Bilateral Knee Replacement Surgery — Two months and back to yard work

Mark finished physical therapy for his bilateral knee replacement surgery on March 30th. I think he broke all records for recovery there. Maybe they’ll put up a plaque. I’m just very grateful that this whole process went as smoothly and as quickly as it did. We lived with the worry and fore-knowledge that someday we would have to face this knee replacement surgery, and now it is behind us. That’s a very good feeling.

Mark is living pretty much a normal life, although his leg muscles bother him if he tries to do too much, and he is still under prohibition of three movements (twisting his knee back and forth to put his foot in his shoe, crossing his foot over his knee in a sitting position, or kneeling) until the 3-month mark at the end of April. Mark also continues to do his at-home exercises that basically consist of leg lifts using ankle weights. He continues to ice his knees down after he exercises or if he has used them extensively like in the following slide show.

I took these photos April 1st, after we lost our redbud tree. The hill he’s walking down is very steep. I never attempt to go down it, but always go the long way around. Although Mark doesn’t bend his knees to work as he might have before the surgery, as you will see, he is perfectly capable of getting the job done. I offered to help him, but then decided sometimes I am the most help by just staying out of the way.

It’s nice to see him working in the yard, as he loves to do that and I wasn’t sure that would be possible this spring.

It’s also very nice to see him able to take out the trash.

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You can see links to the complete series of posts about Mark’s bilateral knee replacement surgery here.

Bilateral knee surgery — Five weeks and waiting for “normal”

Last Tuesday, when Mark’s physical therapist asked him how he was doing, Mark said, “I just want to be normal again.”

“If you were normal,” the therapist said, “you’d still be walking with a walker right now.”

As I’ve been pointing out all along, Mark has recovered to this point quickly. He can do most things, excepting the three prohibitions mentioned in the pre-op class. He stopped all prescription pain medicines and is back to taking only Motrin twice a day. We think the Lyrica really helped with the pain because Mark’s discomfort level has risen since he’s  been off of it.

Mark is scheduled for physical therapy twice this week and will need to go once or twice next week. After that, we don’t know. We expect he will be finished soon.

Then it is just a matter of time to heal completely. We were told initially that it takes three months, after that he is no longer prohibited from kneeling, etc.

I wanted to include a video of Mark walking down the hall, getting down on the floor and back up again, and walking down and up a flight of stairs.

I took the video over the weekend but somehow lost most of it in the transition to the computer. All I have left is Mark sitting with his legs up on his desk, sipping a Cosmopolitan, straightening up from getting off the floor, a laugh in the background, and a head shot as Mark approached me during his stroll down the hall. Since I think I was lucky to get the video in the first place, and I don’t believe my actor will be willing to do a retake, you will have to take my word for it.

All is well. And we feel lucky to have made it this far in Mark’s recovery so soon.

Bilateral knee replacement surgery—Three weeks post-op and x-rays

Three weeks after surgery, Mark is walking around the house without a cane. He has started doing minor household chores like clearing his place after a meal and emptying or loading the dishwasher. Yesterday he refilled the birdfeeders.

Although he walks well, he still walks slowly, and doesn’t like to be on his legs for very long periods at a time. Since the surgery we have gone out to lunch, dinner and breakfast. Last week he went to Macy’s at a mall with me. I parked at the Macy’s entrance so he wouldn’t have to walk a great distance. While the sales clerk was assisting me, Mark sat in a chair in the shoe department (which isn’t really all that different from what he might have done before the surgery).

Mark went for his two-week post-op check with his doctor last Wednesday where he was told he only needs the cane when he goes out in public. I don’t believe I’ve seen the cane in his hand, here or when we’ve gone out, since. He has been set free from the CPM machine and no longer needs to wear the tight hose, unless his legs begin to swell.

Mark wants to drive to his physical therapy today. His therapist has told him he probably could drive as long as he can move his foot back and forth without pain.  I plan to go with him. I’m not comfortable with him driving on expressways yet, but I think he will do fine going the short distance along primarily residential streets to physical therapy. He is pretty worn out after therapy and I suspect he will not want to drive home.

The doctor recommended he continue to take the Lyrica and Celebrex, neither of which are narcotics, until his supply runs out. The Percocet remains up to his discretion for as long as he needs it. He has not taken any for two or three days. Prior to that, he was only taking one in the middle of the night when he couldn’t sleep because of discomfort in his legs.

With the removal of the outside bandage, Mark is now allowed to take showers. This hasn’t been as big of a deal as he anticipated because he felt the sponge bathing he was able to do worked out pretty well. I shampooed his hair periodically.

The removal of the staples was a non-issue because there were no staples.  Mark’s incision had been closed with a single internal stitch that will dissolve, and steri-strips on the outside that will curl up and drop off. Overall we both think his scar looks good, much better than I, for one, had anticipated.

We didn’t actually see the surgeon at the appointment, but saw his physician assistant. Later, Mark’s physical therapist said that it was a good sign that the assistant did not think it necessary to call the surgeon into the room. The physician assistant gave us prints of the x-rays of Mark’s bionic knees.

Bilateral knee replacement - front view, Two weeks post surgery.
Right knee- side view

If you look closely at the above picture, you can see that the knee cap also looks like it was resurfaced.

Mark is experiencing a little numbness on the outside of his knees. It is noticeable, but not particularly problematic. He knew this was a possible side-effect of the surgery.

Mark continues to do the physical therapy exercises here at home: front leg lifts, side leg lifts, and bending knee lifts (not the proper name for this exercise). He does them three times a day, 50 repetitions on each leg. He’s started adding leg weights to his ankles.

We are grateful that Mark’s recovery has gone so quickly. Last week the woman beside him at therapy was four weeks post-op from a single knee replacement and was still using a walker. I don’t think Mark’s recovery made her feel better. We can’t really explain it except to say that Mark had an excellent surgeon, he’s relatively young, strong, and healthy; and he prepared himself by doing the recommended exercises prior to surgery; and faithfully continues to do them now. And he is extremely hard-headed determined.

And maybe an angel or two in heaven are looking out for us.

You can find links to the entire series on Bilateral knee replacement surgery here.

Bilateral Knee Surgery – Two weeks post-op and walking with a cane

Two weeks ago today I was sitting in a hospital waiting room while Mark was having his three-hour total knee replacement surgery. Last Thursday Mark put away his walker and started using a cane. His physical therapist continues to tell him he is way ahead of schedule on his recovery. We don’t really have an explanation for that except that his surgeon did a great job with the most updated techniques and appliances, and Mark is determined and has been aggressive with following his recommended exercise routine. I’m thankful for how fast he is recovering and proud of him for how hard he is working at it with little complaint.

Last Friday at therapy he was told he could cut back even further on the CPM machine, but the therapist did not want to  make the decision to stop it, and wanted to wait until the doctor released him from it. So Mark is using the CPM 2hrs on the left leg, which is a little stiffer, and one hour on the right every day.

Mark is finished with the blood thinner shots. He still takes the Lyrica and Celebrex pain meds every day, but has cut way back on the narcotic Percocet and primarily uses it at night if he has trouble sleeping.

He will see the surgeon on Wednesday for his two-week post op appointment. After that we hope to be done with the CPM machine. Mark also hopes to be done with the tight hose he has to wear to promote blood circulation in his legs. He will undoubtedly ask the doctor when he can drive. He also wants the doctor’s advice about when he should back off the other pain medicines. On Wednesday we expect that Mark will have his staples removed and we will see his incisions for the first time. He has been wearing some kind of silver-embedded bandage on each knee since surgery that is supposed to prevent infection. And finally, Mark should be able to shower following his doctor’s appointment.

Mark has three physical therapy appointments this week and again next week. Then we will find out what comes next. The time has gone fast for me so far, but the day of surgery seems a great distance away in my mind. It’s a funny thing about time.

You can find links to the entire series on Bilateral knee replacement surgery here.

Three days after bilateral total knee replacement surgery

Thursday, February 2, 2012
8:00 a.m.

What should I blog about? I’ve asked this question before in a different context.

When I started this blog I claimed I would write about whatever was on my mind in the morning. The reality is that I’ve extended that to included whatever is on my mind at some point in the previous day or two or three.

I recently had an idea to post my lifetime bird and wildlife sightings, so I made a page for that. Those posts are typically not what I’ve had in my head upon rising in the morning.

Earlier I thought it might be helpful to share my self-publishing journey, so I have a series on that. I felt the same way about Mark’s bilateral knee replacement surgery and recovery. I know it was helpful to us to talk to others who had had knee replacements.

Mark’s mom is the only person we know who had bilateral knee replacement surgery and that happened over 20 years ago. So much has changed. I remember visiting her in the hospital after her surgery. Her room was empty because she was at therapy. In those days rehab was done in a rehab room. All of Mark’s rehab has been done in his own room. Mark’s mom returned to her room sobbing from the pain. She stayed at the hospital on the rehab floor for a month.

Mark is going home today, three days after his surgery. A lot has changed in the past 20 years. The pain medicines are better; the implants, the procedures, and the therapy are all better now.

Don’t get me wrong, we still have a long road ahead of us. My biggest concern at the moment is getting Mark into and out of the car. I was going to bring the truck because it sits up higher, but I talked it over with his therapist yesterday and she thought he might try to twist himself getting into the truck since he usually swings one leg up first. I brought the car.

This morning before I left the house I removed all the throw rugs from the bathroom and the pathway to our bedroom from the front door. We usually come and go through the garage, but for now we will be using the front entry because of the step situation. I also pulled the top covers off the foot of the bed so that Mark will be able to sit down and get into the bed right away.

Although I made the best effort to obtain all the medicines he will need in advance, we are leaving the hospital with instructions for Mark to take iron pills. His hemoglobin continues to be low. Fortunately our youngest son will be helping me get Mark home today and will be able to run any errands I did not foresee.

I never intended to make this blog a family newsletter. But it feels disingenuous right now to post about the cardinals on my bird feeder or the most recent book sales numbers and promotional efforts (which have fallen completely by the wayside), when the first thing on my mind in the morning, the last thing on it at night, and what occupies it most of the time throughout the day is Mark and his needs.

So in some ways I’m being more true to my initial plan than ever.

4:30 p.m.

We’re home now and Mark is resting comfortably in bed with the CPM machine running on his left leg. The ice machine is cooling off his other knee. He did a great job of getting in and out of the car. Our son Joe was here to help and he also got us the items from the store we still needed. Now I’m settling in for a house-bound stay with my recovering hubby. It’s good to be home.

You can find links to the entire series on Bilateral knee replacement surgery here.

Double knee replacement surgery update — Making progress

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

2:00 p.m.

Mark is sleeping in his bed with the CPM machine working his right leg. I am sitting on the loveseat/bed with my feet up. The loveseat is in a little alcove by a very large window that affords me a panoramic view from the 8th floor where we are.  Last night the city lights below were beautiful. Mark has not been able to enjoy the view yet, but I hope he will soon.

Things are progressing very well for him, according to the physical therapist. Mark’s right leg has caused him more pain from the beginning and is not as flexible or strong as his left right now. The therapist says his right leg is typical, while his left leg is something to write home about. I am so very proud of how hard he is trying and how well he is following recommendations.

The big thing with knee replacement surgery is the angle of rotation he can achieve. The doctor measures the possibility right after surgery, and then it is up to the patient to try to achieve this maximum level. Mark’s doctor said Mark should be able to achieve 140 degrees of rotation. He will need to continue to use the CPM machine until he reaches 120 degrees. The therapist said they would like him to get to 90 degrees before he goes home.

The day of surgery, yesterday, the therapist measured 60 degrees for his right and 70 degrees for his left. Today when she left after two physical therapy sessions and 2 hours per leg on the CPM machine, he measured at 85 degrees on his right and 95 degrees on his left.  This is super.

This afternoon Mark walked out of the room and partway down the hall with a walker and the help of a therapist. You can’t imagine how good it is to see him on his feet, even though I know it is a struggle for him. He said it felt good to be up.

3:00 p.m.

Medically, the discharge or bleeding from Mark’s knees has slowed way down, which is a relief as this has been a source of concern. They removed the drains from his legs just now. His IV was removed today.  I love to see them remove the tubes and things.  I asked the nurse if he was out of the woods for needing a transfusion and she said not until after tomorrow. If there is a problem with blood counts it will be the second day after. So let’s just keep our fingers crossed on this one.

The latest thinking is that he will go home on Thursday. As scary as it is that I will be on my own taking care of him, it will be nice to be in the comfort of our own home again.

Last night I went home, primarily because I didn’t realize I could stay and I wasn’t prepared to. I felt bad leaving Mark last night and plan to spend tonight here. I hate to leave him alone when he is so dependent on others right now for every little thing. And he hasn’t been great at keeping track of his medicine schedule, so I can help make sure he stays on top of the pain.

4:00 p.m.

I started this post two hours ago and am now able to finish it with all the interruptions we’ve had. We have recycled back to 2:00 with Mark asleep in his bed; the CPM machine is on his left leg, and I am on love seat.

Anna just called to tell me she is on her way back home to Columbus with Arthur. She went to the grocery for me to get some bottles of water to freeze for use in the cooling machine for Mark’s knees. You can fill the little cooler up with ice and water, but the technician said a good tip is to freeze bottles of water and reuse them as needed. So our second freezer at home is now full of bottles of water. I have obtained the prescription for pain medicine that I will fill tomorrow. We made an appointment for physical therapy on Monday.

Last night I was afraid we might have bitten off more than we can chew by doing both knees at once. Today I feel very optimistic.

View from our 8th floor room - taken with a telephoto lens and cropped.

You can find links to the entire series on Bilateral knee replacement surgery here.

Knee surgery day schedule

Surgery day schedule:

3:45 a.m. – Mark gets up 15 minutes before the alarm is set to go off and I wake up with him.

4:30 a.m. – We leave for the hospital a half hour away.

5:10 a.m. – We  arrive at the surgicare unit and check in. A few minutes later Mark goes back for pre-op preparations while I continue to wait in a very crowded waiting room.

5:45 a.m. – I join Mark back in his pre- op room.

6:45 a.m. – Someone comes and rolls Mark away. A nurse shows me where the surgery waiting area is. I am the first family member there. They give me a pager and I set up camp at the single table in the room.

7:30 a.m. – Mark’s surgery begins. Our daughter Anna arrives to keep me company.

10:10 a.m. – My pager goes off and I am led to a small conference room to wait for the doctor who arrives about 20 minutes later. He tells me that the surgery was an A+ for both legs and that Mark would be in the recovery room about 2 hours.

11:00 a.m. – Anna leaves to get us lunch at Pot Bellys. She brings back the walker and Mark’s suitcase from my car when she returns with the food at 11:30.

12:15 – My pager goes off again and Anna and I are escorted to the recovery room where we see Mark briefly. He is wide awake and very alert. I tell him every single little thing the doctor told me. I read from my little notebook the notes I took because I knew Mark would be asking me questions. The nurse gives us his room number. We take his and our things up. I wipe every surface area that he might come in contact with using antibacterial wipes as the nurse who called from our insurance company recommended.

12:45 – Eric rolls Mark in his bed into the room. Mark’s spirits are high and he is joking with the nurse. The nurse is very busy checking Mark’s vital signs and setting things up. Mark has three bags hanging from his IV pole.. He is wearing oxygen. He has drainage tubes leading from each knee to a receptacle. Later the blood collected will be infused back into him through his IV. I think this  is a very brilliant invention and handy device. Mark’s right knee hurts worse than his left. When asked he says it is a 5 or 6 on a scale of 10. He is likely still receiving pain relief from his spinal and the nerve blocks he received post surgery.

1:15 – Our son Mark Joseph stops by. Mark takes a cat nap.

2:00 – Anna and Mark Joseph leave. Mark sleeps and I relax on this nice sofa in his room.

3:00 – The physical and occupational therapists arrive. With the help of the nurse they get Mark into a standing position and move him into a recliner. He does GREAT. The OT said he is the best bi-lateral patient she has ever seen. Mark starts shaking in the recliner and the nurse gets him warm blankets. She assures us it is probably from the anesthia and it is quite common. The therapists leave. Mark falls asleep in the recliner. The nurse stops back periodically.

4:00 – The nurse brings him more pain medicine. She has gotten approval from the doctor to give it to him every 3 hours instead of 4.

It’s 4:30 and we are waiting for the nurse to come with helpers to get him back in bed. He is using his breathing device to exercise his lungs every hour. The physical therapist has just returned. She’s going to have him do some exercises. I’m a little worried it might be a rough night when all the spinal and nerve block medicines wear off. I plan on going home tonight because I didn’t realize I could stay. I may decide to stay tomorrow night and will decide later.

Thanks for all your thoughts and good wishes.

 

You can find links to the entire series on Bilateral knee replacement surgery here.

Double knee replacement surgery – part 3: On the Far Side of the Bed

Saturday, January 28, 2012

I woke up nervous this morning on the far side of the bed.

Even though Mark put up a small protest as this being an unnecessary move, I switched sides of the bed and am now on the far side from the bathroom.

Mark doesn’t think it will be a problem for him to walk around the bed and then into the bathroom after his double knee replacement surgery. Giving him the side closest to the bathroom saves him nearly half the steps for that trip, and many steps any time he leaves or returns to the room. I think at first, each step is going to count.

Mark and I don’t always see eye-to-eye about preparations and what needs to be done whether it is planning for a party or undertaking a home renovation. Mark opts for minimum and I like to be prepared.

Often I submit to what he thinks, but in this case I’m standing my ground. When he comes home from the hospital in pain, unable to fully bend his knees, needing an intensive amount of therapy and general assistance, the responsibility will lie with me.

On Thursday Mark received a FedEx package containing medicine in 10 syringes. Yes. Either he or I will have to give him, a shot of a blood thinner for 10 days after he gets home. In a way, I’m relieved that he will get this medicine because blood clots are one of the bad possible side effects of this surgery.  I hope someone will train me somewhere along the way if Mark wants me to do it for him. The possible side effects of this medicine are pretty scary. So many things to watch out for. I don’t know how I’m going to do anything but hover over him for the first two days he’s home.

CPM (continuous passive motion) device- from http://www.arthroscopy.com/sp06001.htm

On Friday his CPM (continuous passive motion) device was delivered. Mark will have to use it for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, three times a day for each leg. This adds up to a whopping 9 – 12 hours a day. The technician who brought the device and set it up with Mark’s leg measurements said it is best to use it in bed. Mark can prop his head and shoulders up on a couple of pillows, but he shouldn’t sit up while using it. Seeing Mark try out this device set off a whole new level of anxiety above and beyond what I felt when we acquired the raised toilet seat, shower chair, and walker.

The CPM device weighs about 25 pounds. The technician suggested we set it up on the bed in a guest room so that I don’t have to lift it up and down from the bed every day. That’s not likely to happen. The TV and dvd player are in our room. I don’t think Mark is going to want to lie in bed 12 hours a day with nothing to do except read or look out a window in the guest room.

I’ll just consider the lifting of the device to the bed and back resistance training.

They will deliver a cooling machine to the hospital that Mark can use as often as he wants. I will have to keep it filled with ice and water.

I anticipate he will get visits from a nurse at first.

There will be pain medicines to keep track of, meals to eat, exercises for him to do, therapy to go to. (There won’t be showers to take for the first two weeks. . .) We’re going to have a pretty regimented month or so to fit it all in.

Look for a lot of photographs and some quick from-the-archives posts from me.

I woke up nervous this morning.

I probably will again tomorrow.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I actually and unexpectedly woke up calm this morning. Mark has been nervous all day.

By the time you read this I will probably be waiting during Mark’s surgery as it is scheduled for early tomorrow morning.

I want to thank all of you who are wishing Mark well through the surgery and recovery.

You can find links to the entire series on Bilateral knee replacement surgery here.

Double knee replacement surgery—part 2: Pre-op class

We’re moving forward on our preparations for Mark’s double knee replacement surgery. Last week Mark had an appointment with a physical therapist to get fitted for knee braces. The braces prevent the knee from bending. Mark will be wearing these for the first two days after surgery when he is not in therapy.

Post-knee surgery braces

Mark actually got two different braces. The one on the left can be adjusted to allow the knee to bend to some degree, the one on the right doesn’t allow any rotation. The therapist told Mark that usually one knee is better than the other following surgery. If that is the case, he may be allowed to bend it some to help with mobility. We have to bring these to the hospital the morning of surgery.

Last Thursday Mark and I attended a pre-operation training class at the hospital. We were in a room with seven other people who were having knee or hip replacement surgeries. Mark was the only double-knee replacement surgery patient in the class. I’m going to spare you all the details and just hit the highlights.

The trainer told us we will need:

a walker without wheels
a raised toilet seat
shower chair

Mark was given a booklet with information on:

what to expect and do the day before and the day of surgery
a list of personal items he may want to have with him at the hospital
hospital care
home care
and exercises (to do starting right now, 3x/day until the surgery)

According to the booklet Joint Replacement at Good Samaritan Hospital, “Very little bone is removed during a total knee replacement — usually less than a half inch on all sides of the joint. For the most part, the patient’s tendons and ligaments are preserved to allow the new artificial surfaces to glide and rotate much like a normal knee joint. […] Your orthopaedic surgeon will enter your arthritic knee through an eight to ten inch midline incision. After opening the knee, ligament balancing and deforming bone spurs will be addressed. Bone cutting jigs will be secured to the knee bones so that precise shaping can occur. […] Realigning your knee so that it is properly positioned between your hip and ankle is critically important for proper function and long-term durability. The actual implants will then be secured to your knee bones with cement or through a press-fit technique. […]After the implants are secured to your knee bones, your orthopaedic surgeon will test the new knee for balance and tracking of the kneecap. […] Final adjustments can be done to maximize the range of motion and stability of your knee. Then deep and surface tissue layers are securely reattached to allow early motion and purposeful physical therapy.”

Mark’s surgery should take about three hours.

Following the surgery Mark will have precautions, or moves or positions he is not allowed to do, until he is completely healed after 2 to 3 months. Precautions for knee-replacement surgery are:

No forceful twisting or torquing at the knee (like when you twist your foot back and forth to try to get a shoe on).
No crossing the foot over the other knee to put a shoe on.
No deep squatting.
No kneeling directly onto surgical knee/s

All knee replacement patients will be full weight-bearing after surgery, which is a good thing since Mark will not have a non-surgerical knee to rely upon.

For the first 24 hours Mark will have pain relief through a nerve block or IV pain meds. After that the medicine is PRN, which means, prescribed, but not allowed to be given unless Mark asks for it. It is designed to bring pain down to a level of 4 or less on a scale of 1-10. Pain gives the body feedback and some level of pain is needed to keep the patient from overworking or injuring the joint.

The trainer told us to ask the doctor:

What pain medicine has been prescribe?
How often is it allowed?
When is the next time he is allowed to take it?

We were advised to keep track of the pain med schedule (which I always do anyway), and ask for meds about 30 minutes before it is due to give the nurse time to work it in.

Therapy will start the day of surgery for Mark since his surgery is scheduled first thing in the morning. This is a good thing. The sooner he starts moving his legs around the better, we were told.

Starting the second day, Mark will have two physical therapy sessions and two occupational therapy sessions—both will be held in his room. If he does really well with the occupational therapy he might “graduate” early. When he leaves the hospital on day 3, Mark will be able to get in and out of bed, stand up, sit down, walk with a walker, go to the bathroom, get dressed and climb stairs.

Mark will be going to physical therapy 2 or 3 times a week, probably starting the day after he gets home.

Mark’s particular doctor prohibits showering for 14 days following surgery. He will not be allowed to drive for 4 to 8 weeks and will need a doctor’s release.

Following the training, Mark went for some basic pre-op testing where he was given this breathing device. I don’t know exactly what it is used for, except to keep the lungs clear following surgery.

He was also given these surgical wipes to use over his entire body the night before the surgery to help prevent staff infections.

The braces and  the breathing device need to arrive with Mark at the hospital before surgery.

The booklet, a walker if we have one (if not, we will get one there), and his bag with clothes and personal items all need to be brought to the hospital, but I was advised to leave those in the car until Mark has a room so that I won’t be dragging them around the hospital with me.

Our daughter Anna has offered to wait with me at the hospital during the five hours it will take for the surgery (3 hours) and recovery (2 hours). I found out Thursday that the hospital does have free wifi, so hopefully I will be able to keep myself occupied by blogging and reading. I have three books on my Kindle that I’m trying to read by the end of February.

As we learn more of the details, the surgery becomes more real, which is frightening for me. But it is also comforting to find out the details and doing so mostly reassures me that we can do this.

Since I wrote this last Friday, we have acquired a walker and a raised toilet seat that we borrowed from Mark’s mother. Yesterday I bought a shower chair, so we should be good to go. As more and more of these appliances and devices come into our home, Mark gets more and more disconcerted or anxious. We had to put the toilet chair and shower seat in the spare bedroom so that he wouldn’t have to look at them.

For me it is a relief because I feel like we are getting prepared.

Mark is also in more pain with his knees since he is not allowed to take his pain medicine for two weeks before the surgery.

My biggest concern at the moment is being able to get out to get medicines, food, or other items that we may need during the two weeks I am supposed to be with Mark 24/7. I am trying to plan ahead. For example, yesterday I noticed we are running short of stamps. I will have to make a trip to the Post Office before Monday. After Mark’s surgery, I will have to use the time he is at therapy to run necessary errands. Our daughter will be back the first weekend Mark is home, and our son is a student at the college in town about a half hour away. I hope he will be able to take time away from his classes to help me on the day Mark comes home. I am expecting there will be items and medicines I will need to pick up that day, unless someone can give me the discharge instructions early.

You can find links to the entire series on Bilateral knee replacement surgery here.

Double knee replacement surgery – Part 1: Planning ahead

My husband Mark has been suffering from knee pain for several years now. Osteoarthritis runs rampant in his family. His mother had double knee replacement surgery about 20 years ago. Three of his older sisters have all had one knee replacement surgery. It’s Mark’s turn.

The symptoms Mark has are severe pain in his knee joints whenever he stands up or walks. He is able to walk for brief periods of time, but Christmas shopping was a challenge. While we were at Barnes and Noble picking up a few gifts, Mark sat on the floor when he couldn’t find an empty seat and I walked back and forth bringing him the items I picked out to purchase. Mark’s knees also make very loud crunching noises when he bends them. And finally, his legs have become quite bowed. I remember his mom’s legs looking that that before her surgery and how afterwards they were straight again.

Mark visited an orthopedic doctor last year and had laparoscopic meniscus repair surgery on one knee. That didn’t provide any long-term relief for his pain. We decided in the fall that it was time to seek medical help. Our orthopedic doctor sent us to a knee replacement specialist and Mark’s surgery was scheduled for January 30th. He will have both knees done at the same time if all goes well.

Image from http://www.mayoclinic.com

“During knee replacement, a surgeon cuts away damaged bone and cartilage from your thighbone, shinbone and kneecap and replaces it with an artificial joint made of metal alloys, high-grade plastics and polymers.” (www.mayoclinic.com)

So far we have only visited the doctor and read information as a way of preparing for the surgery. Yesterday Mark visited our family practitioner for a pre-op clearance. We know that as he gets closer to the surgery he will have to stop taking the pain medicine he currently takes (nsaids). His doctor also wants him to start on a special nerve-affecting pain medicine some number of days before the surgery so that it has time to start taking effect.

I have visited a medical supply store to see what kind of mobility aids we might want to acquire. We have a pair of crutches in the basement that I need to retrieve. I think I will also get a chair with arms that fits over the toilet and raises the seat. I don’t know if we will need a walker. I think a shower chair might be good to have around, although Mark has been told he won’t be able to take a shower or get his incisions wet for 10 – 14 days. We go to a pre-op “What to expect” training session next week, so I should know more after that.

I want to switch sides of the bed we sleep in. Mark sleeps on the far side and has to walk around the bed to get in and out. It will save him a lot of steps if we switch.

When our sons were here at Christmas I asked them to move the recumbent cycle up from the basement and put it in our bedroom. I think cycling is good exercise for knees, and I don’t know how long it will take before Mark can walk a flight of stairs.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to think through all the tasks Mark typically does around the house that will be left up to me. Mark and I have very different ways of doing things. For example, right now the bird seed for the feeders is in three or four bags piled on the floor in the corner of our garage. This will not work for me. I don’t lift, move, or touch anything piled in the corner of a garage, basement, or any dark and dank location—spider phobia rule #1. We need to move the seed to my garden bench or his work bench on the other side of the garage if I am going to be able to feed the birds.

I haven’t made coffee in over 10 years, ever since I couldn’t drink it any more because of stomach trouble. Mark drinks it every morning. So I need to find out how he likes to make it.

Small things, I know, but there are a house full and life full of small things through which we will have to navigate for the first days and perhaps weeks with Mark not being able to walk or stand on his own.

I’m still trying to figure out what to do about the garbage. When our kids were little and conversations about gender roles came up, I told them, “There’s only one thing that girls can’t do.” This of course peaked their interest. “Girls can’t take out the trash,” I’d say. They’d energetically respond, “Yes they can!”

So, I suppose I can.

You can find links to the entire series on Bilateral knee replacement surgery here.

For more information about osteoarthritis and knee replacement surgery, visit www.mayclinic.com.