All I want for Christmas is a new right knee

This was my knee a week ago Monday morning. Original equipment. Completely stock, and completely worn out. I groaned every time I got out of a chair. I had to grit my teeth in pain on every stair case, either up or down. Couldn’t dance. It was time to have it replaced.

The process at Kaiser Hospital was not particularly difficult. I saw the orthopedic surgeon, had many x-rays taken, and then scheduled the surgery at their Antioch facility.

Things at a hospital proceed at their own pace, and you have absolutely no control over it. It is wisest to show up with a fully charged phone and a spare battery, prepared to be patient.

Here I am, in one of those absurd hospital gowns , mainly shaved and prepped, waiting. I did a lot of waiting. The large white hose to my right is blowing warm air into a balloon like blanket that covered me and kept me warm yet weighed nothing. It is a wonderful design.

In the fullness of time the surgeon and the anesthetist showed up, asked a bunch of questions I had already answered many times, then marked and signed my right knee. There will be no errors.

Finally, I was taken into the operating room. Then something happened, and I woke up in recovery. The most unpleasant part of the entire process was waking up to find I had no sensation whatsoever below my waist. They had given me a spinal anesthetic, and I could neither feel nor move either leg.

Another surgeon appeared to insert an anesthetic drip into the leg. The spinal was wearing off and a physical therapist presented herself to show me how to use a walker and take myself off to the bathroom. Yes, that means I was walking on the new knee in just a couple of hours. It also meant I had to prove I could pee before the let me go home. Remember the part about no feeling below the waist? There are situations you never really foresee.

Gail and granddaughter Tessa picked me up, and since I hadn’t eaten all day we headed for the most understaffed Burger Kind we could find.  A long time later we managed to get some food and headed home. It was a long day, but I managed to use my new walker and get into the house unaided.

The next morning Kaiser sent a physical therapist to the house to see that I was doing alright and to start the rehab process.  He was incredibly prompt, right to the minute, got me going and pointed in the direction of activity and flexibility.  He took the wrap off the leg.

Wednesday, I played bridge.  This surprised some people, but I could sit at home or be with my friends, which was better?  The short walk from the car to the club was required exercise in any case.

Friday I played again.  People were no longer surprised. Each day was better than the last, I got up easier, moved faster, had less pain.

Pain.  That’s a big subject.  Kaiser gives you a ton of hard narcotics and lots of information on how not to get addicted.  What they don’t give you is an option to use a milder, non-narcotic pain reliever.  I had to call the Orthopedics office, work my way through the phone tree, leave a message and finally get a call back to be clear that I could use up to 3500 milligrams a day of Tylenol.   That solves all my problems and you won’t find me standing on a street corner selling intrafinesses for drug money.

Saturday we had a party, and I overdid it. Too much fun, too much racing around enjoying our friends.  For the very first time in my life I told Gail I was going to bed before the guests left.  The next day, I did nothing and slowly recuperated.

Monday, Christmas Eve, I had my first PT appointment at Kaiser.  People had warned me that this would be difficult and painful, but it was neither.  There is another one tomorrow that may be more intense.

We went to Fresno for Christmas Eve dinner, and I even drove part of the way. Cruise control helps a lot, but I still needed Gail to help drive on the way home Christmas day.

I’m getting around pretty well. Sometimes I find myself walking without the walker because I just forgot. I’ll likely graduate to a cane within the week.

Knee replacement is so common I’m thinking of it as the old guy’s tonsillectomy.  It isn’t fun, but it’s not awful and soon I’ll have the flexibility and strength of a youngster of 60.


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