A number of years ago I was diagnosed with degenerative arthritis in both knees ('oh, yeah?' I said, 'there were a lot of other folks at Rutgers doing that stuff, too! It wasn't just me.' And then the doctor explained the difference between degenerate and degenerative) and was told that replacement might be an option I'd consider.
Sure enough three summers ago I awoke in my hospital room from partial right kneecap replacement surgery as Hurricane Katrina was taking deadly aim at New Orleans. Not necessarily excelling at cause and effect and being a bit more superstitious than most, I've had arthroscopic surgery (cleaning up the loose junk) on both knees since then, but have avoided even thinking about replacing the left knee.
Some of it is purely sentimental. I've had the left knee a long time. It's between my left hip and my left foot and helps keep me from flopping over when I try to stand up. But late last summer, after more cortisone shots (I discovered as a diabetic, cortisone is not the most fun your blood sugar can have with your clothes on) continued to fail to bring any relief, I promised my doctor (who must be wondering how he could have so angered God that He sent me to to him as a patient. It's never crossed your mind, Dr. G., that perhaps God is punishing me with you?) that 'when the snow looks like it's over' we would do it.
It looks like we've come to the place where the road and the sky collide. We started on the planning and the blood work and the medical permissions with the magnetic resonance imaging etc ad infinitum that I'll need in order to, with (good) luck, go under the knife on 9 March and have the knee fully replaced with an Otis knee. The brochure is very nice, and my doctor and all the physicians in his practice highly recommend the procedure and I even went to the Backus Hospital a while back on a Sunday to see what it all looked like when they take it out of the kit. I'm pretty sure Shuggie has no involvement in it, and though I didn't ask, I think the elevator folks are not involved either.
When I see 'we' in terms of planning and work, I, of course, mean the doctor with me playing the role of the G(r)eek chorus. I always appreciate my caregivers spending all this time explaining things to me, and they certainly have had some splainin' to do, but as they speak I make horror movies in my head and have to talk myself down from a ledge someplace rather than jump all the while sitting across from the doctor and nodding nearly imperceptibly as if he and I were comparing notes. I'm probably not the only boob they see like this, so at least they're not shocked when I behave as badly as I often do when 'showtime' arrives.
Not this time, though. I cannot get comfortable with my left knee at all-standing , sitting, lying down, kneeling (no chance at all). I used to control my blood sugar levels by hitting the tread mill for thirty minutes a day, not Melrose Games' speed mind you (I just see a brief clip of my attempting the high hurdle dash, yepper), just a brisk pace and then spending upwards of two hours icing down the knee. It's hard to sleep or do anything really and my physician pointed out to me that I sound like I'm ready.
Considering how terrified I am now, and I'm weeks away from the surgery, I sure hope so. It has to be less daunting this time because so much of this I already know about. When they replaced the partial on the right knee, I thought I'd be back to work by the following Monday. I was, shall we say, a little optimistic about the recovery and rehab so this time I'm thinking more like ten days (kidding!). Actually, the thing that I should find amazing, except I'm sickeningly self-absorbed, is how routine this type of surgery actually is.
Each of us knows one or more persons with a successful joint replacement though we needn't make this an outtake from one of those classic Lark cigarette commercials--and I cannot believe I found it on line (even though you can find the Shroud of Turin on line)--Stan Freberg's classic parody of that spot. Medical miracles just keep happening and if you live long enough, perhaps science will see that you can live forever (Down! Alex Chiu! Fame and infamy are first cousins, I suppose). In light of the scar I still have on my right knee from 'back then', you won't be catching me in shorts this summer, but I'm hoping to be in my prime when the fall auditions for next season's Dancing with the Stars are announced. After all, as John B said, "I'm a Dancer."