out the catheter, good times. More sleeping, another walk, dinner in bed and lights out again.

The morning of the third day, they told me that I could go home. While I was waiting they started me on some new exercises and let me go farther down the hall during my walks. And I was allowed to practice getting up and down some stair steps. A little after lunch, Leslie and I went home! Home never looked better.

Day four I was happy to wake up at home. Anyway, blah blah blah, ice water, ice pack, knee exercises, TV, meal, and finally it was time to get my first walk outside. Me and my walker out on the front side walk. We live on a corner, so I went out to the street then around to the side of our house and back. It was the highlight of the day.

Day five. I met my assigned physical therapist for the first workout. She was pretty cool and allowed me to call her, “Coach Jenny.” More exercises and walking and then she explained to me how I needed rehab on more than just my new knee. She said that because my knee had been messed up for a long time, it had changed the way I walked and that my leg muscles were weak from using them less and less over the years. I was a little down, but I knew she was right. She also explained how the upper leg muscles can be kind of sleepy after this surgery and that we would have to practice making them contract to get all the feeling and movement back. This was the tough part.

On the sixth day I was able to trade my walker for a cane. Progress. My walks out on the sidewalk were lasting longer too. I was getting more confident.

Day seven I decided to go all the way around our block. It was pretty slow the first time, and I struggled to finish, but I made it. Over the next few days my times improved and I was starting to feel almost normal again. This brings us back to today.

Today during my walk I realized that it really doesn’t matter how fast I walk around the block. What matters most is that I do some every day. It’s just like writing. If I find a way to do some every day, then the other things will all work out better.

So I slowed down and tried to look around more. I was about halfway around the block. It was a beautiful day, sunny, about 67 degrees and I felt good, good enough to go a little farther than usual and I enjoyed every step. That’s when I decided that I needed to write something about every single walk for the next 100 days. I need all the reasons I can find sometimes to take those first few steps. The exercises still make me a little sore. And when I have been sitting for a little while, getting up is uncomfortable. Yes, I do enjoy my euphemisms now and then, but I had a great walk today and tomorrow I will find my way out onto the sidewalk again. Then I will come back here and be accountable to this page. All-righty then. See you back here again after my next walk.

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