Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Knee Saga Continues

Well, that was different.

I wake up in a perfectly nice hospital room, a 10-inch incision on my right knee and loaded with painkillers. I had just experienced a total knee replacement. And people were now insisting I get out of bed and walk.

Which I did. It went much more smoothly than I thought possible. My aluminum walker, like the one you see old people using to block aisles at HEB, made it easy as pie. I was momentarily hesitant to take that first step. I had just had much of my old knee removed, replaced by a shiny new one of titanium and plastic. Who knew what would happen? I took a step and then took another. Didn’t fall. Wasn’t blinded with pain. In fact, I didn’t have any pain, period. It was wonderful.

The nursing staff and hospital physical therapy guy smiled. Wait, they said. Your body is still pumped with whatever wonderful combination of anesthesia they used for surgery. In three days, it will wear off and you’ll experience the wonders of a wounded body healing from grievous injury. They were right. It wasn’t terrible pain, just something sharp and achy enough to remind you’d had major surgery.

I went in for surgery on a Monday and left Wednesday shortly afternoon. In that time, I learned some PT exercises and how to use the CPM — continuous passive motion — machine which mechanically flexes and extends the knee tirelessly for two hours at a time. Keeps the range of motion supple and muscles and tendons stretched out.

Wednesday, I went home with my exercises, my CPM and pain medication. Ginny kept me on the exercise regimen, as did a home PT guy. Between them, I walked, stretched, flexed, etc.

By Thursday, I was pretty convinced this was the stupidest idea I’d ever had and would never do it again. That’s a pretty common reaction, my surgeon’s office said. Healing is a process and the misery ebbs and flows. But it gets better. Just continue doing the exercises, keep moving and stay ahead of the pain.

True enough. Today is January 24. just shy a day of tw0 weeks since surgery. The pain is more annoying than hurtful and I keep moving. Today, Ginny and I took advantage of an amazingly beautiful Winter day to go to Denman Park and walk. There we traveled 0.37 of a mile and watched ducks play in a pond. That may not sound impressive, but before surgery, I could rarely get much more than a quarter-mile walk without grinding bone on bone.

Ginny and I now have one new knee each. By Summer, we hope, we’ll both have replacement knees all around and go a-traveling. Life, after all, means you keep moving.  20160112_094913





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Portland International Airport, Dec. 30, 2015

Ice on the roof.DSCN1199

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A Farewell To Knees

Before the sun rises on January 11 and without the aid of coffee, I will report to a hospital on San Antonio’s northside where a pleasantly friendly, skilled orthopedic surgeon will begin the process of removing my old, worn-out right knee. And replace it with a new titanium one. Some 6 to 8 weeks later, we’ll repeat the process on the left one. The medical pros call it TKR — total knee replacement.

I’m really looking forward to it.

More more years than I care to admit, my knees have been a pain. They ache in damp and cold. They grow stiff. They crackle and pop at the most inopportune times. They have grown unstable to the point I feel like I’m walking stilts. Osteoarthritis will do that. It’s a slow degeneration of the cartilage or cushioning  material between the joint.  Wait long enough and you get bone on bone. That’s where my knees have taken me now.

The surgeon assures me it will be an easy thing, relatively speaking. The operation takes 90 minutes and I’ll spend maybe two nights in the hospital. It has been done a gazillion times with positive results. I will be able to walk more easily and without pain. After I learn to walk again.

There are other benefits. The surgeries will help straighten my bowed legs and make me a little taller.

This is going to be a new experience. I’ve never had major surgery, not counting removal of four wisdom teeth and repair of a deviated septum. I haven’t been hospitalized in nearly 46 years when I spent a week in an Army hospital with mononucleosis.

Ginny went through this some dozen years or so ago when she shattered her left knee while teaching Boy Scouts to ride a bike. One of them had difficulty remembering how to use the brake. The extensiveness of the fracture and complications with her rheumatoid arthritis resulted in a total knee replacement. She will be a difficult act to follow. She hated using a wheelchair and hated using a cane. She wanted to walk and she did as soon as humanly possible, without complaint. I prefer to whimper and complain.

I discovered that before TKR, you must spend an hour in Joint Class, learning how they’ll fit a metal-and-plastic device onto  your leg and the strengthening exercises necessary to deal with it. Also, you learn the kinds of drains and IV ports that will be attached and how the surgical incision will be covered. And how you will be up on your feet pretty much as soon as you wake. And then there’s the post-surgery physical therapy.

I am looking forward to it. Really. I’m tired of the pain. I’m tired of cutting short walks with the dogs. I want to explore different cities and lost places with my wife. We have walked all over Paris and London and explored battlefields and our own hometown streets, and there is so much more world to see that require me doing more than hobble around, grimacing.

My rheumatologist told me once  you know when it’s time for TKR (I love saying that) when the pain really gets in the way. That’s now. The old knees have done their job middling well for nearly 70 years. It’s time for them to go. We’ll see how it goes.





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