Snow Storm Heroes

It snowed last night. Not a small, push it off the driveway type but a real snow storm. As you know if you follow me, I had a knee replacement four weeks ago. Things are progressing but not to the point where I was going to be the answer to how does the driveway get cleared?

It was about 6:30 am when I heard it. That distinctive sound a snowblower makes in the still softly falling snow. Conner, our neighbor from down the block, was just completing a run down the sidewalks of our street and about to turn around on his way back for the second sweep. Shortly after, another snowblower could be heard. This time it was my 80 something year old neighbor across the street. Without his yet done, he was busy clearing mine.

Have I done anything to deserve this? In my mind, I would say no. Sure I have been a good neighbor and I have answered the occasional question related to my career expertise and yes I lend a hand when needed. But did I deserve this red carpet service?

I think it is a combination of things that moved these two neighbors to help out. One I would call the snow storm phenomenon. There is something magical about a storm that just brings people together in a common cause. Nature reminds us that in that moment we are subject to the power of the storm and it brings us together in a spirit of camaraderie to take back control. We form up outside our abodes and conquer the task of cleaning up. Borders are dropped and all needs become our common needs.

The second thing, that impulse that made my neighbor cross the street to clear my driveway before his, was empathy. He knew I had had this surgery and had vowed to my wife and I that he would be there for me if I needed anything. This is a drive that exists in each of us. Though we don’t always get the chance to follow it, it is so important that when the opportunity arises, we let that drive help us rise to the occasion. Don was there for us when we needed him the most. No hesitation, no mine first attitude, he just came across the street and rescued us.

Sometimes it just takes a little adversity mixed in with a snow storm to help us see those around us as the friends and heroes they are. We had two such people visit us this morning and I will vow to pay it forward. That is once I get rid of these crutches.

As a footnote, I will admit that I missed being out there in the storm showing off my snow blower and being part of the neighborhood snow warriors. But it was a pretty warm and cozy view watching it unfold from my bay window.

A Shout out to my Heroes

Surgeons can take us apart, fix the broken stuff and put us back together. Today, I am thankful to one such surgeon, Dr. Marcu of Sauk Prairie Hospital, and his surgical team. Thanks to them I have a new knee. The old arthritic knee is gone and with a determined amount of work on the new one, I should be able to regain those activities that were beginning to slip away. But, as grateful as I am for their skills, there is another entire team that is necessary to make their surgical prowess work. Without that team, I would have a new knee but one that would never accomplish what the original one had been able to do for all those years. The surgeon could take me apart and then reassemble me, but it was the physical therapists that would make that whole project work.

This is a shout out to those incredible hospital nurses and the physical therapists that have begun and will continue the effort needed for me to complete this journey. They are often the unsung heroes of the whole process. Worse yet, they often refer to themselves as, the pain deliverers.

My road to recovery began two weeks ago at the Sauk Prairie Health Center, and my thanks go out to all of the nurses that got me back up, my pain managed and on my way to rehab. Each was appreciated for their particular skill but Brianna was one nurse that stood out. She drew the night shift on my first night and not only promptly responded to all of my needs, and yes some whining, reduced my pain and managed to protect my dignity through it all.

Next up came the SSM Home Health team of Sarah, Dana, Wayne and Gail. These four gave me what I needed most, encouragement and motivation. When I worried that I wasn’t progressing, they showed me just how much I had. When I felt I couldn’t possible bend my knee any further, they showed me how and why and then found a few more degrees. When I needed someone to listen to my stories, they even took time for that. They humored me and restored mine.

Today my home team handed me off to out-patient rehab. For the next several weeks, I will be meeting with Jim and Carolyn at Meriter Monona Clinic. These two will help me finish the journey I have begun. Both Jim and Carolyn were there for my first go round and I look forward to working with them again and am confident they will get me through these final steps, no pun intended.

Surgeons and their teams are incredible in what they accomplish. I for one cannot even watch the procedure let alone imagine performing any of these medical procedures. But as great as their feats are, without the physical therapists, none of it would matter. That said, I could not let my PT experts go unnoticed and potentially unappreciated.

Thank you all for putting me back together and making sure that all those parts start doing what they were meant to do. They say I’ll be dancing soon and with every step I take, I will think of how important each of you were in helping me make each one.

The Four “P’s”

Two weeks have passed since I had my knee replacement surgery. Up to this point I was not quite ready to write about the experience. This reluctance has been due to multiple reasons not least of which was the inability to focus on something other than the pain. Additionally, I felt that until I could regain perspective, the dialog would be too negative.

The knee is an incredibly complex joint and to have it removed and replaced requires a great deal of tolerance and motivation to even begin to approach the rehab required to not only heal but to regain the functionality. That journey has taken me all of these first two weeks and I have a lot more work ahead. The good news, each day restores a little more strength and a little more flexibility and that makes the journey a little more bearable.

Lying in the hospital, trying to justify what you have done, considering the possibility that you could have just accepted your condition and continued to limp along, you get the warning of the four P’s; Pain, Pee, Poop and Patience.
Pain is inevitable and the gate I must go through to get to a pain free knee going forward. The doctors and nurses explain that it will be the management of pain that will help spell success. And thus begins a carefully balanced approach to just how much medication will leave me lucid enough to function while still knocking back enough of the pain to allow me to begin the regiment of exercises. I am happy to say that though rough for awhile, the program is working and each day is a little less uncomfortable with longer periods of both sleep and almost pain free periods.

The second P stands for pee. From the moment the surgery is over, the simple act of peeing becomes your first hurdle. It is explained that until I can pee, I can’t go home. It is funny how a topic you would not generally bring up at a gathering, “I think I will go for a nice pee. Be back in a minute”, is now seemingly all they want to talk about. Good news, I conquered the act within the first twenty four hours. And with that, at least I was cleared to start planning on going home. A little rehab would await before I was completely cleared, but this had been an important step. Once I could show some motion and independence, I would be on my way. Not to skip a very important step, they needed to guarantee I wasn’t going home alone. My coach, Deb, would take over the nurses’ role in the next stage of my recovery. There is no way to diminish the role she has played in all of this. She assists, she monitors and she encourages me at every step of my journey. She loads me into the car and delvers me home.

Poop, like pee now becomes the goal. Where peeing was not so difficult, pooping is another task all together. It seems the opiods, designed to hold back the pain, hold back appetite, and yes, pooping as well. I get introduced to my new favorite cocktail, apple juice and Miralax. Each new trip down the hallway is followed up with “Any luck in the poop department?” Like peeing, this just seems like everyday conversation. “Had a good bowel movement today?” As with the first two P’s, pooping finally resumed sometime around day four of returning home. I must say, a real relief both figuratively and literally. I think I announced it as a lumberjack would, “Log jam cleared,river traffic flowing again.”

That just leaves patience. Pain management, peeing and pooping were all important steps, but patience is the real trick. Somewhere along the way I had made the decision to stop living with the limitations of my increasingly arthritic knee and crossed the decision threshold to agree with the knee replacement. Now, rehabbing my new knee and dealing with the associated pain, it was too easy to question my decision. How long would this take? Would I ever completely recover? It becomes so easy to dismiss everyone’s judgement of my progress in favor of my anxiety driven over analytical self analysis. It is only through good analogies from my physical therapists and a daily dose of comparisons to yesterday, that the timeline begins to take shape. As slow as it might seem, I start to mark progress.

My journey is only two weeks old. Driving is still four weeks off. Simply climbing stairs another week away. I am told that at three months, I will feel well enough to stop questioning my decision and at six months will dance into my surgeons office for my checkup. In the meantime, I’ve accomplished those first three P’s and have a better handle on the patience.

My final goal, become a more patient patient.