Happy new year and new knee!

Happy new year, everyone!  I am now 4 months post op and things are going very well!  I still get some swelling every now and then, but I remind myself that the inside is still healing.  It takes between 10-12 months for the inside of the knee to heal completely.  I know the outside looks good, but remember to look at your xrays and look at what was done inside you.  This is a major surgery and you have to treat it as such.  🙂

A few updates:

  1. I am finally off of all pain medicine!  Yay!  It took a while, but it has been so worth it.  All of my senses are heightened and I actually have energy now.
  2. I have been able to do the stationary bicycle at the gym now for a couple of months.  It feels really good to exercise!  (No, I’m  not drunk.)  🙂
  3. I still have a clicking in my knee, but it doesn’t hurt and it decreases the more I exercise.

I am so thankful I was able to have this knee replacement done.  My quality of life has definitely increased.  I have to remember that just because it’s a titanium knee doesn’t mean it is indestructable.  I still have to take care of it.  The hardest part right now for me is limited my leg press exercises to 100 pounds.  My legs are so much stronger than that, but…again…I don’t want to hurt the gift I have been given.

I’m off to the gym again.  I will post pics later this evening of my knee.  You can almost see a kneecap there now!

Update on meds…

Hey, everyone.  It’s been a while since I’ve updated.  I went on vacation to Hawaii.  It was fun and I think walking on the beach really helped strengthen my knee muscles.  I had to be reminded to stop limping.  After years of favoring my other side, it’s hard to retrain the body.  I’m not giving up…I’m soooo close to moving to the final steps.

I wanted to update you on my medication withdrawals.  I am down to one Norco tablet at night.  I have 3 pills left and I’m hoping that will be the end of my pain meds.  I do have some Xanax to help me cope with any anxiety that remains.

I worked out Friday and Sunday at the gym and actually felt pretty good after.  I did 20 minutes on the stationary bike and then did some strenuous upper body workout and core workout.  Ohhh…my bootey was hurting, but in a good way.  I even felt my bicepts and middle back.  I would love to be able to make this a new addiction.  🙂

I’m going to try to get some sleep now.  Take care of you all.

Update on dependence issue…

I want to start off by thanking my friends and family for helping me over the past few weeks.  Getting off of Norco (an opiode painkiller) has been much more challenging than even the things I’ve researched online.  I tried to go from 8 tablets a day down to 4 and had some bad side effects so I had to start over again.  I finally managed to get down to 2 tablets…and just taking those in the evening.  I noticed that my agitation levels increased the closer it got to the time to take my meds, but I pushed through it.

Last week I took a vacation with some friends and decided about half way through that it was time to cut back to just one pill.  I was worried about ruining my vacation, but I figured I could work through it without anyone noticing.  I had to add 1/2 of a Xanax pill to pull me through the rest of the evening, but I have now been on one Norco for the last 6 nights.  Tonight will be the last night I take Norco if everything goes well.  The only side effects, besides agitation, that I have noticed is severe itching on my head and face.  I tried taking a Benadryl, but that didn’t seem to help.  If the itching doesn’t stop soon, I will go see my doctor.  I’m guessing it is just another withdrawal affect, but it’s actually giving me a headache.  I will keep you posted on my progress.

As for my knee, things are going well.  I did a lot of walking on the beaches in Waikiki and I actually think it helped my knee.  When you walk on sand, especially wet sand, you really have to use a lot of muscles to stabilize yourself.  I would be tired by the end of the day, but not really hurting.  One of my friends with me noticed that I am still limping.  I don’t think it is from pain or range of motion limitations.  I believe it is from so many years of limping that I am going to have to learn how to walk the right way again.  So, I begin practicing.  I do notice that when I take my time and pay attention, my hip is sore.  I think it is from walking normally and the hip flexors aren’t used to working that way.

I still have some popping in the knee, but if I focus on the VMO muscles, I notice less popping.  I’m going to start going back to the gym and use the stationary bike.  I thought I would take a spinning class and just go at my own pace.  Biking is supposedly really good for your knees.  I will let you know how it goes.

I have no regrets doing this surgery.  I am pretty much pain free and almost off all the meds.  I can walk with my dog, go up/down the stairs, and I’m ready to start practicing for my first 5k (walking, not running).  I will keep this blog going for a while longer.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them and I will respond as soon as I can.

A problem I didn’t expect to encounter…

I’ve spent a few days trying to decide if I post this for everyone to see or if I was going to keep this private.  After much soul searching and talking with some friends, I decided that this blog was designed to help people get through the TKR (Total Knee Replacement…in case you are just joining in) process.  If I leave out important information because of being afraid of comments, then I am doing nobody a service here.  I will be honest, I don’t even think anyone besides my sister and a few friends are reading this…but even so…one day, someone may read this and know someone who knows someone who needs to see this.

Tomorrow will be nine weeks post-op.  My knee is doing very well.  I am where I need to be physically.  I am full extension along with hyperpextension.  I am up to 125 degree bend.  I’m hoping to get up to 130, but it will take a few more weeks.  I am still dealing with the Baker’s cyst I have behind that knee.  I can now go up AND down stairs.  Down is still a bit challenging, but I am making it easier each time.  My incision has healed nicely.  I still have little feeling on the outside of my knee, but the spot for it is getting smaller.

So, if everything is going fine…you may be wondering what the problem is.  So…whew…here goes.  My knee problems have been going on for years.  The last two years have been the most difficult.  I started taking Vicoden for the pain at night so I could sleep.  That worked for about 6 months and then it was no longer helping.  The doctor’s changed my pain meds to Percocet, but that only lasted for a few months.  They finally put me on Nucynta and that finally did the trick.

We started at 25mg and by the time I had surgery, I was taking 150mg of Nucynta each day.  After surgery they dropped me down to Percocet and then finally down to Vicodin.  Last weekend (not just this past weekend) I decided that since I’m doing everything pretty good, it was finally time to stop taking my pain meds….so I did.  On Monday morning I noticed that I was experiencing a panic attack.  Now, I’ve had panic attacks before…usually due to stress.  I couldn’t figure out what I was stressed about, so I just took half of a Xanax.  That did the trick.  Tuesday I woke up with a panic attack and took another half of Xanax but was still feeling very “off”…just not right.  By Wednesday morning, I was shaking, having heart palpitations, and sweating.  I took my blood pressure, but it was normal.  My heart rate was a bit high, but my machine didn’t note any unusual heartbeat patterns.  I made the decision to go to my primary doctor’s office and I’m very thankful I did.

I explained to her my symptoms and she took a look at my med list (I keep a small card with all my medications and supplements as well as how much and how often I take them.  If you don’t do this yet, you really should.  As someone who has worked in public safety for a while, I know how important this is to medical personnel who may be called to help you.).  She asked me about my pain meds and I told her just what I finished telling you here.  She listened to my heart and lungs and checked for swollen nodes.  She checked out my eyes, ears, and nose as well as my throat.  She finally sat me down and told me that she suspected that I was going through withdrawals.  I told her that there was NO way I could be going through withdrawals because I am not an addict.  She then worked out a plan to wean me off the drugs this time.  I was going to argue with her, but I was mortified. 

Off to the pharmacy I went to get more pain meds.  I sent off an email to one of my friends who is a nurse exposing my dirty secret…well, not much of a secret really.  I should have seen this coming.  Two years on pain meds should have given me a clue.  I’m an intelligent woman who knows a lot of medical information.  He called me and talked me through the differences of addiction and dependence.  He advised that I have dependence and it WILL go away.  I just need to follow the plan my PA (Physician’s Assistant) outlined for me.

I took the first one when I got home and within an hour I notcied a HUGE difference in how I felt.  I felt much better and more in control.  So, I have to admit…I was dependent on the pain meds.  I am now on day six of the process and I’m feeling much better.  The goal is to be completely off the meds by the end of next week.  I have already stepped down once and still feel really good.  I was embarrassed and worried about repercussions from work, but then after reading about drug dependence, I understand more and am now confident that this is an issue that will only be an issue a short while longer. 

The moral of the story is just because you know a lot of things, doesn’t mean you know everything.  Take the time to listen to your body.  If something seems wrong, you should listen to your body and talk to your doctor.  This is your one and only body.  Listen to it and learn.

Til next time!!

8 Weeks Post-op now

Hey, folks.  It has been a bit, but I wanted to check in.  Things are going better, but I definitely started traveling too soon.  Even after a week to recoup, I am quickly realizing that I should have waited longer again.  Working 80 hour weeks is too much for the knee.  Trying to keep it elevated has been a challenge as I have to get up and check on the users to make sure they are doing okay.  At least this place is a a bit smaller so I don’t have as far to walk.

I went to sleep about 0930 this morning (I’m working mids this week again).  I was actually sleeping pretty good until around 1400 when I woke up in excrutiating pain.  I’m not sure what happened.  Maybe I twisted in my sleep or something, but I woke up in tears and it took me a couple of hours to settle back down to go to sleep.

I worked with a trainer last week to start working on strengthening my knee as the therapist is working with me to calm down the baker’s cyst I have.  The workout was really good, especially considering we didn’t use a lot of weights.  We used the 22.5 pound dumbbells for my arms and just body weight for the legs.  We used the fit ball to do baby squats against the wall and for roll outs for a great core workout.  I was a bit doubtful that I would get any benefit from such a workout.  However, the next day I DEFINITELY felt it…especially in my buttocks and stomach area.  I wil be working with the trainer again on Sunday (I think).  He is going to write out a routine that I can use on a regular basis and continue to improve my strength and flexibility.

I am at 120 degree in my bend and full extension plus about 5 degree hyper extension.  Stretching is very important.  I will admit…I hate stretching.  It is boring and it reminds me that I am not flexible and not stretching enough.  So, I make myself do it…I grumble the whole time, but I do it.  🙂 

I just ordered a different cuff to go with my cryo-unit.  I found a thigh cuff.  I thought this might help since I have the baker’s cyst behind my knee.  I have been using the knee cuff for the swelling on the front and then taking that off and using an ice pack on the back of my knee.  I ordered the thigh cuff off of Amazon.com and hope that this will allow me to reduce the swelling on both the front and back of my knee at the same time.  I will let you know how it goes.

The pain is definitely decreased since prior to the surgery. I have gone down from 300 mg of Nucynta to 10 mg of Norco.  I can walk most of the day without the cane now. It is just the end of the day when I’m tired and my knee gets sore that I have to use it…and that is mainly for stability.  I have no regrets of doing this surgery.  Well, maybe just one…I wish I could have had it done sooner.  That being said, I am glad it is over and I’m in the healing process. 

Ok, time to get back to work.  Have a great rest of the week and I will check in once I get home.

Update on first trip…

Well, the first trip is going so-so.  My knee was definitely swollen after a 15 hour shift.  It was so swollen that my pants around the knee were stretched and they are not stretchy pants.  Hmm…I did use the cryo-cuff, but I only had 4 hours to use it before I had to get up again.  Then I was on it again for 5 hours and then had 5 hours of rest before I had to come back to work and pull a 12 hour shift plus a few hours extra for travel and getting ready.  My leg is pretty swollen from the knee down.  I anticipate having to take off a few days next week.  Hopefully I’m wrong, but I think I better be safe than sorry.  I have to travel again soon and want to be a bit healthier by then.

I have had a lot of support here while onsite and at the hotel.  The project manager and engineer have been great.  They have been helping me with my bags, helped me move to a new room at the hotel, and even helped me get ice for my cryo-cuff.  I am very blessed to have such good people in my life. 

When I get off work this morning I’m heading straight back to the hotel, getting ice, putting on my PJs, take my meds and try to sleep fast.  I have to be back up around 1530 (that’s 3:30 pm for you civilians).  🙂  I definitely need sleep. 

I hope you have a great day and work hard while I’m catching some Zs.  🙂

First trip post-op…

I have completed my first travel post-op.  I fell asleep on the plane so I didn’t get up and walk like I should have.  However, that being said, I think I needed the sleep more than I needed to move…so I feel a bit more coherent.  I made it to the hotel with any a little difficulty getting into the car, but no more than I would at home.  I even went to the grocery store to pick up some stuff as I will be working mids this week.  Those little luggage carts are good for groceries as well as luggage.  🙂

There are several things I didn’t think about when I said I was ready to travel.  The first thing was the hotel bathroom.  I should have thought about asking for a handicap accessible room.  The toilet seat is so low…I struggle to get up off of it.  My seat at home is MUCH higher and easier to get off of.  The other thing I didn’t think about is the tub.  At home, I still have a transfer bench so I can get in and out of the tub easier.  The tub here is going to be a challenge to get in/out of.  Ugh. 

So, if I can, I am going to back up a bit.  Well, I guess I can, it is my blog. 🙂  The real first thing I didn’t think about was how the heck I was going to get my luggage downstairs to my car to go to the plane!  I live up on the second floor of an apartment complex.  No elevator.  No escalator.  No ramps.  Hmm…so how do I use my cane, hold the hand rail, and lug the luggage downstairs?  Yea, I didn’t think about that.  Now I have to think how I’m going to get the luggage back upstairs.  Oh…you want to know how I got the luggage down?  Silly me.  Well, I ditched the cane…that wasn’t an option.  Then I took one piece of luggage and layed it on its side.  I then just went down one step at a time.  I used the luggage as my cane and would have it one step higher than my feet.  Then I put it in the car and went back up for the next piece.  So, I’m only gone for 7 days, put I had to bring a suitcase, my laptop bag, and what I call my med bag…and of course my cane.  If anyone wants to meet me at my house around 1000 pm Saturday night and bring my luggage up for me, I will buy you lunch the next day.  🙂

I’m going to be working some whacky shifts this week.  I think my week will be primarily work and sleep.  I have an early morning flight Saturday morning.  Do you think I could get a direct flight home?  Oh, no…not me.  I will be going from Detroit to DC and then DC to Denver.  Hey…at least they all start with a “D”.  LOL!!  I will keep everyone posted on how I am doing.  If you don’t hear from me, it just means that I’m stuck on the toilet.  😉