Carol, an avid walker and believer in exercise talks about her knee gradually became troublesome for her to walk her daily two to three miles. She tried physical therapy and injections, but came to the realization when her orthopedic surgeon saw her X-ray’s that only a knee replacement would get her back to the point where she would be able to return to her daily routine instead of having to return home after just a few blocks of walking and have to ice her knee.
Hi, I'm Carol. I am 70 years old. I am a real estate broker. Was a real estate a-agent, I should say, and have nine grandchildren, and love to walk. And that's one of the reasons that I started my journey on whether or not to have my knee replaced.
I had a knee issue probably for about four years. As I was walking it was starting to pinch, and hurt, and I like to walk two or three miles a day. I could walk a half a block or something like that without it hurting, of course I can further, but it was going to hurt. And then-then I had to come home and ice it. Sometimes going up and down stairs would hurt. I had cortisone shots, and that really didn't work very well for me, but has for a lot of people.
I went in to the doctor and asked him what I could do for my knee. And he took e-rays, and a scan, and decided that really my only option was to have a knee replacement. I'm not wild about surgery, but if it was going to get me back on the right track and being able to play with my grandchildren, and lead a good life, this is what I was going to do. So, in order for preparation for the surgery I do remember that I had to go off of any, like, Advil, Aleve, any of that kind of thing and then they did have some special soap they gave me to wash my knee area down.
So, rolling into the operating room, I'm a pretty relaxed person, so I was not nervous about it and I knew it was going to make me feel better. I hoped it was going to help make me feel better, so I knew I was going to be asleep and not know what was going on. Waking up was interesting. I was still a little groggy, but they got me up. I think my surgery was, like, at 7:30 or 8:30 in the morning, and I do remember, and only because I've written this down in a journal, that they got me up at one o'clock. So, I was in the recovery room for a little while, and then I got right up, or they got me up, and I probably didn't feel any pain because I still had the anesthesia or whatever they gave me in me, and I walked from the hospital bed to the window. With help, but I did do it on a walker. It was still numb, but it felt big because there lots of bandages around you and all of that. So, it was fine it just was cumbersome. That night, actually, there are a lot of people that come in and punch and poke you and take your vitals and whatnot. And, so, you don't really get a good night's sleep. They take your temperature; they do all sorts of stuff. Then the next day, a physical therapist comes again. The same person that came the day before.
First I started on a walker, and he said "You can go on crutches." And so I did, I went on crutches. I didn't think I could, but it worked out. I don't remember it hurting a lot, but I was probably still on a lot of pain medicine. I spent two nights there and three days, so the first night was the night after the surgery, the next day, and then the following day I went home. So, when I came home from the hospital, we have a two-story home. We have a bedroom downstairs. I went in there and spent the night there, and my husband was there with me. When I was in the hospital they put me on something called a CPM machine, which is moving your leg constantly. And so that same machine came home with me, and I p-had to put my knee on it for six hours a day for six weeks. It just keeps the knee moving and active. I liked it, and it was a way where I didn't feel like I was just lying in bed all day doing nothing, which for me is frustrating. I'm not a bed sitter. And I could space it any way I wanted. I would do usually three hours in the morning, and three hours in the afternoon. When I'm not on that, I could get up and walk on a walker or crutches. I preferred the crutches because they weren't as cumbersome. In fact, one crutch was better for me than two.
The home therapist came two days later and talked to me about all my the-medicine that I was to take. I'm not a big medicine taker, so I stayed on the medicine a little bit. Every time the physical therapist came, they asked me "Where is your pain level?" And it's hard to judge, I mean, I don't know, you know, what really, really awful. I do know what no pain feels like, so I would say that I never went over a seven or an eight pain wise. And I did not take a lot of pain medicine just because I don't like the way the really strong prescription medicines make you feel. Or at least make me feel. I think the first week was the worst, and then it got better and better.
It seemed to me that I had a whole lot of swelling. The incision was what I expected. It's probably about four inches long.
The home therapist came three times a week, and then I had to go and have outpatient physical therapy or... Actually, I met somebody that would come and do physical therapy for me at home for a while because I didn't have anybody to drive me. Made it a lot easier. I progressed very well. They all said I did very well. From the time I started using the at-home physical therapist was about six weeks, and then I could drive. And I tried to make myself walk as much as possible because I knew that the more I walked, the faster I was going to get better. That being said, probably I didn't recover as fast as I thought I was going to. I'm pretty mild-mannered, so I knew as long as I was doing ten steps more than I did the day before, that I was progressing. I knew my limitations, and would push myself because I knew if I did that I would get better faster.
I would say it was a good year before I really could walk for a couple of miles. To have the artificial knee in there doesn't feel any different than my other knee. I mean, they say it bends back as really, really well, and they have said that since six weeks. To me, it doesn't bend back as far as the other knee. I can't kneel on it. It hurts to be on my knees. To get back up again, I can do that. I'm working on that. I do Pilates and that helps me. I think at 70 I'm always going to be in the process of strengthening myself. I had to strengthen the leg and the muscles around it. I did, and that's what the physical therapy is for. I walk two miles a day now. Every day, or do Pilates. I think the more active I am; the better it is for me at the age of 70.
When they're doing physical therapy, one of the main goals is to have you really be able to straighten your leg. More so, actually, than bend it. It was a fight to do it, but the more I did it the better it felt, and now it's pretty good and straight. I would say it's easier to straighten it than it is to bend it all the way back with the other leg. Another thing that the doctor has had me do, for the rest of my life, is take an antibiotic before I have my teeth cleaned. And you have to take a really strong one an hour before you have your teeth cleaned and the same does four hours after your teeth cleaned. And from my understanding it's because then if there's an infection, oftentimes it can settle down in the joint. The dentist is the one that reminded me. The doctor didn't tell me. At least it wasn't in the paperwork that I remember, and the dentist, I said something about having just had a knee replacement. She said "You need to take an antibiotic before, and we won't clean your teeth until you have."
My recovery period was a-probably made a lot easier because I have a lot of good friends that helped and came over as well. I had been recently remarried , and my husband was a big help and would get anything that I needed and would help me along the process as far whether it was ice, refilling the bucket, because you can't get up and do that kind of thing yourself. And it's also just comforting knowing somebody's right there by your side to help you and understand what you're going through. They can't feel your pain at all, and sometimes when you ask for something it's seems like a simple thing, but you wouldn't be asking for it if you could do it yourself. And I was used to doing things all by myself. And I still like to have that freedom to do it. So, when you have to count on somebody else, sometimes it's difficult. I mean, I had a housekeeper who came, and she would do things and I was comfortable with her around. Probably more so than asking my husband to bring me certain things, but just knowing he was there was comforting. I think that's one of the reasons I was more game to go ahead and do my surgery, was because I had heard other people say "I waited too long and it was much harder to recover." So, I decided that I might as well go ahead and do it. I was still, not young, but young enough to heal well, and I was very healthy and I am very healthy. I'm really glad that I did the knee replacement. I really wanted to travel with my husband and go different places, and I find the more that I do, the more I can do. It was a harder surgery to go through than I think I realized, and I think the recovery time was a lot longer than I expected. That all being said, I'm glad I did it, and I'm up and walking and playing with my grandchildren and dogs, and enjoying life.