I have been limping on 2 effed up knees for well over a decade due to increasingly severe osteoarthritis. Well, I finally got myself on a list to get them replaced by getting a referral to the Diamond Health Care Centre at VGH. Admittedly, being a runner over the course of many years, and even working my way up to running a few marathons was probably a contributing factor but I know of lots of runners who continue into old age unabated. I would never discourage someone from taking up this form of fitness regimen just because my particular knees crapped out. Genetics and other factors have to be contributors here also. In the weeks leading up to this first surgery (they will do the other knee in a few months) I realized that the medical team were leaving nothing to chance as I had telephone and in person interviews with every person/department involved. It inspired confidence!
My Total Knee Replacement Adventure and Vegan Options at UBC Hospital!
My check-in time was 11:45 am on Thursday the 26th. My friend and fellow Aldergroveite, Rob had volunteered his services early on and was good enough to give me a lift to the UBC Hospital Koerner. This was no small deal as it it a pretty serious trek from Aldergrove. Rob was good enough to distract me with conversation, much of which was about surgery. LOL. As soon as I walked in the front door, the helpfulness and kindness began. I guess everyone who walks in here is somewhat anxious and so the staff respond appropriately. It wasn't long before I was gowned up and marked up and ready for surgery.
The second band on my wrist is a sort of tracker. It is not for locating me if I decided to do a runner but is used to track me in the process, pre surgery, surgery, recovery etc. They move a lot of people through this system and they are very efficient at it, but keeping track of everyone is no doubt challenging. Also my surgeon, Dr Neufeld, didn't visit for long pre surgery (busy man) but was good enough to mark my knee with an M so that no mistakes were made! Pre-surgery the thing I was most concerned about (because I am a kind of a baby) was the epidural. It turned out to be a bit of a breeze as they use the thinnest needle know to man. It was profoundly effective though as before they could even get me onto by back, I was already losing feeling from the waist down. After that I was no longer an active participant in the goings on.
Next thing I knew, I was waking up in recovery and when I got back to my ward, they even brought me some dinner. Now I know that hospital food is anything but Instagrammable but they were good enough to provide a vegan meal (and then again at breakfast time). Some sauteed veggies and tofu, peas and rice and it was totally palatable!So after a restless night and perhaps the least memorable part of my new knee journey where they needed to provide some serious pain killing stuff, the physiotherapist got me up and walking a bit. Since a week later, I started with a physiotherapist in Aldergrove, and everyone I have ever spoken to about knee surgery has told me that this is the most important part of the process (at least from my end), I get that a certain amount of pushing through discomfort is necessary.
Anyway, they kicked my ass out and my wife's son in law gave me a lift home (passengers included my wife and everyone else who would fit in the car). For the last couple of weeks my view down has been of one surprisingly straight but fairly swollen leg while the old knee leg is still skinny and crooked. Kind of looks like one of these belongs to someone else. That is my cold machine cuff on my knee as I thought I would spare you the rather macabre view of my 29 staples.
My wife took a week off to look after her whiney and almost helpless husband but by almost 2 weeks in, I am pretty well capable of getting through the day unassisted , even if everything I do takes a surprisingly long time. Above is Mharie's vegan version of Bicol Express, one of my favourite Filipino dishes. I think that she was a little disappointed that I was up and looking after myself so quickly.
A bit of a hitch in the process but quite common, is that I started to get some serious redness around my staples. Again, I will spare you the photo but instructions in the post surgery literature suggested that I send a photo to my surgeon if that redness happens. He responded by immediately sending a prescription for a serious antibiotic. He also asked me to get the staples removed right away. The staple removal by my GP seemed like it was going to be a breeze until he got to the reddened area which required me to grit my teeth quite a bit. Fortunately, within a couple of days, the redness was gone but I still have a few days of antibiotic and we know that you take the whole course!
Overall, my experience was one of some discomfort but not a lot of what I would call pain. I used very few of the opioids that were prescribed and was able to get by easily with extra strength Tylenol and regular Advil. The trick to this whole thing has been being able to take the time to recover and being all in on my post surgery exercises.
So my plan is to take at least a couple more weeks off before going back to work. At the moment, I am lingering a little longer over my morning coffee and enjoying the Fall colours from my deck. In another 4 to 6 months, they will replace the other knee as well. I already have enough titanium in my leg to set off metal detectors for the rest of my life so a little more won't make a huge difference! Once I get these and a couple of cataracts taken care of, I will be good as new and ready for the next 100,000 km!
Thanks to Dr Michael Neufeld and the whole team!
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