Saturday, July 19, 2008

4. After the Surgery - What to expect

The surgery having passed so easily and painlessly, I was expecting (unreasonably) the rest of my recovery time to be just as easy and short. To everybody’s amazement, I was walking since day two, and after I was released from the hospital on the third day, I could walk in my apartment and take care of myself as needed. From the start, I never used a walker or a cane. I wouldn't treat my body as if it were an invalid. The second week after the surgery I drove my car.

Regardless of the technique used, TKR is a major surgical procedure. It is a miracle that it can be done and the “less invasive procedure” – not widely known yet or performed, is a major improvement. I propose a further improvement: replacing current chrome prosthesis with a strong, yet lighter material: at present a complete knee joint weighs 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. Also, that there be different sizes knee joints. One size doesn't fit all. My operated knee's circumference measures 1/2 inch more than my other knee's and I wonder how that influences the balance of the whole body and the function of the hip joint on that side. Besides, I am surprised that surgeons and physicians don’t concern themselves with the effect of this extra weight on their patients’ hearts, since TKR is performed mostly on older patients. A lighter joint may contribute to patients‘ greater comfort and artificial joint's
easier "integration" into the living tissues. Surgeons' argument: most people “don’t feel the weight”, “no one complains” and therefore no improvements can be expected! Patients are ignorant about the prosthesis’ weight (I found out by chance), but let’s be informed about it and urge the surgeons' establishment to keep pushing for improved materials. (Limbs’ prosthesis are not made of wood any more either, for a reason!)

According to several TKR patients I had consulted, complete recovery should be a “2 months' affair.” In spite of my overall good health, flexibility, uplifting attitude and good strides in my physical therapy, these were unrealistic prognosis and expectations. According to my therapist, it is a year long process. Let our expectations be realistic. Everybody’s organism is different; mine “kills” the painkillers, or renders them ineffective; so I have been in moderate discomfort ever since the surgery but never in "excruciating" pain. I understand that patients
after the classic TKR surgery go through a great deal of pain.

Concluding, recovery is a slow process. As of this moment, I am five months into this journey. I intend to do everything necessary for the full rehabilitation and expect to have a well-functioning knee by the end of the year. My account should not discourage anyone, but to inform and incite them to actively participate in every aspect of this important life decision. While a successful surgery constitutes the foundation for a well-functioning joint, physical therapy builds on surgeon's mastery, and through care and dedication restores patient's mobility and return to normal life.

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