I’m about to have a body part whacked to bits.
The Knee is making a premature exit from the rest of me, because even with a brand new cortisone shot and a full-length metal brace, I limp like a guy in a three-legged race…paired with a piano.
He will be replaced by a titanium-and-plastic wonder I’m so far calling “Elmo.” (Hmmm. Interesting that I assign male gender to recalcitrant body parts, me generally being female and all. I wonder if Elmo-the-knee-replacement will retain HIS gender…)
I always thought The Knee and I would end together, though probably not in a coffin because I’m too cantankerous to just lie down quietly and croak. More likely, I’ll have finally annoyed the wrong supervillain, who invents a whole new thermonuclear device just for me. Still, I kinda figured those vaporous bits speeding toward Mars would include The Knee.
Turns out Knee gets a coffinette all to himself in about a month.
After repeated entreaties, and tired of my “let’s wait until cartilage regrowth is a reality” refrain, Surgical Dude, the orthopedic surgeon, called my bluff. He invited an expert to scan my x-rays and have a chat.
“Yes, we can regrow cartilage for rips in otherwise healthy cartilage, Ms. Morgan. However,” he said, gently, “You have no healthy cartilage left. I don’t know of anyone within 10 years of accomplishing what you need.”
Ulp. “So you’re saying …bionic knee is the only option?”
Now, SOME people replace knees and hips and noses and buttocks like they’re changing socks. I rejected surgery-as-hobby ages ago. In its place, I’ve taught myself to speak Knee Pain. I’m pretty fluent, and it holds no surprises.
So when Surgical Dude comes along with his great big scalpel, says he’s gonna whack my leg in half, I’m not exactly hopping up and down on the good leg. He jams a titanium golf tee into each half, sticks a ping pong ball in the middle, and sews it all back up, and thinks I’m gonna APPLAUD?
Dude, it’s not like you store the old knee in your freezer so you can put it back if I change my mind, right? This is what we call irrevocable, and I don’t like it. What if something goes wrong?
And so…for the past month my brain has been learning a whole new language: Terrified.
Don’t get me wrong; the world of replacement prosthetic joints is fascinating and (excuse me) well-trod. There are entire websites devoted to it, really good books about recovering from it, there’s even a smartphone app to keep you in touch with the hip-and-knee replacement crowd.
It’s amazing how many of my buddies, and buddies of buddies, and relatives of buddies, are tickled to tell me about THEIR new knees and how happy they are to have them.
Alright already. I’ll have the damn surgery. And if my leg falls off, and I’m hopping around some day like Long John Silver, I swear I’ll beat you all up with my stump.
Now it starts. I gotta pass countless tests. Read books and pamphlets (the one about having sex with your prosthetic knee is especially interesting, but I’ll leave that to your imagination). Watch DVDs. I’ve got physical therapy classes, more medical visits. Near-daily calls from the surgical team about this and that.
I must build a recovery plan that includes a map of my house. My oh-so-contemporary house with little staircases to every bloody damn room. I’d planned to move out for a couple of months, rent a furnished apartment on a single level, but Surgical Dude said pish-posh.
“I’ve seen your x-rays, and I’ve seen your house plan,” he said, “How are you getting around your house now?”
“I dunno,” I said, “I just…get around. Don’t think much about it.”
“We didn’t believe you actually lived there, not with all those stairs. If you’re living in that house with that knee, you’ll have no problem getting around your house post-op. What you’re doing now probably hurts a lot more.”
Hurts? What? This is when it finally dawns: My pain might actually go away. Whoa.
What would it be like to leave my desk at work without counting steps and testing to make sure I could get there and back? To actually arrive at the cafeteria with my co-workers instead of hobbling up five minutes later? To buy it even if it’s all the way at the BACK of the Costco, and not lean on the shopping cart? To stroll art galleries and museums again? To be able to bring the laundry ALL THE WAY UPSTAIRS?
Sea change: I’m getting enthusiastic. I’m removing trippables from my floors, such as throw rugs and ottomans. I invest in an ice machine.
And I headed for Markie’s this morning for my pre-op haircut. My hair is fine and stick-straight, with a definite mind of its own. It wants to be in a shoulder-length bob, but gets bored and makes macrame knots down my skull if I lie on my back for more than 20 minutes.
Surgical Dude says I’ll spend considerable time on my back post-op for at least two or three WEEKS. My hair will build tiger-worthy hairballs by then, so I told Markie to chop it off.
She did what’s called a “pixie cut,” meaning that now there’s not enough back there to make so much as a slip knot. Added bonus: It’ll also be easier to care for when I probably won’t feel much like fussing with a blow dryer.
Markie thinks I’m nuts. “Just don’t sue me when you see it.” She was so rattled she didn’t argue about adding walk-on-the-wild-side blues and teals in back, which should fade nicely to aqua blues.
I look like the south end of a northbound peacock, but at least I won’t be the most boring thing in the OR.
No crutches after surgery–I’m told they’re not stable enough–so I’ll be on a walker until I can graduate to a cane. Mom and I headed to the medical supply store to look at them, where we discovered a whole world of hospital beds and knee-walkers and bedpans and OMG I don’t even want to KNOW what was in that other aisle except that it involved long rubber hoses.
Walkers have come a loooooong way. The one I’m thinking of buying has racing stripes, a drinks tray and a zippered pouch for my iPad. I can get it in red or blue or purple. I’m holding out for burnt umber. (The PT said nope, just get the old-lady aluminum one. Drat.)
We also saw a ejector seat thingee that Surgical Dude said might be a good place to sleep instead of a bed for the first few days after homecoming. It’s got a remote control and looks like a reclining chair except that when you press the UP button it keeps going until it dumps you on the floor.
What will they think of next?