Dear Knee-Surgery Me.

Sooo, I had my knee surgery on the 24th of August.  Fun times, let me just tell you.  Since I am definitely going to need surgery on my left knee and will probably need more surgery (in the form of a knee replacement) on my right, I thought it best to write to my future self.  I am not a patient person and this surgery/recovery is definitely a test of the patience I do have.  The note is a pep talk to future self from an optimistic me….(note that I still walk with a limp, I still can’t drive, and it still hurts a lot, but I have faith it will heal – at least until the next surgery).

Dear Me,
So, you’ve had another knee surgery and you’re going out of your mind.  You’re frustrated at the excruciatingly slow progress.  You’re frustrated that instead of just being a simple meniscal tear repair your entire kneecap needed to be shaved and re-sculpted, because it’s. that. messed. up.  You’re hurting and your leg is swollen and, if history repeats itself, that lovely betadine they painted you in from hip to toe has now given you a lovely, itchy rash.  It’s horrible.

Your dreams of a quick recovery, of knowing what to expect this time around, of being able to even bend your leg enough to make one rotation on the recumbent bike?  Dashed. You can spend an hour sitting on that bike and not be able to bend your knee enough to make one rotation.  It’s frustrating.  It’s painful.  It’s annoying.

But I’m here to remind you, you who is me in the future, that progress is being made.  Sure, total knee replacement was not something you anticipated hearing at the tender age of late-30-something, but it is what it is.  And if you need one, you need one.  What’s more important – being able to sit on the floor with your children and future grandchildren or not getting one?  Think long term.  This pain will pass.

Remember, as you recover, that after about a week and a half, around 4pm everyday, your knee is going to swell and it’s going to hurt like anything.  The only thing that makes it feel better is resting in bed, leg up, with an ice pack on – after taking a couple ibuprofen.  Because after a week and a half, you can stop taking the narcotics.  Really.  The pain isn’t bad enough to take them anymore and they make you feel loopy.  But you’ll still need the ibuprofen, so stock up beforehand.

Stairs are still going to be a challenge, as is getting in and out of the shower (unless you get rid of the glass shower doors and get a curtain), but it’s getting easier and you’re getting faster.  Instead of 10 minutes for 15 stairs, you can make it in under 5.  Next week, you’ll be tackling them in under 3.  Yes, it hurts.  Yes, it sometimes feels like more effort than it’s worth to go up and down the stairs, but it’s worth it.  Each step is strengthening your leg, your knee, your spirit.

If you’re reading this before your surgery, take these tips to heart…

  • Don’t shave your legs the morning of your surgery.  It makes the betadine allergy rash that much worse.
  • Two pillows under the knee, two pillows under the calf.
  • Wear shorts or pants with pockets – you’ll want to take your cell phone up and down the stairs.
  • Speaking of stairs…tighten the handrail.  A lot.
  • Forget about getting to your office for a few weeks.  Bring everything to your bedroom.
  • Expect to cry from pain.  And emotions.  And the narcotics.  A lot.  And unexpectedly.
  • You’re impatient.  This healing process thing?  It requires patience.  A lot of it.  Suck it up.
  • Plan meals ahead of time and have them frozen and ready to dump in the crockpot.  It’s going to save you from having to stand at the end of the day when your knee is so swollen.
  • If it’s your left leg, driving should be okay in a week.  If it’s your right leg, plan on doing a lot of online shopping because you’re not driving anywhere for about a month.

It’s not fun.  It’s not pleasant.  And, chances are that the doctor had to do a lot more damage repair than either he or you anticipated.  But this too shall pass.  You’ll feel better in time.  You’ll be able to walk without limping, you’ll be able to roll over in bed (although you’ll still need pillows under your knees – 1 per knee!), and you’ll be able be able to get out of bed without crying.  Chin up, friend.  We’ve done this together before and we can do it again.  I believe in you!


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