Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Week Three of Post-Op; Turning the Corner

 At Cowtown RV Park, Aledo, Texas...

I love all my commenters but, this week, one of the earlier comments in particular stood out in my mind. She was lamenting the excruciating post-op pain of her knee replacement surgery. It was something for which she was not prepared, and she said she wouldn't have had it done if she had known about it beforehand. 

I quite understand her conclusion, because anyone with a low pain tolerance would probably feel the same way. I wouldn't want to imply that I have a high pain tolerance, because I don't; I think mine is about medium for a man, whose tolerance for pain in general appears to be a good bit lower than women. I think God gave this special dispensation to women because they are the ones who give birth. If that job were somehow given over to a man, the world would probably be devoid of human life in about a century. 

As I mentioned before, my surgeon warned me during his visit immediately after surgery that, for the first two weeks, I would question my decision because of the pain but, around the third week, things would change for the better. And, as it turns out, he was right. There are other guys who seem to sail through this with much less whining (I admit to being a professional-level whiner when I don't feel well. And, if I should have a cold...well, that's worth a 911 call, in my view.) For those guys who are impervious to pain, well, I would like to know what drug cocktail they're using and where I can get it, even if it is from a guy named Vinny who is carrying a .45 under his coat.

So, what's my bottom line for the first two weeks? Yes, it was painful, especially when the pain medication's efficacy began to wear off before it was time to take another dose, but it was bearable. What was surprising was that getting up and walking, while a bit unsteady, was not nearly as painful as I thought it would be. Did I have those feelings that Dr. Williams said I would have? Well, yes, to a degree, but I think the pain didn't play as much a part as did the confinement and what appeared to be the slowness in healing. Once I remembered that I am 75, not 25, I think my recovery has been remarkable. Healing doesn't go all that quickly when one gets old. 

With the last episode, I was about to make my two-week post-op visit with Dr. Williams. That turned out to be a nothing-burger of sorts, as all he did was to take a look at my incision and move my leg back and forth. He seemed very pleased with what he saw (he should know, because he does about eight knee replacements on each surgery day), so I was sent on my way to out-patient physical therapy, which will begin next week. However, I know what to expect from these people because of my shoulder surgery a couple of years ago. The doc wants to see me again toward the end of January if I survive the therapy.

Physical therapists are wonderful professionals, without whose attention joint surgeries would not be nearly as successful as they are. I wanted to get that out of the way before pointing out they also have split personalities, and the other one is psychotic and sadistic. What else could explain their smiling while seemingly dismembering you with all kinds of instruments of torture? Oh, well...I really don't need to go into that; If you've had physical therapy, you know what I'm talking about. So pray for me next Tuesday; I know what awaits me.

I see I have not related anything in this post to recovering in an RV. I suppose I would say that the only negatives so far have been negotiating Phannie's stairs--which really hasn't been a big deal--and the increased feeling of confinement in the small space. It would have been nice to have had a larger area in which to practice walking; I think that has been the only thing that I can see as a negative so far. The positive, of course, is that you can go wherever you wish for treatment--in this case, to a surgeon with whom we've had excellent results for, now, the fourth time--soon to be fifth, when I have the other knee done.

I am finishing up this post on Day 19 after surgery, and I am pleased to tell you that the excruciatingly slow recovery seems suddenly to have reached a turning point. I am beginning to feel like my old self again, and my knee doesn't seem like the center of my annoyance universe any longer. The therapists will do their thing and, if I survive that, I'm hoping to have a new and more useful knee. I'll keep you posted.

I also notice that I have not provided you with a single photo in this post, which is not my style. So, here is one of my favorites as we look back at all the places we've been in this incredible 16-year journey, six of which have been fulltime:

This is a well-used and now retired fishing boat at sunset in Port Isabel, Texas.

 Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 

please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood


Sunday, November 21, 2021

Week Two of Post-Op; PT Begins; New Technology for Phannie

 At Cowtown RV Park, Aledo, Texas...

Week two began with the first visit by Mary, my home-visit therapist. We sat for a brief chat as she took my blood pressure and I signed a form affirming that she had appeared. Mary, a somewhat large-framed woman, had been in the PT business for 30 years and, with her all-business, but personable attitude, had undoubtedly 

seen just about every kind of PT patient, including one like me. Those who know me may be aware that I can be 'inventive' in spinning stories in ways that will effect an outcome that I am seeking. There is a rather off-color term for this (gift?) , so I will leave out the, um, earthy, part:  B_______ Artist. 

Sizing Mary up, I didn't even try to invent any shenanigans I might use to gain sympathy, thusly lessening the severity of whatever she was going to do to me. I simply accepted my fate and checked over my will.

Actually, my fear was unjustified. The first day of PT was rather benign, with her guiding me through a routine that wasn't very strenuous but still painful, to a degree.  At the end, she had me practice walking the length of the coach several times, using the walker. During the exercises and afterward, she would grunt out an occasional "good!" I wasn't really sure if this was just perfunctory on her part to keep me going or she was actually pleased with my performance.

After the PT was done, we sat across from each other, in order for her to give me a critique. I was surprised that such a mild workout had actually caused me to perspire slightly, and I had to lower the thermostat a little.

During the critique, she produced a plastic device that measures the angle at which my new-knee leg would bend. Apparently it is desired that I be able to bend the knee to a 90-degree angle by the two-week post-op visit with the surgeon, and she seemed delighted that I was already at 108 degrees. After talking with her a while, it became clear that she was, indeed, pleased with my results of the first day. We soon bade each other goodbye and, oh, by the way, she would be here again in two days.

Mary made a rather big deal out of her insistence that the exercises accomplished today were to be repeated twice daily, even on the days she was not scheduled to appear. I immediately began thinking of excuses I could use if I weren't exactly diligent (It's not my fault; God designed me for comfort, not speed.) However, I had heard enough advice about the value to PT (plus my own successful use of it after shoulder surgery a couple of years ago), so I was determined to be successful, no matter if it killed me.

Of course, there are other things going on besides PT. Tuesday was more or less devoted to personal business like paying bills, dealing with insurance and other not-so-fun, but necessary, tasks. Sandy, as usual, was meeting herself coming and going, managing me, the medications, meals, laundry and other things I claim to be unable to do to her satisfaction. (This is probably true.)

We don't watch much TV, but I have to tell you about a couple of changes we have made lately that have lowered drastically our wireless and TV charges. When we bought Phannie eleven years ago, we had the old TVs removed, replaced by new digital TVs. We also had a Winegard Travl'r automatic satellite antenna installed, using Direct TV because we had Direct TV in the house. For those eleven years, the system has worked fine with very few hiccups.  Our cell phones were obtained through AT&T which, became the owner of Direct TV. We thought that would give us a break, but it really didn't. We also had--and still have--a Verizon Jet Pack, in case we have signal problems with AT&T.  And then, T-Mobile came out with a senior citizen plan that we gobbled up, ditching AT&T for our phone service. We also bought an AT&T hotspot, though, which gave us access to Direct TV Stream at a much reduced price. It works much the same as the satellite receiver and gives us access to AT&T streaming. And last, but not least--we're finally able to park in the shade underneath trees; streaming isn't bothered by obstructions overhead Now we have wifi service available from all three major networks at a price hundreds less than we were paying. So now, our Winegard automatic rooftop dish is no longer usable for anything, but eleven years of good service is a pretty long run. Isn't it amazing how technology changes so quickly? We've also signed up for Starlink Internet at our place in Hondo. That should be a real game-changer when it is finally available.

Okay, I digress--what else is new?

Since I was so busy on Tuesday, (Surgery Day +8), I didn't do but one round of PT exercises. My thinking was that, since I was already ahead of normal, Mary wouldn't notice. When she appeared on Wednesday, (Surgery day +9) that seemed to be the case, so I felt pretty smug. Then Mary announced that on her next visit, we would practice walking down the RV stairs and getting into the car, in preparation for my two-week post-up visit with Dr. Williams. Well, this was like telling a kid in school he was having a field trip. I have to admit the walls have been closing in a bit, having not ventured forth from Phannie for nearly two weeks!

And so it was; on Friday (Surgery Day +12), we headed down the stairs to greet a sunny day. Freedom! It was heaven!  I used the walker only on the ground, and getting in and out of Mae was easier than I thought. Here are a couple of pics with Mary paying close attention:

 I wanted my photographer (Sandy) to get a photo of my negotiating Phannie's stairs, but she doesn't like to take pictures (because cameras are machinery--something with which she doesn't get along), but it was okay. Once I saw how bedraggled I looked, it seemed the photos were indeed of a hermit who had just been discovered in a culvert after several weeks. Clearly, I was not not thinking about my image, but my first day of freedom!  We celebrated that evening by going out to dinner--Panda Express. We ate in the car, and I kept marveling that there was still a world out here!

Perhaps it would be a good idea to share my progress in several other areas:

On Surgery Day + 4, I was able to take a shower in Phannie. Since there is about an eight-inch step-up into the shower, I had first to sit in a tall chair and swing my legs inside. It was a bit scary but, with Sandy's help, I got a decent shower. I'm sure others around me were equally happy.

I usually take a shower every day, but I opted for one every two days until I am really comfortable getting in and out of it. On Surgery Day + 12, I am now very comfortable lifting my legs up and stepping inside, so I am returning to my usual daily regimen (is someone cheering in the background?)

Also on Surgery Day +12, Mary began noticing that I was being unnecessarily dependent on the walker. She asked me first to practice just guiding the walker ahead of me but walking without using it. I was more surprised than anyone that I really didn't need it all that much. The next step she called "furniture walking." That's when I abandon the walker and walk unassisted through the room, holding on to furniture or cabinets as needed to steady myself. So there I was, walking without the walker on Surgery Day +12! Now, at Surgery Day +13, I try not to use it at all, and that certainly adds to my sense of progress.

No one asked, but it is essential for a while to have a raised toilet seat. That's one thing you shouldn't forget.

I need to make sure and acknowledge the dozens of messages, thoughts and effective prayers that have come my way from family and friends. I love you all for thinking of me.

Next Tuesday will be my two-week post-up visit with Dr. Williams. I'm looking forward to hearing his take on my progress.  More after that.

  Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 

please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood


Sunday, November 14, 2021

A New First for Phannie: Rehab Center for Knee Surgery

 At Cowtown RV Park, Aledo, Texas...

The day had finally come. My worn-out right knee would be replaced with a prosthetic one by Dr. Nathan Williams, a Fort Worth-area surgeon who specializes in hips and knees and who has previously done Sandy's knees and my right hip. Our experience with him has been superb, and his bedside manner is hard to beat. I thought it might be helpful for others who might be contemplating this surgery to see what recovery would be like in an RV.

The surgery began at 9:30 a.m. and lasted about two hours, after which he gave us the report that everything went well, even though the knee was in worse shape than he thought. They gave me a pain blocker which lasted most of the day and evening. 

As it turned out, the pain blocker caused me to think recovery was going to be a breeze. The physical therapist had me up and walking around the unit that afternoon, and I even climbed a set of therapy stairs to make sure I would have no problem getting into Phannie when I was dismissed. The therapist voiced her encouragement and enthusiasm at my progress. Little did I know that the blocker was masking a hellish pain that would soon rear its ugly head.

Here's the scar immediately after surgery; this will shrink considerably over time.

My hospital stay was two nights instead of the usual one because of a slightly high creatinine level in my kidney function, but it had normalized the next day, and I was glad to  be released. Sandy had to drive, of course, which she hates--especially in big city traffic--but I stretched out in the back seat and we made it just fine back to Aledo, some 30 miles from the hospital.  We would have stayed at a closer one, but Cowtown was the closest RV park where I could book a long-term stay. 

When we arrived at Phannie's door, a problem had developed. Since the pain blocker had worn off by then, there was no way I was going to be able to climb those stairs to get inside. The pain was such that I couldn't possibly put any weight on my right foot. So, I turned around and sat on my behind as I pushed myself upward from step to step. Luckily, Phannie's stairs are fairly narrowly spaced, so my booty-scoot worked fine. However, I pray that no one made a video of it. So ended surgery day plus two. 

On day three, a nurse came out to the bus to check me over and declare me ready for physical therapy (hereinafter referred to as PT). Dr. Williams had told me that day three would be the worst, pain-wise, and it was. I'm afraid I wasn't very good company for the nurse. I had the pain more or less under control with medication that day, but trying to move around on the walker was pure agony. 

 On day four, a PT supervisor came out to evaluate me, possibly to determine which of their therapists would be most effective in my upcoming torture. He informed me that my first "in-rv" session would be on Monday, a week after surgery. One positive on day four was that I could tell a bit of improvement in pain and mobility--not much, but enough for me to keep going.

Day five was a noticeable improvement from day four. I was able to get by with less pain medication, and using the walker was a good bit less painful. Sandy--God bless her--was there, devoting all her time to me and my needs, which seemed endless. We decided to keep meals simple, and we had numerous items already in the freezer that needed only to be nuked. Fortunately, my appetite was almost nil for days, perhaps because of the anesthesia, so not much attention to food was needed. By this day, my appetite had returned somewhat, so we celebrated by having Sandy fetch some Mexican food from the taco joint across the street.

Day six was a Saturday, so we were free to do anything we wanted--which turned out to be nothing, while in this condition. I had been experiencing strange dreams--probably from my pain meds--and, even when awake, I occasionally thought I heard voices and would even answer them. There were none, of course, but it freaked out Sandy a few times. One complete surprise is that I have been able to sleep very well at night. I certainly didn't expect that!

Day seven was Sunday, so we streamed our church service, and Sandy fixed a light breakfast. It has become quite tiresome looking at the same four walls for a week, so I'm in high hopes that my mobility will improve next week. One major effort today will be devoted to taking a shower, something that hasn't been possible because of the step-up required to get inside. We have (we think) figured out a way to use a tall chair to set outside the shower and swing my feet inside. I'll let you know how that goes.

So, there you have it--week one of post-surgery in Phannie. It hasn't been bad at all, if it weren't for the post-op pain, which wouldn't be any different if we were in a house. I'll keep you updated as to how next week goes as PT begins. I'm pretty sure they're going to hurt me.

    Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 

please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood