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My Knees-érables: Part Four

I dreamed a dream of knees gone by

It has seemed like a dream, this past month of knee adventures, and for most of it, I felt like the princess sung about in There is a Castle on a Cloud, I’ve been so taken care of and coddled. So let me start this month’s column with a sincere thank you to all who cared enough to send cards, gifts, chocolate, and wine. I’m stunned how many of you actually read me, and in response to my request for goodies, actually sent or brought some! Thank you! Yummy. Thank you.

My room at the hospital became known as the Willie Wonka Chocolate Room. There was such wonderful candy to eat and share with the nurses, doctors, and therapists who tended me — some more often than necessary so they could get a bit of the next cocoa fix. Love may make the world go round, but chocolate makes it go around smoother, with smiles on more faces.

My friend and mother-in-law, Pat, was with me every moment, and the staff even provided her with a hospital bed for the nights she stayed. Bless her forever. She is an ambassador of goodness and light.

Before I sing the praises of this past month’s heavenly comforts, which seemed to constantly surround me in my absorbing recovery, let me state the basic and painful problem: A nice man took a very sharp knife and a couple of sharp-toothed saws and cut right into the flesh of my right knee. And then, once he saw what was going on underneath the skin, he sawed away and smoothed out the exhausted boney excrescences that were making walking increasingly impossible. After all the cutting, and smoothing, he capped the two conflicting parts with custom-made prostheses that rounded out the knee to a beautiful slender thing and put enough space between knee sections to make a cushion of plastic for me to glide on.

But there was blood, and there is a seven-inch scar.

The scar I’m told will be nearly invisible. The incision was stitched together so skillfully, and the skin is healing so well. But right now, I look like a pirate queen on her way to a peg-legged life. Such a substantial scar makes me feel positively reckless, like I got it in a motorcycle accident or raiding the Embarcadero. Alas, it is just a sign of a now-healthy knee that seems to be on the road to full range of motion and lots of future pain free walking. Again, gratitude.

From the easy early morning registration at 3700 California Street (the old Children’s Hospital) by a calm young man named Allen; through intake nurse Will, who only seemed mildly alarmed that my blood pressure was slightly high (“white coat syndrome” he deemed it … I was just scared); all the way through Megan, the slender O.R. nurse with cool hands who got me an extra blanket; Johnna, the surgical assistant (who squeezed my hand and said, “This is a special day for you, but it’s what we do every day … so don’t worry.”); and on to the guided care of anesthesiologist Dr. Jeffrey Swisher, who took time to explain everything as I relaxed into the arms of gentle sleep; I felt listened to and cared for. I actually walked from the prep room to the operating theater because my illness was not considered an illness but an ambulatory condition. That walk was a revelation as I understood that behind every operating room there is a backstage area with people preparing to perform. I felt right at home — remarkably well and excited to see what came next on my way to being sliced open.

Next thing I knew, I was in a comfortable room (the honeymoon suite for my new knee and me), and felt all sorts of good. I was blessed with a medical team who believes that staying ahead of the pain is paramount, and so I was eased into medications that helped me feel well from the start. I am now weaning off them, and that process has been easy as well because my medical team has been overseeing it. Bless JG, my astonishing home physical therapist, who is now a new friend for life. And, of course love to my devoted husband, Peter.

Many hugs of gratitude to all who brought food, sat with me while I faded off into fatigued sleep, and have walked around the block with me.

I may have to devote more column inches to thanking all who have helped me feel optimistic and loved through this process. Such an adventure deserves words of praise and descriptions befitting the fine nurses and doctors who took such care of me.

And to Dr. Peter Callander, my surgeon, I “kneed” to thank you, for making me feel so darned good now.

It’s honestly a thrill to not feel the pain I felt just a month ago.

For those of you waiting to do this operation … don’t wait.

Do it.

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