Yesterday I went to what I thought would be my last post-op check-up with my doctor. It isn't my last - still have to go back in next month to check on the swelling but overall Dr. Wallentine is ok with the progress of the knee. He is one of the nicest, greatest men I've ever met. He is competent and his bedside manner is fantastic! He is funny, kind and caring. I figured he wouldn't be offended if I gave him a few tips on how to prepare his next knee patient. I wrote the following kind of tongue-in-cheek. I can now laugh at a few things. I gave it to him and told him I didn't want him to be offended but I thought he should prepare us better so we could make more informed decisions. He began to read it and then burst out laughing. He would stop and apologize and then laugh again. Finally he said, "I'm sorry I'm laughing. You really did go through all this, didn't you?" I replied, "Yes I did and you didn't warn me about one thing."
Anyway, here's the laugh for the day. (It's all true but I tried to put a funny spin on it.) This is what I wrote and gave to him:
Tomorrow I go in for my last, post-op doctor’s appointment. I am going to have my doctor sit down and I’m going to tell him something that he won’t do but he needs to hear anyway. I’m going to suggest that before someone decides to have a knee replacement that the doctor goes over the list of things they will experience so they won’t be surprised or worried or upset. This is the list:
1. Get on heavy drugs that your body can tolerate and stay on them for at least 5-6 months. Figure out a way not to get hooked on them.
2. Make sure while your knee is still numb and immediately after surgery, the nurses or PTs at the hospital get that CPM machine on your leg and pump it up to 110 – you can’t feel it then but you need to get up to that level ASAP.
3. You will be totally dependent on someone for two weeks. Plan for it and get over it. (Plan on lousy food for a long time.)
4. It’s ok to cry every day and every hour. You’ll get over it.
5. Your knee will swell often – probably at least once a day. You won’t be able to bend it very far when it’s fat under the knee. When it isn’t swollen, bend the crap out of the thing.
6. If the knee swells really big, you might have a blood clot – even a month or two after the surgery. Get to a hospital ASAP. (But don’t worry because it probably isn’t anything serious.)
7. You must lose your vanity – your good looking leg is now lined with a huge scar that isn’t pretty. You might want to wear long skirts – and look like a flower child. No more mini-skirts.
8. Pick a good physical therapist because he will become your best friend and worst enemy.
9. It’s ok to cry in front of everybody in physical therapy.
10. Your entire leg might look like Popeye’s arms – fat, hot, swollen and miserable. But that should only happen every once in a while.
11. If you don’t like wearing support hose, too bad. You should feel better when you pull that hose over that mass of heat and fleshy swelling. Ahhhhh……
12. You have just discarded a part of your body for something fake. You cannot undo or ask for the knee back. It’s done. Your knee has been thrown away – or given to the junk yard dog to chew on. You can’t have it back.
13. You will, forevermore, have to take mega doses of antibiotics before you go to the dentist or have any other medical work done.
14. Your days of climbing fences, kneeling, stooping, running, scaling mountains or even scaling your neighborhood incline will be limited - maybe even impossible.
15. You will spend your nights awake, trying to figure out a comfortable place to put your leg.
16. You will need to save money to buy ice – you will keep the local ice making company in business for the duration of the pain which is way too long for anybody’s sanity. You might consider buying stock in an ice making company.
17. Buy new shoes – anything with a heel has to go. You will now look like Granny.
18. Your hips will start giving you trouble because you will swing them up to get the knee up a stair or on a bed or over the bathtub edge.
19. Don’t sit on the floor – you will not be able to get back up. Ignore your dirty kitchen floors – your days of scrubbing on hands and knees are over.
20. Write down every little change so you will feel good about your progress: i.e., I can sit at my desk for a half hour and not be aware that my knee is there; I can drive my stick-shift car without pain; I can sit on the church bench for an hour without having to get up and leave; I can go upstairs like normal instead of the step-step like old people do…. Those “milestones” will keep you going.
21. Nobody will care how much you whine. In fact, if you don’t stop whining, they may take a gun and shoot you to get you out of your misery, which they should have done before trying to fix a knee in the first place.
22. If you do this, consider yourself really stupid.
23. The best way to get through this recovery is to believe in fairy tales – they end in a happily ever after state.
There are probably 20 other things to add to this list but this should give him an idea of the scope of recovery from the patient’s side. It should be a rule that every doctor should have to go through every procedure they inflict on someone else so they have real empathy.
My doctor will be so sad when he will ask me if I’m glad I did this and I say, “Heck no! This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done or ever will do.” His face will fall. But his pocketbook is bulging because he will do 6-7 knee replacements in one day and not a word about the misery they are about to inflict except in one generic term: “this is tough and it will take a while to recover. Just plan on that.”
So there you go – Wimps don’t get knee replacements. Only stupid people – really stupid people.