Count The Costs – Part 4

It’s been 9 weeks now since I elected to have Total Knee Replacement (TKR) and in this post, I will write about the lessons I’ve learned through the recovery process. And it is a process, not an event.

For the sake of disclaimer, please know that my experience is unique and relevant to how I internalize my circumstances. Your’s will be different however there should be some areas of commonality so that hopefully my story will serve as motivation for you if you are contemplating this procedure.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Faith is very important. It is essential that one trust the process of allowing medical professionals put you asleep, cut open your body and put in artificial components. Faith in the surgical process was not possible (for me) without having faith in the One who made, maintains and manages the health and healing process – God, Almighty.

When you consent to surgery, it requires hope that your outcome will be one that improves your quality of life – otherwise why would you take the risk? This decision alone necessitates trust in the competence and expertise of the medical team, the nursing staff and the surgical facility’s resources.

No one should begin such a journey without first counting the costs. When I say ‘count the costs’, I mean make an intelligent assessment for all aspects of what it will take for a successful outcome. For me, this begins with trusting God for my well being through the entire process.

The bible says: Without faith, it is impossible to please Him – Hebrews Ch 11, Vs 6

If you are going to place your life in the hands of total strangers…you need to have faith. And that faith needs to be placed in someone greater than the humans that will be working on your body. While it is assumed they have good intentions, they are (like all of us) just flawed human beings… so it’s important to have faith in a person that is greater than the process or procedure. Greater than the competencies of the medical staff…

That person is non other that God Almighty!

The beginning into an unknown journey is challenging because its one that you have never travelled. Your destination is unclear when you begin.. Its comforting to know that God walks with you down these roads and that He will carry you when need be…

Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you! – 1st Peter, Ch 5, Vs 7

Another thing I’ve learned is that in trusting the process, you must not dwell on potential negative outcomes. I made the initial mistake of watching the videos of the surgery on the Internet and was shocked at the graphic footage of open surgery. The knee was filleted open like a grapefruit and those images made me repulsed and fearful!

Don’t look at the videos – you don’t need such images in  your psyche!

But if you were curious and already did watch them….

This too is another reason you need faith….because you need to believe your outcome will be a positive, successful one! Remember that fear and faith are polar opposites and one will displace the other in your mind so be very careful about what you entertain in your thoughts about this procedure.

Do your physical therapy and be prepared to work like an athlete in recovery!

I’ve always enjoyed working out in the gym so I did not need to be coerced to excercise prior to surgery. In fact, I worked out intently for 6 to 8 months prior to surgery just to get in ‘surgical shape’. This meant pushing through the pain of osteoarthritis to strengthen the quads before hand, because muscles quickly atrophy afterwards.

After surgery, I had a lot of pain and swelling. This is normal and to be expected but I chose to put off P.T. so as to allow the swelling to dissipate for about 2 weeks (after the initial surgery). During which I did the minimum P.T.

This was a calculated risk, as during this time I built up a lot of scar tissue around my knee. While scar tissue is a necessary component to the healing process – when allowed to become excessive – it is very counter productive to joint mobility. This is not good!

If you wait too long to perform P.T. it will be much more difficult!

Being the stubborn, know it all person that I can be, I made things more difficult for myself and now I am working VERY hard in P.T. This is critical and my Range Of Motion (ROM) or bend, is improving greatly now…but it hurts…allot to do aggressive P.T.

Make no mistake about it, P.T. (Pain and Torture) will kick your butt and you will shed some tears because you must work to tear through thick bands of scar tissue that have formed a protective ‘band aid’ around your knee. Scar tissue restricts joint movement, A.K.A. Range Of Motion or ROM.

Without good ROM, you’re not going to like your new knee so you must work hard to get normal ROM back. This becomes a race against the clock because the longer it takes to break up scar tissue, the more difficult the task is…Enough said.

I turned a corner in both pain and functionality at 3.5 to 4 weeks. At this time I experienced a noticeable reduction in pain and it seemed that every day my knee was getting better!

In my experience, the 4 week mark was a milestone in terms of  less pain, getting off all prescription pain killer meds and getting around with more freedom (but on crutches). I was on crutches for 6 weeks because my implant was non-cemented.

I choose a non cemented knee prosthetic.

There are pros and cons to non-cemented Vs cemented knee implants – so do your research as I decided to accept my doctor’s recommendation to opt for the non cemented knee. One must be in excellent physical condition with quality bone stock to even have this option offered.

I won’t go into details here but I strongly suggest you do your homework because there are implications both during surgery and post surgery for the implant you choose and my knee implant is rated at 30 years in terms of longevity. I like that!

Understand that the operation itself is a couple hours in length but the recovery is where you must do your part to make this a worthwhile outcome. There are several videos on the Internet that will show you different exercises to perform to rebuild strength – do them!

Rehab from TKR really is a ‘no pain – no gain’ sum game experience.

Recognize that for many people; healing will be a process. This not intended to be a theological debate because as a Christian, I believe that God can supernaturally heal a person in an instant as an immediate event. He can make it so that you need not under go this procedure at all…

Or you might have prayed for supernatural healing and for whatever reason, you just did not receive the manifestation of it…that doesn’t mean you are required to live life with the disabling pain nor does it mean that you must suffer because you were not instantly healed…

We are all living in temporal bodies that require maintenance and if one does not receive supernatural healing  it is good to know:

God makes all good things possible, including surgery …for our benefit!

So, I consider my healing and recovery to be none the less miraculous!

For example, I received prayer for an excellent surgical procedure before surgery. Immediately after surgery, my doctor called my wife’s cell phone to tell her the procedure went ‘perfectly’…that voice message was saved and it is confirmation of prayers!

Post surgery I was put on crutches for 6 weeks – this was non negotiable by my doctor because it is a requirement with agreeing to receive a non cemented knee. 

From the time I was advised I could be fully weight bearing by my doctor (at my 6 week check up) I was walking with no walking assistance devices in 2 days!

I went from being on crutches for 6 weeks to walking unassisted within 2 days! Then riding a bike in 7 days! Folks, that’s answered prayer!

 I am on the road to rebuilding strength and balance back in my knee every day.  85% of the swelling is gone, the scar itself looks amazing! When I go back to see my doctor he will be very happy to see my improved ROM (because he wasn’t pleased that I unilaterally post poned my initial P.T.).

Healing is something that takes time because your body has experienced the trauma of major surgery! You must recognize that soft tissues and bone have been both disturbed and re-arranged. You have a new, bionic knee. These things don’t get become accepted in your body as it’s  ‘new normal’ overnight- so be patient!

In conclusion:

I am still very much on the ‘front end’ of the recovery process. It’s been a little over 8 weeks and I’ll be working hard in the gym for the rest of my life! But at the 2 month mark I can honestly say:

 It’s already worth it!!

I hope this post and the other related posts (Count The Costs – Parts 1, 2 an 3) have been informative and inspiring for you. If you are suffering from knee osteoarthritis please know it is a disease that can be successfully treated.

Know that you don’t have to allow your quality of life be dictated by knee pain

In closing, if you are in this situation I hope that you seek wise counsel and when you are ready to make a decision that you fully ‘Count The Costs’. God bless and good luck with your decision!

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Count The Costs – Part 1

There is nothing like physical pain that causes us to rethink our priorities! Most, if not all of us would do just about anything to avoid pain! The word pain is something that can mean different things given how it’s used. Sometimes we think of pain as losing, as the old saying on the Wide World of Sports: ‘The the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.’

In this analogy, we associate defeat in a sports competition as pain (agony).  While there is certainly an emotional connection with the love of sports and the feeling of deflation when your favorite sports team loses, this is not the type of pain I am referring to. Also, while we acknowledge that individuals can experience severe emotional trauma, this too is not the type of pain I am writing about.

I am talking about real – in the body – physical trauma that require medical attention. Situations like broken bones, lacerations, deep piercings and open flesh type wounds are the type I am going to focus upon. Sometimes life brings difficult, unfortunate situations that result in trips to the emergency room or trauma centers. Other times, we make decisions to have elective medical procedures.

As I write this post, I am recovering from major surgery (total knee replacement). About seven years ago, I began to experience pain in my right knee that had it’s roots in an old sports injury that occurred many years ago. Old injuries that you think are long behind you, can come back to bite in your older years!

When I was in my twenties, I loved to play basketball and my favorite player was Ervin ‘Majic’ Johnson. I remember watching Majic run full speed and fake to pass in one direction and throw a no look pass in the opposite direction for an assist to one of his team mates! Magic’s passing abilities were legendary – even to this day! Since we like to idolize and emulate our sports heroes, I too thought I could do what Majic did….and one day in a pickup game of full court basket ball I attempted that same pass.

I remember jumping in the air and twirling around in a 360 degrees turn only to pass the ball to a team mate (I think). I don’t honestly recall whether I completed the pass or not because when I landed my right knee instantly exploded in pain and I limped off the court in mid-play of the game. I was done…

My buddies came over to check on me but I knew at a ripe old age of 20 that something was seriously wrong with my knee. I don’t recall how I got home that day, I think one of my friends drove me home.

This mishap was not just a mistake in judgement for trying to make a fancy pass without the requisite skills…it was a mistake in judgement for playing basketball while under the influence…the mistakes of youth can create life long implications.

I recall going to the doctors a couple weeks later. The doctor injected a huge syringe filled with dye and took an image and he said ‘you have a slight tear of the lateral meniscus’. I remember thinking ‘this sounds bad’…I asked ‘What are my options’?  I was told open knee surgery or rest and ice it (to see if it would get better). Well… given those two options I chose to ice, wait and see…

Decades later…that same knee became arthritic and began to hurt so bad that I went to great lengths to alleviate the pain by undergoing a different combination of therapies, modalities and treatments. I took health supplements, performed exercise, accepted injection based therapies (prolo-theraphy, synvisc-one, PRP, acupuncture) but none of these attempts to mitigate the pain of osteoarthritis helped. I even had an arthroscopic knee debridement procedure….but it still came down to the undeniable reality that a ‘knee replacement’ was the only thing that had the potential to alleviate my chronic knee OA pain.

So here I am 21 days post knee replacement surgery and experiencing the challenges of recovery and experiencing ongoing pain. If you have experienced this procedure you understand my situation. Because I tried lesser invasive approaches, I have come to fully accept and embrace the need for this procedure – otherwise I would never have opted to under go the surgery. There is a point at which one can no longer deny the inevitable.

In my next posts, I will go into greater detail (Including posting some pictures) about the effects of the challenges (recovery, rehabilitation, psychological, and spiritual etc.) of this most daunting procedure. The decision to resolve the problem of chronic pain (advanced osteoarthritis) by undergoing a painful procedure has become a decision quality of life.

As a believer in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I know my future recovery is in His hands. In closing, one can be assured that no matter the challenges we face, our Heavenly father promised to never leave us or forsake us. In that promise and others, I am placing my confidence for a full and complete recovery but it will certainly be a challenging process…

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Until next time, be blessed!