Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Knee: Expanding the Meaning of "Okay"

The knee surgery is over, occurring approximately 19 hours ago. According to my orthopedic surgeon, it was a pretty straightforward fix.

One of the hardest parts, actually, was forgoing my morning thermos-full of coffee yesterday, a key ingredient in my breakfast. That, and having to remind myself moment-by-moment to NOT drink any water, or take my now-routine "senior pills" (Omega-3, Vitamin D, and a 50+ women's multivitamin). Not even being allowed my anti-inflammatory pill was beginning to affect my comfort. As Laura, my dear friend and expert geriatric caretaker, bundled me into her vehicle and drove off to nearby Glendale, I kept up this manta, this will be over soon.

After an impressively efficient pre-op, the anesthesiologist gave me "a little something just to relax" me. Relax, indeed; the next thing I remember was hearing a cheery nurse say, "Hey, honey, you okay? It's all over."

Laura schlepped me home, and in my feel-great afterglow, I seem to recall telling her, "Yeah, the doctor says I can walk on this as much as I can tolerate." She guffawed, and cautioned that my momentary can-do confidence was influenced by the anesthesia. "Just see how you feel tomorrow."

Once home, I was ready to party. I decided I deserved some post-op comfort food. I shared a steak-and-cheese pizza, barbeque wings, and diet Coke with Esmeralda, the newest member of my mother's tag-team of care providers. My base camp was set up in the living room, with Law & Order reruns as background noise. I wasn't capable of much focus; I kept reaching for my 8-inch-high stack of magazines, picking one at random, then perusing it for about three minutes before putting it back down. Poor Tiggy, usually so blase, kept coming over with wide eyes, wondering why Mom was lying wasted on the sofa on a weekday.

Moments of "This isn't very productive" messages instantly gave way to "Yeah, so what?". I became strangely fascinated with my discharge paperwork, with its list of at-home exercises I was to begin as soon as possible...tomorrow maybe...

3 PM. "Purple haze" was giving way to "When's the pharmacy going to get here?" When the doorbell finally rang, I almost forgot my condition, and Esmeralda had to remind me that she also could answer it.

Little blue bottles of Ultram and Toradol...come to Mama!

8 PM. It was amazing how fast post-op sleepiness came. And how wide-awake I then felt at 11:30. I resisted the temptation to trundle out with the walker to watch TV, opting instead for nighttime classical music radio. That cushy pillow between my knees felt soooo good...ahhh...

5 AM. My usual wake-up time. Forgetting yesterday's events for a moment, I started my usual slide to the bedside, and was brought up short by the massive wrapping around my right knee. Oookay, I need to make some adjustments...

I eased myself up, and was amazed that the sensation was more rigidity than pain (which evened out over the next hour or so). Yeah, those exercises are going to be necessary.

While leaning heavily on the walker, I began to consider how easily a patient could develop carpal tunnel. Last week, my new crutches were simply handed to me at the front door by a delivery person, without even a cursory how-to instruction. My use of this equipment has been by a self-taught process. Is this more often the case than not? How many others out there risk injury by not using assistive equipment properly? This is a topic for another time.

I checked in on my mother, reminding her that Esmeralda would be here momentarily to assist with her morning routine. The fact that Mom remembered this arrangement was a good sign. Anticipating the front door opening filled me with relief. It's another sign that I won't be a wounded caregiver for long.

Hobbling around for brief periods of time, followed by exercises prescribed by the doctor. Showing Esmeralda the breakfast routine, then staying out of her way so she can assist both Mom and me. It's an elaborate dance.

I can do this. I will be okay, and then eventually more than that.

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