This week has summed itself up to be all about preparation, and having gotten these preparations out of the way, I am feeling a little less apprehensive.
I don’t know about you, but I never realized how often a limb that bears weight and hinges in the middle comes into play. Sure, walking, sitting, standing – those things are a given. But the peripheral uses that we take for granted have started to make themselves known. For one, balance. We not only need flexibility, but balance to do everything mentioned above, and, many other things you really don’t think about. For instance that step between the step you take with your good leg; or, getting from standing to sitting, and back up again. Not to mention getting dressed, going to the bathroom, or something as simple as shifting your weight when you are standing or sitting. After surgery, all of this will require some sort of modification to your life as you now know it.
Having read the pre-surgery guide provided by my surgeon, talked to friends and acquaintances who have been down this road before me, as well as having scoured the Interwebs for stories about the TKR experience, here are the three major things I’ve been doing to prepare:
Serendipitously, we purchased our house 10 years ago for two reasons: 1) We had two kids who were heavily involved in theatre, which included cast parties for upwards of 60 sweaty teen and preteen aged kids, over several weeks, twice a year, in the dead of summer, and the dead of winter. This house featured both a basement theatre room, and an in-ground pool which would accommodate both needs nicely. And 2) My mother, who was confined to a wheelchair was coming to visit. The entrance, living room, bathroom, kitchen and master bedroom are all on the flat, hard surfaced main floor, which made it extremely accessible for her. While the basement will be largely inaccessible to me during my recovery, both the pool, and the one level living are perfectly aligned with my needs. Also, we have a pretty open arrangement of our living room furniture. We just need to switch out the club chair for the recliner in the bedroom and I’ll have my own little recuperation nest.
One thing convenient about growing older, is that if you’re lucky, your friends grow older with you. In my case, I happen to have two friends who have not only grown older with me, but have had TKR surgery and not only own, but are willing to lend me a number of the items that are maybe not necessary, but will certainly aid in my recovery process. These items are – in order of importance:
Maybe I’m a wimp, but I had to use crutches a couple of years ago, and yes, they helped me get around, but lordy don’t they hurt your arms! I won’t be using crutches again! I know what you’re thinking – my grampa used a walker, I don’t want to look like someone who escaped from a nursing home! OK, walkers are far from cool looking, but they’re stable. And OK, yes, they take up a lot of room, but if you’re clever, they also double as carrying aids, bathroom aids, or if you just want to be Internet famous!
One of the first things my surgeon’s admin told me was “right after surgery, they’re going to ask you if you want an ice machine, and it sounds great because with it, you won’t have to continually change your ice packs, but it costs $200 and its not covered by insurance and its just one expense that’s not necessary.” …until it is. I’m going to be home by myself at least during the week days, and that means getting up to go to the freezer to get the ice pack, then going back to my chair. Sounds easy, but remember, you’ll be on heavy drugs, and unstable, and you’re going to put off changing the ice pack, and that’s not good, because the ice not only reduces pain, it reduces swelling, and swelling causes serious complications like circulation problems, and limiting your range of motion.
I bet the first thing you thought of was using the grabber to squish that spider hanging from the ceiling. And yes, that is the perfect use for this tool, but there are others more related to TKR. I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer, but whether you realize it or not, you’re not going to be able to reach your socks, or underwear, or get your pants on, or off, and any number of things that require that elusive balance that is present when you have two functioning legs that hinge in the middle.
Yep, I know, this sounds totally narcissistic, but hear me out. First, you will be getting up and walking very soon after surgery, even if it’s just to the bathroom. Do you really want to do that in a hospital gown with your hiney hanging out? I didn’t think so.
Bring along some comfy jammies. I’m a post menopausal female, so I opted for a set with capri length pull on pants and a sleeveless top. Capri length because personally I don’t want to display the eight-inch zipper-like scar on my leg, but the dressings need to be changed, so it needs to be accessible. Sleeveless because – hot flashes. Guys, even though you probably won’t find capri length jammie pants, I think you’ll be fine with athletic shorts and a tee shirt.
Beyond sleepwear, personally, I’m going to reach a point where I’ll want to lose the jammies and get dressed. I found a sale on some stuff that normally I wouldn’t look twice at – drawstring capri length pants, and some easy button down shirts. I got these all a size too big, for two reasons. First, swelling. I’m going to be sedentary, drugged up, and feeling sorry for myself – lets face it, I’m going to gain a few pounds, and the last thing I want to do is sit around in clothes that are too tight! This is no time to worry about fashion. Secondly, ease of dressing and undressing. (see Grabber above) Enough said.
Finally – Shoes. I bought a pair of Sketchers GoWalk Pursuit (I love the irony of the name) once again, a size too big, because, hello, swelling. You’re basically going to be re-learning to walk, so you’ll want a shoe that has a good sole, and slips on and off easily without skootching your toe, and having to twist your ankle. Personally, having shoes on when I’m outside, or during the work day is just about all I can stand, otherwise I’m barefoot. I’ve read that wearing shoes during the recovery process helps with muscle support… I may or may not take that advice, but we’ll see. At least for in the hospital, and for going outside, I’ll wear my Sketchers.
Next week, I’m going to have to start backing off on some things like vitamins, painkillers and alcohol… and now I’m feeling a little apprehensive again.