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.

Summertime Blues

The summer riding season has flown by so fast! Where does the time go? I had the best intentions to write about biking and health but ended up just enjoying myself. I have a good reason though, let me explain.

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It was a wonderful summer riding the Bay Trail here in San Mateo, CA. From Coyote Point Harbor you can see San Francisco down the peninsula.

I’ve had bad knees for decades starting with a motorcycle accident in the early ’70s that caused me to have surgery on my right knee. Now that I’m 65 that surgery has grown old making that knee unstable while the strain on my left knee (the good knee) caused it to fail and become crooked. This took years to happen, years where I was fine to outdoor roller skate, jog, play sports, and pretty much do anything I wanted. Now I’m paying the price.

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I am going to miss riding my bicycle! In most pictures, I try to hide my knees or I stand to the side so it’s harder to see. One knee is bigger than the other because of scar tissue.

If you read my blog you’ll know my history, if not you can read about it here. I was overweight, depressed, walking with a cane and in bad shape until I decided to exercise regularly by riding my bicycle every other day. Now, almost 4 years later I’m in great shape and my knees are the best they can be. Unfortunately, the best is far from functional. Losing the extra weight and riding my bicycle made my knees stronger and less painful but the damage was done.

I put off doing something about them for far too long but on May 10th something shifted in my left knee and I could barely walk. After seeing my doctor we decided enough was enough. On the 26th (this Monday) I’m having both of them replaced at the same time. They’re also going to straighten my left leg. It’s going to be a long recovery and hard work but I look forward to the end result. Not only that, but my doctor chose my case to use robotics which is going to be awesome.

I will be in the hospital for 2 days and in an acute rehab facility for 1 to 2 weeks so I’m going to be busy. In the rehab facility, they will make sure I’m comfortable and know how to deal when I get home. They will be teaching me how to walk all over again with straight legs. I don’t like to admit it but when I walk now I have a side to side movement and people can clearly notice my bent leg.

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This is how you keep your bicycle from being ripped off.

I’ll be so glad to get rid of these knees. They click, move on me, give out on me, I can’t do stairs, and cause me a lot of pain. I fall way too much when I stop my bike because putting a leg down doesn’t always mean that leg is going to hold. I fell just last Sunday which I shouldn’t be doing with my surgery is coming up.

Despite all of this I’m very nervous and not sure how long it will take for me to recover fully and get back on my bike which are my main objectives. I’m in good shape because of my bike riding so my doctor says I should recover fast.

I’ll be off my bike for at least 6 weeks and will have to start all over again. It makes me sad when I think about how much work and time it took for me to get into this top physical condition. As long as I come out better and stronger it will be worth it.

I’m not sure how I’ll feel about blogging while this is going on so I won’t make any promises I can’t keep. We’ll see how I feel. I look forward to getting this over with and getting back to the things I love.

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Hoping for the best on Monday and looking forward to better knees, better health and being a better bike rider!

Take care and stay healthy. You can do it! Keep riding your bicycle and eating your spinach. You’ll be hearing from me soon, I still have a lot to share.

“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.”
― Tom Bodett

Signs You Might Be A Cyclist

You’ve seen “them” riding on their fast bicycles hunched over, no fenders, wearing colorful stretchy biking outfits and zooming by you barely managing a nod. Cyclists!

I swore this would not happen to me as I turned up my nose while riding (sitting up) on my vintage touring style bicycle on the Bay Trail. Of course, in no time I was wearing colorful stretchy biking outfits while zooming by people…and nodding.

~gasp~

I was one of “them”!

There are many kinds of bikes to choose from sporting all types of riders but there is a common thread throughout that bonds us together as cyclists. The rituals and quirks that rub off on us as we navigate our lives around our bicycles are all signs that we are becoming cyclists. Isn’t it good to belong?

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Photo from MapMyFitness

Signs You Might Be A Cyclist

  • You can’t recognize your biking friends when they aren’t wearing colorful stretchy biking outfits.
  • The “check engine” light in your car has been on for months, but the most minor mechanical issue on your bike is fixed first.
  • You have at least one social network profile shot of you posing on or next to your bike with a gorgeous landscape behind you.
  • Your bike has a nickname.
  • You also know what it’s like to use choice words when a vehicle cuts you off or a hater honks and nearly startles you off your bike.
  • You run errands after your bike rides while wearing your colorful stretchy biking outfits.
  • You spend more time biking spending weekends and planning vacations around bike rides and rides with groups.
  • Stripes on your thighs and ankles, cut-out shapes on the tops of your hands, your colorful stretchy bike outfits tan lines will incite laughter at the beach and pool.
  • You ride to and from work because it’s the fastest way, and you’ve become a pro at changing in the office bathroom.
  • You don’t notice the grease on your clothes or tear in your pants until you’re at that meeting.
  • If you’re a woman, you take better care of your favorite bike clothes than your finest lingerie.
  • If you’re a man, you have smoother legs than your woman.
  • You embrace fluorescent jackets, vests, and shirts. The brighter, the better.
  • You know what it means to do time in the saddle.
  • You’ve felt the shame of having to walk your bike up a hill and the pride of conquering that climb on your bike after a few weeks’ of riding.
  • You have more colorful stretchy biking pants (or shorts) in your laundry basket than jeans.
  • You’re baffled when your roommate or partner doesn’t understand why your bike can’t be stored outside.
  • Some of your hardest falls have happened when you’ve stopped or slowed to a crawl, which doesn’t make sense but happens none-the-less.
  • You take a bad fall with bloody hands and knees, but your first question is whether or not your bike survived.
  • You look and feel better than you have in some time, can’t stop smiling, and have oodles of extra energy.

~large smile~

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For me, dressing to bike is part of the fun. I buy from Fabletics, Under Armor and Ross. Those pants were on sale and made my roommate snicker when he saw them.

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You may not have fallen prey to all of the signs yet but I predict you will. If you fall in love with cycling you’ll enrich your health and life becoming stronger with more energy. Welcome to the club!

You’re a cyclist! One of us, one of us, we accept you, we accept you!