Right off the bat I will say that I’m glad I finally had the surgery. The time that had elapsed since I was knocked down on the stairs at school until the actual surgery was about 18 months. Apparently I had osteoarthritis developing in my knees, but had never suffered any debilitating symptoms. From the day of the fall, my life was never the same. Pain was constant. Activities that I normally enjoyed like hiking and nature photography in the woods became impossible. Walking up or down a flight of stairs was excruciating.
I went through physical therapy. I had shots in the knee and fluid drained. Nothing improved the condition of the injured knee. I had been forced to walk with a cane and knew that the next step would be a wheelchair. Rising from a chair and trying to get to a standing position was enough to make me cry out at times or whimper, no matter how hard I tried to remain silent. The situation kept getting worse.
Knee replacement surgery is no picnic, but if you know that you are going to have to have it done, please don’t put if off. I believe the longer a bad knee is abused through daily normal activity, the more difficult things will get. The cartilage in that knee was gone. My knee cap was the size of a quarter. I had bone spurs in the knee, and the bones were literally grinding against each other every step and every time I had to stand up.
The good news is that within six weeks of the surgery, I was in less pain than I was before the surgery and continue to improve daily.
Before the surgery, I knew that my knee was continuing to deteriorate. The pain was 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. I couldn’t sleep, sit, lay, stand, or walk without pain. It was clear that unless I had an answered prayer and a divine touch from God, things were not going to get any better. With the surgery, there was hope that all of the pain would come to an end and I would one day get back to normal daily activity without pain.
I won’t lie about it. The surgery is a massive and complicated procedure. Patients are expected to get up and walk (with help) the same day as surgery. Pain medication immediately after surgery does not eliminate the pain, but it does make it bearable. A two to three day hospital stay with therapy follows surgery. Much like having a baby, that pain is forgotten in the course of time. Knowing that you will continue to improve and eventually be completely pain free is a hope that keeps you going.
Physical therapy starts in the hospital and it is expedient for patients to follow their instructions and do physical therapy with home health, on their own, and follow up on an outpatient program when they finish in home therapy. Getting back mobility and range of motion are crucial. This varies from patient to patient.
I have heard stories about people who felt really great and were able to be up and about on their own in around a month. That is phenomenal. Although it may be true for rare individuals, it certainly is not the normal recovery time. I had anticipated six to eight weeks and then back to work. After the surgery, when I returned in a month to the orthopedic surgeon’s office my physician told me that I could do absolutely no work of any kind for the first three months, but he preferred six, and if he really had his way, I wouldn’t attempt going back to any type of job until next year. (I assume he meant next fall.)
It is very, very important to have your home ready for returning home. No scatter rugs should be on the floors. Open floor space is very important. If it is possible to have someone in your home to be with you around the clock for the first few weeks after surgery, that is very important. Getting up and down, getting situated in bed, and taking care of basic personal needs is very difficult in the beginning. You can think ahead to having things ready like a potty chair to go beside of the bed in the beginning, a walker, and a quad cane. If you don’t have those, the people from home health will help get them through your insurance.
The goodness of God, the kindness of people, and the support of friends, family, and church were the most important factors in my recovery from beginning until this current time. I am currently three months post op and doing well. I have been on my own after the first month. I’ve graduated from a walker to a quad cane to a regular cane, and am looking forward to walking without any help in the near future.
I hope I never have to have anything done to my other knee. It has not been problematic, in spite of being over used during the last couple of years. If that day should ever come in the future that my good knee developed problems, I would think it best to have the surgery as soon as possible.
I still pray for total healing in my body. I know that God could speak one word and out of His miraculous, creative power, He could regenerate and create a brand new skeleton in me from head to foot. Sometimes God chooses to work through physicians, medical science, and technology to bring about our healing.
For those who are debating whether or not to have a knee replacement after having been told by their physician that it is absolutely necessary, I can say that I am glad I finally had the surgery. I am very thankful for the progress I’ve made, and especially thankful that I no longer have to live with such intense pain every minute of my life. I would do it again, but not wait until the pain was so unbearable.
The following websites are especially helpful: http://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/guide/knee-replacement-surgery and http://orthopedics.about.com/od/hipkneereplacement/tp/kneereplacement.htm.