Before the operation, I had been hobbling along at my usual rapid stride for too long. With bone on bone, arthritis, and bone spurs, I knew my knee would need medical attention.
I sought the absolute best orthopedic surgeon I could find. His reputation clearly preceded him. I had to wait three months for a consultation, and then another five months for the knee replacement surgery itself.
I took that delayed process as a cue. I needed to be more patient, more deliberate in my approach to life. I wasn’t a spring chicken anymore, and my achy knee daily reminded me of that fact.
My wife and I attended pre-surgery classes together. The instruction covered the do’s and don’ts of my activities both before and after the operation. Also, a friend from church had had the same surgery by the same surgeon at the same hospital as me with impressive results.
From these sources, I gained confidence, and specific themes emerged.
“Stay ahead of the pain,” was one. In other words, don’t try to be a hero. Take the pain medicines as directed.
“Ice is your friend,” was the second piece of wisdom. Elevating and icing the leg helped reduce the swelling and inflammation. Ironically, though, swelling is needed to properly heal the soft tissue, muscles, and ligaments that have been cut into and/or moved in the surgery process. The key was to keep the long, stapled incision dry and clean.
Long before the surgery, I began a routine of recommended exercises. I continued to do them in the healing process. Doing so clearly paid dividends.
The doctor had told me that he would have me walking the same day as the operation. My surgery was at 10:30 a.m., and I was strolling down a hospital hall with a walker and supervision by 3:30 that afternoon.
Staying hydrated was another essential element in the post-surgery protocol. I drank like a fish.
The doctor had one more piece of pre-surgery advice for me: “Keep moving.” So I did.
I walked around the neighborhood, usually in the morning, as much as I could. I also went hiking, though I often stopped to rest, especially on inclines.
Though I have yet to have my post-op surgery visit with the doctor, it’s clear all that locomotion paid off. At the end of my first session, my physical therapists said I didn’t need either my walker or cane. A week after surgery, I was walking unaided up and down our street.
I noticed that my gait was nearly half of what it was before the surgery. As we walked side by side, I told my wife that I think this is the stride that I should continue to maintain.
I felt comfortable walking at a slower pace. An occasional sharp pain radiating from either side of the knee kept me focused on each and every step. It was the first test of my new, slower resolve. I had a new knee and a renewed appreciation for all that was around me.
I know I am fortunate, and that I still have a long way to go in the healing process. I hope that the more unhurried stroll through life will enhance my awareness. I’ll breathe deeply, observing, absorbing, and appreciating with even more vigor of whatever finds me along life’s path.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2019