Cynthia’s Side Effects

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ContributorCynthia, 69Read Full Bio


Cynthia, 69, is a newly retired grandmother. She went from having a very active lifestyle to a more sedentary one due to her job and a return to school to get a Master’s degree. After a fall, which made walking hard her surgeon recommended that she have both of her knees replaced—which she had been putting off for years. She had both knees replaced over the course of three months.

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ContributorCynthia, 69Read Full Bio


Cynthia, 69, is a newly retired grandmother. She went from having a very active lifestyle to a more sedentary one due to her job and a return to school to get a Master’s degree. After a fall, which made walking hard her surgeon recommended that she have both of her knees replaced—which she had been putting off for years. She had both knees replaced over the course of three months.

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When Cynthia went home she was intimidated by having to get back to her normal life even with the help of a physical therapist. The in home physical therapist stressed that Cynthia needed to ice her knee at least five times a day, keep the knee elevated and stay ahead of the pain—meaning that she needed to take her pain killers on schedule and prior top her session with the physical therapist. However, though Cynthia needed her pain medication, the pills made her emotional. She found herself crying. Her doctor immediately changed her prescription after seeing her in person. She worked through challenges such as showering and getting in and out of her car. Cynthia’s recovery after her second surgery was a little trickier since her stronger knee was not totally pain-free after her first operation.

CYNTHIA: Coming home Friday afternoon I had a phone call from the homecare nurse who was gonna come. And she was also a physical therapist. And she was wanting to set up an appointment for that Sunday. And I thought, "Oh my goodness, already? I don't think I'm ready for this."

CYNTHIA: She arrived. Went through the normal, you know, checking my vitals which was important. Temperature, blood pressure, that sort of thing. And then she said, "Okay, we're gonna go into the bedroom and I want you to get on the bed and we're gonna do some exercises." And I thought, "No way am I gonna move this leg." But she worked with me. We started doing these exercises. And then she wanted me to do them in between her visits with me. Which was like two or three times a week.

CYNTHIA: She also advised me to ice it frequently and keep it elevated as much as I could, which I did do. I would probably ice it four or five times a day and then right before I would go to sleep at night.

CYNTHIA: So it was manageable at that point. And I was still taking the pain medications. And she emphasized to me that I needed to stay ahead of the pain. Try to manage extreme pain because that would inhibit the healing process.

CYNTHIA: The strangest thing is that with the pain medication, it caused me to become very emotional. And when my physical therapist would come by and as it got time for her to finish with me, I would start to cry. I didn't want her to leave. I wanted her to keep coming.

CYNTHIA: I have to say that I did really well managing the pain. I'd try to keep it maybe at a seven if possible.

CYNTHIA: She also checked out our condo when she started working with me. And I knew that I needed to have furniture cleared out of the way. No f-rugs on the floor where I could trip on them or slip on them. Probably the biggest obstacle is that we have two dogs. And they're small dogs. And one of them plays a lot. And she has a lot of toys. And she would scatter them throughout the house. So I would just have to be very careful when I am maneuvering around the house with my walker.

CYNTHIA: My biggest concern was that I didn't want to fall. And I also did not want to get in the shower. I was terrified of getting into the shower and trying to maneuver with the water and everything. Even though I had one of these benches to use. But my physical therapist had a woman who does at home showers for e-especially for orthopedic patients. She'd get in the shower with me and do the whole thing. And it was like almost as going for a massage someplace. It was very therapeutic.

CYNTHIA: So during my at home therapy, the therapist and I went down into the garage and she assessed the car. And she said, "Okay, this is how you're gonna do it." So she adjusted the seat. And she said, "Okay, you're gonna put your derriere your, in first and then swing your legs in." And then that made perfect sense to me. You know, I said, "Oh good, now I can get out of the house. I can take a ride even just around town." And that's gonna help my outlook. You know, being out. And then going to physical therapy became routine.

CYNTHIA: So that was the end of that. And then gradually, um, I was not allowed to drive while I was on pain medication. And that was really hard on me 'cause I'm very independent. And so my goal was to wean myself off of them. And gradually maybe take them only at night or before a physical therapy session. And then throughout the next couple of months I was able to take myself off them and use something over the counter. Because I had the goal I wanted to be able to drive my car again. And I wanted to go do what I wanted to do without feeling I was dependent on somebody else.

CYNTHIA: It was about seven weeks following surgery that I was able to get into the car and drive it on my own.

CYNTHIA: When I had the second knee done and having been through it previously, I knew what to expect when the physical therapist came in to get me out of bed. And so she stood me up. And I remember thinking, "Oh, my surgeon is gonna be so happy." You know. And she said, "Do you think you could take a few steps?" And I said, "I'm gonna walk over to that window." Which was more than a few steps. Because I was determined after having the first one doe that the second one was going to be easier for me to get through basically. So she was really pleased that I walked to the window.

CYNTHIA: Even when I was discharged from the hospital, I knew exactly how to get in and out of the car. That was to me a wonderful experience [LAUGH] compared to the first time.

CYNTHIA: But the pain medication is where I have had the biggest problems. It would depress me horribly and I would have crying jags where I could just cry. You know, somebody would look at me and I'd start to cry.

CYNTHIA: I had gone to see my surgeon for my six week check up. And he came into the room and I'm crying. And he immediately dives to look to see what my knee is doing. The incision. And he does a couple of maneuvers with the leg to see my range of motion. And he says, "What's wrong?" He was so concerned. And I said, "I don't know what is wrong but I cry all the time. I am so depressed. I don't want to do anything." And he says, "Well it's time to change the medication." So he did that immediately. I had to make some changes literally.

CYNTHIA: Managing my expectations has been very, very hard. Perhaps more so this time because after having done the first one everybody said, "Oh, the second one's gonna be easy. You're gonna know what to expect. You're gonna be able to adjust and just carry on with your everyday activities."

CYNTHIA: I guess at this point I really appreciated the fact that the left knee was so good so soon with not having the pain that it had pre-surgery. The right knee I think it slowed me down because with having the left knee done first, I had this knee that became the stronger knee but yet I was feeling the pain from it. This time also I can do steps if I have to. Like if I go to s-like out here at this particular location there are steps and I'm not as intimidated by them as I was the first time because I've learned how to maneuver steps.

CYNTHIA: I never was worried about what the scars would look like. Because I felt that they were almost like a badge of courage so to speak. I really felt like so what if-if they're not-if they're unsightly. I'm not ashamed of them because this is what's giving me my mo-mobility back. And my ability to do thing and engage in a more active lifestyle than before. My surgeon has told me that eventually they'll fade. But it hasn't been an issue for me because again, I feel like it's a badge of courage and what I've accomplished. And the confidence that I had, not just in myself to get through the surgeries, but the confidence that I have in my surgeon. Which I think is more important than anything.

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