Driving and Biking in the Big City

Posts Tagged ‘knee replacement

“Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”

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I was standing in the grocery store the other day when I noticed I was standing in the grocery store.

At a crowded meeting, I started looking for an empty chair and realized I didn’t need to sit.

I was looking for my kitchen step ladder when my brain told me I could climb up on a chair instead — like I always used to do before step ladders became a way of life.

When I walk my dog, Tucker, I actually am walking him the two miles or so. I used to say this but actually was biking while he ran along beside me.

Recently I jumped for witnesses in the hardware store, and they applauded. It was only about six inches off the ground and felt like I was lifting two bulldozers, but both of my feet were off the ground at the same time for a nano second.

hallwayMy office is down a long hallway that seemed, for many years, to be miles away. Today, it feels like only a few steps. I willingly go back to my car in the parking lot when I forget something. Unheard of for the last 10 years.

My first surgery to replace my right knee took place a year ago. Happy birthday, Righty.  My left knee surgery is four months behind it — so, by the end of the year, surely I will start writing about commuting again and stop giving you such an awestruck and amazed accounting of this journey to health.

One of the biggest surprises in this replacement of two knees in four months is the power of the brain and thought. My brain is such a partner to me in all my physical intentions. It is a miraculous machine, giving me sudden signals and changing realities every day.

My path appeared shorter when my walking skills were improved. My hobbled habit told me I  wanted a chair when my legs told me I was OK now and could stand awhile. Lately, my brain has been giving me signals on my walks to run a bit — something I honestly never did in the past. So I don’t know who my brain thinks I am but it certainly thinks I can run some.

Lately, I’ve tried standing in front of a mirror to kneel. My knees are still numb and I can’t really feel it when I kneel. It makes it hard to do and, honestly, the only residual pain left since before I got my bionic knees. So I’m trying to trick my brain into recovering feeling in my numb knees. My doctor and nurse tell me that this is a trick used to teach people with lost limbs. If your missing leg is itching, it sometimes helps to stand halfway in a full length mirror so that you appear to be whole again and scratch the remaining leg. Who knew? But, I’m thinking it’s helping me recover feeling in my artificial knees — both of which have remaining areas of numbness.

long_staircaseI get up from my desk job and walk several times a day now. I take the stairs instead of elevators and recently walked up 10 flights of stairs, according to my health app.  I walk to lunch spots that were drives for me in the past. I can keep up with even the most fast-walking of all my friends.

Oh and I’ve even taken a few tennis lessons lately. Tennis is one of the main reasons I had terrible knees in the first place, and I hadn’t played much for 10 years. I see other women on the courts with various forms of knee braces. That was me before. But now, these bionic knees won’t be helped by a wrap or a brace. They are the only thing on my body that doesn’t hurt after a tennis lesson. I’m not saying I’ll get back in the game entirely. I’m still wearing old lady tennis shorts and using  borrowed racket. But it could happen for fun.

Think I might could even travel and do some sightseeing. Last time I took my kids to Washington, D.C., they can tell you what a lug I’d become on a vacation. Who knew? It was the beginning of my realization that my lifestyle had changed because of chronic knee pain.

“Don’t it always go to show, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” But you certainly know when you get it back, Joni Mitchell.





Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

September 13, 2016 at 11:11 am

Mama said there’d be days like this

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Good but fake attitude

Physical training in the hallway with a half-hearted smile

I never expect bad days and am always blindsided.  I am lucky enough to have a Pollyanna spirit so I don’t see it coming until it’s here. Same with drinking; I’m a happy drinker of alcohol instead of a sad or angry drunk. You won’t see me “crying in my cups.”  Instead, I’ll be dancing on the tables.  I also now know that I am a highly optimistic taker of pain killers. This is something new I’ve learned about myself by having two knee replacement surgeries in four months.

I call into work and take on a dozen assignments while I’m working from home and only days out of surgery. “Yes, you can expect me back at work on Monday,” I say and then I fall promptly to sleep for the next three days. Or I tell a friend I will meet her in the medical center for lunch on Friday and an hour’s drive away, thinking I’ll surely be driving in no time. Luckily, my friends and co-workers spotted this about me even before I did.  They take my optimism and whittle it down by at least three.

Then, comes a bad day as happened yesterday. I’m not at all prepared for these feelings because I don’t have that many of them.  I’m miserable, aching all up and down my new knee and can’t get comfortable. Not sitting, not standing and not laying. I’m lonely, depressed and feeling my age – which lands on the more experienced side of the half-century mark plus some.

As someone with a high threshold for pain – two children by natural child birth, a broken ankle without realizing it and a silent heart attack that I only learned about three months later — I was terribly surprised at the constant pain of knee replacement. No wonder gangsters are always threatening to shoot enemies in the knee caps. It’s damned painful. I’ll tell you anything if you threaten knee pain.

My first knee replacement was Sept. 1, 2015, and it was the worst. I whined for the first four weeks, stayed up all night uncomfortable and begged for prayers at 3 a.m. from FB friends. The prayers helped so I’m glad I did it. As I tell friends and family, I’m a communicator by nature, and everyone within my sphere knew I was miserable.

For my second surgery on Dec. 29, I was prepared for the pain and recovery period. I even asked to be out of the hospital a day sooner. Last time, I didn’t trust myself to go home because I thought I was about to be paralyzed by the extreme pain.

And, as luck would have it, this second knee has been easier anyway. This left knee turned out to be more damaged than the right — absolutely no ACL left so that had to be replaced, too. That means that I immediately was relieved to no longer have the natural pain of a bone-on-bone knee, beginning to turn outward and with totally no ACL for stabilization. So, when I went through my first surgery, I had a bad knee as my secondary during physical therapy. It wasn’t much help. This time, I’ve had a repaired but great secondary knee support.

Now that I’ve come to a bad day, I forced myself through it. Like you, I read a lot about how to keep my attitude good, how to get enough sleep, what to eat, etc. I’m a Baby Boomer of the first order, thinking I will live forever and feel like I’m 19 years old for my entire lifetime.

I’m lucky in that I can write about my pain and spill my guts. That’s a huge help. That’s what I’m doing right now and started yesterday in the throes of my misery. It’s giving me great relief. I have notebooks and notebooks filled with streams of consciousness about every problem and misery I’ve ever felt. No, you don’t want to see them. I can’t even stand to read them myself. The worst are my three diaries from junior high. Yuck. Definitely an awkward, self-centered and shallow age for me.

dirty shoes

Muddy shoes and loyal Tucker at our halfway point

My best mood adjustments are exercise and nature.  I have biked, swam or played tennis every day of my life.  I don’t sleep well if I’ve spent a day at my desk with no exercise. As a kid, I played all sports, ran the roads and used up my energy and then some. When I’m in a bad mood from the injustices of work or life, I go for long bike rides until I come home exhausted and happy again. I often have to force myself on the bike but am glad I did it within the first five minutes.

So, on my recent bad day, I gutted it out and took a long walk on the gully out back of my house and in the beautiful sunshine. With my loyal hound, Tucker, at my side, we walked about a mile to the park, rested and then the mile back home.

We were lucky enough to spot a busy egret or two who were doing some fishing in the murky gully water. Toads and turtles jumped out of our way as we walked the dirt path that was a bit muddy in spots from recent rains. I had to watch out for slip and slide in the mud – not having my balance back quite yet. The highlight of the walk came when three houseshoe-sized and shaped dogs joined us with their owner. Who can stay depressed in a bevy of lively hounds?

I can’t say I was in good spirits when I got back from my walk, but I felt like I’d been productive and more positive. After last night’s sleep, I’m doing well today. It helps that the sun is shining and my pain has subsided. Soon I’ll be back to myself. Soon.

Gully friend

Gully buddy to lift my spirits

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

January 28, 2016 at 2:34 pm

My bionic life – the sequel

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Countdown begins for Mr. Lefty

Countdown begins for Mr. Lefty

The countdown has started.

One month from today, Dec. 29, I will do it all again – replace my left knee to go with my right knee replacement. I look back over my notes and posts from the Sept. 15 operation and can’t quite believe I’m going to do this – at all, much less already. But then, I go for a hound walk or easily stroll a few blocks for lunch or a meeting at work in the huge Texas Medical Center, and I know I’m ready. I go upstairs in my two-story home (something I avoided for at least a couple of years) or bend over to pick up something I dropped, and I know I’m ready. I can even get on my knees and look under the bed or couch for a dropped earring or, more likely, a missing remote.

If one knee replacement has made me feel 10 years younger, there’s a strong possibility that the second knee replacement will give me my old self back.

I also know I’m ready because of Thanksgiving. Earlier this week, I started a column about how Thanksgiving was my least favorite holiday. It was a lot about the cooking, which I’m not good at, and the martyrdom of mothers everywhere on this feast day. Matriarchs (yikes to that word but it’s the one I’m looking for) have a big job on Thanksgiving. We not only put on a good spread but we keep harmony and please everyone. Only then is it a good holiday. And basically – despite how much help we get from others – we are the center of activity for this eating event.

This year, as Thanksgiving Day was winding down for my family, about 11 p.m. or so, I realized I was still standing. I felt good. I had energy. I now like Thanksgiving again. I can’t write a column about it being my least favorite holiday because that’s no longer true.

I now think it was the insidious pain in my knees that made me dread Thanksgiving. Sometimes as early as Tuesday or Wednesday, if I’d been standing up at the kitchen island after work and doing pre-Thanksgiving chopping, I’d start to get exhausted. Before noon on Thursday, I could hardly stand. And, as someone who always has been healthy and active, I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Actually, I didn’t think anything was wrong with me. I supposed I was overdoing it. And I always overdo it. I totally pushed through without much of a complaint. I blamed Thanksgiving and not my knees.

Mr. Right Knee, one week after surgery

Mr. Right Knee, one week after surgery

I also now realize a lot more about chronic pain. In my case, it had gotten so gradually worse that it had become part of my routine. I ignored it when I could and lived with it when I couldn’t. It typically wasn’t a huge problem in my day to day. I became a biker and a swimmer instead of a tennis player and a distance walker.

I knew I couldn’t walk around so much on vacations and I’d plan my touring accordingly. The last couple of conferences I went on for work, I rented bicycles to get from my hotel to the conference hall. I didn’t really think that much about it. I must have inherently known that I couldn’t walk the couple of three blocks as easily as I could bike them. It worked out; I had great fun. In Madison, Wisconsin, I biked around the lakes after hours. In San Francisco, I biked over the Golden Gate Bridge. It wasn’t my endurance that was a problem; it was my knees.

The last big touring vacation I took was when my children were young adults. My youngest had just graduated college, and he wanted to visit Washington, D.C. Now, that’s a lot of walking! Our routine was to take a cab to wherever we were going to start our tour – Washington Monument, the specific Smithsonian we would visit, etc. Then, we’d visit as much as possible, eventually walking our way to our nearby hotel. It worked great until the fifth and final day when I was done by about noon. Of course, my daughter and son were not remotely ready. I’m going to have to offer that trip to them again in the next year or so. This time it will be six of us, but we’ll do D.C. up right with new knees.

So, the countdown begins. I know what to expect. I’m ready. I’ve asked to get out of the hospital after two days this time instead of three. Last time, I was still in shock and confused by the amount of pain I was in around the clock. Now, I know that will come to an end after about three weeks. I’d just as soon suffer at home and be on the couch for New Year’s Eve.

My PT team -- coach and support

My PT team — coach and support

John will be my primary PT coach. He and my nurse want me to hit the rehab folks a couple of times and I may, but I can tell you John was the ticket to my good health right now.

And I’ll post. My Facebook friends will see more of me every day and this blog will be my outlet for longer thoughts of a non-commuting kind. I’ve promised no whining this time. I’m sure I’ll shout out at midnight or 3 a.m. on occasion but I’m ready.

No commuting this Chronicle

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Rehabbing my new knee

Rehabbing my new knee

I am on a bit of a work hiatus while I recover from knee replacement surgery and am starting to miss my 30-mile commute to the city in rush-hour traffic. “What?” you say. “True,” I answer. It even shocks me that I am such a hearty commuter. Something about that early morning entry into the rat race gets my blood pumping and my creative juices flowing. I see the ‘burbs in my rearview mirror and the mountainous skyscrapers ahead, and I thank God for the opportunities of both.

As a commuter, I have an 11-hour day and get more done than I do while I’m puttering around the house with little to do but try to rehab my knee. “Shall I water the plants?” I think. Then, two or three plants later, I decide that I’ll get to the rest of them later today or tomorrow. I have this adored gardenia that is pot-bound and needs to be replanted in a flower bed in the yard. I may wait until the weekend to get that done. Wait! Wait! My weekdays are the same as my weekends, I remember. Shouldn’t I take advantage of the hours in a non-commute day to get my plants and garden in shape? You’d think.

Time to watch the spider spin his huge web.

Time to watch the spider spin his huge web.

If I were commuting, I’d certainly have potting soil and flowerbed trim on my list. I drive by several wonderful outdoorsy shops on my 30-mile route. I’ve even been known to go out at lunch to some of the boutique shops in Houston and buy some unique yard ornaments or plants. That gardenia would be sitting pretty way before now if I were on my regular schedule.

It’s amazing how much I get done on my way to and from work. Birthday presents, cards, groceries, dry cleaners, gas, oil change, Target run, wine. However, when I’m not already out and about, I seem to choose to stay home and not replenish any of the household supplies, eat at any fancy restaurants or do much of anything.

The house is a terrible wreck when I’m home in it day in and day out. When I’m on the road, I always make a sweep through in the morning and then in the evening when I go to bed. These days, I have no internal clock. I am just as likely to be up and puttering at 3 a.m. but I’m not likely to be doing anything constructive. I’ve got these “adult” coloring books and 100-count colored pencils that seem to be occupying my time.

Then, my appearance is way closer to “hippie chick” than is attractive. No makeup. Tennis shoes or – embarrassingly enough – clogs. With socks. I’ve worn the same two or three shorts and t-shirts most days. I’ve got this little bundle of laundry that I wash every few days and I’m good to go. In my real life, I always assess my wardrobe on Sundays. What needs to be cleaned; what earrings; what shoes. How many meetings do I have that week, and what jackets do I have for those meetings.

If I’m going to be around the Big Cheeses, I check my makeup supply and be sure it’s on hand. Nothing like getting in the car and not having my makeup to put on during the commute. What a waste of time to do it at home or at the office powder room. I’m typically not much of a makeup person – having passed right through my makeup phase in junior high. But, now that I’m the oldest professional in an office full of beautiful, younger women, I try to do my best – if not to keep up at least to show them that you can hang in longer than they think.

Right now, I can’t even tell you where a skirt is in my closet, much less a jacket or a dress. I have this favorite pair of pretty expensive light-weight cross trainers that I love. Or, should I say now that I have one of those usual two shoes. I can’t find the second shoe and don’t even have the urge to look.

Adult coloring book keeping me busy.

Adult coloring book keeping me busy.

My hair is longer than ever and beginning to look way grayer than I typically allow. When I’m commuting to the city, I have regular facials at lunchtime every six weeks and visit my hair shop for a cut and dye job almost as frequently. I don’t even have those hair and face folks to visit in the ‘burbs any more. I feel myself aging every day that I’m not commuting.

Now that I’ve written this column about how low key my life has become, I have the urge to get up and do something lively. Think I’ll start with finding that second shoe.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

October 6, 2015 at 10:08 am