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The Common Surgery: Bigger Deal Than You Think

June 27, 2020

Another Way for week of June 26, 2020

Inch by inch, degree by degree, my husband is working to recover from knee replacement surgery he had March 10. He says now he will have to be in deep pain and unable to walk before he would ever decide to have the other knee replaced. His recovery therapy has been very painful and tedious with hours of aching and icing and later also using some heat to help heal the insult to his ligaments tied into the amazing knee cap.

Knee replacement surgery is very common. At the small but locally well-known and respected hospital where he had it done just four days before most of the U.S. closed down all elective surgeries because of the corona virus—they do a thousand or more a year. My mother had one knee done maybe ten years ago. She fared well. At our church, I can barely keep up with who is having which knee done. But, as Stuart would warn, it is no walk in the park.

Stuart’s new knee, about 2 weeks after surgery.

When you think of the trauma inflicted on that critical joint, one nurse painted the picture like this: They take your knee and cut through all the ligaments and tissue above it for several inches and fold all that open to cut loose your knee cap, then lift it out. Then they put in the artificial parts. When she described it like that, I thought, oh my, what have we done? Only the assurance that approximately 600,000 people a year in the U.S. have this done, and successfully recover and now feel less pain than they were living with before, gave me hope.

In Stuart’s defense of his difficulties, you should know that 35 years ago he had a fall at work resulting in a torn ACL (the key “anterior cruciate ligament” that stabilizes your knee) in this same knee and had surgery. That, plus arthritis, probably led to his current issues. His knee has not been fully functional in the way it should have been all these years. Later he also had another fall, and a doctor at the time said maybe he would need to get something fixed at some point, but it never bothered Stuart a lot, so we lived with it.

About six weeks after the knee surgery, we came to the realization that recovery was not going to happen in a sweet six weeks. The post-surgery therapists at the hospital warned that PT (physical therapy) stands for “pain and torture.” The doctor stressed that the important thing to remember is to push through the pain in order to make progress.

A physical therapist guides Stuart on his first walk down a hall.

But the therapist that Stuart went to emphasized not exercising to the point you have to grimace and grit your teeth. She said rather, to push yourself—yes—but you shouldn’t be experiencing extreme pain.

Many people have complications. Prior surgeries, scar tissue, one’s own conditioning, all contribute to how people recover. After the surgery was done, Dr. Pereles said the knee was in bad shape and he had found an “extra knee cap” floating around in there which he removed—probably tissue that had torn at one point.

We don’t want to scare off anyone else but it is serious surgery, and many who have had other surgeries, or had both a hip and knee replacement, say the knee was far more painful.

Stuart has showed grit and determination along with extreme frustration and pain. I was encouraged immensely as I watched (before limitations were placed on extra people being in the studio) a much younger man receiving therapy. He was well-muscled in his arms and legs and looked to be in very good shape, yet as a therapist pushed on his one knee (I’m thinking he may have had a sports injury), he began to shake and squirm and sweat like a woman in childbirth. I have helped at the bedside for laboring daughters for three of my grandsons. His sweating and grimacing and eeks and groans sounded as difficult as THAT labor. Yet he did not give up and got through.

Next week I’ll share part two about what came next on Stuart’s road to knee surgery recovery.

***

If you’ve had knee surgery, we’d love to hear all about it and how recovery went. Was it better or worse than you expected? Advice for others?

Of if you have permission to share someone else’s story, we’re all ears.

Stories here!

Want to share your story or a comment? Reach me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

6 Comments
  1. I’m sorry to hear that Stuart is having so much pain and slow progress. FYI, I still do my basic recovery exercises daily. Blessings.

    • Thanks, Bruce. Your therapy recommendation (when so many places were closed) was so much appreciated. He will continue with his basic recovery exercises as well.

  2. Be careful what you ask for, Melodie! Everybody has knee stories. Be aware that the dysfunction both before and after surgery can throw your whole body out of whack. Nearly two years after my replacement walking still feels like a chore both because I have never been able to get the knee quite straight (just half-inch short of full flat) and my hip flexors have gotten weak and out of shape. Still working on it. Courage, Stuart! Love your whole body!

    • I hear what you are saying about how the surgery–and the medications–can throw your body (and emotions) out of whack. Stuart reached full flat soon after surgery, the doctor praised that, but we’re still working on his flexion–to use the therapeutic term (I guess). Thanks for the feedback, Nancy!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Things to Know Before Opting for Knee Replacement | findingharmonyblog
  2. Building a Woodshed: A Year in the Making | findingharmonyblog

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