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Breaking in a new knee

By on October 25, 2020 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments
Marilyn Sherling finds frequent short walks are one of the keys to recovery.

When the pain becomes too much, going under a knife is the option

By Marilyn Sherling

I used to hike a lot. 

My favorite place is the Pasayten Wilderness where you can go for miles and miles and not see another person. 

But those days came to a stop. 

For the past 15 years, the arthritis in my knees has steadily advanced. 

A couple of years ago I received Cortisone injections in my knees. That worked for a while and the pain was gone. 

But when the injections wore off, I had more pain than before. I knew then that it was time to really fix the problem.

At the end of September, I had a total knee replacement of my left knee at Central Washington Hospital. 

Today, post-op day 10, I had my first check-back appointment with the surgeon, and I passed with flying colors. Here are a few reflections on the experience.

1. It’s called total knee arthroplasty. Why did I do it? To be able to walk. To sleep through the night without knee pain and swelling. To go up and down stairs. And, most definitely, to go hiking again.

2. Every BODY is different. Even though the general surgical process is the same, you won’t have the same experience as your Aunt Elizabeth in Yakima or your life-long friend who lives in Spokane.

3. Plan on spending the night. To go home the same day (which some folks do), the physical therapist has to clear you on certain goals, like walking down the hall and navigating stairs. If you flunk PT (as I did, by fainting), you spend the night and try it again the next day.

4. Order room service. Gone are the days when an orderly pushes a cart of meals down the hall, all containing the same bland, uninspiring hospital food. Now you get a menu and call Room Service for your meals, and they are good!

5. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t sleep very well. It doesn’t last forever. It’s OK to cry.

6. Make a chart of your medication schedule. Put alarms on your phone so you take your meds on time. It’s important.

7. Move. Every hour get up and walk around the house, or around the driveway or down the sidewalk in your neighborhood. Yes, you will use a walker. 

They inject a pain block in your knee during surgery, which lasts up to two days. This is so they can get you moving right away in the hospital. Movement is important. It prevents stiffness and scar tissue and blood clots, three things you DON’T want. 

8. The exercises are HARD. Do them anyway. Start small and gradually work up. Consistency is the key. My physical therapist says, “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

9. Ice, ice baby! After exercise and walking, get the ice pack out of the freezer and apply for 15-20 minutes. Get your leg above your heart. Don’t sit in a chair with your legs down and don’t go in the kitchen and decide to clean it up unless you want swelling and pain. Walking is good! Standing is not!

10. You really can’t do this alone. After surgery, you need someone at home with you for a week or two at least. You won’t be able to drive. You won’t be able to stand in the kitchen and fix a meal. I was very fortunate to have my daughter, Amanda, here with me. I absolutely could not have done this without her.

11. Would I do it again? Absolutely! In fact I plan to in the spring on my other knee when the snow is gone.

Marilyn Sherling is retired and enjoys exploring the outdoors. Hopefully, a new knee (or two by springtime) will make that easier.

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