Knee Surgery – Preparing For and Surviving Recovery [Consumer]

by on March 6, 2011

in consumer

Dealing with Knee SurgeryFirst off – Many many thanks to all my friends and associates that chimed in with thoughts & well wishes for me during the time while I was braced up and recuperating from my knee surgery that I had back on the 10th of Feb. I really appreciated even the smallest of tidings. It’s amazing when you’re down, how even a single word of understanding from someone can mean so much! Thanks gang.

This article is based purely on my own personal experience in dealing with knee surgery and how I prepared for and coped with the aftermath of the surgery. Included are a few tidbits that if you know before-hand, can make you better prepared to deal with the recuperation period. What works for me may or may not work for you, but heck, any pointers would have been appreciated headed into this experience.

If you or someone you know is headed for some knee surgery, check things out below. It’s lengthy but hopefully helpful in some way, shape or form.

Here are the things I tackled heading into my surgery:

If you’re going to be home alone, try to stock up on snacks, both good and evil, for at least a week. I stockpiled on a family sized instant oatmeal box, Gatorade, bottled water, my preferred pain meds for when I come off the real stuff, BIG outdoor leaf and garden trash bags, beef jerky, Snickers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. If you have a backpack, dig it out or get one. Also, you may want to get, find or buy some loose, baggy shorts.

Those first few days, if you’re home alone, you will appreciate the ease of microwaving water and chowing down on oatmeal. It minimizes the standing up time. You’re also going to be loopy from the pain meds and when you go off the prescribed pain meds, you’ll appreciate the minimal amount of time you have stand to do something. And as you can tell, I was focused on proteins and sugars. I don’t gain weight after surgery, no matter how much I eat, so that first week is sort of a party, but the narcotics cause their own bit of a side affect of constipation, so you don’t want to load up on huge, bulky foods either.

After surgery you’re probably going to be in a locked Post-op leg brace. Meaning it will be locked out in the straight position. I cannot begin to describe how entertaining that can be. I took to camping out on the couch in the living room because I didn’t trust myself getting up and lumbering to the bathroom at night through the bedroom. It’s more of a straight shot to a bathroom from my living room and, here’s an important thing to consider: It’s a lot easier getting up from the couch than the bed for me. Plus you won’t wake your other half with the noise you might make getting up.

Your Home:

Dealing with Knee Surgery - supply tableSince you’re going to be in a brace that locks your leg out, you might want to consider a few other things. Before your surgery date, walk around your place as if your leg is in a brace. See what might need to be changed or moved around temporarily to make things easier for you. If you do this right, you might be surprised what pops up.

Extension cord and phone charger!

If you’re stuck on the couch, set up a table with your supplies next to you. This would include setting up an extension cord that reaches to your location on the couch so you can plug in various things. IE: Cell Phone, laptop, etc..

LOL… if you run a website/blog and you think you might be having extra time to write, well, that didn’t work for me. The first day I had automated a few (7) posts to go up while I was under. Yep, my website was going live while I was sedated with my knee cracked open 20 miles away from my laptop central. But after that, the next day on meds, I just did not care. I tried writing but it wasn’t making sense. I mean less so than normal. They were really good narcotics. It took me a few days to get it all back together.

Shoes:

If you wear shoes that you have to actively pull on, you might want to think about loose fitting shoes.

I have running shoes, but I have to actually pull them on to get them on. I have other shoes that are tie-ups, but have a generous opening that I can slip my foot into without having to pull the shoes on. For me, it was challenging, but I was putting on my own shoes and socks from day one. I am blessed with flexibility from spending nearly 15 years of my youth practicing martial arts. If you practiced doing things around the home with your leg straight, you probably already figured out you’re going to have some issues with shoes and socks, and something no one really ever thinks about… the bathroom!

Bathroom:

Go look at your bathroom and think about this IMPORTANT aspect: Imagining your leg locked out straight, think about going to the can. It’s a gymnastic trick at best but now, while you’re able, is the best time to set things up for yourself. Don’t look at your towel rack as a form of support. That puppy will rip right out of the wall because you’ll be putting most of your weight on what ever it is you’ll be using to lower yourself into a sitting position.

I don’t mean to be blunt or dish out TMI, but it is what it is!

Shorts:

If you don’t have any loose fitting shorts, you might want to hit up Walmart or Target for a few pair of loose comfortable shorts. If I had not owned shorts, this experience could have sucked even more. If I had not owned a lot of shorts, this experience could have been gamier than it was! I say loose fitting because you’ll need to get your shorts on and off over your leg brace when that time comes. You’ll go “ah” when those times keep happening.

Those First Few Showers:

You may not take a shower for a day or two or three. Those first few days the pain meds will be having their way with you and you won’t care. But at some point, higher reasoning kicks in and you will want to take a shower. Bring your cell phone with you to the bathroom and put it right outside your shower. Not across the bathroom. Right outside. If you slip and crater it, you’ll appreciate the phone being on the same level as where your head ends up if this unfortunate event takes place.

I found that a huge (outdoor leaf and grass) trash bag taped and tied off worked great for protecting the leg brace from getting wet. Don’t be shy, customize and what not.

When In The Shower:

Big pointer… at first you’ll only have one good leg to stand on… (no pun intended) and you will need to maintain your balance. The trick to staying balanced is keeping the good foot UNDER your knee, and your knee under your hip. And keeping your chest as close to above your hips as possible. Any kind of leaning will put you at risk of a slip. We’re trying to avoid this. If you don’t have a walk in shower, but rather a tub shower, bring your cane and crutches (Yes, I got both because at any particular time, one or the other is applicable) and put them just outside the shower and use them. Whether you think you need to or not.

Remember, don’t place them too far away. You want them about arm’s length away where you’re not leaning over to snag them. No leaning folks!

Crutches / Cane Warning:

Dealing with Knee Surgery - watch cat

The cat watches my knee heal

Though your crutches and cane have rubber feet, they WILL NOT work on linoleum when either surface is wet. I sadly discovered this on my first day back to work as I went whee! So be careful and treat your crutches / cane like your balancing act from the shower. When the walking surface is wet, the less extension or leaning out and away from your center of gravity (body), the better.

Cell Phone:

Cell Phone Tip: Keep it on or near you and take it everywhere in the house with you. You always want it within arm’s reach. If you take a tumble when you’re alone, you just might have need of calling someone if it was a bad tumble. The last thing you need to do is to be looking like you’re in a bad scene from a horror movie as you’re trying to drag yourself to where ever you might have left your cell phone.

At Work:

Doors At Work Are Not Friendly:

Check them out before hand. My place of employ changed the settings to the doors in my part of the campus when I apprised them that they were not handicap friendly. Maybe you can check on your work doors before you’re hobbled and defending yourself from aggressively closing doors!

Find a carpool buddy:

You won’t be driving anywhere anytime soon if they work on your right knee, like they did me. Even if they worked on your left knee, you might not be able to fit into your car with your post-op leg brace locked out. Find someone who’s willing to help out. I got lucky on multiple fronts. I live close to work so when I could, I could walk to work. At work I am surrounded by wonderful people all willing to help out. But I’m stubborn and I walked most days, but there will be days that you hit a level of physical exhaustion that goes beyond the norm and you will quickly grab up any buddies willing to help out.

It took me three weeks from the surgery before I could actually drive myself again.

If you have your pick of ride offerings, I’d suggest the friend with the pick-up truck! Meaning if two buddies offer you a ride, one with a Mini Cooper and one with a pick up truck, go the truck route! You don’t have to navigate your weight up out of, or down into the vehicle and trucks tend to have more leg space than most economical / tiny cars. Trust me, a few inches means a whole lot of happy when your leg is stuck.

Using Those Crutches and Cane:

Dealing with Knee Surgery - preparing the laptop

Tuning up the laptop the day before surgery

I was probably up and about within 24 hours of the surgery, but it was a struggle for those first few days. I had crutches that were provided and I went out and bought a cane prior to the surgery. There will be times you don’t need the huge mass of crutches getting in your way, but trust me, they do serve a purpose.

Since I couldn’t drive anywhere, my wife dropped me off at work the first two days that I went back to work and co-workers took me home. This was within a week of the surgery. But then I wanted to set my own hours and started walking. Of course as soon as I did, it rained for a week and complicated my days. But as some of you may know, when I’m driven, there is no stopping me.

The first time you take any kind of lengthy walk, take and use BOTH crutches. If anything, to avoid the mind-sapping experience I had.

I had headed in to work but I only took my cane on my first walking trip. I never anticipated that using only one arm to support my weight while walking would be so taxing, but by about 2/3rd’s of the way in, I just wanted to sit and quit. My arms and shoulders were so tired that it nearly defeated me. The only problem was that I was closer to work than home, so forward I forged.

The advice here is to use both crutches for the first week for any kind of distance walking. It distributes the weight across both arms and shoulders. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a fantastic upper-body workout. I have the chest of a gymnast right now. Looking back, I think that as my legs got stronger, was the time to start considering just one crutch or cane.

How far was I going? That first week I was putting in 3 to 5 miles a day. Depending on how things worked out. But that first mile really sucked until I built up the strength.

BTW: Earlier I said dig out or buy a backpack. This is where it comes in handy and you can load up the thing with your sweatshirt or what when traveling about. You might start out with a sweatshirt, but as you get hot from the effort of crutching it, you’ll probably be taking it off. The work on the crutches was such that I ended up wearing shorts and a few tee-shirt layers in 35 degree weather. Ya, it’s that much work at first.

I hope my experience and approach helps at least one person to help make their post-op experience a little bit better.

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