Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Rehab, on the double!

As I wrote earlier this week, I had bilateral knee surgery on December 31, 2013. You can read that post here: Today I wanted to follow up with an update on my rehabilitation progress to date.
Greg gave me this wolf to keep me company while I was healing.
Let's just put it this way, the first week post-op was pretty miserable. While I could move around our apartment on crutches, I could barely bend my knees which made sitting for any length of time unbearable. I was in a lot more pain than I expected and spent most of the week lying on the couch or in bed with my legs propped up and ice packs on both knees. I still avoided taking pain meds (5mg oxycodone) except when I went to bed at night since I'm so sensitive to narcotics. But that meant I was in constant pain around the clock and felt so worn out during the day I often had to take a nap.
Three days post-op: right after I removed the bandages for the first time.
Greg worked from home for a week and basically served as my nurse. This mainly involved preparing ice bags, bringing me things since I couldn't get up and retrieve them myself, and helping me get in & out of bed. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I had precooked a variety of meals for us to eat so all he had to do was reheat those dishes. One night, for a change of pace, Greg walked to Papa Murphy's to get us a fresh pizza (his version of cooking). And, in spite of being in a lot of pain, only two days after surgery I insisted on hobbling up the block to 15th Avenue Hophouse for a special sampler tray of IPAs.
First post-op outing: to drink beer, of course!
I went to physical therapy for my first visit the Monday following my surgery (six days post-op). My knees were still very swollen at that point and my range of motion was a lot less than expected. I had a list of basic stretches and exercises that I was supposed to be doing twice a day, but I found most of them virtually impossible because I still couldn't bend my knees.
My reward after PT: the ice machine.
On Thursday, January 9th, I had my second physical therapy session followed by my first post-op appointment with my surgeon. I had made very limited progress in terms of mobility at that point and was still having to use crutches to walk. However I had enough control over my legs & ankles to drive, which saved me a lot of time and energy in getting to & from OHSU. After showing me the photos that were taken inside my knees during the surgery and describing exactly what repairs to the cartilage had been necessary, the doctor's assistant finally removed the stitches from the three incisions on each knee. Almost immediately I regained a greater degree of mobility! I went home and the following day was finally able to perform my rehab exercises as directed.
Yep, this hurts.
Each day after that I made measurable progress in terms of increased range of motion and strengthening. On Saturday, January 11th, I felt well enough to venture out for several hours to the Oregon Beer Growler's monthly blind tasting, this time featuring stouts at Concordia Ale House.
Eleven days post-op: stout tasting at Concordia Ale House.
Over the past month I have been able to gradually resume something close to my normal life:  I went to the grocery for the first time 13 days post-op; I got my hair cut and ran household errands 17 days post-op; I attended a local movie premiere 22 days post-op followed the next evening by a cooking demonstration dinner with my gal pal Cindy; I took over Irvington House cleaning responsibilities 24 days post-op; and I even worked as a cop on an episode of Grimm 30 days post-op!
Partners in crime-fighting.
I don't think the average person would be able to tell that I recently had knee surgery just based on appearance, even if they studied my gait. After four weeks of twice-weekly physical therapy, in addition to doing exercises at home, I am now only going once a week. I can ride a stationary bike with no resistance for 30 minutes. My biggest challenges are stairs, especially going down, and I still cannot crouch or kneel down. I can't tell you with conviction that the surgeries were worth the pain & expense, but I do know that my knees no longer make that awful grinding noise (nor have the associated discomfort). My next follow-up appointment with my surgeon is at the end of this month and, of course, I'm hoping I'll have more positive news to report at that time.
One month+ post-op


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