It’s been scary. The kind of overwhelming, underachieving feeling you had when you brought home your first newborn and didn’t have a clue how to care for a tiny person. I was recently discharged from the hospital, 48 hours after surgery. Had I pushed the issue, they would have let me come home a day earlier, shy of 24 hours after what I consider major surgery. Total knee replacement and home less than 24 hours later. I was not ready. It would have made a difference had I gone into surgery earlier. I was the last scheduled surgery for the day. Although knee replacement doesn’t take very long, by the time I was moved from recovery into my room it was 5:30. So no, I was not ready to blow that pop stand a few hours later.
I was told last fall the cartilage on both knees had deteriorated to nothingness. Knee replacement was the only solution and I should choose which one I wanted done first. So I’ve known. Anticipating surgery for a long time gets on your nerves. Had my surgeon said, “let’s replace the worst one next week,” I’d probably been fine. But it took 4 months just to get an appointment to see another guy for a second opinion. (He’s quite popular, an excellent surgeon with a fantastic success rate-which is what I was striving for). Then surgery was scheduled another 90 days out. Goodness. Didn’t think the actual day would ever actually materialize.
I’ve kept busy during those sedentary months watching my dyed brown hair grow out to my natural-but never before seen grey/white/silver shades. (Been waiting 30 years to come to that decision, then one day it just hit me). Slowly my L’Oréal fake color faded and grey roots popped up. The comparison is like watching paint dry. So stinking slow. Which adds to the embarrassment. My hair, at the longest is 4 inches. You know how many months it takes before all the dyed brown crap is gone? Me either, I’m still waiting. And waiting. Gonna be at least another 6 weeks, bringing the total to 8 months. Almost the length of an entire pregnancy for my short hair to grow out to its natural color. I don’t know how anyone with hair a foot long could live through this. This drove me crazy. But I smiled a lot. I look like such a dork.
So while I’ve been totally enthralled witnessing the new Neese morph in front of my very own eyes, I put my upcoming surgery on the back burner and tried not to think about it much. Did all the pre-op testing, EKG, bloodwork and appointments explaining what they were going to do. At last my surgery date was on the horizon. It hit home as I read the prep work instructions on changing my diet, eliminating supplements, and how to shower the night before. Yet I felt no apprehension until I was about to leave for the hospital. My surgery was on a Thursday, I was given the exact time on Tuesday. Great. I was last. (At least not dead last) Good news though. I could drink clear broth, water or tea until 10:30 that morning. Yay. Yum.
With only 2 hours to go once I arrived at the hospital, at least the pre-surgery time zipped by. Vitals taken, stripped of my clothing, funky hospital gown added (with a vent where they attached a hose that blew warm air over my frozen body). Questions and more questions plus my favorite part. Trying to get an IV started when you’ve pretty much been fasting for 18 hours. Well, 3 times worked like a charm and I wear the other two stab bruises with pride. Dr. Carpenter stopped by to mark my surgery leg (with a purple sharpie), although we both decided if he made a mistake and gave me a lefty, it was still all-right.
My anesthesiologist. A talkative fellow. Used lots of words. With the recent success of my IV line, he would put me to sleep. (I’m gonna knock you out-mama’s gonna knock you out). Then roll me on my side and give me an epidural, basically numbing me from waist to toes. Ok by me, don’t really need to know exactly how they’re going to get rid of the knee joint I’ve become quite attached to after 68 years. (So happy together. With all this love, you’d think some of my missing cartilage would have hung around longer). After my epidural, me now soundly asleep, he snakes a long, thin needle into my upper right thigh. It’s called a nerve sheath catheter. An angel hair sized spaghetti tube is inserted and the needle is removed. The nerve catheter significantly reduces pain after surgery. It’s taped in place and hooked up to a portable pump about the size of a baby bottle inside of a ‘way too cool’ looking fanny pack. (Just kill me now). The pump cartridge has a capacity of 600 squirts of a novocaine type medicine, lasting 3 or 4 days. (He went into great detail on the workings, monetary value, consequences if cartridge pump was not returned through the U.S. mail, care and removal with Shannon and John listening intently while I was cutting serious z’s). This would be taken out until after I was home. (I should have asked someone, anyone a few questions).
Recovery. I’m in a big room. Nurses are constantly checking my vitals and watching my feet as though I’m running the Boston Marathon, at record breaking pace. They really want me to move my toes. It feels strange to try so hard for just a little wiggle and get zilch for the effort. Dr. Carpenter comes over, says surgery went fine and I’ll be going to my room shortly. (As soon as I move my dang toes). I’m in and out, trying to pay attention, but very sleepy. Dr. Chatty (anesthesiologist) wanders over and takes my hand. I sit straight up, look him square in the face and cry, “I wrote a blog about Notre Dame yesterday.” And promptly laid back down! (What was that about)? He squirms out of my grasp and moves away. Far away. Never to be seen near me again.
After I’m settled in my room the nurse asks if I want to use the bathroom? Well it has been 6 hours, so probably. She offers to bring in a commode, help me stand or I can try and walk to the bathroom. Are. You. Kidding. Me? No, I am not. At 6:30, (about 2 plus hours after surgery) using a walker and help from a nurse, I walked about 15 steps. Learned how to ease the new-knee-leg out (not quite ready to bend or flex) and sit down gently. I honestly can’t believe I did that. With their encouragement to boot. Very little pain while I was in the hospital. What hurt the worst was right above my knee, front and back (lower thigh I guess). The reason was the tourniquet during surgery. Huh.
Wasn’t moving much or very fast when I got home Saturday. The nerve block catheter still had 150 pumps remaining, plus I was on pain meds (which Hubs cut in half). Our bed is too high for me to get in without a lot of discomfort so I’m sleeping in my Lazy Boy in the family room. About 1:30, early Monday morning, I hear a noise, which startles deaf me. I think maybe it’s the smoke alarm. It’s not. It’s the nerve block pump indicating a blinking warning, 600 pumps, 600 pumps. Good grief, I’m gonna die. It’s gonna pump air into my chubby leg vein, and my new knee has been for naught. Shit. Why didn’t I pay attention when everyone was trying to decide who drew the short straw and had to take this wretched thing out? I wiggle my sweats under my butt and look at the loopy snaked thread going INSIDE MY LEG. Covered with about a 4 inch square of clear tape. Yuck. I start peeling the tape loose, without yanking the part that’s still inside a few inches (though I’m positive it’s killing me on empty somehow). Gross. I gently tug on the thin tube inserted in my leg. It’s moving but leaking some kind of clear fluid. I grab a used napkin which recently held a homemade sugar cookie (sterilization attempts be damned) and dab the leak frequently. Now I’ve got cookie germs inside my leg because air or poison wasn’t enough to do me in. Finally I notice the end of the catheter slide out of my leg. I limp to the bathroom, trying to hold the napkin in place and almost fall because my sweats are halfway down my leg and the walker wheel lands on top of it. I grab a bandage before I sit on the pot and try to salvage my life. There by the grace of God, go I. Rather clumsily.
Doc said more intense pain would start after I was home for a day or 2. Dude was right again. And I’ve been experiencing some strange side effects from surgery or my medication. My teeth chatter, mouth goes dry, I’m a little queasy, neck is achy, hands and feet are freezing even though it’s quite warm in the house. I had my first & second physical therapy sessions which probably had a lot to do with these feelings. (My therapist’s advice: eat more, drink more, walk more). For one thing, my leg turned black and blue in a matter of hours, 5 days after surgery. Hubs was looking for a subtle clue that his somewhat normal Neese was back ‘in the house’ and stumbled upon it Tuesday. He walked in the living room, sat down and offered me a huge smile. “What,” I asked. “Your iPad. You’ve been home for 3 days and have not turned your iPad back on since before you had surgery. I knew you’d be ok as soon as you as you started writing again. Are ‘ya blogging?” “Well, one paragraph. I can’t stay focused on these pain pills very long.” Still, a good sign. For both of us.
I told Hubs he could wring out the oil in my hair Monday and just siphon it into the Jeep. (I wasn’t allowed to shower until the nerve catheter was out. Too afraid of infection). That’s a laugh. Try rubbing sugar cookie crumbs in it instead. So with help and sitting down I took a shower Monday. I don’t think a shower ever felt better. Shampooed my hair twice. Although it’s very tiring and time consuming, on Tuesday I showered on my own. After my shower Wednesday, I added a shirt and bra (instead of pj’s) for the day. By the end of the week, who knows? World domination? One small step at a time…
P.S. Title of my story is a shout out to my 2 year old great-granddaughter Jovi. She loves the song, Baby Shark, do, do, do, do, do, do. It’s catchy. If you don’t recognize the tune, well, you haven’t been around a toddler enough lately…