Friday, July 18, 2014

Total Knee Replacement - Surgery Booked

I have lived with arthritis for most of my adult life. And as many people who have arthritis know, it attacks the joints. And often times, people who live with arthritis will experience great pain in their joints. Sometimes the damage is so severe, you will eventually require joint replacement.

This is what I am in the midst of.  The arthritis in my right knee is so bad that the cartilage is completely gone. Causing the bones in my knee to grind together.  For probably fifteen years I have had what I call the ratchet feeling when bending my knee. The clicking that can be heard and felt when bending and extending my leg.

Over the years the clicking has gotten worse as the cartilage wore away, and I began having the sensation of my knee slipping out of alignment. This of course causes extreme, sharp, stabbing pain.  I would then have to bend and twist my leg until I felt the 'click' and my knee would line up once again. At this point the pain would dramatically reduce.

In March of 2013 I had a bad fall outside of my apartment building.  I call this "the beginning of the end".  I never really recovered from this fall. I went straight down on my knees, and the pain shot through my body like a missile. I battled the recovery of the fall through the Spring and Summer, never really recovering from it. It was about three weeks before I could even walk again, and by the end of September, I was in so much pain that I knew my only real option would be to discuss surgery with my family doctor.  Although I am not a fan of surgery, having had so many of them in my lifetime, I knew that if I did not want to end up in a wheelchair, something drastic needed to be done.  Also, a good friend of mine had just had her first knee replaced and was doing so wonderfully well that it really gave me great encouragement that this journey might be right for me.

At my next appointment, I addressed my thoughts and concerns with my Doctor and he agreed that it was time to pursue surgery. Because I am a research type of person, naturally I had read up about it, and after having lengthily conversations with my friend, I knew that the first step was a scope of the knee.  This is essentially a mini operation, which requires the same amount of recovery as TKR (Total Knee Replacement). To me, this seemed ridiculous. I have zero cartilage in my right knee. Coupled with the fact that I also live my life with Fibromyalgia, and so inviting more pain in to my life is not something I take lightly.  I spoke with my Doctor about my concerns and he agreed with me that a Scope is a step we should skip, and go directly to surgery.

In January I got an appointment with a Surgeon, who wanted to do a scope. This frustrated me. Really, it upset me greatly.  I informed him that in no uncertain terms was I interested in having a scope done. And that I would be having the surgery done elsewhere as he was unmovable on the matter.  So, back to my Doctor for another referral.

In February, I attended my new appointment at a different hospital here in Toronto.  Funnily enough, the surgeon I was to see was at home, recovering from his own hip-replacement surgery.  So, my appointment was with a Fellow on his surgical team.  I cannot say what I truly want to say about the woman I saw during this appointment.  But I will say that she was horrible. Just awful.  So much so that I left the hospital in tears. In effect she told me that she would not recommend the surgery to the surgeon.  I was crushed. Devastated. Hurt. I felt deflated. I am only 45 years old, and this awful, horrible, woman in essence, had just said to me that I should live the rest of my life in agony!

I cried the entire way home, which must have completely freaked out my taxi driver.  Once I got home, I cried for three hours!  I was so upset!  Then the fighter in me took over. I decided that this horrible woman - who wasn't even a full doctor - would not have the final say in my future.  I called the office of the surgeon and spoke with his assistant.  Ok.  That isn't entirely true. The truth is I had a full breakdown on the phone with his assistant. I told her of the appointment I just had, how awful the person was, and that I wanted to speak with the surgeon.  She agreed and took my number and told me to try and relax while she looked into it.  She also informed me that mine was not the first complaint/concern/breakdown she had had with regards to this particular "doctor".

A few hours later my phone rang, it was the surgeon, calling me from his home, while in recovery from his own surgery.

WHAT?!?!?! Who does that?!?!?!?  HE DOES!!

We spoke for about an hour. I stated all of the reasons that I needed the operation. He asked me tons of questions, screening me.  And ultimately I said to him that with the Fibromyalgia, I would never be 100%, I knew that my life would never be as I wanted it to be, that I would never live a pain-free life, but the truth is that he went to medical school to become a surgeon - to help people, and if there was any chance that he could help me - shouldn't he?  And he agreed.

I was so excited!!! I thanked him (about twenty-five times) and told him that I would see him at the next appointment when he returned to work from his own recovery.  I then phoned his assistant. I could tell that she was waiting for my call. I could almost hear her smile.  I cannot say how thankful I am for this wonderful woman! I just love her to pieces!  She is a large part of the reason that I am even scheduled for surgery!

July 14th I finally got to meet my surgeon in person.  My appointment began with another series of X-rays, followed by a meeting with him.  He is fabulous! So kind. So understanding. Patient.  And - in my research - I have heard/read wonderful things about him from other patients.

We discussed my X-rays, and how interesting it is that my left knee is perfect. It is the ideal picture of what a knee is supposed to look like.  My right knee on the other hand looks like a twelve-car collision.  Just horrible.  So much so that he looked me square in the face and said; "I can see your pain. I don't know how you are standing ...and walking around."

At the end of the appointment I signed the consent for surgery and blood transfusion forms. I was given a ton of booklets and pamphlets to read prior to, and in preparation of my surgery.  Needless to say, there are a lot of appointments involved.  The pre-operative appointment has been booked for August 7th.  This appointment will take up to 5 hours, as I'll be meeting with the Anesthesiologist, someone from PT and OT, as well as nursing staff to go over my medical history.  Then there will be more X-rays, blood work, and an ECG. (Which I am not concerned about, as I have had two ECG's done in the past six months and know that my heart is in great shape!)

My Surgery will be done on September 5th.  Seven weeks from today!  I will be in the hospital for a few days and assuming I go directly home, I will be discharged on the 8th or 9th.  If I go to a rehabilitation hospital, I will be there for a week, before coming home again. Obviously I am praying that I will be discharged directly to my home, where I can recover in my own surroundings.

Then of course, there is a list of other various visits that will be taking place. Staple removal, post-operative appointments, physiotherapy. etc.

This journey is going to require a lot of hard work. Not to mention the great pain! It will be trying. But I am determined. Actually, I really just want to be on the other side of this process. I will be coming home with a walker, and a few weeks later, I will be walking with a cane. It will not be for approximately six weeks before I will be able to walk without an assisted device.  This is what I am looking forward to. Being able to do my groceries, walking my dog - without assistance, and without pain in my knee. Although I realize that it will be a few months before I can do my own shopping again. My eyes are focused on next March. Spring, for me, will spell freedom!

As with other areas of my life, I will be writing about this journey, sharing it with all of you.  I know that there will be good days, and days that are not so good. But as with everything else, I will be candid about the details of the surgery as well as my recovery. I'm sure with so many friends of EE, there is someone - somewhere who may be going through the same trials in their own life. And if nothing else, they may know that they are not alone. :-)

Stay tuned.....!