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Things That Are Funny About Major Surgery

As the title of my blog indicates, I like to find the laughs in life. Even when I had major surgery last month, there were things that made me laugh.

I got all my ducks in a row as I prepared to have my left knee replaced. I went through this a year ago on the other knee, so I had an idea of what was needed.

My doctor and I collaborated about reducing opioid prescriptions this go-round, and I arranged to have help for the first two weeks post-surgery. My daughter Abby would come from Washington to be with me for a week, followed by my sister Barb from Virginia for the second week. Friends in my apartment complex offered to give me rides to therapy once I was on my own.

Of course, things never go as planned, and you have a choice whether to laugh or cry. Very unexpectedly, Abby came down with Whooping Cough and the Health Department informed her she could not fly until she had five days of treatment under her belt. This meant her trip to central Wisconsin was delayed and she could not take me to the hospital. Of course, I wondered if she should even travel at all, but she was determined to come.

A friend, Judy, stepped up to take me on the day of surgery and she even waited around until 2:30 when I was transferred from recovery to my hospital room.

That was an amazing gift of time that she gave me. This picture of me was taken in my room. I wasn't quite this cheery, but my philosophy was "Fake it 'til you make it."

Abby blew in with flowers at 4:30 and looked wonderful, considering what she had been through. I almost felt like laughing at the idea of how bizarre it was. Who ever heard of someone getting Whooping Cough?

The next laugh came when the hospital physical therapist stopped by to take me on my first walk, the afternoon of surgery. He wasn’t kidding though, and soon I was making my way down the hall with a walker, on my brand new knee.

The next morning at 10:00 a.m., we “kneesies” patients met in a big room for physical therapy. “Guy,” the PT man, put us through our paces seeing if we could do our ankle rotations, raise our leg ten times, bend to a 65 degree angle and then go up and down six steps. Then the funny man dismissed us all and said we could go home. That was hilarious, but he meant it.

It was pretty funny seeing me try to figure out how to get into my Honda Fit on the passenger side. I even had a plastic bag on the seat to help me rotate. But that car sits pretty low and it took a couple of tries to shoehorn me into the car.

I went home on a Friday and had to go to my first Physical Therapy on Monday. How funny is that? I had worked with Andy and Eric before, and they were happy to see me again. I knew if I just followed their directions I would have the same good results as my first knee.

Somehow, the first week passed and it was time for Abby to return to her family. My sister Barb arrived expecting to see me bed-ridden. She was pleasantly surprised at my mobility. She took over where Abby left off, cracking the whip and asking, “Do you want to do your exercises now?” Ha! Funny girl!

Barb took me to the follow-up with the surgeon, where the bandage came off. My knee had been so itchy, I was ready to claw it off. Turned out I had a reaction to the mesh over the incision, which has now been duly noted in my chart. Underneath the mesh, the skin was as inflamed and red as a tomato.

“Well, of course you did!” I admonished myself. It was kind of funny to realize my skin was so hyper-sensitive.

“At least that explains the itching!!”

No worries. Cortisone cream and time cleared up the reaction.

Andy and Eric at the Physical Therapy center continued to be a ball of laughs. The goal is to be able to straighten your leg 100 per cent. They will let you try to get it as straight as you can. Then they sweetly offer,

“Would you like a little help?”

In a very kind and gentle manner, they push down on your knee until your leg is straight.

You also need to eventually be able to bend your knee to 120 degrees. Every therapy session, you need to show improvement. If you are just one degree short of the goal of, say, ninety, that week, they will sweetly offer again,

“Would you like a little help?”

It only takes a bit of a nudge to get to the goal, and you are allowed to bite down on a towel while they “help” you.

They come up with lots of fun activities to get that knee bending and to work on balance. For example, they place a row of Dixie cups and the goal is to step over the cup with a nice knee lift. Sometimes, a cup gets squashed and I usually joke,

“Hey! Just like an orange cone on the highway!”

So I am three and a half weeks out from surgery now, and looking forward to being back in the driver’s seat soon. The walker has been relegated to the closet and I use a cane outside the apartment. In my own space, I don’t use anything. Abby continues to have some coughing fits back in Washington, but she is improving. Barb has returned to her busy schedule in Virginia. I can bend my knee to 105 degrees, so that goal of 120 is within reach. August should see a resumption of all normal activity. And I plan to laugh about any mishaps between now and then.

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