Here I am at just a week shy of three months knee replacement post-op . Most days, I’m doing great. There is still some swelling and muscle fatigue, but no pain in the knee itself. Flexibility in my right knee is nearly the same as my left and continues to improve. I can do pretty much everything equally with both legs – put on pants, shoes and socks (you don’t think about how much of a struggle those simple tasks can be), cross my legs, sleep on either side. I’ve even managed to kneel for short periods. (I was looking for something under my bed, get your minds out of the gutter.)
What I didn’t anticipate was the emotional and psychological challenges after surgery.
I joined a support group on Facebook for people who are pre- and post-surgery for hip and knee replacement. It’s been good for me to interact with others on the same journey, and see that I’m doing pretty well. Not in a competitive, I’m-better-than-you kind of way, but I’m-on-the-right-track way or it-could-be-worse way.
It was also validating for me to learn that other patients were having trouble adjusting after surgery or even postponing going through with surgery because of anxiety. My menfolk were a bit concerned about me prior to my surgery because I seemed almost elated about it. The day of, I was this ][ close to cancelling because I was so scared. I hadn’t put any real thought into it other than wanting my knee pain to stop. I didn’t consider how lonely and arduous recovery was going to be, and no one warned me about the extent of it.
I only had three weeks to prepare myself for surgery. Most people have months to get ready. Other than getting a walker and a cane, and invalid-proofing my home, I did nothing to prepare myself mentally because I knew virtually nothing about what to expect. And, I didn’t ask many questions because I didn’t know what questions to ask.
The hospital where I had the surgery did offer pre-surgery workshops, but because of the short window before my surgery, there wasn’t a scheduled session I could attend. Perhaps some of my concerns were addressed there, I don’t know. Based on what others in my support group say, there was little done to help prepare them for the emotional after effects.
At my last check-in, my surgeon finally told me that full recover could take a year. I don’t remember signing up for that. There is no knee pain, but there is still stiffness and some puffiness, and numbness. My new knee doesn’t quite feel like mine yet, which is weird on so many levels. Some days I feel like I’m moving backward, and that can be demoralizing and make me question all my decisions up to this point.
I don’t regret anything. I am glad I went through with the surgery, but I wish I had known how frustrated I would get wanting the recovery to be quicker. Or how isolated I would feel, or how defensive I would get.
I have a temporary handicap parking permit – it expires at the end of next month. The first few weeks, I really needed it. Now, I’m not using a walker or cane, but it can still be difficult to walk distances. I’m just waiting for someone to challenge me for not “looking handicapped.” I even have my comeback rehearsed. It’s ridiculous.
There are days when it’s hard to feel motivated and all I want to do is sit on the couch with my leg up and an ice pack strapped to my knee. Other days, I want to run five miles… I’ve never been able to run five miles, but hey, I’ve got this new bionic knee.
This knee thing has turned out to be a wild roller coaster ride. I can only hope that at the end, I can say, “Again!” and really mean it because I may have to.