Thirty days. Well, if I calculate from today, its actually twenty-nine days. That’s how long I’ve got til my knee becomes bionic.
(And, for anyone reading this who doesn’t know the term ‘bionic’ — in the seventies, it’s what we used to call replacing a worn out, or broken human part with something mechanical. And, I might add, by doing so, endowing the recipient of such a mechanical part with superhuman strength, capabilities, powers. Maybe not so much the super powers, but hey, maybe….)
What led to this countdown is nothing quite so audacious as the Bionic Woman being brought back from the dead after a skydiving accident. But the ravages of time, and osteoarthritis in my left knee, have created a predicament that for me is just as dramatic. The cartilage in that knee has deteriorated to the point that not only are my bones grinding against each other whenever I move the joint, but they also skew outward making me bowlegged on one side, which has the effect of causing me to walk with a pronounced teeter-totter. Its not pretty.
Over a period of about five years of increasing pain, I tried everything from yoga to electroTENS therapy, to Thai massage, thinking it was something I could fix if I only stretched further, walked more, drank less wine… OK, not really on the last one. My 40th high school reunion was coming up, and I was bound and determined to NOT walk like my grandmother – at least for that week – so I went to an orthopedic doctor. He took some x-rays, and asked some questions, quite a few in fact about my grandmother. He told me that the cartilage in my knee had succumbed to its genetic eventuality, and no amount of exercise was going to change that, in fact I was pretty much making it worse. I found out that we could try cortisone shots for a while, and when that stopped working we could try Synvisc, but ultimately I would need to have knee replacement surgery. He said that at my age it was pretty common…
(Wait just a dern minute there… MY age? Why I oughta… I am NOT my grandmother… My grandmother, who lived to be 105, was a petite but mighty woman whom I adored. In home movies from about 1964, when I was six, the two of us can be seen walking around her back yard. Me, holding her hand, and she with a pronounced teeter-totter to her walk, caused by severely bowed legs. In 1964 my grandmother was 60. I’ll be 60 this year… OK, so I get the age comment, but yikes, knee replacement surgery!? That’s scary!)
Well that was last year about this time. And as the good doctor had predicted, the cortisone worked then failed. The Synvisc worked just long enough for me to walk semi-normally at my reunion, then failed as well.
By the way, it’s not just walking I’m having trouble with. I do yoga pretty regularly. I used to be able to get into some pretty advanced poses. Now, because my knee won’t collapse completely, and is also throwing my hip out of whack, I can’t even get into one of the simplest poses – Child’s Pose! (Although I have to admit that at 59 I’m pretty sure no one ever saw my grandmother on a yoga mat!)
In January of this year, I decided that the time had come to schedule the surgery, but because this type of surgery is so common, the first available appointment wasn’t until May 1st. This has given me some time to come to terms with the procedure, and all that it entails. I’ve read and reread the patient information packet that the doctor gave me and that has helped me prepare, and understand the procedure. But I want more. I’ve scoured the Internet for stories from real people who’ve been through this. I want to know what they did, and what they were supposed to do and didn’t. I want to know their woulda, coulda, shouldas. But, I seriously can’t find much.
As a writer, there’s an old adage that says ‘write what you want to read’ so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to chronicle this journey as best I can with a couple of posts per week under my Body, Mind and Spirit menu category. As of today, I have a litany of things I need to do and not do, leading up to May 1st. If for no other reason, I’m writing this for my own reference, in case my right knee’s cartilage decides to also succumb to its genetic eventuality. Or maybe, just maybe, there’s someone else out there that is or will be searching like I have been for honest, non-clinical narrative about the path to total knee replacement (TKR) – or what I prefer to call the bionic experience.