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My Knees-érables: Part Two

When I got married, I registered for some marvelous stuff, and even the second time around, I was surprised at the mighty loot we hauled in. How amazed I was when the most expensive item on my first list, an outrageous British four-slice toaster from William-Sonoma, was the first thing someone bought us. We still use it today, many years later, in my second marriage. Me and the Queen — she has one just like it! Registry meant lots of pretty boxes to open.

Well, it’s time to register again, but this time it’s in celebration of my upcoming marriage to my new right knee. There’s an actual registry for those of us who are facing joint replacement, and I got a call from them an hour after I returned home from the initial doctor’s visit.

DeeDee, from the California Joint Replacement Registry cheerily informed me that the registry “surveys individuals who undergo hip and knee replacement surgery to track outcomes, patient satisfaction and improvement in an individual’s joint pain and function.” She wanted to register me right away, even though my surgery wasn’t for months. Assured by her thoroughness, I gave her all the information she needed, and I became officially registered for my new knee. And though there’d be no pretty boxes to open, and I didn’t get to pick the pattern, there were steps I had to take to make sure the knee would be mine alone, a knee fit for me:

A couple of weeks later, I limped over to 3700 California Street for the MRI and required long-leg X-ray (at least “six weeks before the surgery date,” my instruction packet urged), and gave the folks all the info they needed for my knee replacement, made especially for my leg in what they call the Smith and Nephew Protocol, a specialized program that builds the new knee according to measurements recorded by the MRI and the X-ray. Every aspect of the experience was courteous, kind, and reassuring. I’d never had an MRI before, and used to loud, blaring Broadway orchestras, the noise didn’t bother me much. Earplugs also helped. I was anticipating a much more rigorous ordeal, (sometimes it’s good to catastrophize), but it took much less time than I had feared. Thanks to the leg X-ray, now I know what my right leg looks like without any body fat on it. Elegant, the skeleton.

I imagine little old men (and their nephews) in an antique workshop laboring over intricate knee parts to craft my new patella. The old men wear wire-rimmed spectacles, have bald heads fringed in white hair, and look a lot like Snow White’s dwarves. They craft my knee with love, while singing.

After that, I went right to my spa and took a nice long soak in the hot tub. Every step I take that gets me closer to surgery, I must follow it up with something that relaxes and makes me feel pretty. Or at least, not terrified.

Or chocolate. Following up with chocolate helps, too. And wine. Lots of wine.

A list of what must be done? Laid out nicely in the booklet given me at the doctor’s office, here’s what they suggest:
Three-to-four weeks before surgery: See my primary care physician for preoperative clearance, EKG, and lab work; register for and attend a Patient Education Class, given free of charge at the CPMC campus, where I will learn what to expect of the hospital procedure and stay. I can ask all the questions I want at that time. I’ve begun my list, and it will include things like how much Scotch can a person drink while on pain killers, and while the doc is in there, can he take a little fat off the knee as well? I jest, but that’s probably because I’m far more nervous about this surgery than I am letting even myself know. I’m not much for medical things.

Two weeks before surgery: Register at the CPMC Patient Access Center, so the hospital knows I’m actually going to show up on the 16th. It’s suggested that I order a cold therapy unit to wrap around my knee, allowing continuous cold to the surgery site, decreasing swelling and pain. They were kind enough to warn me that insurance does not pay for it. But at $250, I may order two.

One week before surgery: Stop all blood-thinning aspirin or ibuprofen, which will be a bit of a trial because I am living on them right now. And they suggest you prep your home for your return from the hospital. Also, to take a laxative, so the pain killers don’t totally rule your digestive process. I’m up for all they suggest. And in fact am grateful for the info and advice.

And finally, day of: Check into the hospital 90 minutes before the scheduled surgery, when they will put me in my room and prep me, and then, bye-bye old knee, hello new!

Then the rigorous recovery period of physical therapy and letting myself be pampered a lot. As I’ve said before, chocolate and flowers are gratefully accepted. After all, it is a wedding … of sorts!

And we could always use some new wine glasses.


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