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Too many falls

A Tale of Two Knees
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A friend once shared her belief that you will forget pain, even extreme pain, but you will never forget each time you empty your stomach. For those of us with a low tolerance for pain - and a fear of needles and all things medical, this is encouraging news. And it must be true; otherwise, why would women ever have more than one child!

As we age, carry more weight, punish our knees more, suffer from arthritis and jock injuries, we begin to realize that the time might well come when we have to consider some repair work to our knees. Although we may think of ourselves as "forever young," our body parts beg to differ. And so begins our journey of the deteriorating knees, a tale of deceit and betrayal and, ultimately, pain and triumph!

During childhood, I was a tomboy, experiencing all the normal childhood falls - falling out of trees, falling off bicycles, falling while racing on one of the rails on the railroad tracks near our home, falling when tackled while playing football, falling from our tree house, which only had access by way of an old fire hose - tough to climb, tougher to climb down, especially after a good rain.

I had ridden horses for several years prior to finding the horse that just did not want me to ride him. He tossed me 3 times; I climbed back on 2 times - and realized that, as much as he didn't want me to ride him, that's how much I didn't want to ride him. Such a mutual feeling! Because I had ridden for years, the people who owned the horses felt confident that I could handle "Fury." Their confidence was misplaced - or "Fury" was just having a bad day. That was my last ride. Forget that stuff about having to just get back on and control the horse. This was a 16-hands high black stallion named "Fury," so appropriate. I was a 5'1" teen named "Had Enough."

Ice skating and attempting to ski also claimed their share of falls. It's amazing how many hazards there are in childhood. Even sled-ridding, tobogganing and riding a little red wagon down the "big hill" (I was the brakeman) were not successful activities. Don't try to tell kids to be careful - it just doesn't register!

I went on to take a few falls during tennis matches with friends, and then, in "adulthood," I fell many other times, none of which were just of a "free-fall" nature. I never just tripped and fell while walking. I like to think that my falls were more "dramatic." One fall was from a pedicab in New York City (the driver decided to get out and help, just as I was about to set foot on the sidewalk). He forgot to set the brake, the pedicab jerked, and even my husband and two NYC policemen couldn't catch me before I fell on my knees.

The final fall occurred when "Hannah," a beautiful chocolate Labrador retriever bumped me down a flight of steps while we were babysitting the children of our best friends while they celebrated their anniversary with a trip to Paris. Not having a dog (or a flight of steps), I forgot that dogs like to descend stairs near the rails. I was walking down stairs, holding onto the handrail when "Hurricane Hannah" hit. It was just elbows and knees all the way down -- and then I bumped my head on the hardwood floor when I hit. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, to try to get up, or hope for a friendly face at the top of the steps. All "stoved up," but, once again, nothing was broken.

It became harder and harder to walk down inclines, climb steps, walk for any length of time, and, as predicted, the pain of not having surgery was worse than the contemplation of having it.
Two days before we left for a 2009 vacation to Yellowstone Park and the surrounding areas, my left knee "went out." It was nearly impossible for me to walk at all, but away we went. I spent a lot of time trying to exercise away the pain - and a lot of time sitting in the bus while everyone else visited the sites.

Upon return, I had meniscus removal by a local surgeon, and, for a couple of years, things were better. Then we planned a 2011 vacation to Europe, and the other knee just gave up on me. It was a difficult trip, as most of Europe is cobblestone - and up and down hills, Even taking tours with the "Gentle Walkers' Group" was difficult.

I finally gave up my efforts to keep up with my husband when we reached Budapest and the tour director was going to take us to the Fisherman's Bastion. (Fisherman's Bastion is the panoramic viewing terrace with fairy tale towers, high above the city.) There was simply no way I could have walked up that hill - missing out on what is supposedly one of the most beautiful sites in Budapest. I had also missed the Schonnbrunn Castle, the tour of the concentration camp, and many of the other walking tours.

Once the pain caused by not undergoing surgery exceeds the temporary pain of the knee replacement, it's time to see the surgeon. But first, we ask all of our family and friends, and, sometimes, total strangers on the street what their surgery was like, who their surgeon was, and what the entire experience was like. We hope against hope that someone has a "magic bullet" that will tell us of some other cure, of some way that we will not be next in line for the operating room. And all the while, the pain increases. And then you get to the point where nothing matters except getting rid of the pain and getting your mobility back. When you start to tote up all the things you were not able to do because of the knee pain, you know it's time to contact a surgeon. This is the point I had reached.
The River Cruise on the Danube, with all of it's restrictions of mobility for me was what helped me to make the final decision to have the first knee replacement. I felt like I was 95 instead of 65, and depression was settling in like a black cloud. Off to find a surgeon!.

Having a lot of faith in your surgeon is probably one of the most important criteria for undergoing a knee replacement. It was extremely important to me that I trusted him, that I felt comfortable that his skill level was high, that he had performed a high number of this procedure, that he was well credentialed, was affiliated with a local hospital, and that other people, both professional and individual, also spoke highly of him.

It is always strange for older people to look at the youthful doctor entering the exam room. The first thought is always, "I'm old enough to be his mother!" This is the person you have to trust to perform the surgery. There is never any guarantee that you have found the "right one." But I believe that I found the "right one." He fully explained the procedure, answered all of my questions and also those of my husband, who accompanied me to the office visits. His demeanor was very calming. He was very knowledgeable and professional. He never short-changed us on time.

He never lied to me, never "sugar-coated" what was upcoming, always told me what to expect, did an excellent job on the knee replacement, and helped with the pain afterwards. He was extremely responsive to my needs after surgery, and I would never hesitate to recommend him to anyone in need of his services.

On September 21, the day after my 65th birthday, I had my first knee replacement. My apprehensions made it a more difficult experience. There was a lot of pain, complicated by fibromyalgia. All of that pain now seems far in the past.

Relax -- this "tale" is much shorter!

After experiencing how well the first replacement went, I was ready to have the other knee done. Unfortunately a few cancer removal surgeries intervened. Everything went well, and I was able to have the second replacement done on Halloween of 2012. Same surgeon, same procedure, same hospital, same-in home nursing and therapy group.

I had not been as restricted as before the first knee surgery, but still, I was limited in many ways. My hopes were that this second replacement would return me (to post-surgical) normalcy. Hope springs eternal.
Comments
kjwilkin
I've had quite a few falls this year and they seem to be getting worse. So I think it's time to seriously think about knee replacement.
Suz
I loved your story-! I felt like I was reading my own. I'm a few weeks before the dreaded replacement of my right knee. Should have had it done last year but have been in fear of it to the point I 'had' learned to tolerate the pain and lack of activity. I decided I couldn't go on when I had to start hanging onto walls & furniture to get to the restroom in the middle of the night. And sometimes during the day! I'm encouraged by your Story! Thank You~!
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