Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Seven Weeks - More Changes

All along this process, every time I've not been able to do something, I've thought, "When will I be able to do this?"  or more commonly,  "Will I EVER be able to do this??"   First, it was lifting my foot off the floor or the bed.  Then, it was lifting my whole leg in the air.  Most recently, it has been about being able to step onto a step without pulling myself up with my arms.  (Which I can now do, by the way!)

The most long-term, lingering issue has always been the stiffness in my leg which everyone attributes to internal swelling.  The Doc and the PTs have all said it will go down with time.  Well, I have never been a particularly patient person.  As this swelling and stiffness has persisted, I've often asked myself, "WHEN will this be gone?"  My PT told me that I should be able to do whatever I want to do at 3 months.  Does that mean all the stiffness will be gone then?  Not necessarily.

Well, today, at 7 weeks, I am here to report that there has been progress in the category of stiffness and swelling !!!

First, as I reported the other day, I bought school shoes.  On Saturday, Sunday and Monday, I tried a pair on each day, and wore them around the house for about 2-3 hours.  I wanted to make sure they were going to be comfortable enough for a school day.   On Saturday, after wearing pair #1, when I took them off, I noticed that the sausage was significantly smaller.  It was still bigger than the other foot, but most (90%?) of the puffiness was gone.  WHAT?  Can this be?  All it took to get rid of most of the swelling in my foot was to put on a shoe??  Seriously???

Now, I have to say that for the last 7 weeks, NO ONE - let me say that again - NO ONE has suggested that I could reduce the swelling in my foot by wearing a shoe that comes up over the top of my foot.  Did you hear what I said?  NO ONE!  When I asked the PTs about my sausage, they would tell me to do ankle pumps.  Ok - so I diligently did ankle pumps for the first 3 weeks, and it made NO difference.  I put ice packs on my foot and ankle, and it made NO difference.  When I asked my Doc about the swelling in my sausage, he told me it would go down over time.

So, all summer, I've been barefoot.  Sometimes I wear ankle socks.  When I need to go out with shoes, I wear my sandals with the stretchy straps.  No regular shoes for 7 weeks.  Let's imagine for just a minute how different things would have been if I'd been wearing shoes maybe 4-5 weeks ago?  All those times when I thought my skin was stretched so tight it was going to explode????  Ha!  SHOES!

Well, you have to know that I am going to share this revelation with my PT on Thursday!  I hope she doesn't give me that, "well of course you need to wear shoes - everyone knows that!" response, because she will get an ear full if she does!

For my faithful readers who are headed for this surgery, let me add this to the "Learn from Amy" list: You already know you need to do your exercises faithfully if you want to see progress.  Now you also know you need to wear SHOES!

My second revelation for today is a little more subtle and a little harder to quantify and to put into words.

Background:  Sunday, when I got up, I felt even more stiff than usual, and it seemed to take longer during the day for the morning stiffness to wear off.  Just doing my usual exercises didn't seem to help as much as usual.  I wrote it off to cooler weather.  Yesterday, I was much better - more "normal" or typical.  I did my usual morning exercises, and then in the afternoon, we went to our local park and walked again.  This is the second time I've done this.  We took a different path in the park, but I think I probably walked about as much - about a mile (of course with frequent sitting).  When I got home, I put ice on my leg for about 30 minutes, and generally felt very good.

Last night, I sat a lot.  Ok, The Bachelorette was on - it's my guilty pleasure, what can I say!  I sat glued to the TV for that 2 hour period.  At 10:00, I got a bee in my bonnet to do some school work.  I decided to work on creating a new website for one of my classes.  So, I proceeded to sit at my computer for the next 2 hours... with no break.  Not good.  Usually, when I get up from sitting, I have to give my leg time to acclimate to standing, and it usually takes walking about 10 steps before it is "working" again.

Well, here is my second revelation:  Last night, when I got up from sitting at my computer, the usual stiffness was almost gone!  I just started walking - normally - without limping at all.  There was no need to stand for a minute, or stretch or hobble around until my knee decided to work.  It just worked!

Then, when I went to bed, I started out lying on my back with Bessie out straight - when I bent her, she didn't feel stiff at all.  It was almost like - dare I say it - like 10 years ago?!  During the night, I was very conscious of a difference.  There was a new ease of movement, and a significant decrease in stiffness when I changed positions.  Likewise, this morning - I got up and just started walking without having to stand by the bed and wait to be ready to take the first step.

So, to what do I owe this change?  Could it be the influence of shoes?  Could it be the walk at the park? Could it be the diligence of exercising?  (Have I mentioned how important exercising is, kids?)  Could it just be a matter of time?

Right now, I'm going to go with "a combination of all of the above" as the explanation.  Whatever the explanation is, the result is that I'm VERY excited!!

That's all for now... I'm going to get back to my school website.  Thanks for reading and hanging in here with me!


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Reading Aloud

 My family is a tennis family.  Both my mother and my aunt were active tennis players in their youth, and even had success as winners of local tournaments.  Once my father and uncle joined the family, they also played tennis with their wives.  My aunt and uncle pursued this interest a bit longer and more actively than my mother and father did and made names for themselves in the tennis community around Dayton, Ohio back in the day.  Eventually, they turned their attention more to the golf course and played less tennis, but my aunt always enjoyed watching tennis on TV even when she no longer played.

When I learned that tennis legend Jimmy Connors had a written a new memoir, The Outsider,  it occurred to me that my aunt might enjoy the book.  At the time I learned of the book, my cousin was going to be coming to stay with me during my post-surgery convalescence, and I thought it might be fun for her and I to read the book aloud and record it, and then share that with my aunt. It would be sort of like the 3 of us would be reading it together.  It would give Cousin and I something to do with all my down-time, and something that we could all share.

As it turned out, my cousin wasn't able to come, but I decided to read the book aloud myself.  My goal was to read a chapter a day, and I managed to keep up with that schedule for the most part.  I read each chapter into a digital recorder and then emailed it to my cousins in New Hampshire, who then played each installment for my aunt.

I finally finished the book a few days ago.  It had 24 chapters.  I enjoyed the reading process because I knew my aunt was enjoying listening, and I generally enjoy reading aloud.   Jimmy's very large ego certainly comes through loud and clear in his writing.  The technical aspect of the book bothered me a bit as an English teacher because the first person narration flipped back and forth between present and past tense frequently for no apparent reason.  At various times I found myself wondering if anyone had actually edited the writing beyond checking spelling.  Even the basic printing was annoying as there were places where the periods at the ends of paragraphs were missing.  The book was also very heavy in statistics of various matches.  While some of that is necessary, there was a bit much of it for my taste.

Overall, I'm glad I did the reading project.  My reading certainly wouldn't win any awards because I didn't edit out my mis-reads and redos, nor my sneezes!  :)   But if my aunt enjoyed it, then that is my reward!

If you love the tennis era of the 1970s, then you might enjoy this book, but just prepare to be annoyed by some of its idiosyncrasies.


The Shopping Expedition or Dressing the Sausage!

Those of you who know me, know that I am not what some people would call particularly "fashion conscious".  While I do like to look decent, and I like to dress professionally for school, I don't spend too much time worrying about whether I am wearing the latest trends.  I am also not a fancy dresser (although I can dress up for the right occasion).  I am  not the type of person to get rid of perfectly good clothes that I like just because they are out of season (or even out of decade!).  Because of my size and shape, I've always had trouble finding clothes that fit me well, so when I find things that do fit, I tend to keep them until they wear out or until I can't stand them anymore.  (Much to the chagrin of one of my colleagues who has remarked on my "80s" wardrobe - yes, you know who you are!)  Also, for the last 9 years or so, as I've suffered with worsening knees, I've had increasing trouble shopping for clothes, which is another reason I tend to hang on to the past.

My current situation has presented a bit of a problem - not with clothes, but with shoes.  Bessie is quite clearly larger than my right leg.  All the way from above my knee to my foot which is puffed out like a sausage casing with too much meat shoved into it! When I look in the mirror at my legs side-by-side, they look like they belong on 2 different bodies!   I'm told by my doc and my PT that this situation of swelling is likely to last for months yet.  This presents a problem with school shoes.

All summer I've been wearing 1 pair of sandals with stretchy straps that easily accommodate my sausage foot, but I can't (or rather won't) wear them to school.  Yesterday, with a very dedicated friend who has been with me through this whole process, I set out to the shoe store to find school shoes.  I thought I might have to buy 2 pairs of different sizes - one for the right and one for the left.  However, it turned out that I was able to find shoes where the same pair fit both feet.  The good news is that I found 3 pair that fit, and I didn't feel like I had to settle for the only shoes in the store that would fit.  I'm actually happy with what I got.

None of these shoes were purchased for fashion, but they aren't "ugly" by any means.  They are all black, and my hope is that they will disappear below my pants and will not stand out and draw attention to my sausage.

My store of choice was DSW because of its huge selection.  I had only shopped there once before, and didn't find what I wanted then.  I look forward to a time when I can buy "cute" shoes that are fashionable once again, but for now I will dress my sausage and get on with life!

:) Amy

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Movie Review - Moonrise Kingdom

Today's movie review is very unusual.  It involves a movie I didn't even bother to finish!

I had heard good things about Moonrise Kingdom (2012) - mainly that it was "quirky", so I put it on my list. I started watching it on Sunday, but I only got about half way through it when I had to stop.  Somehow I never felt any pressing need to keep watching it, and after about 3 days, I just decided to send it back without finishing it.

The movie is quirky, but it is also incredibly slow.  I almost fell asleep during the part I watched.  As you know from some of the movies I've already reviewed, I'm not a big "action" fan, so I'm not opposed to movies that don't have car chases and gun-shootouts.  (After all, I liked Quartet !) However, this movie was painfully slow, and sadly there wasn't enough quirkiness to carry it.  I really wanted to like it!  Obviously, I can't recommend this to my readers.

Stay tuned - I will try to give you some GOOD recommendations in the near future!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

6 Weeks and Counting

This is a big week for Bessie!  Tuesday was her 6 week anniversary, and Monday was her Doc appointment.

The doctor was very impressed!  He took an x-ray. It must have been ok because he didn't tell me there were any loose parts inside!.  He liked how much I could straighten her, and he was impressed by my 100 degree bend.  He was also impressed by how well I was walking, and how quickly, with no cane or other assistance.  The nurse also complimented me, as did the secretary!  Doc wants to see me again in 2 months.  He said to keep working on my bend - he wants me to get to 110-115.

Doc cleared me to get back in the pool.  He said my incision looks very well healed.  He also encouraged me to go back to Water Aerobics, which I am anxious to do and will start in Sept.

Doc also said that I can expect the stiffness from swelling for months.  He said it really takes a year before the whole healing and strengthening process is over.

In the waiting room with me was a woman who still had her TED hose, her leg pumps and her walker.  I thought to myself how glad I am that I am past that stage of the process!

Shortly after my doc appointment, was my PT session.  Kristen put a 4" step-box in the middle of the floor and had me step up on it without anything to hold on to!  That was scary, but I was able to do it.  (20 times from the front and 20 times to the side.)  She said I need to learn to trust myself more!

We discussed my PT schedule.  I will have 6 more sessions after this week.  She agreed with me that it would be better to go once a week for 6 weeks rather than 2x for 3 weeks, especially since I am good about doing my own exercising at home.  So I will be going every Thursday through Sept 5.

I think I have mentioned this before, but I am going to repeat it.  Both of my physical therapists have mentioned having patients who don't do their own exercises outside of PT sessions, and then they wonder why they don't get better faster.  Really?  DUH!!!  The biggest advice I can give to anyone out there who is considering surgery like this is that you HAVE to be diligent about exercising if you want to see progress.  You can't rely on a therapist to do all the work for you.  They give guidance, but YOU have to do the work yourself if you want results!  3 times a day for 3-4 weeks, and then 2 times a day after that.  You have to keep moving and walking.  You can't just sit in the chair or lie in the bed and expect to be able to walk well. If you don't keep moving and stretching and squeezing early in the process, your joint will stiffen up, and it will be even harder to move.  Also, when you do exercise, you see daily progress and that is a great motivator!!

To sum up my 6 weeks status:  I am totally off my cane now.  I still limp at times, but not all the time.  My leg feels stiff most of the time, but it doesn't really "hurt".  There are times when I actually forget I had surgery.   I am very cautious walking outside on uneven ground or in public places, but I'm very confident in the house.  I do fine getting in and out of the car.  I have not tried stairs, but I suspect I could do them with a sturdy railing to hold on to.  I can sleep in any position in bed, but my leg does get stiff when kept in one position for very long, so I still have to move around a lot in bed, and often have to get up and walk in the wee hours (today I made it until 6 am!).  Overall, I am very excited about my progress!

Ok, that's it for today.  Thanks for reading and supporting my efforts!  I'll talk to you again soon!


Monday, July 22, 2013

Photos for your viewing pleasure...

Just sharing some photos from here.  First is the Swallowtail that was in the front yard at New House on Friday.  This one posed for me:

Next is a Turkey Vulture that Hubs photographed from the backyard at Old House:

Last, but not least, a Cicada in our little maple tree at Old House:

Talk to you again soon!


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pain Meds

I am pretty much off the hard-core pain meds now, so I did some analysis of how much I took.  Starting with the day I came home from the hospital, I kept a log of all the meds I took so I would know what time each dose was.

I came home on a Thursday around 2 pm.  That day after I got home, I took 1 Vicodin and 4 doses of Percocet.  Friday and Saturday, I took 7 doses each day.  On Friday, I started with Perc, but then after the Home Health Care nurse came and told me it was ok to switch to my preferred Vic, I did so.  So I was basically taking something every 2-3 hours.

By Sunday (which would be 5 days from surgery) I dropped down to 3 doses/day and did that through Thursday.  I would take 1 early in the day, usually around my morning PT, then 1 mid afternoon around my 2nd PT, and then another in the evening with my 3rd PT.

On Friday, June 21, I dropped to 1 dose/day.  For the next 3 weeks - until Friday, July 12, I took 1-2 doses of pain meds/day, sometimes adding in an Ibuprofen.  Last Sat and Sun, I didn't take any pain meds, just Ibu.  The last Vic I took was Monday, July 15.  Since then I've been taking just Ibu - 1 or 2/day.

For the last couple weeks of the Vic, I found it most helpful to take it at bedtime to keep my leg from aching during the night.

For the last week, I would say that I really don't have "pain" anymore.  It is more an issue of stiffness from the swelling.  My PT said that I could experience swelling for months.  She said that for a knee it typically takes 3 months before you can do what you want to do, and 6 months to forget you had it done.  So I'm looking forward to Sept and December as key points in my recovery.

During the night, usually by around 4 or 5 am, Bessie is getting grumpy.  By that time it is hard to find a comfortable position for longer than about 20-30 min. because of stiffness.  I usually have to get up to go to the bathroom anyway, so I either walk around a bit, or sit up in the chair for 30 min or so, and that seems to help.  Then I can get back in bed and go back to sleep.

Also, as I side note, I have been totally off my cane - even outside - since Tuesday, July 16 which was the 5 week mark.

I'm sharing this partly for my own record keeping, but also for those of you who are headed for surgery yourselves in the future.  I urge you all to record your experiences because it is very helpful to be able to see the progress in quantifiable terms.

Thanks for reading!  It is a rainy day here in Central Ohio today, but this front coming through should break the humidity which has been horrid for the past week!

Talk to you again soon!


Friday, July 19, 2013

Book Review - The Silver Star

My most recent book was The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls.  She is most well known for The Glass Castle which was about her life growing up in a very dysfunctional family.  She followed that by a pre-quel called Half Broke Horses, which was about her grandmother's childhood.

This book is fiction and is not related to the other two.  It is set in the 1970s  in a small town in Virginia.  The main characters are the narrator Jean "Bean" and her older sister Liz.  They are about 12 and 15 when their crazy mother leaves them alone in their house in California to follow her dream of being an entertainer.  When they realize she isn't coming back, and the creditors start knocking on the door, they use the last remaining funds they have to buy bus tickets to visit their mother's brother across the country in Virginia.

Once they arrive in Virginia they find a very different world than the one they've been raised in.  They also come to understand their mother's early life a little better.  Bean gets to meet her father's family - he had died before she was born, and it is from them that she is given the Silver Star that he was awarded in Vietnam.

The book raises issues of race.  Bean's English class is reading To Kill A Mockingbird and discussing it at the same time that the school the girls are going to has been integrated.  There are some situations that happen to the girls that are sort of reminiscent of some of the events of TKAM (at least thematically if not literally).

When the book was released earlier this summer, there was a review of it in the local paper.  The review was not totally complimentary, but I had already purchased the book and was determined to read  it because I had enjoyed Walls' other books.  I did like this book overall, and I looked forward to my reading time to see what was going to happen next.  I don't agree with the criticisms of the reviewer;  however, I will say I was very disappointed in the ending.  I'm not going to give it away in case some of you are going to read it.  If you do, let me know, and we'll discuss the ending.  I just sort of felt it was a cop-out and an easy way to end the book.

Yes, I would recommend it, but I would not call it an "intense" read.

:) Amy

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What? More Bragging? Sheesh!

Some of you may be getting tired of hearing me brag about my accomplishments.  If you are one of those people, then you might want to skip this entry and give yourself a break from the brag-fest.

If you are still with me, thank you, and here is today's brag:

I had PT today.  I told my PT Kristen that I have my 6-weeks doc appt on Monday, and I asked if she could measure me.  She obliged willingly.

So, there are 2 measurements that matter to physical therapists in these situations.  The first is how much I can bend my knee.  I've talked about that before, and the last time I noted this measurement here, I was at 90 degrees.  For comparison purposes, my other knee - the one that was not replaced - was measured at 94 degrees when I started doing my therapy at the facility.  Today, she measure Bessie at .....

wait for it........

100 degrees !!!!!

WOO HOOO !!!!!

The second measurement that is important is how straight my leg is when it is stretched out flat.  On my evaluation upon entry into the PT facility, this was measured in both legs.  At that time, my old, un-replaced knee was at 11 degrees and Bessie was at 16 degrees.  As of today, Bessie is at 5 degrees !!!!

WOO HOOOO again !!!!! 

Just recently, I started having Hubs push down on Bessie which is something that Kristen does.  She said she thinks it is helping!  I have him put his palm just above my knee.  Then he pushed down until I tell him to stop (which is just before I would typically say OUCH) and then he holds it for a count of 10.  We do that about 3 times during each exercise session.

The longstanding goal for my knee bend is 110 degrees, so I'm almost there.  The goal for the flat measurement is 0, but she said everyone will be happy with 5.  I'm hoping that I get big praise from Doc on Monday.  If he doesn't praise me enough then I will crow about my accomplishments to him!!!

Ok - that's it for today.  I promise not to brag any more for the next few days, so you can take a break from your celebrating... while I take a nap!  ;)

Thanks for hangin' in here with me!  Your support really means a lot!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I didn't think I'd ever be able to do it!

It's day 36.  5 weeks plus 1 day since surgery.

When I came home from the hospital, I couldn't even lift my heel off the bed.  Not at all.  Not even enough to drag it across the sheet.

Then I could slide it side ways  - and do scissors exercises.

Then I could raise my knee.

At Day 21 I could raise my leg about an inch off the bed.

At Day 25 I could raise my whole leg off the bed in a straight leg raise from lying flat on my back.  Once.

Since then, I've lifted it 2 or 3 or 4 times in an exercise session, but never in a row.  Always with Hubs helping me lift it in between the ones I did on my own.

Tonight, Day 36 - I lifted Bessie all the way up - straight - 5 times in a row, took a break, and then did it 5 more times in a row - with no help!!!

There were times, when I thought I would never be able to do that.  EVER!  And now I can!

When you go to bed tonight, lift your legs up straight in the air, and think about not being able to do it!

I think I can... I think I can... I think I can...


Movie Review - Quartet

I just watched a truly delightful movie.  There were no car-chases or guns.  There was no sex, although there was a romance of sorts.  It was funny and sweet and very well done and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

The story is set at an English country estate which has been turned into a home for retired musicians.  A number of the people who live there are former opera singers.  Every year, on Verdi's birthday, they do a gala presentation for the patrons of the home to raise money to keep it open.

This particular year, a new resident has moved in - an opera diva - played by Maggie Smith.  She comes in to the home determined not to participate or get comfortable there.  She is determined that she has lost her operatic voice, and she makes it clear that she has no interest in "playing" with the other residents.  It just so happens that one of the men living here is a former husband of hers.  He never stopped loving her, and she realizes that she still loves him as well.  He and 2 other friends convince her to sing with them at the gala.

This movie was directed by Dustin Hoffman, and there is a "bonus" on the DVD where he talks about the experience, and where others are interviewed about him as a director.  The actors agreed that one of Hoffman's strengths as a director was that because he has been an actor so much, he "gets it".  That gives him a valuable perspective as a director.   Maggie Smith commented that one of the things she liked about the movie is that it shows that elderly people can still have fun and can still have a valuable life.  I would have to agree - that is one of the things I liked about the movie.  These people are not sitting around waiting to die, as is often the case in nursing homes.  In spite of their various ailments and weaknesses, they get up and get dressed every day, and socialize with each other.  They play music and sing and dance and try to make the most of each day.  It is inspiring!  Some of them teach young people as well.

Scottish actor Billy Connolly is one of the friends of Maggie's character, and he is hilarious.  Most of the funniest moments in the movie involve him.  He is constantly hitting on the staff members as well as on the very attractive female doctor who runs the home.

I highly recommend this movie to anyone who wants a pleasant 2 hour diversion which will leave you feeling good.  Music lovers and opera lovers will especially enjoy it!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

It's Bloomin' !!!

You may remember that in May we planted a "bare stick rose"  which I purchased mail-order from David Austin Roses in Texas. It didn't have so much as a root ball on it - it was literally a bare stick with some roots hanging off of it.   For the longest time, I couldn't see it doing anything at all, and I was just about to take a photo of it and send it to the company and ask for my money back.

This is what it looked like the day we planted it on May 18:

Well, it decided to start sprouting while I was in the hospital over June 11-13.  This is what it looked like as of June 16:

As of today, this is what it looks like now:  

I can't even tell you how excited I was when I saw open blooms!  There have been about 4 buds on it for the last week, and I've been checking them every day.  My neighbor said these were not open yet at 6 am when she brought the paper over, but as of about 10 am, WWWWAAAAAA   !!!!!!!!!!!

I didn't really think there was any hope of getting blooms yet this summer, even after it started to sprout leaves, but it really IS going to be a decent rose bush after all!   YAY!!!

...Just one more thing for me to do a Happy Dance for with my new bionic leg!  


Monday, July 15, 2013

Tending the Scar - Day 34

When I saw my doc at the 2 week point, I asked about scar cream.  My Home-PT had suggested Mederma Scar Cream or Vitamin E Oil.  Doc said I needed to wait until it was "dried out".  I interpreted that to mean that all the little crusty bits had to be gone.  At that point, the staples had just been removed and there weren't even scabs on those little holes yet.  He suggested it might be another month before I would be ready for scar cream.

Last Thursday, when I was at PT, I asked my PT Kristen about scar cream and told her what my doc said.  At the time I asked, she was massaging my scar, and she said I was almost there - meaning my crusty bits were almost gone. Being the impatient person I am, I decided to stop at CVS on the way home that day and pick up some cream.

It took a few minutes, but I finally found Mederma on the bottom shelf of the hand-cream aisle.  However, it was over $36 a tube!  Right next to it was the CVS version for $25, so I went with that.  The next item over was Bag Balm, and I thought to myself that might work just as well, but I went with the CVS stuff.  The next day, I decided to try my new cream just on the part of my scar that is above my knee, where all the little scabs were gone.  First, it's not really a cream.  It is a clear gel.  The good news is that a little dab goes a long way.  As soon as I put it on and rubbed it in, my scar changed in appearance.  It went from being sort of dried out with white skin flakes all around it, to being all smooth and pinkish/purple.  As of today, I think the rest of my scar is ready for a treatment as well. 

 I am anxious to see what Kristen says about it when I see her later today.  She told me that eventually all my staple holes will disappear, and I'll be left with a thin purple line where the incision was.  

On another subject, I have not taken any Vicodin for several days.  I've taken Ibuprofen 2-3 times a day instead.  It is supposed to be better for inflammation.  I did wake up with my thigh muscle aching last night around 2:30, but I got up and walked around a bit, and that helped.  

I think it took me about a day to recover from my mile hike at the park.  The swelling in my foot is back down to where it was before that adventure.  Yesterday morning, before it got too hot outside, I walked out front - past 5 houses and back.  It is too hot for that today, and since I've got PT this afternoon, I decided not to push it.  

Time to go put my "gel" on.  Thanks for reading!  Have a great day!


Friday, July 12, 2013

Movie Review - Safe Haven

My readers may remember that I previously reviewed a Nicholas Sparks books called Safe Haven.  Today I finished watching the movie made from the book.

The story was clearly the same, but there were many MANY changes made to the movie.  Nicholas Sparks is listed on the credits as a producer, so he clearly had input.  I found the book much more complex and much more suspenseful.  I'm glad I read it before seeing the movie.  I enjoyed the movie, and I suppose that if I hadn't read the book, I probably would have liked it more than I did.

If you like romance with a little suspense, you will like this, but I recommend reading the book first!

Day 31 - A Walk In The Park.... literally!

Today was a very special day indeed!  The humid weather has finally broken here, and it was a simply glorious day.  Low to mid 80s and almost no humidity.  Blue sky with fluffy white clouds and a slight breeze in the shade.  Absolutely perfect to be outside!

So, that's what we did - we went outside!  We have a lovely metro-park very near our houses that has wonderful flowerbeds and a frog pond and boardwalk trails through the woods.  I told Hubs yesterday that I wanted to go to the park today and enjoy the weather - so we did!  We spent about an hour and a half over there this afternoon, and..... wait for it....


Yes, I used my cane, but I actually walked around the park.  This was the first time in over 2 years that I've walked at that park.  For the last 2 summers, Hubs pushed me around in one of the complimentary wheelchairs that they keep by the entrance.  I hated having to do that, but it was the only way for me to get to enjoy the park.

We did sit down a lot, but still the route we took was probably a mile of walking all together. For those of you who are familiar with this park, we went in the main entrance - straight back to the arbor that leads to the herb garden, then turned right and went to the pond.  Then we finished by way of the boardwalk behind the pond and around past the restrooms and back out through the main entrance.

 My leg is tired tonight, but it doesn't really hurt per se.  When we got home, I immediately put it up and put ice on it - off and on for a couple of hours, and I stayed off it mostly for the next 4 hours or so, and that helped, but now it feels like it usually does at this time of night, and I just did the dishes.

Here are some views of what we like to call "our" park:  ENJOY!

New planting area where there used to be a tree.  This has veggies and flowers combined.

Hubs took this one - amazing clarity !

I love dahlias !!!

Here are some of our friends from the pond: 

This is where we exit the trail behind the frog pond.  

Clearly, it is a good year for the lillies!  

And THIS is the prize shot of the day - our very first INDIGO BUNTING!!

Thanks for joining us on our walk in the park!

Talk to you again soon!


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Animal sightings!

One of the revelations that we had when we set up our "critter cam" in the back yard at Old House in February was that we often have deer come to the yard in the middle of the night.  We have footage of them from many nights in the winter and spring - sometimes 1, usually 2 or 3. They would eat out of the bird feeders for maybe 15 minutes and then wander away.  We've only seen them at night once since late April, but...

 Last week, Hubs saw a deer in the back yard in the late afternoon on 2 different days:

Isn't she adorable?!  She did seem to have a scar on her left side, but we think it wasn't fresh.  She might be a little under nourished too because her ribs sort of stick out.  It was exciting to see a deer in the yard during the day!

Here is a photo of some other little beasties... We've had LOTS and LOTS of bunnies this year!  We've only seen one actually IN the garden.  There was one little place at a corner where there was a gap between 2 pieces of fencing, but now that is fixed so no more bunnies eating lettuce.  However, it does seem they got to some peas through the fencing here:

:) Amy

Book Review - The Kitchen House

Yesterday, I finished The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom.   Set around the turn of the nineteenth century on a Virginia tobacco plantation, the story focuses on a family and their slaves.  There is much mixing of race in both the master family and the slaves' families because 2 generations of white men "use" the black women for their pleasure and get them pregnant repeatedly.

The main character is Lavinia.  At about age 6 or 7, she was orphaned while her family was coming to America from Ireland.  Both of her parents died on board the ship and were buried at sea.  She and her brother were split up and sold as indentured servants.  Lavinia was purchased by the ship's captain who happens to be the master of the plantation.  He brings her home and puts her in the kitchen house for the slaves to raise, so she learns to love the slaves as her family.  Lavinia narrates much of the story.

There is a second narrator named Belle.  Belle is the captain's daughter by a slave woman.  She is light skinned enough to pass for white, but she is kept as a slave.  She ends up being the main caretaker of Lavinia, and they become very close.  Belle mainly works in the kitchen house cooking for the master family. Belle and Lavinia narrate alternating chapters where they comment on some of the same events from different points of view,  but for the first 3/4 of the book, Lavinia's chapters are much longer than Belle's.

The story covers about 20 years of time as Lavinia grows up and eventually marries the captain's son and becomes the mistress of the plantation when her father-in-law dies.  There is a lot of drama in the story - secrets and relationship issues - and there is also some exciting action.  I really enjoyed the book and looked forward to my reading time to see what would happen next.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

4 weeks - My, how time flies!

Can anyone believe that my surgery was just 4 weeks ago today?  In some ways it has gone very fast, and in other ways, it hasn't, but what is certain is that I am making far better progress far faster than I ever thought was possible!  YAY!

Today I was back in the PT office with my head PT Kristen.  I did call her yesterday to discuss the whole manipulation thing, and I think that conversation really helped both of us.  I think she appreciated knowing my reaction to the procedure, and I appreciated her willingness to take my experience into consideration.  She said that everyone is different and the communication is essential for good therapy.  Today, both the men on her team were off, so it was just her.  She does the scar-tissue-massage very differently than Jim did.  We talked a lot about it, and it was helpful for me to get feedback on what I've been doing at home too.  She did confirm that will be done every time I go in.

I told her that my knee has been clicking for the last couple of days with every step I take.  She said that is a result of scar tissue and swelling and it is very normal.  She also said that it can take 3-6 months for the swelling to completely go away with a total knee replacement.  It was a relief to know the clicking was not the result of a loose screw!  Of course, the irony with the swelling is that the more you are on it, the more it will swell, but you have to keep moving so it doesn't stiffen up.  If you just sit around with the leg up all the time, it won't heal properly, nor have the desired range of motion.  So I guess I put up with the swelling.

Today we did some new exercises.  I laid on a table with my feet up on an elevated bar at the end.  I pushed against the bar and the table moved back.  I did that with the middle of each foot on, and then knees flexed and extended - kind of like squats on my back.  Then I did it with the balls of my feet on the bar and just dropped my heal - so it was kind of like standing on tip-toes only in a horizontal position.   I also stepped up on a 6" step - not just putting my foot up on it like last time, but actually lifting my body up on it - both from the front (as I would do going up steps) but also to the side.  I did another exercise at a machine where I had to pull against a weight strapped around my ankle.  I ended the session with 15 min of electrodes and ice again.  She let me control the temp on the ice so it didn't feel like it was freezing my flesh.

Overall, it was a very productive session!!  I am totally off my cane in the house now, but I would not go outside without it.

I hope everyone out there is having a great day!  Talk to you again soon!


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Put your earplugs in - I'm shouting again !!!

Hello again!

Yes, this is yet another entry today... but I just couldn't wait to share my excitement!

Do you remember a few days ago when I was shouting about being able to lift my leg an inch or two off the bed?  Well, let me tell you, that shout now pales in comparison - as of tonight, I can lift my leg high in the air!!!  Yes, really !!!  It's like magic!

So, picture this.  I'm there lying on my back on the bed, and Hubs is there standing beside the bed ready to help me with my whole-leg-lefts.  I say, "wait - let me see how high I can left it"....  not really expecting anything more than my usual 2 inches...  I concentrated... and  it started going up, and it went up, and up and just kept going until it was almost straight up in the air !!!  I screamed, "OH MY GOD!"   Then I screamed again!!!

This is MONUMENTAL !!!  Please drink for me - drink to me - drink!  1 glass, 2 glasses, oh, have a whole bottle !!!  (Of course, I can't do that or I won't be able to lift anything!)

I know this entry is dangerously close to being overloaded with exclamation marks, but you know what:?  I DON'T CARE BECAUSE I CAN LIFT MY LEG ALL THE WAY UP !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

:) Amy

Another Accomplishment on Day 25

I tried something new today, and I liked it!  I walked outside on the sidewalk in front of the house - just using my cane for stability!  I went down the driveway and turned to the west - past our yard and to the neighbor's driveway.  Then I turned 'round and came back again, and on to the east past the other neighbor's house and to the corner, and then back again.  So with the returns, it was a total walk the width of 6 yards.  I could easily have done more, but it was starting to rain a little and Hubs was getting ready to go to the other house.   I think I am going to add this to my daily routine, weather permitting!

Overall today, I feel the most stable that I've felt in the last 25 days!  During exercises this morning, I told Hubs that I felt I was sort of on a plateau with the exercises.  I haven't seen much notable progress in what I can do with leg-lifts since I was able to lift Bessie off the bed earlier in the week.  But I think that overall stability is noticeably improved.  I have actually been walking around the house today without the cane, and at times, I don't even feel like I'm limping.

I've also seen progress in pain-management.  One of the prescriptions that I was given when I came home was 600 mg Ibuprofen.  I have tried it a few times, and I never felt that it really did anything for me.  That, in fact, is what I'm supposed to take for "mild to moderate pain" whereas, the Vicodin (or Percocet) is supposed to be for "moderate to severe pain".  I've been using the Vic because I can tell when it's working, and the last 2 nights I've taken that at bedtime, and it has helped me go to sleep.  Today I decided to try the Ibu again and see how it worked - it is supposed to help with inflammation as well as pain.   So, far I think it is working better than the Vic in some ways.  I feel much less stiff, so I think it really is helping with inflammation.  So, maybe I have turned the corner in that regard as well!

I believe I mentioned in my entry last Wednesday when I talked about my PT visit, that the PT had manipulated my knee/leg vigorously.  I sort of feel that his doing so set me back in my stability.  I think it has taken me until today to recover from that experience, and get back to where I was before I went to that appointment.  I think on Monday I am going to call Kristen and talk with her about this procedure.  I want to find out what the purpose is and if this is something that is going to keep being done.  I also want to express my feeling that this may have been more of a hindrance than a help.  I'm not ready to say I don't want it done again, but I do want to find out what it is supposed to accomplish and let her know my experience with it.  I will endure it if there is long term gain to be gotten from it.

Well, it's time to exercise yet again... so I hope all my readers are enjoying a lovely weekend! Which reminds me,  here is a look at one of my favorite Maggie Smith moments on Downton Abbey:

Thanks for reading! Talk to you again soon!


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Movie Review - The Reader

My faithful readers will remember that I reviewed a book on June 22 called The Reader.  Yesterday I watched the movie made from the book.  I give it 2 thumbs WAY up !!!

This movie was produced in 2008 and starred Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes and David Kross (the two men play the same character at different ages).  Kate Winslet actually won several awards for this role, most significantly, the Oscar for Best Leading Actress.

I found the movie to be erotic, thought-provoking, historically interesting and sad, all at the same time, and I really enjoyed it.  The DVD that I watched also had a list of deleted scenes.  Those were very interesting to watch, and actually added some substance to the movie.  As it is, the movie is over 2 hours long, so I totally understand why they might have chosen to delete some of the scenes they did, but some of them added significant plot detail that I remembered from the book.  I'm glad I had read the book first, but it's certainly not essential for enjoyable movie viewing.

There were also a number of Special Features on the DVD in addition to Deleted Scenes that were very worthwhile.  There were a couple about the making of the movie that really added a lot to my understanding of the historical background of the story.  There was also a very interesting segment showing how they used make up to age Kate Winslet.  At the time she made the movie, she was in her late 20s.  In the movie, she goes from mid-thirties to mid-sixties.  They did a lot with latex - not just on her face but on her hands and feet as well, to make her look older.  It was amazing and spooky.

Overall, I can't recommend this book and movie too highly. It is one of those works that will be with me for a long time.

The Price of all this

There has been a great deal of talk in the press lately about transparency in the reporting of medical fees.  I am very fortunate to have great insurance coverage that has covered all my expenses for this procedure and all its related testing.  However, many people are not so lucky.  Indeed, once I met my deductible (which is a union negotiated amount), everything has been covered completely.  That is not to say that the fees that have been charged are paid in full.  There is the fee that is charged and then there is the amount the insurance company has agreed to pay.  Because my doctor and the facility are "in network" and have an agreement with my insurance company, they take what the company pays and write off the difference.

I asked my doctor's secretary what his charges were for being the surgeon, and she gave me a price quote which matches what is shown in my Explanation of Benefits as being submitted by him.  She didn't even have to look it up - she knew it right off.  I then called the hospital to ask about their fees, and I got a very different answer.  Evidently, they anticipate this question from many patients because they had a section of their phone system set up just for the question of price.    I left a message on the automated line, and got a call back the next day.  The person who called informed me that they could not give an exact amount because the procedure could vary greatly from 1 patient to the next.  Couldn't she give me a ball park figure or a range, I asked?  No, she was not authorized to do that.  I suppose I could have pushed it and asked to speak to someone higher up, or I could have written a letter to someone, but I chose not to press the issue.

Well, in the past few weeks, the claims to my insurance company have been listed in my claims section on the website.  My doctor's fee is listed, as is a fee to the GP at the hospital.  Then comes the anesthesiology fee, and another fee for the hospital itself.  I don't know how inclusive the hospital fee is - whether it includes pharmacy or not.  I have not looked into each claim specifically yet.

Those of you who know me, know that I am not shy about discussing money.  I've given some thought to listing all the fees here - transparency, and all....  but I've decided not to post the amounts here in my blog due to the very public nature of the internet.  However, I will be happy to share the specifics with individuals who know me and are curious.  So, if you are a friend or relative and would like to know what all of this has cost and what my insurance company paid, just send me an email, or leave a comment, and I will email the information to you.

Happy 4th of July to everyone!!!


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Day 22 PT

Today was my first real work-out at the PT facility.   I worked with Jim, who is an athletic trainer at one of the local high schools (not mine).  The PTs in this office are in teams of 3, so Kristen is the team leader and then Jim is one of her 2 assistants.

Jim started me off on a stationary bike, but he didn't have me actually pedal all the way around.  I just rocked my legs back and forth, and when my right foot pushed the pedal forward, that would force Bessie to squeeze up... so the goal was to squeeze and let up.... alternating for 5 minutes.  That was my warm-up.  Then he took me to the table and had me lie on my back while he manipulated my knee.  He pushed and pulled and rubbed and squeezed and massaged - some above, some below and some on the knee.  He wiggled my knee cap.  None of what he did hurt, but there were a couple of places that he touched that were a little sensitive - mainly right on my scar.  He explained why he was doing what he was doing.  Part of it involves loosening scar tissue.  I told him that I have been massaging my scar, but I can't tell that it is softening up much.  He said it takes a long time.  He also said that there is still swelling inside, and it takes a long time for that to completely go away as well.   (My left foot is still swollen, but the ankle and lower leg has gone down a lot.)

Jim was very mindful of the issue of not inflaming my right knee, and I was glad to hear that, because that was one of my concerns.  After he did the manipulation, he asked if I could still raise my leg off the table, so I showed off for him and I could!!!

We did a series of exercises with me standing at a bar to hold onto.  I did toe-heal raises (20x), I moved my left foot up onto a 6" step and back down (20x) - but didn't actually step up onto it yet.  I stood on my left leg for 30 sec at a time (4x).  I did 20 squats there as well.  Then he took me to another machine where he had me step into a loop which he pulled up to my knee and I had to pull my leg back against it, straightening my knee each time.  Back at the table, he had me sit on the side and kick Bessie straight out.  I can't get her totally straight yet, but we're about 80% there.  After that he had me lie back down, and he measured my passive bend at 90 degrees.  He didn't force the bend at all.  That is up from 84 on Monday, so he was impressed with that.  So was I !!!

We ended with the electrodes for 15 min - 4 this time, but no ice.  I told him it was painfully cold last time, so he left it off.  The electrodes are supposed to help with pain, so I am not taking any pain meds, and I want to see how long the effect of the electrodes lasts.  I am going to go put an ice pack on it for awhile while I watch TV.

So, that's my big adventure for today.  Thanks for reading, and I hope everyone has a great holiday!

Happy 4th !!!


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Day 21 - Shouting from the Roof Top !!!

Celebrate with me, everyone!  I am sooo excited, I can hardly contain myself.  Tonight, just 3 weeks after surgery, I was able to lift Bessie off the bed!!! Both from the position of lying flat on my back, and also from sitting up.  I can left my whole leg up off the bed about an inch or two.  I can't even tell you how HUGE this is !!!!  I almost cried!

I can also now get into and out of bed without using the leg cross-over technique that I had been relying on.  It is very rewarding to know that all this exercising I've been doing is paying off!

I walked around the house most of today with no walker or cane.  I take it slow, and I still hold on to things occasionally, but I really don't feel that I need the aids in the house.  (I wouldn't go out without my walker yet.)

It might be my imagination, but I think my new leg is just a tad longer than the old one.  It would make sense, since Doc put in a plastic piece to replace the missing cartilage.  I don't know how thick that is, but it is more than has been in there for years.

Tomorrow I go back to PT.  She told me to bring my cane as well as my walker.  I can't wait to show off for her!

Celebrate with me!  Have a glass of wine... or 2... When you lie in your beds tonight, lift your left leg an inch off the bed and think about me!!!


Monday, July 1, 2013

Day 20 - New PT Facility

Today I started my Physical Therapy at the office that is connected to my surgeon's office.   I knew this was to be an "evaluation" visit, but I thought we'd do a little more actual therapy than we did.  I was a little disappointed in the lack of rigor in today's visit.

First, I sat and talked with my PT, Kristen.  She asked about the history of my knee problems and about the exercises I've been doing on my own at home.  She seemed impressed by the long list of things I've been doing (Yea, Andrew!), so that was good.

She also asked what my goals were for our therapy sessions.  There are basically 3 things I hope to be able to do once I am done with therapy:  1 - to be able to do an entire grocery-shopping expedition without having to sit down half-way through, and without having to use the electric cart.  2 - to be able to walk the nature trails at our local park with Hubs (he has very generously been pushing me in a wheelchair there for the last year or so).  3 - to be able to return to my regular water aerobics class.  Since I chose the surgery for the knee which has historically given me the most trouble, I am hoping that this surgery will noticeably improve my quality of life, even though I still need to have the other knee done.

Kristen had me get up on a table and she worked both of my legs to see what my range of motion and my strength was.  She measured the passive bend on my right leg at 95 and on my left leg at about 85ish.  This was just from me sitting with my foot flat on the table and pulling it back as far as I could under my own leg-strength.  She said their goal is going to be to get to 110 on the left.  (I think that is optimistic given the size of my thighs and calves, but we'll see.)

She then had me lie flat on my back with my legs out straight, and she raised Bessie straight up from the hip joint - 20 times.  She asked if I have been doing that.  I said no, I have Hubs do it from a sitting position, so she wants us to add this to the list of things we do.

The next thing I had to do was also from the position of lying down.  I had to bring my knees up (not forced, just comfortably) and then raise my butt off the table while squeezing my glutes together.  (This is called The Bridge.)  I also need to add this to my repertoire.

That's it.  That's all she did with me.

For the last 15 min I was there, I sat with electrodes attached to my quads, and then my leg wrapped in an ice blanket.  This is supposed to stimulate blood flow to the area to help reduce swelling and pain.  She also told me that it is ok for me to start massaging my incision/scar even without lotion so I can start breaking down the scar tissue that is making it very hard.

This afternoon, Hubs and I did the full regimen of exercises, and then I iced for about 20 min.  I am now having more twinges of pain than I usually have.

Kristen also informed me that they are going to do my PT twice a week so that I will get more weeks.  (My insurance covers 20 sessions per calendar year and I already had 6 with home care.)  So my next appointment is Wed, and then I will have Tuesday and Thursday next week.  My next door neighbor is very kindly driving me in my car, and she is happy to be able to help.

So, that's my news for today.  Thanks for hanging in here with me! Talk to you again soon!