The Journey

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

This morning I woke up and realized it is November 30th. That means that exactly two months ago, at this very minute, I was on an operating table, having MAJOR surgery. Half of my knee is now replaced with a prosthetic. I never imagined how hard this journey would be. Thankfully, I am now on the other side (almost) of it.

I woke up that morning, screaming in pain, before I even opened my eyes. All I remember is hearing people hurrying to push drugs into my IV and knock me back out. I don't remember being wheeled to my room, being moved into my bed, none of it. I had opted to not have the spinal numbing meds (which would have made my waking up a LOT easier) because I've had two bad spinal experiences and didn't want to go down THAT road again. I do remember waking up in my room eventually, with my husband watching movies on the hospital tv. I would push the pain pump and go back to sleep. I had heart monitors, oxygen tubes, and pressure cuffs on both legs. I had to take oodles of meds on top of the IV, and the nurse would give me a shot every night to prevent blood clots.

Friends would visit me, and after leaving the hospital I could barely remember WHO came to see me! Yikes! Those drugs seriously mess with your short-term memory. I had five days of great care, through the worst (physically) days of my life. Walking was a different story. The morning after the surgery, they strapped my drain and bucket-o-blood to a walker and got me out of bed. I could only go to the bathroom door and back, it was only a few steps, and I cried the whole way. It was beyond what I could comprehend as pain.

The day after that, I had to walk down the hall, still having the huge drain tube hanging out of the side of my knee, and about a 7 inch incision on the other side. Note to men physical therapists- don't compare anything to childbirth. You haven't done it, and the pain of that didn't come close to this.

A few days into it, the nurse came in my room and told me to push my pain pump (Ha! Like I hadn't been playing jeopardy with it anyway! It was a constant game of push the button and hope you hear the right sound of beep, the one that lets you know it was time, and the meds went through.), that the doctor was next door and he was coming to take out my drain next. Eek! Let's just say there was screaming, crying, and after he took it out, and put in stitches without numbing, he had the nurse turn my continuous dose of IV pain meds back on.

After 5 days of all of this, I finally got to come home. I was SO excited and SO scared. My first day at home brought my first home health visit by my nurse. I had to have her for a month, because that's how long the doctor had me on blood thinners to prevent blood clots. She would draw my blood every few days and call me to tell me what dose the doctor said to take. I also had three weeks of physical therapy at home.

After a few days of being home though, I could no longer take the ITCHING and BURNING happening under my bandage. I wasn't supposed to mess with it until my follow up, but one day I peeked under the wrap to look at the taped up bandage and saw it was green and hard, like a cast. Yuck. I called the nurse line, and they called the doctor and I was given the ok to change the bandage at home. Once I removed it, I'm surprised I didn't pass out at what I saw. I was severely allergic to the adhesive on the steri-strips on my wound. There was a red, blistered, gooey area under and around my steri-strips, that was a couple inches on all sides of the 7 inch incision. Are you doing the math? This is a BIG area. I called the nurse back and she ended up coming out to the house and removing my steri-strips. Another thing I was terrified of, what is this gonna feel like to pull these off of skin that looks like this?

She came out and used saline soaked gauze to soften them, by the time she peeled them back, it all came off in one big piece, my skin and all. I could now actually SEE what was bringing me to tears all these days with itching. Parts of my flesh were actually "burned" off from the adhesive. It was awful. But, the saline felt soooooooo good. I've had bad hives before, but this was a level I'd never imagined. What followed was a round of steroids to help it heal, and thankfully after a couple of weeks it did. It grew all new skin, and all of the damaged stuff flaked off. Now you can only just see the outline and see that the new section of skin is a slightly different color. BUT, because all of the blisters kept popping and rubbing against the bandages when I used the CPM (machine that bends your knee), I wasn't allowed to use it for a week. It sat on the floor, and I was to focus on healing the wound.

Unfortunately this caused my knee to form scar tissue and not allow me to bend it more than 70 degrees no matter how hard I tried. I would cry and cry, and try as hard as I could everyday. It led to painful, disappointing physical therapy visits. There were days when I thought HOW in the world am I ever going to be able to _________________ (walk normal, lift my leg, bend my knee, not use a walker, etc.). I would put my bible app on read aloud mode because I couldn't even see through my tears to read it, but it was the only thing that would calm me down.

In the midst of this, I had noticed while taking the steroids that my mouth was irritated, and my lips started peeling a bit. One day, they started looking big, kind of like Angelina Jolie. My husband loved it. Ha ha. The next morning I woke up and they looked like they were about to explode. We instantly called his mom to watch the kids and he took me to the ER. It was SO embarrassing. Walking with a walker, I couldn't even cover my lips with my hand. I KNOW the people in the waiting room must have thought I had a bad lip enhancement surgery or something.

It was ANOTHER allergic reaction. It was more than I could bear. They gave me a shot of benadryl, and sent me home. I couldn't eat, because my lips were HUGE, and "dead" feeling. Kind of like the numbness from the dentist, but they weren't numb, because if food touched my lips they would feel like a million bee stings, and start getting worse. My friends brought me smoothies, and ensure drinks, to drink out of straws. I ended up being told to go back to the ER again from the home nurse, because they were getting worse and worried about my airway closing up. Walk into a waiting room FULL of people staring at your enormous duck lips- that's a confidence booster...NOT!

More shots at the ER. The lips lasted 5 days. I took the maximum dose of benadryl every six hours for each of those 5 days. It slightly helped with the itching and burning. I had to set my alarm in the middle of the night, so that I wouldn't miss a dose. What does benadryl do? It dries it. So now I had SUPER sandpaper lips that I couldn't put ANYTHING on. Anything I tried to put on them I had to immediately wash off because they would swell up again. Finally on day 5, after they were normal size, I bought plain old chap stick. It worked.

I'm still afraid to put anything else on them now.

Back to the knee. Is 70 degrees all I will EVER bend it again? I'm only 29. The doctor said I had a "stuck knee" and asked me if I wanted him to bend it for me. Say what?! It's called a manipulation procedure, and they put you to sleep and bend it to break the scar tissue, which is what is preventing you from bending it. I said yes, but I was terrified. The last thing I wanted was to experience what I felt when I woke up from anesthesia last time. For days leading up to the procedure, I would wake up at night and try to bend my knee in bed. I thought I was waking up from anesthesia, that's how much it was on my mind.

The day came, and it all felt too familiar. Only 6 weeks before, I had done the same exact things. Been driven to the hospital in the dark of morning, check in, surgery prep with the same nurses, IV, nausea patch behind the ear, etc. I couldn't keep some tears from falling in pre-op. I. WAS. SCARED.

I prayed and prayed, but I was SCARED.

When I woke up, I had an oxygen mask on and the anesthesiologist was standing next to me, writing in a chart on the rolling stand next to my bed. I instantly moved the blankets off of my leg and bent it as far as I could. His eyebrows raised and he stopped what he was doing. I started crying happy tears and saying "thank you Jesus" over and over and over again into my oxygen mask. The doctor looked at me like something was wrong and asked if everything was ok. He couldn't hear what I was saying, so they moved my mask and I told him, "I said THANK YOU JESUS, I can bend it!!" He started laughing and went back to writing in his chart. I have never in my life felt more relief than that moment. I never want to forget that day, that even though it was a bit painful, it was one of the best days of my life.

My trial made me stronger. One of the verses that got me through those weeks was Hebrews 12:11 "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
BUT what really got me, was what happened to be the next 2 verses... "Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed."

I feel like it was put there for me. For such a time as this.



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