Last fall I decided to face my biggest challenge and undergo bilateral knee replacement surgery. It was a fascinating journey I had actually started years earlier – but my own paralyzing fear kept me postponing surgery dates after surgery dates, gladly trading in my ability to walk properly to live a life of chronic pain, an invisible, deranged beaver constantly gnawing away at my bones.
Looking back, it was stupid of me to have wasted all that time with unnecessary worry – especially as I sit and write these words knowing I now have metal and plastic parts where portions of my damaged knees used to be. And I can walk mighty tall now. That awful, soul-sucking torment is gone.
I wanted to take you all with me on this journey with my On Bended Knees series – partly to share my adventures with anyone facing the same dilemma, and also suffering from the same fear.
As well, for my own sense of sense: The lurid details I kept finding on the web scared the heck out of me, and contributed to my own misinformation.
My surgery was performed less than four months ago at Toronto’s Humber River Hospital, under the sure hands of Sebastian Rodriguez-Elizalde and his crack team of experts, followed by a stint at West Park rehabilitation hospital both as an in-patient and out-patient.
Today, I am walking, driving, doing stairs ever so carefully. And, testing the dance waters: Every few days I get up and move around my home to my favourite songs. That was the basis for getting the surgery in the first place – I missed the chance to dance at my nephew’s wedding. I didn’t want to miss anymore chances because of my knees.
Last year at this time I lived in constant despair of the unknown. Today – I wish I had had the surgery earlier and saved myself so much grief.
Why did I put myself through such unnecessary suffering? To be fair, who can blame me – the surgery itself sounded gruesome and involved, among other things, hammering, drilling, and the removal of portions of my beloved yet worn-out knee parts to be replaced by shiny, mechanical equipment that probably started out as science project on the space station. Can you say titanium?
Looking back now I didn’t recognize the light at the end of the tunnel came from doing the proper research, asking intelligent questions (as opposed to – will this hurt?) and looking at quality of life.
That’s right – quality of life.
The light at the end of the tunnel came from the overhead fixture in the operating room.
I didn’t know it at the time but the chronic pain was eroding my sense of joy, wearing down my energy and bringing on depression.
And it’s only been less than four months. Today post-surgery I walk straighter, farther and am constantly surprised that, every time I get out of a chair, I brace myself for that pain I’ve lived with for years… only to realize it no longer exists.
Sure, I still have pain and stiffness, a strange clicking sound (that I’ve been told will go away) and the sense of an elastic band around my knees (but even that feeling is ebbing away). I’m surprised I can sleep on my sides and even my stomach.
My osteoarthritis is a monkey on my back that attacks my ankles, collar bone and lower back. But it can’t have my knees ever again.
I don’t have knee pain – I have post-op discomfort which seems to ease every day. It comes from muscles going back to their original positions, nerve endings finding their way back home, and bones getting stronger around the new equipment that now resides in my body.
What I learned about going through this journey is I didn’t have gone on it alone. I had support all around me – only I didn’t realize it. That my biggest fear – surgery pain – was small potatoes in comparison to what is really on your plate: Temporarily relinquishing control over your life. Depending on family and friends to do your grocery shopping, your laundry, cleaning your kitty litter. Immediately after surgery knowing you can’t get up to pee means using a bedpan. Get over it – the relief is immeasurable! But know that you do get stronger and changes come in baby steps and in leaps. Every day there’s something new to feel good about.
When I started this series I had no idea how many people have been affected by knee (and hip) replacement surgery – and how humbled I have been by the outpouring of support and kindness from readers not only across North America, but even one reader from Australia. Everyone wrote to encourage me, and offer their own surgery stories.
One reader, Brenda French, offered me the kindest and most comforting words – that I had this one! So did she, after having undergone bilateral knee replacement a month earlier than me. Today, she’s back to spin classes.
“It’s been a game changer for me,” said French recently.
It’s been a game changer for me, too.
Thank you to all of you who journeyed with me, sharing my ups and downs, my two-steps-forward-one-step-back road to recovery. I can honestly say… it was all worthwhile.
NEXT: I promised a dance off with Humber River Hospital’s musical robot, Pepper. Bring it on! Video results next month!
Source Toronto Sun
|On bended knees, by Rita DeMontis|