Hardest Thing I Ever Did/Dual Knee Replacement

My date for surgery was August 26th. I was at my doctor’s (orthopedic) at Standford on May 10th. I was hoping for another cortisone shot to the ligaments in my legs and more physical therapy but I was sorely mistaken. I was limping yet again because my left knee had moved inside and was causing me a lot of pain when I used it.

Dr. A (everyone calls him that because no one can pronounce his name) wasn’t having it, “It’s time we replace those troublesome knees. Let’s set a date for the surgery.”

What could I say? I had one terribly bent knee that caved in because of the pressure of supporting the other damaged knee. It made me walk funny, limp, and people always noticed it when they saw me. It was very painful and had gone on for decades now causing problems with my hips and other leg structures. I sighed a big sigh.

“When I do surgery I can straighten your legs and you’ll be better than ever,” Dr. A offered with a smile.

So the day before my 65th birthday I said yes to having both knees replaced at once. Dr. A felt that I was in great shape for my age and would do well after surgery. So did I but I was hesitant.

The week before surgery I got a call from Dr. A’s assistant. He said if I came in for a special scan that they could use robotics during my surgery. I felt lucky to be picked because it would help correct my windswept knees.

The scan was noting special they taped a bar to each leg and scanned them. The bar was part of the reference that the robot would use. It was really space-age cool stuff. Of course, I would be asleep and that was fine with me.

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Happy rides! Because of my dual knee replacement, I’ll be taking a 4-6 week break planning to be back at it real soon.

Tick tock….time flew by and one night I got the call to be at Standford Hospital for check-in at 6am with surgery at 8:15am. It was….

~Go Time~

Everything went smoothly I was in a daze and after drugs, I barely remember anything before surgery. I was under for 3 hours, (it took a little longer with the robotics) and then I woke up to a world of WTF!

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I had nerve blocks in each thigh and pressure cuffs on my lower legs for clotting. Those are pressure bandages too. I was glad for the nerve blocks when working.

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When they removed the pressure bandage this was what I saw. Later they got me up with a walker and make me take a few steps. I barely remember it now. Those bandages are waterproof and protect the stitches keeping them dry and together while they heal.

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With all of the drugs, I was trying to keep it together but little did I know…..

One of the nerve block boxes wouldn’t stay together (I had one in each leg) and would stop working putting me in great pain. They wouldn’t give me a new one so I had to put up with it. They even had a technician look at it. He put the battery door back on it and deemed that it would now stay put and work. It did not and when I pushed the bottom nothing happened. Each time a hapless nurse would fumble with it so I could finally get some rest.

They were very stingy with the pain meds and kept me in more pain than I should have had to put up with. When I asked for pain meds they acted controlling and secretive. I didn’t get a lot of information out of them until I pursued the subject.

I was very unhappy with the Standford Hospital and felt treated like a second-hand patient. For being a top-rated hospital they seriously treated me badly and there was a lot of broken equipment. I got no shots in the belly for clots nor did I get the plastic thing to blow in to make sure your lungs are ok after being under. Pretty shocking looking at my age and considering its standard operation after major surgery.

They left my catheter in for 2 days (until I left the hospital) and stopped giving me IV fluids for a whole day knowing I was anemic from losing so much blood during surgery. Hospitals aren’t supposed to release someone who’s been under until they are using the toilet but they pulled the catheter and sent me off.  This messed my kidneys up sending my potassium levels sky-high.

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Now that I’m older I’m very hard to IV as you can see. I’m glad I was out when this happened. You should see the other hand….

By the time I got to El Camino Rehab Hospital in Los Gatos, they had to IV me again and give me liquids to save my life. The high potassium levels were damaging my kidneys and they were afraid I’d have a heart attack. Luckily, they got another IV in without harming me because they got their best person from the hospital to do it. I still cried because my veins hurt badly in my arms.

The potassium levels went back to normal and I was relieved. I lost blood during surgery and the hospital should have never stopped giving me IV fluids. I was thankful but my kidneys were recovering slowly. They told me from losing so much blood I was also anemic.

Lucky I’m recovering (per the strength of my own body reserves.) My doctor is monitoring me as I speak to make sure I get back to normal body functions.

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Every dark cloud has its silver lining and this was mine. Little things keep one going when recovering from surgery or an illness.

The rehab hospital I was in was excellent! We got 2 hours of Physical Therapy and 2 hours of Occupational Therapy every day except for Sunday.  They worked us hard and helped me reach my true potential. They joked that PT really stood for Pain and Torture. I had to agree (in a good way.) The therapists and nurses really did a good job of preparing us to do our best when we get home.

Every time it was something different with a few group therapy classes thrown in. It was fun sharing exercises (and war stories) with other people who have similar goals. They let me ride the stationary bike 15 minutes at a time a few times.

I will say it now. This surgery is the hardest thing I ever did.

The support staff there were polite and helpful and the nurse’s helpers would braid my long hair. I don’t know how to do my own hair so I really appreciated little things like that. It wasn’t for fashion I needed to keep my hair out of the way in PT.

Almost everyone working at the El Camino Rehab Hospital in Los Gatos, CA were first-rate. It was the best experience I’ve ever had with a hospital. Refreshing after what I went through with Stanford after surgery. I plan to write El Camino Rehab a great review on their website after a few months of recovery.

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Soon my waterproof bandages were wrinkled and peeling off from exercising and showering. I was finally home it was a little shocking at first.

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I took to my apartment building sidewalk with my walker enjoying the flowers. My neighbors looked at me like I was crazy since they had no idea about my surgery. 

After 9 days at the rehab hospital, I was sent home with a mess of medicine, instructions, and a walker. Now I could walk around my apartment on my own. I never needed the extra equipment I got for the toilet and shower stool because our apartment is that small. I was so happy to be home with my own bed.

I can ride my bicycle again?!?!

On Sept. 13th I had an appointment with Dr. A’s assistant to have my bandages taken off. At this time I didn’t know what to expect under the bandages I was shaky about it. She was gentle with me.

She covered those stitches about with a light tape that helps the wound stay protected and heal while the stitches melt. She told me I could walk without the walker and use a cane if I wished. She also gave me the ok to ride my bicycle again and drive. She told me to be careful but if I felt strong enough I could do it.

She told me at 4 weeks I was performing at a 6 or more week level. All along, my team of health care people involved in my dual knee replacement knew the plan was to get me back on my bicycle ASAP. My job was to push myself and heal. They were very happy with my performance.

Before I left she showed me pictures of the robot working on my knees with Dr. A and the other doctors. I could see what the robot saw on the screen. I only saw 2 pictures but they were amazing.

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The scar on the right is shaped like that because I had an old surgery scar there and Dr. A used the same scar so I wouldn’t have 2 scars. They are pretty much healed.

My new knees work well, my legs are straight and I’m taller. Both legs are the same length (which doesn’t always happen) and I can bend them as much as before. I can do stairs and I’m learning to walk normally. I’m so thankful but have a lot more healing to do. Talk to me after 6 months.

I can’t believe the taller part it’s freaky and I notice it.

I’m taking PT at Standford’s Clinic once a week for a few months using their stationary bikes so I can learn to walk again, get stronger, and get back on my bike confidently. My next post will be about this so check back!

For anyone who’s going to have this surgery, I say do both knees at once. Get it done and you won’t have to do it again. It helps to be in shape. Make sure you have a doctor that you trust that talks to you. Do your homework and go to a good rehab facility. They really help and if you don’t have anyone at home because they can get you ready to go home.

Anything worth doing is worth working for.

I hope I didn’t offend with my surgery photos. Got any advice? Stories about your experience? Questions?

600,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the US.

Author: Bekkie Sanchez

I was brought into this world wanting to describe it and poetry chose me. I live to create, read and ride my bicycle. Music keeps me grounded. If you like my work it makes it all worthwhile.

4 thoughts on “Hardest Thing I Ever Did/Dual Knee Replacement”

  1. Yup! Did my left knee last year (June) and took me six months to get back to work, fully. Then a year, to the day, to be confident enough to do biking each and every day! Physio was hard but I didn’t have same complications you had. I had virtually none! Same scars and bandages too! Now biking every day .. until I get the other knee done! Not ready for that yet! LOL! Keep healing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw your comment earlier but wanted to get on my Chromebook to answer. Did you only have one bad knee? The woman in my room at the rehab hospital had the same surgery as me only one knee was a partial replacement, the other a full. 74 years old! She had the same Dr. as me too. Lol! It helped to have someone at the rehab hospital to compare recovery with. My complications were totally from neglect at Stanford hospital but that’s over with now and I got through it. Glad to hear yours went so well and that you’re back on your bicycle! You said it took you a year? Everyone heals at their own pace. I have a surprise in my next post that you’ll be interested in. A clue? It has to do with bicycles. Thanks for your thoughts, my haiku-loving friend!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Both knees bad! But my surgeon said ‘Which one do you want to do first?’ LOL! I have colleagues who have had both done, but just not for me! Full on both needed, but my ‘breaking point’ was pain while biking, and that was my left knee! Right knee can wait awhile until same/MORE pain as left! My rehab went well, but I just heal slowly .. but surely! LOL! Keep on bikin’!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Mine said the same thing but he was talking about which one I wanted to be done first during surgery. Lol! Well, take care! You of all people know what you need and what your limits are. You too, keep on biking!

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