Sunday, June 30, 2013

This Year's Garden

This year's garden is all thanks to the Hubs.  I did plant the 2 tomato plants, but otherwise, I haven't been there to do much at all.  I am enjoying the harvest however.

For the last week or so, we've been getting a daily harvest of sugar snap peas.  We had enough tonight to have them for dinner.  Steamed with a little salt.... mmmmm  ... Veggie Perfection!  As you can see we've also had a huge crop of lettuce.  Hubs picks off the outer leaves for our salads, and it never looks like he took any off.  We've also harvested 1 cherry tomato so far.

Even all the wildlife that we get in the yard at Old House has left things alone, thanks to our little meagre fence.  Yea for the garden!!!

Day 19 - Progress continues...

While I have seen progress every day, most of the progress has been in the strength of my leg.  It was a big day when I was able to lift my foot off the floor, and I can now get it up about 80% to the lockout position on my chair-straight-leg raises.  I still can not raise it off the bed in my straight-leg raises there.

One of my biggest frustrations these last 19 days has been in my sleeping positions.  My leg was dead-weight in bed for a long time, and so I used my sheet to move it during the night.  For the most part, I've only been able to sleep on my back with my legs out straight.  This becomes uncomfortable, but without alternative positions, I've been forced to deal with it, although my back complains loudly.

I am very excited to announce progress in this regard.  A couple of nights ago, I was able to roll on to my right side and put Bessie on a pillow out in front of my right leg, and that was comfortable for probably 20-30 min at a time.  Last night, I was able to sleep on my left side for awhile (maybe as much as an hour).  I am now able to move my leg enough that I don't have to only use the sheet to move it, I can move it somewhat under my own leg-power.

For some reason 4:00 am is the magic hour.  At that time, I wake up, no matter what time I went to sleep, and I am very stiff.  I have to spend some time moving and stretching - legs, arms, back.  Before, after I stretched, I just went back to sleep in the same position, only to wake up a couple hours later, stiff again.  Now, I can find other positions to alternate, and that helps a lot with the stiffness. I still can only stay in one position for 30-60 min before I am starting to get uncomfortable and have to move again, but this is better than it was.

Before I had my surgery, I usually went to sleep on my right side and slept that way for a couple of hours.  Then I would wake up and flip over to the left side for a couple of hours - and alternate that all night.  I'm looking forward to a time when I can return to that routine.

I have also been drinking a lot of water since surgery, which means I usually have to get up during the night to go to the bathroom.  This is a good excuse to work out the stiffness, but it is still an annoyance.  Last might I made it until 6 am before I had to get up.

So, the side-sleeping thing is huge, and I'm excited that I can now do that.  I can also now get up off the bed without having to cross Bessie over my right leg for an assist.

That's it for now.  I hope you are all enjoying a nice weekend.  We had about 2" of rain here yesterday evening.  It all came down in less than an hour in a huge downpour.  We stood and watched it pour over the eaves trough at the front of Old House.  Maybe we need to get our gutters cleaned out?

Talk to you again soon!


Saturday, June 29, 2013

3rd Book Done... and Then There's TV...

I just finished my 3rd book:  Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks.  Yes, it is totally chick-lit.  I love Nicholas Sparks and have read all of his books, going all the way back to his first, The Notebook.  The only one I didn't like and couldn't finish was Three Weeks With My Brother which is his only non-fiction work.  I have heard all the negatives - his books are sappy, emotional and very predictable.  I'm ok with that.  I like his writing style, and I enjoy being transported into the world he's created.  It is a nice escape.

This book is a romance set in North Carolina.  A young woman shows up in a small town.  She's on the run from an abusive relationship and she has changed her identity so that her husband can't find her.  Most of the story is told from her point of view, but there are some chapters written from the point of view of the husband and how he reacts to coming home and finding her gone.  I'm not really giving anything away by saying that after a period of about 6 months or so, he does track her down and go after her.  (Predictable, remember?)  The climax of the story is the sequence of events that happens when he finds her.  That's all I'm going to say.  If you know Nicholas Sparks books, you know that they always have happy endings...

This has been made into a movie, and I have it on my Netflix list, so I will be getting it in the next week or two.

Also through Netflix, I am watching the series Downton Abbey from the beginning.  I had not watched any of it when it was on TV because it is on on Sunday nights, and I'm usually doing school work on Sunday nights.  I have read and seen a lot about Highclere Castle in England, so that captured my attention.  I started watching it mainly for the scenery and costumes, but after 1 episode I was hooked on the story.  I absolutely LOVE Maggie Smith, the woman who plays the Grande Dame of the family.  Her rye humor makes me laugh out loud.  There are 2 servants who are quite devious, so it is fun to see what they come up with in each episode, and 2 of the 3 daughters are constantly sniping at each other.

Here we go with the whole heir to the estate thing again and its close companion, the arranged marriage (of course there is no male heir in the immediate family...).  In fact, the story begins with the announcement of the sinking of the Titanic on which the heir to the estate (a cousin of the family) has perished.  Then the household, both upstairs family and downstairs servants, are thrown into a tizzy wondering who will now inherit the estate since it can't go to a lowly woman!  The oldest daughter Mary had been expected to marry this now-deceased cousin, so the search is on for a new suitor for her, much to her disgust.  She makes it clear that she will NOT be matched to someone she doesn't love.  But, but, but.... TRADITION?  Ah yes, Mary, and her sisters, are getting uppity, as women were wont to do back in that time.

There have been 3 seasons of the story so far (it began in 2010).  The first season had 7 episodes, and I have watched 5 of those so far.  This weekend, I will complete #6 & 7.  Then there are seasons 2 and 3 with another 18 episodes between them.  Season 4 doesn't resume until January of 2014, so I've got plenty of time to get caught up.  I am alternating discs of this with movies since I can have 2 out at once on my Netflix subscription.

The weather is gorgeous in Central Ohio right now.  I hope everyone enjoys a glorious weekend!    Thanks for reading and for your continued support!

:) Amy

Friday, June 28, 2013

Day 17 - PT Progress

Today was my last day of home PT.  I start in a facility on Monday.  For his last hurrah, Andrew gave me some great numbers!

For my passive bend - which is me lying on my side, pulling my leg back as far as I can just under my own leg-power, I had advanced from 78 degrees to 88 degrees.  He was able to pull me to 90 degrees!!!  That is 20 degrees of progress in 11 days !!!  I am psyched!!

He gave me a few other exercises to do, which are all done standing with my walker:  Kicking out to the side, and kicking back (standing on each leg).  Then another was a variation of the squats I've been doing, where I pull my other leg forward a bit rather than having my feet lined up.

We also talked about walking, which he really hadn't mentioned before.  I asked him if I should start walking outside, longer distances than I can do in the house.  He said yes.  He also gave me suggestions of some things I can work on if/when I walk... like stretching my leg behind me with each step I take.

I feel really strong after today's workout.  It seems that my afternoon workout is my most productive.  For my morning session, I'm still sort of stiff.  For my evening workout I'm starting to get tired.

I didn't take any Vicodin yesterday until bedtime, and I haven't taken any today yet.  I do have a new pain once in awhile.  It is a stabbing pain just to the outside and above my kneecap.  When I push on it, it goes away quickly.  Andrew says those kinds of things are signs that my muscles are working.

So that's my news for today.  Thanks for reading!!


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Movie Viewing - 2 Movies

One of the things I'm doing to pass the time is watch movies that I'm getting from Netflix.  I've had a Netflix account off and on for several years.  I've learned that I really don't have much time during the school year for movies because I spend my precious-little viewing time on TV shows that I've recorded on the DVR.  

In anticipation of my extended down-time this summer, I restarted Netflix at the beginning of June.  The first movie I watched was The Dutchess, staring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes (2008).  Here is the short summary of the plot from IMDB:  "A chronicle of the life of 18th century aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who was reviled for her extravagant political and personal life."  

This is supposedly based on real people and real events.  Based on my viewing of the movie, I don't think it has much to do with her extravagant political life, although that is mentioned.  I found the story to be more about her relationship with her husband, the Duke of Devonshire.  The Duke married Georgiana Spencer in 1774 with one goal in mind: to have a male heir.  How unusual for an 18th century story, you say!  She married him, naively believing that he loved her and that he would be good to her.  She quickly learned that he was having sex with other women, including servants in their household, and she was shocked and hurt by this.  At some point, Georgiana brings home a female friend for an extended visit, and the Duke proceeds to seduce her as well.  

Georgiana also falls in love with another man, and a big part of the movie is how she navigates that relationship and tries to negotiate a relationship with him with the permission of the Duke.  The relationship dynamics between the Duke and Duchess are the basis of the movie.  I am not going to give away any more of the plot. 

I did enjoy the movie.  I thought it was well-written and very well-acted.  On some levels it would probably be considered a chick-flick.  There really isn't any action, adventure, suspense.  The scenery and costuming are fabulous eye-candy.  I would recommend this movie to anyone who likes period movies and enjoys analyzing relationship conflict.  


The second movie I watched was also a period piece.  The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, starring Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson (2005).

Julianne and Woody play Evelyn and Kelly Ryan of Defiance, Ohio.  At first, they appear to be a very normal middle class family with 10 kids.  In this movie, the period is the 1950s and early 60s, and to me, that was the charm of the movie.  The period aspect of this movie is amazingly well-done.  

The main focus of the story is that Evelyn keeps the family going by winning many jingle-writing competitions.  She wins money, appliances, trips, cars, food.  Woody is a bit of a loser whose jealousy over his wife's successes drives him to drink. It creates a vicious cycle.   The more she wins, the more he spends on alcohol and the more she needs to win to help support the family.  

This is a true story that was written by one of the 10 kids: Terry Ryan.  I really enjoyed this movie.  There is more complexity to it than seems to be the case at the outset because of the dynamics of the relationship between the 2 main characters.  "Father" is abusive when he drinks too much, which is often.  "Mother" seldom stands up to him directly, but she finds other ways to deal with the issues his behaviors create. 

I really enjoyed this movie and highly recommend it. It's not an action/thriller, but it does have the relationship complexity going for it.  Also, the "period" aspect is charming and fun.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Today's PT

Well, my new "bend degree" number isn't much improved (about 88), but what IS much improved is how high I can lift my leg.  I have to do an exercise where I sit in a straight chair, and I have to raise Bessie out straight in front of me to a lock-out position, and then slowly lower her to the floor.  On Monday, I could only lift my foot about 2 inches off the floor.  Today I was much higher - maybe 6".  I still can't lift it all the way to lock-out position, but I'm more than half way there!  That's a huge accomplishment to me!

I also got a new exercise.  For this one I am standing with my walker and Bessie is on a thick phone book and she is bent.  Then I slowly straighten her up until my other foot is off the floor, and then slowly go back down.  That move created new sensations in my leg.  PT Andrew says I should do that one 10-12 times during each exercise session.  He also said it wouldn't hurt to do more if I could.  It seems fairly easy, but I imagine that is deceptive, and I will probably be paying for it later.

We talked about the fact that I will be transitioning out of home PT and into a facility next Monday.  I'm actually excited to get out, and also to start using some equipment, but I'm also sort of afraid of more pain being imposed by the new PT.  Andrew told me to let them know what I could tolerate.  He said I don't have to let them hurt me.  That is good to know.  I plan on telling my new PT that if he/she hurts me I will return the hurt!

I also had my last visit from the home health nurse, who just took my vitals and looked at my incision.

So, that's my excitement for today.  Now it is back to my exciting life of watching TV and reading....

Thanks for hanging in here with me, and don't forget to feed the fish!


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day 14 - Just 2 Weeks Ago Today

It is hard to believe my surgery was only 2 weeks ago.  I have progressed much better and faster and I anticipated.  Every day, when I do my exercises, we see progress.  Hubs can tell my leg is getting stronger when he helps me with my leg-lifts.  I can now lift my foot about 2 inches off the floor.  That may not sound like a lot, but a couple of days ago, I couldn't do that!  

Today after my afternoon exercises, I noticed a new little pain on the outside of my knee.  I'm not sure which move caused it, but I'm hoping it goes away soon.  I'm also getting some tingling in parts of my incision.  I have not taken any Vicodin today and have just relied on Ibuprofen, which may be why I am feeling more moderate pain.  Today is the first day I haven't taken any Vicodin, but I've only been taking 1-2 per day for the last week anyway.  If I still feel this pain after tonight's exercises, I may break down and take a Vic so it doesn't keep me awake.

Last night was the first night I got to sleep without those pumps squeezing my legs all night.  What a relief! They were annoying and HOT.   I did get my best night's sleep yet - even tho I'm still on my back.  Every time I wake up during the night, I use my sheet to pull my knee a little bit to keep it from getting too stiff.  It is really hard to get it going in the morning when it is really stiff.

I have been doing a bit of walking without my walker at times.  I can go from the bed to the bathroom and back without it.  I would not venture to the other end of the house, yet, but I do try to go within one room without it - but I still hold on to furniture and walls a little.  As has been the case since I got home, I feel the best when I am walking.

Well, it's time for exercises again... feed the fish for me, please!


Monday, June 24, 2013

Day 13 : A Very Lucky Day, Indeed!

Today was a HUGE day on my calendar that I've been waiting for for 2 weeks.  Today was the day I got to go back to my surgeon to have my staples removed.  All 35 of them came out quite easily - not painful, just a little "prick" with each pull.

He was very pleased with the way my leg looks.  The one bruise I had is almost gone, and my incision looks great!

He said I can stop wearing the TED hose AND stop using those annoying calf-pumps.  YAY !

He wants to see me again in a month, at which time he will take an x-ray.  I am not to use any lotions or creams on the incision in that time - he wants it to "dry out".  I may shower as usual, but not take a bath.  (So, no pool yet either.)

The other big news is PT - Andrew measured me at 86 degrees today, and that didn't even push me to a scream!  (Up from 80 on Friday!)   I am soooo psyched!!!    I think it will be easier to bend now that the staples and bandage are off.

So, that's it for today.  Have a glass of wine tonight to celebrate for me!!!


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Day 12 - Another Accomplishment

Hello and welcome to Day 12!

I accomplished some things today that I would not have predicted!  This may not sound like much to you, but it seems like a lot to me.

I have been hungry for tuna-noodle casserole, so I decided that I was going to make it today.  I had my Comfort Keeper helper to do the heavy and hot lifting, but I did 95% of the work myself.  The biggest thing was that this required my being on my feet for 30 min.  I was ready to sit down once the casserole went into the over, but I got along fine.  Then, after dinner, I stood at the sink and did the dishes - that was about 10 min of standing.

I did end up taking a pain pill after the cooking process was finished, and my leg is a little owee right now, but not too bad, considering.

I had my helper handle the pot of hot water to drain the noodles, and then she put the casserole into and removed it from the oven.  I don't trust myself to carry something hot yet.

There we go - Amy's 1st big cooking adventure.

Oh, and the casserole turned out great!  Would you like some?  Well, come on over!!!


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Between Exercises

There are 2 main things I do when I'm not exercising.  1 - I read.  2 - I watch TV/movies.


The first book I read was The Reader by Bernhard Schlink.  (Originally published in German in 1995.)  I picked this up at Half-Price Books for $1, so I didn't have high expectations, but it has "#1 National Bestseller" on the cover, and it has been made into a movie with Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes.  (I have now put it on my Netflix list.)

It is a quick and easy read, and I liked it better than I expected to.  It starts off with a 15 year old boy who gets involved in an ongoing sexual relationship with a mature woman.  They meet regularly for quite a while, and then she mysteriously leaves town with no explanation.  He goes on with his life and goes to college, and then he encounters her again when, as a law student, he observes a trial of a group of women, including her,  who served as guards in a concentration camp (before they met).  There is a mystery that is revealed, and this young man resumes a relationship with her after the trial, but of a very different sort. I am not going to give away the details.  

The book is written in a way that implies it could very easily be a true story, but you're left wondering.  One thing I liked about it was that the characters seemed very real.  I am curious to see if that carries across in the movie as well.


The book I'm currently reading, and will probably finish later today is Seriously... I'm Kidding by Ellen Degeneres.  If you have ever watched her show, then you will be able to hear her voice as you read this.  It is written EXACTLY like she talks.  I really love Ellen.  I love what she stands for and what she promotes, and I love her generosity and positive energy.  I was hoping that I would gain some insights into her motivations by reading this, but it basically says all the same things she says on a daily basis.  I am enjoying reading it - it is amusing, but it hasn't really revealed anything to me yet.  I am reminded of other comedians who are always "on" and never seem to be able to be serious.  (Robin Williams in the early days.)  She does talk about serious subjects like the importance of being kind or the importance or recycling, but she makes all her points as part of a joke.  Maybe she really is like that all the time?

I still have a shelf-full of books to work my way through in the weeks ahead, and I clearly have no shortage of reading-time, so I'll keep you posted.


New Exercises Are Added

Good Morning and welcome to Day 11 !

Yesterday, PT Andrew added 4 new exercises to my regimen.  These are all done sitting or standing rather than lying on a bed.  I am supposed to add these to my 3-times-a-day list of activities.

1 - Sitting on a straight chair, a stretchy band is placed around my ankle. The other end can be held by a person, or it can be tied to something solid like a table leg.  I then pull back on the band 10 x.

2 - Standing with my walker, I simply go up on my toes and then back on my heals, alternating.  10 x

3 - Standing with my walker, and in front of a chair, I squat as if I am going to sit down (but I don't).  The key is to keep knees back and stick the backside out like I really AM going to sit down.  10 x

4 - This is the hard one and takes a helper.  Sitting in a chair, I straighten my leg out in front of me.  My helper then lefts my leg and I have to try to control the descent.  I can't control it yet, but it is working that muscle that is important.  Bessie is still a dead weight at this point.

Ok, who wants to do these with me???  Oh, goodness!  Look at all those hands go up! What good helpers you are, indeed!!!


Friday, June 21, 2013

Day 10 - PT Progress

Day 10 and things are going well here.  The good news from my PT session is that he got me to the coveted 80 degree bend.  The bad news is there was some screaming and begging involved... neither of which work, by the way, but they make me feel better at the time.

Right now, my leg is our focus 24/7, and that is getting a little old, but it's ok.  I am ready to go outside.  I have not been out of the house since I got home from the hospital, but I do have my doc appt on Monday to get my staples out.  Things should change a lot after that.

That's it for today.  Thanks for reading and don't forget to feed the fish!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Small Victories

When I first came home from the hospital, there were several things I couldn't do.  I couldn't get into or out of bed without someone lifting Bessie.  I also couldn't lie on my side in bed.  On Monday, PT Brian said I should be able to get in and out of bed in 3-5 more days.  Ok - that gave me hope.

Yesterday, I was determined to get in bed by myself - dammit!  I have been using a crossover technique where I cross Bessie over my right leg and use that leg to lift and/or move her.  (Calling my other leg my "good" leg is sort of silly.  Right now it is "better" but it's never really "good".)  Until yesterday, I would cross the legs, and then Hubs would lift them both into the bed as I swung them around.  Somehow, yesterday, I was suddenly able to both lift and swing together, by myself.  YEA!!!

Today, PT Andrew had me lie on my right side with Bessie lined up on top of my right leg.  This was the first time I'd laid on my side at all, and it was comfortable.  After he left, and after I finished icing, I told Hubs I wanted to try to lie on my side for a little bit.  So, I did.  It felt sooooo good!  (I am usually a side-sleeper.)  However, after about 10 min my knee started to throb so I knew I had to flip back over.  At least I know now I can do it....  Even for a short time will help at night when I am going stir-crazy on my back!

This evening, after I finished icing, I wanted to get out of bed and it wasn't convenient to call for assistance, so I was determined to figure something out.  I already had the cross-over thing going.... then it hit me - the sheet!  Just as I use the sheet wrapped around my foot during the night to move my leg, I can use it to keep my leg from just falling as a dead weight off the bed, so I tried it and it worked!  I was able to use the sheet to hold it up until could get it crossed-over and lowered down with the other one.  WHEW!  I am now no longer a prisoner in the bed!!!

It is these small victories which help me see progress!!!  YAY !!!


Day 8 - PT progress

Day 8 here - 2nd visit by the PT.  On Monday I was measuring a 70 degree bend in Bessie.  Today, he said I was up to 74 on my own pulling, and he got me to about 78 I think.  So he was pleased with that progress.  YES!

He really likes how I am doing my knee squeezes where I wrap the sheet around my foot and pull as hard as I can.  He said that the duration of holding the squeeze each time is more important than the repetitions.  He said that when you do a movement like that, at first your body rebels against it, so it takes it a few seconds to accept this movement and relax and let it happen. I had only been holding it for a 5-count,  so he wants me to do it 10 times for 10 seconds each.  He said 3 times a day was probably enough on that as well.

On Friday he is going to show me some thing to do while I'm standing as well.  He didn't say I needed to be walking more.  I am trying to walk around the house every 30-45 min.

He also talked about the importance of massaging my scar once the staples come out to help avoid scar tissue building up underneath.  He showed me how to do it.  He also recommended Mederma Skin cream to help the scar go away (or Vitamin E Oil).  I will also need to manipulate my knee cap to keep it loose and keep scar tissue from forming around that too.  I never knew about scar-massage before!

That's it for today - I'm excited about the progress in my bend!!!


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Physical Therapy Begins - Day 6

Today is Day 7 -  a nurse from the home health care agency came to change my dressing.  He said he's seen lots of knees and this is the BEST KNEE he's ever seen!  There was almost no drainage on the dressing, and the actual incision looks amazing.  He counted 35 staples, and he said they all look ready to pop out.  There was only one that might "ouch" as it looks stuck to skin.  He also said that my low amount of bruising is amazing.  He had not seen this silver infused foam dressing before, and he was really impressed with it.  He said he is going to start requesting it.  (I have photos of today's dressing change.  If you want to see them, let me know and I will email them to you.)

We talked a little about pain.  When he arrived, I was sitting on the bed icing Bessie after doing my morning exercises, and so he asked what my pain level was.  I said it was maybe 1 and that was a stretch.  I took a pain pill about 10:30 before my exercises, but my leg doesn't really hurt.  At times it feels stiff and swollen, but I don't think it has really hurt much at all in the last couple of days.  Day 1 was a bad pain day.  Days 2 and 3 required regular doses of meds.  By Day 4 I wasn't taking much at all.  Now I'm taking it more as a precaution before I exercise, rather than waiting until the pain starts.  Certainly I will take it before PT tomorrow again.  I have been very amazed by how quickly the pain level dropped and by how easily managed it is.

Ok - so physical therapy.  Yesterday, Brian came.  He is the PT Coordinator for this agency, so he does the initial evaluations.  He was here a little over an hour, and he put me through my paces.  Everyone warned me that PT would hurt - and it did.  I also felt very swollen all evening.  His main goal is to stretch my muscles, so to that end he squeezed my knee.  OW !!!  He also taught me how to squeeze my knee, so I've done it myself a few times.  I sit on the bed with my legs out straight. Then I wrap a sheet around the bottom of Bessie's foot.  I grab both ends of the sheet and pull... hard... and squeeze my knee as hard as I can as far as it will go, and hold it for a 5-count.  I do that at least 10 times in a session.  He said that he usually has a goal of getting people to a 125 degree bend.  He said that because my calves and thighs are larger, I might only be able to get to 110 or 115.  I think I was at 70 yesterday, so he's hoping for 80 after a week.

He also instructed me in tighter quad sets.  That is where I have Bessie out straight and push the back of my knee down as hard as I can into the bed.   I am supposed to do that 30 times in a session.  He said that is probably the most important thing to keep doing as much as I can tolerate.  I can also do it in a chair with my leg on a footstool.

There was another thing he did that I begged him to stop, and this one almost made me cry.  He put his arm under my thigh with his hand on my other thigh, and pushed my leg down on his arm.  O M G !!!!  PLEASE STOP!!!  Let's hope we don't do THAT one again!

When Brian was getting ready to leave, he informed us that Andrew will be the one coming now.  WHAT?  I really liked Brian and I wanted to keep him!  Ok fine - now I have to break in someone else!  Andrew will be here on Wed and Fri.  Something to look forward to!

One more little bit of progress has happened since Brian was here.  When I used my walker, I was taught to move the walker, then step into it with Bessie, then step with good leg.  So it is a very halting gate:  walker, step, step; walker, step, step.  Now, I can just walk more normally and push the walker ahead of me until I get to a corner.  My leg has felt very strong all along, but now my quad sort of trembles because of all the exercising.  Brian assured me that I can't hurt my new hardware.  It is stronger than my old parts.  I had always heard other people say how strong their leg felt after surgery, but it is hard to believe until you experience it for yourself.  Indeed I do feel my strongest when I am standing up straight on both legs.  Pretty amazing.

Have a great day!


A Divergence

This year we were lucky enough to have 3 bird houses full of babies in the backyard at Old House.  We had wrens.  We think they're all out now.  We had sparrows - not sure about them.  And we had bluebirds in our bluebird house.  This has been very exciting to watch.  There have been babies in the box for several weeks, and just last night, Hubs was able to catch them starting to come out:

Daddy and Mommy Bluebird are fierce defenders of their house and babies.  For many evenings over the last few weeks, we were able to sit out on the patio and watch Dad sit in the nearby tree ready to chase away any birds that got too close.  We saw him swoop down on Blue Jays at the feeder, and he really didn't like the Cow Birds.  It's very exciting to get to see the babies.  Since we haven't been over there much in the last week, we thought we might miss the coming-out.  

The other garden photo I have to share today is my new rose.  I ordered a rose from David Austin Roses in Texas.  They have a lot of English and "old world" varieties. I got one that is a yellow climber called Golden Celebration, and it came as a bare root stick.  We planted it according to the directions - several weeks ago - and we weren't seeing ANY sign of growth.  Until last week, while I was in the hospital, it decided to start to grow.  Here it is as of Sunday the 16th:

Who knows, maybe I'll actually have flowers to share yet this season!

More later.  


Monday, June 17, 2013

Day 6

It is interesting how we perceive the passing of time.  In some ways, it feels like time is dragging, but then I realize I'm already Day 6 post-op and it seems like it has flown by.  The night was fairly good.  I didn't get too achy and managed to sleep soundly for hours at a time.  I woke up around 5:30 and wanted to get up, but I decided I would wait until 6 to wake Hubs.  Then the next thing I knew it was 7 and he was coming in to wake me up.  I was soooo stiff - not just Bessie but my back too.  I think the restrictive sleeping position is the worst part of this process as of now.  I got up, went to the bathroom, walked around a bit and got dressed.  Then I got back in bed for my morning exercises, which I don't feel went as well as last night - I think because I was still very stiff.

One of the things that I came home with was a leg-massaging machine.  My instructions are to use it almost all the time for 2 weeks.  I am not supposed to have it off for more then 30 min at a time, and not more than 4 hours a day.  I'm pretty sure I've not exceeded the 4 hours off a day, but I've gone over the 30 min thing a few times.  Yesterday, I had it off for several hours while I took a shower and washed my compression stockings. It is tolerable, but does get annoying at times.

My unit can be seen here.

The wraps are segmented into 3 sections for easier fitting, and are affixed with Velcro.  (The strongest Velcro on the planet, I might add!)

I keep the top one on Bessie a little loose because it can sort of irritate my incision when it expands and contracts. I'm not sure how often it activates. I would guess every couple minutes.  It whirs and makes a series of popping sounds when it activates.  My control unit hangs on the handle of my walker, so I can walk with it on, but often times I just disconnect the leg cables when I'm moving so they don't get in my way.  Then I hook them back up when I'm sitting.

I tend to run hot anyway, and having these things on my legs all the time, along with the compression stockings, does tend to make me hotter.

Well, I am expecting my Physical Therapist, Brian in about 30 min.  I'll let y'all know how that goes later.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Day 3 - Home Health Care... and on to Day 5

The big excitement on Day 3 was the initial visit of the Home Health Care agency that is going to be doing my PT.  A nurse came to do a medical evaluation and get the paperwork done.  She had a "ride-along" with her - a man who is going to be working for the company.  They both said my knee looked really good. At that time, I really hadn't started bruising much.  They said that the fact that there wasn't much bruising was a testament to how gentle the doc and his team were with me.  Well, now I'm bruising, so I guess Bessie just took awhile to get up to speed on that.

The nurse indicated that my PT will start on Monday.  On Tuesday, another nurse will come to change my dressing.

The Case Manager at the hospital sent me home with a Rx for Percocet (which is what they had been giving me in the hosp) in spite of the fact that I'd told multiple people that I preferred Vicodin.  The home care nurse said I could switch if I wanted to, and she recommended Vicodin too because it has fewer negative effects, like constipation.  So, after she left, I put the Perc in the drawer.  On Day 3 and Day 4, I mostly took pain meds every 2-3 hours.

The pain has changed a lot since Day 1.  On Days 3 and 4 it would sort of come in waves.  Sometimes a dull achy feeling that was deep.  I felt like I wanted to wrap it in a warm moist blanket and massage it (or get into a hot tub!).  Sometimes the pain was just along my incision and was more sharp - sort of a tingling, stinging pain.  In all cases, a dose of Vicodin would knock it down quickly.

As of Day 5, I really haven't had much pain at all today.  I didn't take any pain meds during the night last night, and didn't take any until noon today.  So I went almost 12 hours with nothing.  What I feel today is more a stiffness.  I am feeling my best when I am walking around.  When I sit still for very long, I get stuff.  I try to walk the house every 45 min or so.  If I'm sitting in front of the TV for very long, sometimes I just stand up for a few minutes.

This is a new lifestyle.  I sit here at the computer and type.  I read a book.  I watch TV.  I do my exercises.  That's it.  I did take a shower today with Hub's help.  That was big.  It felt good to take my TED hose off.

Well, it's back to the TV for me....


Home - Day 2

I got home about 2:30 on Day 2.  I sat in a chair for a little while, but then I really felt like I needed to lie down.  I quickly learned that getting in (and out) of bed are my biggest challenges without a moving hospital bed.  My bed is sort of high anyway, since I'm vertically challenged.  Scooting myself far enough on to the bed is the first challenge, and then the second is getting my leg into bed with me.

Side note:  I've decided I need to name my operative knee/leg.  I've thought about various options that might be symbolic, but I think I've chosen Bessie.  She is sort of cow-like in some ways - kind of a big dumb weight that just sort of hangs there and doesn't do much.  When I talk to her to tell her to move a certain way, she doesn't always respond immediately, so Bessie really seems to fit.

So, back to the bed thing.  I quickly learned that if I cross Bessie over my good leg, I can lift and move her that way.  This helps with getting in and out of bed.  However, I still have to have someone actually do the heavy lifting to get her onto the bed.  Once I'm on the bed, I can wiggle my butt enough to move myself to where I need to be.

I have a set of 4 exercises that I have to do 3 times a day on the bed.  Hubs learned how to help me with these from the PT at the hospital.  The good news is he says he can tell I've made progress already.  I think I have too, but I still feel like he is doing 75% of the work when we do these.  After I've done these exercises, I lie with an ice pack on my incision for about 20-30 min.

I'm also reminded that I don't like to sleep on my back.  It wasn't quite so bad in the hospital when I could move my bed different ways, but I can't do that at home.  All I can do is adjust the pile of pillows to go up or down.  Sleeping in that position for a whole night is a bit of a problem.  I'm really hoping my PT will tell me that I can sleep on my side sometime.  Otherwise, my back is going to put up a huge fight.

I can't put anything under Bessie.  I have to keep her flat to the bed and straight, so she heals that way.  I can put a pillow under my other knee, and that helps.

I tried to eat some dinner on that first evening home. Jello - applesauce - toast.  However, I got very nauseous, so I gave up on that.  By Day 3 I was able to eat normal food with no problem.

For that first evening home, a lot of the time was just spent reorienting ourselves to how to live with Bessie.  I can walk with my walker unassisted. I can go to the bathroom unassisted.  The biggest assistance I need is with the bed and also with moving chairs in and out and carrying stuff like food and drinks to the table.  I made a little tote thing that hangs on the front of my walker.  That has phones and a book and my meds, and some other basics stuff, but I can't put everything in that.

It felt good to be home, and I ended up deciding the docs were right - I needed to come home on Day 2 !

:) Amy

Day 2 - Thursday

I don't know how to explain the change that magically occurred over night from Day 1 being horrible, to Day 2 being Very Good.  Part of it was about pain management.

People can tell you "it will hurt", but knowing that doesn't prepare you for the reality of the pain, especially when it is relentless.  Once the spinal wears off, and your body starts responding to foreign things having invaded, and the trauma of the assault, it takes awhile to find enough meds in the right combinations to actually make a difference.  The nurses work hard on pain management because that is one of the big goals that has to be reached before a patient can be allowed to go home.  During the night between Day 1 and Day 2, we found my pain management formula, and I started noticing a difference - that was a huge relief.

The other magic was the whole bladder issue getting resolved.  I know that many surgery patients have constipation issues after surgery, but I didn't know the bladder could actually go to sleep and not wake up.  I felt insulted by the bladder issues.  I was thinking, ok, here I am dealing with this leg-thing, and now they have to drain my bladder?  Really?  On a practical level, I get it - the spinal anesthesia puts everything to sleep from the waist down.  But, emotionally, it is one more thing to have to deal with.  Then, I'm thinking, oh yes, let's give me a pill to make me have to pee, and then make it very difficult to actually go to the bathroom to do it!  That's a winning plan!  Can you tell I have an attitude?

About 6 am on Day 2, my surgeon came in for the first time.  I hadn't even seen him in Pre-Op.  He came in with 2 assistants.  One of the assistants pulled my TED hose down so he could see my wound dressing.  He said, "it looks very good".  Then I took a chance and dared to ask him if there was any chance I could stay one more day.  He listened to my reasons, then told me they were weak reasons.  I said that I felt if I could get stronger before going home, it would be less of a strain on my home care-giver.  He said that if there were actual scientific reasons for staying that's one thing, but the reason I gave wasn't scientific enough for the insurance company nor the federal government.  He said that if I pass all my goals, which I was on target to do, I would be going home later in the day. He also went into a long tirade about all the reasons to NOT keep people in hospitals any longer than absolutely necessary.  He talked about sending his own family members home as quickly as possible.    Okey dokey.  I get it.

A little while later the hospital GP came in.  He went over my computer records, asked me questions, checked me out, we talked.  I expressed the same "stay one more day" wish to him, and basically got the same response only a little nicer.

I did the eggs and bacon breakfast thing again, but I kept falling asleep over it, and by the time I was about half way finished the eggs were cold.  I guess the pain meds were making me sleepy, and because the pain was reduced I was able to sleep.

My PT lady came in and took me for a walk.  It actually felt good to stand up.  I was able to walk all the way to the nurse's station and back - she was VERY impressed with my progress and so was I !

The Case Manager - I think I forgot to include this in Day 1.  It was actually something good that happened on Day 1.  A woman who identified herself as my case manager came in and indicated that she would be setting up my outpatient physical therapy.  She said that my insurance would cover total home PT at 100% if I was interested in that.  Ummm.... YES!  It would be one less thing to have to deal with if I could get all my PT at home, so she said she would set it up.  A different case manager came back on Day 2 to confirm that I'd been set up with a company called Home Health Plus (or something like that).

After PT, I was allowed to take a shower.  A couple of the techs helped me get dried and dressed in real clothes, and we started the process of getting me ready to come home.  My ride and Hubs were coming at 11:30, and he was to work with the PT to learn my exercises.  The process of getting ready to go home took a long time - hours.  There was a lot of waiting for people to do things and for the process to happen.  Finally, around 2 ish, everything came together and I was sent on my way.  I got home about 2:30.  WHEW!    At that point, I felt most comfortable in bed, so that's where I went.

And so, the home care process begins....


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Day 1

I have decided to count my recovery days with "0" being the surgery day, and 1 being the first day post-op, etc..

We will start Wednesday, June 12 with the doctors' visits at 6 am.  First came the resident GP for the hospital.  He looked over my chart (on the computer) and asked me some questions.  He said things looked to be "on target" for me.  He told to not be shy about asking for what I needed.  Then came a partner of my surgeon's group.  He looked at my leg and my chart, and made a comment about range of motion.  Then left.  I wasn't too impressed with him.  At this point, I'm not even sure what the range of motion comment referred to.

The highlight of Day 1 was breakfast.  I wasn't particularly hungry, but I knew I should eat, so I ordered scrambled eggs, bacon and English muffin.  I didn't have high expectations for the eggs because I know scrambled eggs made in big batches are usually dry.  However, I was very pleasantly surprised - the eggs were actually excellent and so was the bacon!  I also had  part of an orange, but it wasn't cut up very small, so it was hard to eat.  I also had Cran Juice and had ordered chicken broth too in case the eggs were a wash-out.

Then came the student nurses.  Oh... my... goodness.... bless their little hearts... As a teacher who often has student teachers, I certainly "get" the importance of student nurses.  I had 2, and they were about as different as it was possible to be.  One was very professional, introduced herself and talked to me about her role with me that day.  The other seemed totally clueless.  She didn't introduce herself, and she didn't seem to know what she was supposed to be doing.  After she came in a second time talking about things others had already talked about, I suggested she go back to the nurse's station and get a clearer handle on what she was supposed to be doing for me.  The instructor was with the better one, and I wasn't sure she was even supervising the second one at all.  It seems there could have been a better way to deal with the students.  They needed clear tasks to do that weren't overstepping the regular nurses and techs.  It was almost like there was no coordination.

Little Miss Clueless brought me a tub of soapy water and some towels so that I could wash myself.  Then she left.  I don't know if she was supposed to offer to help me or not - I'm not sure she knew.  Later, someone else brought me water and towels, so I had to say, "The student already brought this to me..."  Based on the reaction I got,  I felt like this girl was more in the way than she should have been in a more coordinated situation.

Around 9 am, my PT came in and took me for a walk.  My room was about in the middle of the hallway, and I walked to the far end of the hall and back.  She was very impressed by what I could do.  Before I got back in bed, I went to the bathroom, but nothing happened.  In spite of all the water I'd had during the night - no pee.  Hmmm...  We reported this to the nurse who brought me a pill to relax my bladder.  This issue haunted me all day and leads me to say that Wednesday was NOT a good day.  By 2 pm, I still wasn't able to pee, so they did a bladder scan, found out I was full, and had to drain my bladder with a catheter.  Bleh!  Not what I was expecting.

The other negative for the day was my high pain level.  Every time I was asked, I reported a fairly high pain level, and nothing they gave me seemed to bring it down much.  When the PT came back at 4 for my 2nd walk of the day, I could only go about half as far because I was in so much pain.  The nurse tried putting Dilaudid in thru my IV, but it really didn't make much of a difference.  Finally, my night nurse Sarah added Vicodin to my pain meds, and THAT finally started to make a difference.  After the 2nd dose of Vicodin was working, I started to turn the corner.

I tried a bunless cheese burger and broccoli for dinner, but it wasn't as good as breakfast, and the chocolate pudding was virtually inedible. I don't know how it is possible to make bad chocolate pudding, but they found some!

My friends who visited on Wed both could tell I was not having a good day.  The pain seemed relentless, and I felt like I had a steady stream of people in and out of my room who really weren't doing anything for me.  By bedtime, I was starting to wonder if I'd made the wrong decision to have surgery.  During the night, the pain was relieved, and I started to feel better about things.

:) Amy

1st night

I don't think I really slept soundly at all that first night.  I dozed/rested my eyes, but I never really felt that I was sound asleep.  Partly it was because someone came in every hour to do something, and partly because there was a constant whir of noises from my machines.  The IV monitor was sort of ticking off to my left, and my leg pumps were pulsing rhythmically.

I can't say I was really in any pain... until about 1:30 am... then I started noticing that my incision was sore when I tried to do my quad sets.  I called the nurse's station and asked for a pain med.  She didn't come in with it until about 2:15, and then she gave me a 5 mg dose of Oxy.  It helped quickly.  Shortly after that, I started passing gas (I had a notion to text everyone, "I FARTED", but I controlled the urge.)

Around 3:20 my tech came in for a blood draw and changed the batteries in the power pack that all my chest-leads were hooked up to.  At 4:40 my IV monitor started beeping because my bag was empty.   When the nurse came in to hang a new bag she also changed my dressing.  I took pictures on my phone, but I can't figure out how to get them off my phone and on to my computer, so I can't share here.  If anyone wants to see my incision at that point, text me and I will text it to you.

My incision looked a lot better than I had expected.  From surgery my leg was wrapped from top to bottom in an ace bandage.  Once that was cut off, I saw a long dressing taped to my skin that was 3" wide and about 8 or 9" long.  It was filled with blood.  As the nurse pealed it back, I saw that the center of the dressing was an absorbent material (not gauze).  I could see a line of staples going down.  She wiped off along the edges of the incision and said it looked very good. There wasn't really any bruising, which is highly unusual because I usually bruise very easily. She then applied a new dressing which was the same as the old one.  The center 1.5" is an absorbent material and then the outer sticky part is like plastic.  Once she applied this, she then put on a new thigh-high stocking (TED hose), like the one I already had on my other leg.

I now know more about this dressing because I got one to bring home with me which I have to change on Day 7.  It is called "Optifoam AG Post-op Strip" - Silver Antimicrobial Wound Dressing made by Medline.

   One of the nice things about it is that I can get it wet in the shower.

After the dressing change, the nurse also removed my catheter.  In general, I had a good night.  I was sort of itchy all night - the nurse said that was from the spinal, but I think it was from the Oxy (Percocet has made me itch in the past). And so the end of the first night...

:) Amy

In Recovery and 1st Evening

I woke up in Recovery fairly quickly.  I don't remember feeling groggy, I was just suddenly awake.  I could hear someone talking about me on the phone - telling someone on my floor that they were about ready to bring me up.  I heard him say, she is 54 but doesn't look it.  I said, "Thank you" and he laughed.  I said, "I'm a teacher.  I hear everything."  He laughed again.  They wheeled me up to my room (206) at about 3:30.  The next little while was spent with my RN and my Tech getting up to speed on me.  They had to go over my meds and get me all situated in the bed.  I had leg pumps on my calves, but more about those later.  They hooked me up to an IV with basic hydrating fluid and antibiotic.  They hooked me up to a monitor with 5 or 6 contact points on my chest, and a pulse/ox meter taped permanently on my finger.  Then they took my blood pressure for what would end up being the first of about a million BP checks.

My friend was there waiting for me.  Once the nurses were done with their initial "stuff", I called Hubs and assured him that I was indeed still alive and still had both legs.

About 6:00 pm, Gabe from Physical Therapy came in and announced that I was going to walk.  I laughed.  He said, "no, really!"  And... I DID!  With his help of course, and with a walker, I got up and walked from my bed to the door and back again.  I was amazed !!

Gabe also instructed me in 3 leg exercises that I was told to do 10 times each hour:  1 - ankle flexes, 2 - quad sets (tightening the muscles in my thigh just above my knee and bringing the back of my knee down to the bed), 3 - butt squeezes.  I learned that my leg would be kept flat against the bed so it would heal straight rather than having it bent over a pillow where it would heal bent and be harder to straighten out later.  This is a change from when my mother had her knees done. Her legs were propped on pillows when she was in bed.

From a Respiratory Therapist, I was also given an Incentive Spirometer These are very common in hospitals.  Patients are instructed to inhale through the mouth piece and make the little ball at the right float and the big yellow thing slide up the scale to the indicated point.  I was told to do this 10 times an hour.  This helps keep the lungs clear and reduces the chances of pneumonia.

Also around 6:00 my nurse gave me my first pain med - Oxycodone, a 12-hour slow-release variety (it was explained that my spinal was still providing pain relief), and aspirin for blood thinning.

About 7:30 I met my night-shift nurse and tech - my vitals were all good. I still felt "drugged" but not sleepy.  I ordered my dinner from room service (I was only allowed clear liquids until my intestines woke up, which would be signaled by passing gas) :  chicken broth, orange and red jello, cranberry juice and Sprite (which I mixed together).  I ate very slowly and didn't feel nauseous at all.

At 8:00 my sugar check was 156.  At 9 my vitals were good again and I was given my cholesterol med, iron and a stool softener.  It was then a very quiet several hours.

:) Amy

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Big Day

My friend picked me up about 10 am, and we headed to the hospital.  I was at a facility called the Mount Carmel New Albany Surgical Hospital.  It is just for orthopedic surgeries, so there aren't "sick" people there.  I believe that greatly reduces the chance of infection.  This is really a lovely facility - it looks more like a luxury hotel than a hospital.  Everyone I worked with there was great!

I checked in at the front desk and was sent to registration.  I had already pre-registered, but I still had to show my driver's license, insurance card, and my Living Will and Health Care POA.  Next we were taken to the surgical waiting room where I check in.  In just a couple of minutes a nurse came to get me, and I was told to bring my CPAP machine with me.  I was taken to a large area that sort of looked like an emergency room, with bed/areas that were curtained off.  I was put in a little cubicle and told to take my clothes off, put them in a bag, and then put on a gown and little booties.  Then I was to make myself comfy on the bed.  A nurse came in and asked me lots of medical history questions, which I had already answered several times.  She also drew blood.  Then they let my friend come sit with me.

A little while later, I spoke with the head anesthesiologist and then later with a student on his team.  They both explained that I would be getting a spinal as well as another anesthesia.  They explained the benefits of both - that I would wake up faster, be less groggy and get more help with pain for a longer time.  They had me sign a consent form for that plan.

Around noonish, my friend was asked to go back to the waiting room, and I was given my spinal, and then wheeled into the operating room.  I could feel the spinal immediately.  My hands could feel my body, but my body couldn't feel my hands.  Then a mask was put on my face and I was gone.  The next thing I knew I was waking up in recovery.

More to come - stay tuned!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

About Ready to Go

I slept fairly well - went to bed at 2 and first woke up around 6, but I managed to go back to sleep until my music came on at 8.  I had very weird school dreams.  In the weirdest one, all the freshmen boys had to drive mini race cars onto the gym floor.  They parked them all in the middle, then they got out and chased each other around and over the cars.  What's up with that?  I'm sure there is some deep psychological significance, but I'm having trouble finding it right now.

I showered... again... used more antiseptic.  I'm sorry - I TRIED to use the whole bottle, but I just couldn't!  Even after washing my whole body twice and my leg about 4 times, I still have some left.  So, if I end up with an infection, let the record show it is my fault because I didn't use the whole bottle!  Ok - that's on me!

I now need to distract myself for another hour so I don't eat anything.

Let me digress for just a minute to say that I got to see the Broadway Touring Company's performance of WICKED at the Ohio Theatre on Sunday night.  O M G !!!  The show was totally amazing!  I've seen it at least twice in NY, but this cast was every bit as good (and better in some ways).  There were several highlights: John Davidson was a real treat as the Wizard.  I didn't know he was in the show when I ordered my tickets, so that was an exciting surprise.  He is just as hot at 71 as he was "back in the day".  Those dimples are winners no matter how old he gets, and he is one of those men who has turned into a "silver fox" with the full head of white hair.  mmmmm  mmmmm mmmm !!!  The next highlight was Kim Zimmer as Madame Morrible.  I wasn't familiar with her from The Guiding Light, but I was very impressed with her - she was very well cast in this part.  Glinda was played by Jenn Gambatese.  I loved the humor she added to the role.  It is hard to imagine anyone topping Kristin Chenowith, but Jenn gave her a run for her money.  By far the biggest highlight was Alison Luff as Elphaba.  Her voice was simply amazing, and "Defying Gravity" blew me away!  I'm pretty sure there were a few script changes along the way, but then I don't really trust my memory 100%, and it has been a few years.  I got things out of this viewing that I didn't remember from before.  This is one of those experiences that I didn't want to end, and I will remember for a long time.

Ok, time to dry my hair and finish getting ready to go.

Talk to you again soon!


P.S.  Please don't forget to feed the fish while I'm gone!

Final Preparations

It is after midnight on the day of my surgery.  So even though the date of this entry shows it as Tuesday, June 11, I am still counting this as the night before - Monday, June 10.

This morning around 10 am, a nurse from the hospital called with my final instructions.  I am to arrive at 10:30 and my surgery is scheduled for 12:30.  I had previously been given a bottle of antiseptic scrub - chlorhexidine gluconate 4% solution.  This is the same stuff that docs and nurses use when they scrub for surgery.  Today I was told to take a shower tonight before bed and use half the bottle on my whole body.  Then tomorrow morning, I am supposed to shower again and use the other half bottle on my operative leg/knee.  I just took my night-time shower, and it was difficult to use half the bottle.  It's a small bottle (4oz), but a little bit goes a long way.  Anyway, I washed everything first with normal soap, and then I used the scrub stuff.  Clean towels, clean nightgown, clean clothes tomorrow.  I think the only way I could get any cleaner was if they washed me on the operating table - and they probably will!  I'm not complaining, mind you!

Medication instructions: tonight - just my cholesterol pill, but no diabetes meds.  Tomorrow morning - my blood pressure and my thyroid meds, but nothing else, and with the absolute smallest amount of water I can handle.  Also, no other supplements tonight or tomorrow.  Then I have to bring my Rx meds for the next 2 days in their original, labeled bottles.

Nothing to eat or drink after midnight.  Not even gum or a breath mint.  I can brush my teeth in the morning as long as I don't swallow any water.  I can wear deodorant but no lotions or powders anywhere on my body.

I was told to bring a pair of shorts and a bathrobe.  I'm also taking a nightgown and hoping they will allow me to wear it tomorrow night and lose the hospital gown.  Also, some extra underwear... and then of course I will have the clothes I arrive in.

I also have to have my driver's license and my insurance card with me.  This will be the third time they will have seen my insurance card.  I also have to give them my Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney.  They will scan these and keep them on file.  Glasses case - CPAP machine - Walker.

I will also have a book to read and my cell phone, but no other valuables.  I'm leaving my wallet and jewelry at home - even my wedding ring.

I thought about taking my camera, but have decided not to.  A couple of days ago, Hubs took photos of my leg from all angles.  It will be interesting to compare.

It is now just after 1 am, and I probably should go to bed.  I'll probably be up to go to the bathroom during the night because I was told to drink a lot of water today.  I will be up at 8 to do my morning shower and then try to forget about the idea of eating anything until my friend picks me up at 10.

Good night!  I'll be back soon with more details than you ever wanted to know!

:) Amy

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pre-Op Stuff

Orthopedic Surgeons do lots of surgeries like mine.  They have a fairly well-established system for preparing their patients that starts months in advance.  In January or February, I worked with my doc's executive assistant to sent up appointments.  She gave me lots of info including a book called "Your Pathway to Knee Replacement Recovery" which is put out by the hospital I'll be going to.  It includes a DVD which shows the hospital facilities and walks the viewer step-by-step through what they will experience from the time they arrive at the hospital.  It talks about physical therapy and home exercises with a "patient" demonstrating each exercise.  This book was very thorough and very helpful.

There were 2 appointments I set up with the assistant.  The first was an MRI, not just of my knee, but of my whole leg.  The hardware company my doctor uses is called Biomet, and I am getting their "Signature" knee hardware.  This replacement hardware is tailor-made for my body based on this MRI, so the scan is done of my entire leg to ensure the proper measurement and alignment of the ankle, knee and hip joints.  Not only do they create my knee parts, but they also create the surgical instruments which will be used on me from this MRI.  Here is a video that explains this process:  Biomet Signature Knee Replacement Video

My MRI was done at the same hospital where my surgery will be done, and it was scheduled for mid-April, 2 months before my surgery date.  An MRI is non-invasive, and no real prep needs to be done before it.  The only real thing to plan for is to not have any metal on your clothing at all - otherwise you have to take them off.  (The only metal I had on me were my bra hooks, so I had to go into a dressing room and take my bra off.)  The biggest issue with an MRI of this sort is having to lay flat and motionless for quite awhile.  My scans were done in 2 sets of about 20 min each, and I was able to get up and stretch between the 2 sets.

When I had this done in prep for the 2010 surgery date, the process was not as extensive because my doc was not yet using this "Signature" process.  Then I only had to have my knee scanned, so things went faster.  I also remember that the table I had to lay on was very hard which really got to my lower back.  This time the table was at least a little bit padded, and my backed wasn't stressed as much.  I did have a thin pillow under my head.  The other thing about this scan that was better was that I was strapped down more.  It may seem counter-intuitive that this is better, but I found it more comfortable because I didn't have to consciously hold myself still.  I could relax against the straps and let them hold me still.

I knew in advance that they would play my choice of a Pandora music channel through headphones for me, so I came with a list of names for them to put in for me.  That was nice - I could just zone out to the music. I didn't fall asleep because the MRI machine is very noisy.  There are random beeps and whirs going on all the time, and a lot of white-noise (not unlike being on a jet plane).  My scan went very well, and my technician let me see the computer images because I was the last patient of the day.  The technology is really amazing, and I know it is getting better all the time.  I know this technology is better than it would have been 3 years ago... but no, I'm not waiting another 3 years!

The other pre-op testing I had to have done involved going to my family physician for a series of tests.  This included a blood test, urine test, EKG (but I had already had one within 6 mos so I didn't have to do that again), and chest xrays. This had to be done within 2 weeks of my surgery.  She also talked with me about all my meds.

About a week ago, someone from the hospital called to talk with me about my medications and supplements.  I went over my whole list with her, and she told me to stop my  Omega 3 supplement because that could thin my blood.  I also need to stop my diabetes med the day before surgery, but the other stuff I can continue as usual.

A few days later someone from the registration office called to double check all my contact information.  The last call will be tomorrow when someone will call to tell me when to arrive at the hospital.  When I set up my surgery date, I was told I would be the 2nd one on the schedule, so I'm hoping that means I won't have to get there TOO early.

So, that brings you up to date.  I don't know yet if I'm going to take my laptop with me to the hospital, so I may have to wait until I get home to do my next update.

Talk to you again soon!


P.S.  Don't forget to feed the fish while I'm away!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

This Summer's New Focus

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that most of my posts from the spring and summer of 2012 were about remodeling New House, as well as the process of living daily in 2 houses.  This summer I am focused on something very different - total knee replacement.  My surgery will be on Tuesday, June 11, so for now, I'm going to give some background info.

I first started having knee problems in about 2004 or 2005.  One knee totally went out on me (I don't remember which one went first), but for several days, I couldn't put any weight on it, and it hurt A LOT.  After a few days of staying off of it and icing it, I finally went to my family doc.  She ordered X-rays, and determined that I had severe arthritis in it.  I took meds and went to Physical Therapy (PT) for awhile, and got over that initial "acute" period, but it continued to give me problems.

At some point after that, the other knee did the same thing.  (I want to say it was a year or 2 later, but I'm not sure.)  After that I went to an orthopedic doc about them both.  He told me that my knees were deteriorating, and eventually they would get to the point where knee replacement would make sense.  At that point, I was about 46, and he told me to come back when I turned 60, and we'd discuss surgery.

I continued to live my life, but as the months went on, I found my knee situation started interfering with life.  No longer could I go for long hikes in the woods with Hubs, and golf became more of a challenge.  I tried different medications - some worked better than others.  I also got cortisone shots on occasion.  Those worked to varying degrees as well.  I also found that I was no longer able to keep up with my work as my school's theatre director the way I wanted to.

By 2009, my orthopedic doc was telling me that I was ready for total knee replacement.  He said it was basically up to me - when I felt I couldn't take it anymore, then it was time.  We started planning for the summer of 2010 and actually set a date for the week after school was out - June 14.  I did all the pre-surgery prep stuff which included having an MRI and pre-op testing.  However, on Friday, June 11, my mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  It was probably a Glioblastoma Multiforme, which is the most aggressive form of brain tumor.  Her oncologist predicted she would only live about 6-8 weeks without treatment.  So, I cancelled my surgery to stay with her.

After my mother passed away on July 25, 2010, we had her house and all its contents to deal with.  We spent August, Sept and part of October dealing with her possessions, and getting the house ready for sale.  The house didn't sell until Dec. 2011.  During all of that time, I continued to walk on my bad knees.  I took Vicodin for the pain, and just tried to be on my feet as little as possible.  

Interestingly enough, throughout 2010, 2011 and 2012, I got along ok.  Yes, there were times I had to take it easy, and I couldn't hike, but I was able to do my water aerobics classes and do the things I needed to do for daily life.  I considered my knee situation to be stable.  I went back to my Ortho in the fall of 2012, and I asked him if it was conceivable that I could to on for years like this.  He said it was possible, but there would come a point when my knees would not continue to carry me.  Then I started thinking about insurance coverage and retirement...

In December of 2012, the decision was made for me when my right knee went out on me again.  I was at Water Aerobics, getting dressed in the locker room after class, and all of a sudden I couldn't put any weight on my right leg.  I don't think I actually "did" anything.  I was just standing in the changing room taking my swimming suit off as I had done a million times over the last few years.  Ice didn't really help much.  I stayed home from school for 3 days, and when I want back, I had to use a walker and sit through my classes.  My Ortho gave me meds and a cortisone shot - which helped.   However, that's when I knew it was time for surgery. The "acute" phase this time lasted through December and into January.  I started using the electric carts at the grocery store.  I also stopped going to Water Aerobics.    I realized that incidents like this were going to continue to happen without warning. Once this incident was passed I started making plans for surgery on June 11, 2013.

So, the adventure begins...

Stay tuned!

:)  Amy