By Mahnee N. Payne (not my real name – but cool for this blog) However; those are my actual knee x-rays, showing bone-on-bone arthritis
As an employee of Orthopaedic & Spine Center and as one of its patients, I admit I’m in a unique position when it comes to having a surgical procedure, because I get to write about it with the blessing of the surgeon who takes care of me. In my job, I often write about musculoskeletal conditions and the treatments that are offered for those issues, including surgery. However, it isn’t often that I can write about it from the perspective of having tried basically every conservative treatment, and then proceeding to have surgery. That’s what I am doing here, chronicling my knee replacement experience for you with the hope that it may answer some questions you may have, reassure you in some way, or show simply that I, like hundreds of thousands of others who undergo this surgery every year, somehow make it through to the other side of recovery. I’m going to give you a detailed account of my knee replacement experience, the good, the bad and the ugly. Your journey may be a little different than mine, but I’m sure the similarities will outweigh the differences. So, here we go….
Preparing for Knee Replacement Surgery
Five Weeks Pre-Op
Obviously, COVID-19 has changed a lot when it comes to the medical world, but then again, many things remain exactly as they were before. Because of the type of knee implant, I would be getting, I had to have an MR scan five weeks before my surgery at Bon Secours Mercy Mary Immaculate Hospital. With COVID-19 precautions in place, I had to wear a mask into the hospital, have my temperature taken and then be escorted back to the MR scanner. The scan went smoothly, and the staff were very friendly. Most of the time was spent talking about my surgeon, Dr. Boyd Haynes, and how everyone there at the hospital loves him, how great a surgeon he is and how many patients they send him…yes, I know, just how many times can you hear how wonderful your employer is???? Lol!
For those of you interested in knowing, my knee prosthesis was a Smith & Nephew Journey 2 XR. They do the MR scan and send the images to the implant manufacturer to create cutting jigs based specifically on my knee anatomy. Dr. Haynes will use those jigs in surgery to cut my bones just so to prepare them for the implants.
Two Weeks Pre-Op
In the morning, I had my call with the Pre-Anesthesia Nurse. This is usually done in person, but with COVID-19, they are now doing this over the phone. Be prepared for a lengthy phone call, have your cup of coffee filled and at the ready, have your list of medications handy with dosages, etc. The nurse will ask you about all the surgeries you have had in your life, if you’ve ever had problems with anesthesia before, etc. Remember, all those questions may seem intrusive, but they are being asked to ensure you have the best surgical experience possible and to keep you safe while under anesthesia. So be patient and answer the questions to the best of your ability.
My nurse was super nice and she gave me many helpful tips on what to do after surgery. A good one was to have a snack when you wake up in the middle of the night to take your pain medication, before you get out of bed. That way, you aren’t weak and wobbly from not eating, your stomach is less likely to get upset from the pain medication on an empty stomach, and it gives you some energy before you start walking to go to the bathroom. I found that to be very helpful. My call took about forty minutes.
Later that day, I went in for lab work and for my EKG to make sure my heart was working well enough so that I could safely undergo anesthesia. Again, I had to wear a mask into the hospital, have my temperature taken, and was escorted to a check-in area. Social distancing is making it difficult for the hospital to find room to space everyone apart, so people are being put in hallways and rooms to await their testing. Everyone seemed to be taking it in stride and understood that it is part of the new reality we all live in.
I was called to a check-in desk and a nice lady went over my information with me and verified what type of surgery I was having, who my physician was, the date of my surgery and other important information. She gave me some antiseptic wash and sponges that I must use for three days before my surgery (more on that later). She put an id bracelet on me and escorted me to another waiting area to have my EKG done.
I waited for about ten minutes and was called to have my EKG. A technician put electrode pads along my chest in several places and asked me to hold still for a few moments and then it was over. She removed the pads and then took me to another holding area for my labs.
The lab area was more crowded, so I waited in there for about twenty minutes and chatted with some of the other patients ( socially distanced of course!) who were waiting. They finally called my name, I went in, had my blood drawn and then I was free to go.
One Week Pre-Op
Due to COVID-19, I began a one-week quarantine counting down the days before surgery. No going to work, trips to the grocery store, to restaurants, to see friends, to run errands, zip, zilch, nada. They (those “mean” hospital people who steal all the fun) also don’t want me near any crowds which means no beach, pools or boardwalks, even with a mask or social distancing, which stinks! I’m definitely a water-baby, and not being able to go to the beach is perhaps the toughest part of it all!
I was required to go to Bon Secours Mercy Mary Immaculate Hospital for a COVID-19 test. They told me that all I had to do was drive-through for the test, and that I didn’t even have to get out of the car. So, I drove up at the appointed time, between 9-11 AM, and a very nice lady, covered head to toe in PPE, walked up to my car and asked me for my Driver’s License and Insurance Card and then she went into the building and came back with the test swab. Now, I had heard that this test was awful and was like having a frontal lobotomy, because they stick the swab so far up your nose. I had some dread about it. Imagine my surprise when she said, “Okay, open your mouth, I’m going to swab the back of your throat”! It was all very quick and painless and off I drove to go home.
Three Days Pre-Op
Every evening for three nights before my surgery, I took a shower with the antiseptic wash that the hospital gave me, using a clean sponge each night (also provided by the hospital). I dried myself using a clean towel every night, got into clean sheets every night, which were changed every day, and wore a clean nightgown every night. I did not shave my legs, as that could be a pathway for infection. I did not go swimming during these three days, or even squirt myself with a hose, for fear of contaminating myself. I used no lotions, creams or sprays on my body. I had absolutely no fun whatsoever. You may be noticing a theme here.
Because I had heard horror stories about the constipation that the narcotics (pain meds) cause after surgery, I started using Miralax in my coffee every morning. I also had Dulcolax and prune juice at hand. I had my protein drinks for the nighttime snacks to have with my pain medication. I was about as ready as I could get for surgery and wanted it to be over.
In my next installment, I’ll talk about the actual day of surgery.
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