It’s been nearly one week since I had knee surgery. The recovery has been much slower than I anticipated. That could be because I missed a few sentences that explained how long recovery would take in my eagerness to get well.
Let me back up a bit…
Last April I cycled in my seventh MS 150, a 2-day, 180-mile bike ride that starts in Houston, ends in Austin, and raises more than $20 million to fight Multiple Sclerosis.
The second day of the ride features an optional route which goes through the pretty rigorous hills of Buescher and Bastrop State Parks, Texas. Those approximately 15 miles always hold both my fastest and slowest speeds of the ride, as I twist and turn and climb (s-l-o-w-l-y) and race. It is definitely the most heart-pounding part of the ride and it thrills me and terrifies me every time. I love it.
Last year, in a very slow climb, my chain jumped off the gears as I was switching gears and down I went, crashing onto the pavement. Falling in the park is very common and yet is very dangerous, as one person falling can set a chain reaction off of other riders falling after crashing into one who has already fallen. Before I think I even knew I was down, a very courteous rider stopped just behind me, yelled “Rider down!” (or something similar) and positioned his bike across mine to protect me and warn other riders. He then helped me up, helped me get to the side of the road and out of everyone’s way quickly, popped my chain back on my gears, and asked if I was okay.
Of course I told him I was fine, got back on my bike and continued the ride, finishing that day with a personal best time, surprising my husband and friends.
Time went on and my left knee began to hurt a bit at yoga, but I just chalked it up to a little soreness. Then it began to hurt at other times, like when I simply crossed my leg, so then I chalked it up to getting older. I attempted to start a new exercise program and my knee hurt again so, of course I blamed it on my shoes and bought a new pair of trainers. Still irritated by the knee and some weight gain, I enlisted the help of a personal trainer. I told her about my knee problem (not making the MS 150 connection) and she advised me it could be a weak glute, so we went to work strengthening my glutes. My knee continued to hurt when running, lunging, sitting… most of the time.
Eventually I remembered the MS 150 fall, the fact that I was clipped into my pedals when I fell and the timing of my pain’s beginning. DUH. Of course it had to have something to do with that, and yet I missed it for about 8 months.
I reached out to a doctor friend who examined me initially and suggested an MRI for a closer look. Two days later I was at my daughter’s Girl Scout field trip when he texted to say surgery was needed. I had torn my meniscus. Of course I thought he was being funny and it took a few texts before I realized I had really done some damage to my knee, most likely in that fall.
I scheduled appointments with two orthopedic surgeons, interviewed both and went with the one my neighbor highly recommended and with whom I felt more comfortable. I asked about my family ski trip which took place between the initial appointment and surgery, and the surgeon suggested I could ski, and that although I should expect some pain, it wouldn’t make my knee any worse. I then asked about the MS 150 which was scheduled for 6 weeks after surgery and he smiled and said “We’ll see.”
So fast forward about two weeks when I go in for surgery.
I had been at a no-electronics/ no internet church retreat for a few days where I served on the the retreat team. (Read: I had an amazing few days in worship with some great ladies, but slept very little and had even less connection with the outside world and got zero work done on Wine4.Me.)
Monday morning I woke at 4:30, took a shower and applied some funky anti-microbial soap, put on a new pair of pajamas and headed for the hospital. We stopped along the way to buy some donuts for the team at the hospital. (And yes, they smelled especially good, considering I had been cut off from all food and water at midnight.)
We arrived at the hospital, St. Lukes Lakeside in The Woodlands, at 6 a.m. where I was greeted with a smile, handed a red folder and instructed to go to the second floor. On the second floor we took two seats in the waiting room, after spotting a box for prayer requests. Loved that.
Soon we were greeted by Ann. I’m not sure what Ann’s title was, but she was an absolute delight and was very much like our tour guide or concierge. She introduced herself with a very kind smile, then asked me to introduce her to my husband. She explained what would happen next to Gary, telling him about the complimentary drink station, the bistro downstairs, where the doctor would consult with him once surgery was completed, and gave him estimated times for everything. She then asked for his cell phone number in the event he was downstairs when the doctor was ready to talk. Everything about her made us feel as though she was there to help us in any way she could. I noticed that she spoke the same way to each and every other person there, delivering the same message, but in the most sincere, caring way possible.
Soon it was time for me to go prepare for surgery. A nurse came to us in the waiting room, introduced herself, and took me to a room where I changed into a hospital gown and one of those super tight socks to prevent blood clots, before she inserted my IV and then invited my husband to join us. Just like Ann, she was also a delight.
Next we met the anesthesiologist (a woman who had previously been a nurse and went back to school) and, right on time, my surgeon walked into the room, introduced himself to my husband, chatted it up with me a bit, confirmed the procedure and initialed the knee which was was causing the trouble.
Pretty soon they wheeled me off to the operating room where I remember there being more people than I expected to see. The last thing I remember is seeing massive lights above me and a nurse slipping my hair under a hat. And boom! I was out.
Next I was in a dimly lit room with another kind nurse who asked a few questions, offered more pain meds (which I accepted) and ice chips (also accepted) and then soon went to get my husband.
They went over recovery instructions and helped me to get dressed. Once I felt normal-ish, someone helped me into a wheel chair and I was gliding to the car and on my way home.
Gary said the surgery had taken all of about 15 minutes with me in the OR for a total of 30 minutes. Recovery took about an hour.
Back home I hobbled to the bed and napped and napped and napped.
Tuesday morning I woke up feeling great, sat with the kids at breakfast, got up to make my daughter her lunch for school and loaded the dishwasher. This was when things started to feel worse. I raced to the bathroom, as much as I could with an injured knee, vomited and decided that perhaps I had done a bit too much. Off to bed I went.
The rest of Tuesday was not fun and, to be honest, Wednesday held more pain and frustration than I had anticipated, as well. I had some crazy notion that I would be mostly normal-ish within three days which was proving to be false.
A nurse from the hospital called Wednesday to check on me and kindly explained that after Wednesday I should see a turn for the better.
The pain did begin to lessen, but tightness in my knee was still there. My fatigue and lack of mobility irritated me. (Hope you don’t mind my honesty.) I read the papers the hospital gave me at discharge which said I should only do essential activities for 5-10 days and wondered where I got my crazy 3-day recovery idea. (I’m still not sure where that came from.)
On Thursday I took my first shower after surgery, after wrapping my knee in GladWrap to keep it from getting wet. (That was interesting.)
So now here we are 5 days post surgery. It’s early in the morning, my calf has a dull pain and I’m still quite the hobbler.
I’ve been pretty diligent in my follow up exercises which are more exhausting than I expected. (I smiled at their simplicity when they were first given to me and now laugh as I struggle to hold me tensed leg 10 inches off the ground for another 30 seconds.)
I am scheduled to be a judge at the Kosher Chili Cookoff tomorrow and have no idea what I will wear that will fit over my ace bandage and, of course I am in fear of how far my chair will be from the car and how long I will have to sit upright. But I’m IN! Just like everything else, it should be quite the adventure.
As for the MS 150, I’m slowly grasping that I will have to experience the ride in a different way this year. I cannot imagine my doctor will clear me for that. I’ll still donate, might still fundraise, and will do it all from the start next year. In the interim, though, I’ll soon be able to run again without pain, lunge without pain and return to my Tae Kwon Do and yoga classes without pain. And those are all good things.
But first, I plan to master walking without hobbling. Simple, effortless mobility will be good.