Count The Costs – Part 2

The decision to move ahead with a painful elective medical procedure requires allot of pre-planning and a resolution that the procedure will lead to greater quality of life. No one should make such a decision without fully counting the costs. The bible gives us this account when Jesus was teaching his disciples, he said:

“For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? “Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him”

Luke – 14:28-29 NASB

While this parable is one of an example of construction, the meaning is very clear: Don’t begin something for which you have not figured out how you will complete it. So when I decided to move forward with a decision to have total knee replacement surgery, an elective procedure, I thought about this scripture. I knew I needed to count the cost.

I knew my knee was becoming more of a problem because of the advanced osteoarthritis (OA) which was diagnosed when I had arthroscopic knee debridement. That procedure revealed grade 4 arthritis in my medial compartment.

I now believe this procedure actually accelerated my osteoarthritis because it removed what little cartilage I had from my knee compartment.. At the time I decided to receive my arthroscopic knee debridement procedure, I had not counted the cost, I acted impulsively.

Seven years later, when the chronic pain became near unbearable and it’s frequency and duration increased, I tried several alternative approaches to deal with my condition. I am analytical by nature and I knew the end state of unresolved OA pain would be total knee replacement…but  I swore I would never allow that to happen…I had seen the YouTube videos…

I went to great lengths to mitigate my OA knee pain. I learned that for every pound one loses, it reduces four pounds of pressure (PSI) from the knee joint. This gave me great inspiration! I went on a work out regimen and a diet change (eating more plant based foods and less red meat) that resulted in an almost 50 pound weight loss!

I worked out feverishly and I went from 238 pounds to 188 pounds. I was feeling much better just knowing the PSI reduction benefit to my knee. Some of my friends thought I was sick because of the weigh loss but I was feeling fine!…except that the pain of my knee OA never completely went away, it just became more manageable for a period.

When something is biologic and is in a state of degradation, it slowly gets worse. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that affects the joint (in my case – my knee). Degeneration means it progressively gets worse because the tissues do not have the capacity to regenerate. The end state is chronic inflammation, loss of cartilage, pain and tenderness while trying to move the joint through normal range of motion. It sucks!

Since I knee that total knee replacement was most likely inevitable, I decided to do everything short of receiving this procedure. I was counting the cost by being proactive (or so I thought). I received dextrose prolotherapy, plasma rich platelet injections, acupuncture treatments, hylaronic acid injections, you name it. If it was something that could possibly improve my knee OA I was doing it!

I took just about every health food supplement known to man (glucosamine, fish oil, turmeric, white willow bark, hylaronic acid). I stopped short of autologous stem cell injections because of its costs and it’s lack of proven results.

After all these efforts, the knee OA pain was still there, still ruining the quality of my life. Every where I went, my knee dictated what I did and how long I did it.  I had to limit my time walking because I had only so much time before the knee would become inflamed and the joint felt as if a knife was being stabbed into it. It was no bueno!

At this point, I decided I had exhausted my options, and I now needed to fully count the cost for total knee replacement. I did the research and found lots of people posting terrible experiences for their experience and of course, I made the mistake of watching the Youtube videos…

My Gawd!!! Are you kidding me! Why would anyone go through with this procedure after watching the videos! So now, I had all this fear working against me as the pain continued to remind me that total knee replacement was indeed inevitable…

So after living in chronic pain for the last two years, I decided I had to move forward with the procedure. The decision to move forward was as challenging as anything I had experienced because there was no gong back from total knee replacement. While I did not want the procedure it became inevitable. You see, its one thing to have intermittent pain but it’s quite another to have pain in your body 24/7 – even when you are trying to sleep! Chronic pain has a way of changing your perspective about the things you once considered as off the table…

So now you know what has lead me to this point, but in my next posts I explain my experiences at the hospital and my current state of recovery. Remember that as a believer of Jesus Christ, I know who is in charge of my well being and this will be a continuing source of strength because as the Apostle Paul said:

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

2nd Corinthians 12:10 NASB

This scripture is a foundational pillar for me because recovery from total knee replacement is truly an experience that will test your strength in every facet (mental, physical and spiritual) of your being. In my next post I will share how the experience of intense pain has made me think more about Christ’s suffering on the cross. In the meantime be blessed!

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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!