Bionic Barb; the Inside Story

I hope you haven’t been worrying about me… but I’ve had some part of me fixed so I can keep up the pace of ‘making’! As you may know I have been considering total knee replacement for a while. So I decided to bite the bullet & here I am; Bionic Barb – the Inside Story to my knee replacement.

This is the story in my own words it is not meant to be any kind of medical advice (everyone can have a different experience). I do really like to hear what people have to say about theirs’.

My Poor Knees!

I have had problems with my knees for many years. My mothers knees sounded like ‘snap-crackle-pop’ when she would go up stairs. There are other things to try but there’s no cure soooo it was time!

Before the Surgery Day!

When you teach in a college or you run around after a 2 1/2 year-old your knees NEED to be good. It is a challenge to have anything medical done during Covid. So the pre-op which was usually a visit to the hospital now comprises of a phone call or two and going into the hospital for bloodwork and x-rays. And that doesn’t even count the waiting from sheer numbers and also OR rooms being shut down.

One of the reasons I was so very very nervous about this procedure is because I have a sensitivity to a certain anesthesia. I am missing the enzyme that would break that down, and discovered that through family history. So I decided to have the epidural to numb the pain since it freezes my lower half however I didn’t quite relish the idea of hearing the sound of a bone saw!

The day of surgery:

I am told to arrive quite early but no one can accompany me inside the hospital. There was no way I was not going to take my cell phone as it was my only connection outside. So many of these surgeries are considered same-day surgery; which means you’re going home at the end of the day unless something really troublesome happens.

There’s the typical getting ready for surgery, the gown the IV, some blood pressure even an ECG. I must say though; there always seems to be new technology and advancements; the gowns are now engineered with all kinds of openings and it allows warm air to be pumped through the gown that you can adjust how warm or cool you would like it. Of course it’s made by 3M and it’s called Bair hug. My surgery was scheduled for 10:30 AM and they were quite a few people getting prepped for some same-day surgeries

The anaesthesiologist or the anesthetist (I never know what the difference is) came and explained about the epidural/spinal block. I’ve had epidurals before for my children and also for the repair of my meniscus. It’s not really fun to have somebody putting a needle in your spine but I wouldn’t say it’s painful. The ‘guy’ seemed a little frustrated and then asked to have a longer needle brought over – yikes…. Then all of a sudden you feel that weird feeling of warmth in your legs and they pretty well gone numb right away.

Off to surgery…

Off I go down the hall and into the operating room the porter(?) makes a joke asking me if I can hop over onto the other bed, of course I can’t because I’m half frozen but he thought that was funny. Once they do their thing to slide you from one bed to another everyone starts getting busy with their role of the surgery and before you know it I look up and I see my toes quite high up in the air as they are getting my leg ready for the surgery. They put a little mask over my mouth and nose that has some air going through it that smells a little bit like a solvent and they set up the monitors for blood pressure and oxygen and no one says anything in particular to me…

I look up at the clock and it says 10:30 AM

Then all of a sudden I look at the room and ask how come I am in another room?

In Recovery:

Once I looked at the nurse and she says yes; it’s all over and you are in the recovery room. I can’t believe how quickly I woke up and felt normal. I look at the clock and it’s 11:30am! (only one hour) Of course my toes and my legs were still completely frozen

Now comes the waiting game of having the epidural wear off. It usually takes 4 to 6 hours to wear off. They were trying to fit a lot of surgeries in so I ended up going back to the Day surgery ward even before I was completely un-numb.

I felt pretty good, next time I will be bringing a book since there’s a lot of waiting and looking around. You hear a lot of things through those curtains and often you become very grateful for your own situation. I was able to sit up move my legs and get dressed at about 6:00pm. The physiotherapist comes to make sure that you can walk with the walker a few steps at least and also navigate the small set of stairs with a cane. This is their assurance that you can hopefully manage when you get home. Your medication‘s are faxed to your pharmacist so you can pick them up on the way home.

The Pain:

During the surgery they put extra nerve blocks into the knee so it feels pretty good when you get home. That first night when they start to wear off it’s very painful; I compared it to being worse than childbirth. It takes a while to get used to the regiment of pills that they prescribe. Some are for longer time frames & some are for short which they call breakout meds. I had a list of seven drugs to take; some for pain, some for inflammation, some to counteract the side effects of the pain medication.

I had made it up a flight of stairs to sleep in my own bed. However every hour at night I woke in pain. No position seemed to give relief.

When you get home:

It is really important to take the medication at the right times. Most of the medication’s are for 12 hours so the morning is a good start of a new round, and things started to feel better. Thank goodness for raised toilet seats and walkers.

They will give you a handbook so make sure you follow everything. Yay! Get everything they say!

Do your Exercises!

You are given a list of exercises to do that are mostly while you were laying on your back or sitting in a chair. It is also recommended to elevate your knee 12 inches above your heart and apply cold in the form of ice or even better yet; a cryotherapy machine. I bought a machine rather than the expense of renting it for two weeks.

It fills with ice and will provides great cooling for an entire day. You strap it on wherever you want my back and the ice water circulates through the pad it’s wonderful.

As each day went by I got better and found I was less dependent on the walker. I then started switching to using only a cane. about one week after surgery. Exercises three times a day and elevating/icing afterward makes for a pretty relaxing day.

Can you manage alone?

I had someone to help me for the first five days but after that I was fine on my own. I figured out that I could use a rope hoist system to raise the toilet seat from the main floor to the second floor and back. Going up and down the stairs with a cane is not a great. Carrying things is even worse so plan to use an aid.

Being able to walk as far as I desire and not always have to be limited is my goal. Arthritis runs in my family so it was inevitable. I am a bit on the young side to get knee replacements but I would rather have them now then when I’m sitting in the rocking chair.

Today I am 10 days from the surgery and walk around my kitchen without a cane or a walker. I am very cautious if I go outside however to make sure I take at least the cane. Make sure you have some really loose loungewear as that leg will be quite large from the bandage and swelling. I also did put a bit of effort into pre-making some meals to put in the freezer. 

Its’ time to start physiotherapy. In about a week to build up the full range of motion and work out the scar tissue. With knee replacements it’s not so much about surgery as it is about the knee to function. Physiotherapy helps that.

The amount of support has been so heart warming; food dropped off and beautiful flowers! I see them and I get itching to start eco printing so very soon!!!

So, yes I am still kicking!!! in a different form and will have new projects soon! Maybe this will give some of you that courage! I miss you all!

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  1. Hi Barb,
    It was great to read that all went well with your surgery. Please do everything you have been advised as it will definitely get you to where you want to be.
    My sister-in-law had her knee done but couldn’t be bothered continuing with her exercises. She is now having more trouble and may need to have a redo, so it pays to follow all the directions.

    I have loved looking at all your projects but would never even attempt to try, Im not that creative. They are all beautiful and I look forward to seeing your future projects after your recovery.

    Well done, you go girl.

  2. Hi Barb,
    I’m hoping that recovery is going very well now. I can’t imagine the level of pain you’ve endured but I hope as you begin physio that the pain is lessening and you’re beginning to feel the benefits of the surgery.
    I wish you continued recovery and the best benefits of undergoing surgery
    All the very best.

  3. Congratulations on your surgery, attitude and commitment to getting back ‘to normal’ moving in your world. Common sense tips are bound to be helpful to someone. Loved the tip from a reader – pre-hab! Can be difficult to get … but super helpful in planning recovery.

    Thank you for the picture of you hands. My love affair with working women’s hands started with my grandmothers – something I aspire to, something to look forward to growing old. Perhaps you have working woman’s feet also? And knees and shoulders …

  4. Good morning Barb. Loved your description about your knee replacement. I’m recovering from a hip replacement and had my other one in April. Knees are much more painful. Your creativity shows even in toilet seat maneuvers! I did the same thing getting heaters out of my attic. I wish you a swift and pain limited recovery!

    Been meaning to write you and thank you for all the advice and help you have given to make and paint cement leaves. I am now making all types of caladium, elephant ear, pumpkin and other cement leaves. I use Rapidset Cementall thanks to your advice.

    Get well soon. I think you will be well ahead of your recovery schedule. You are a go getter!

  5. I glad to hear that the healing is going well so far. I hope you are pain free and back to normal soon.
    Take care.

  6. Best wishes for a continued speedy recovery! I had my left knee replaced on July 29 and have now switched to water therapy which is heaven! Our family has a tendency to over produce scar tissue so despite the pain I started physical therapy just 5 days post surgery to keep that from happening. I was given the same at home exercises as you but they are not nearly as aggressive as needed. It was painful but when you get to the day that you suddenly realize you are just sore after therapy rather than in horrible pain it’s like seeing the first blossoms peak out after a long winter! Never stop moving! Oh…..and I had my left hip done at the end of March so I’m now all bionic on the left leg and I can tell you that for me the hip was a walk in the park compared to a knee!

  7. Hi Barb, sorry I am just getting back to your post. Our life been crazy. A few losses. Anyways, I was so happy to read your post, to see how well you are doing. I pray that you are still going strong, and will soon be even better than before your knee problems. Keep improving. Take care, and happy to have you back

  8. I feel for you. On April 19 my knee hit the cement basement floor. On April 25 I was in surgery to put Humpty Dumpty back together again! The surgeon found 3 of the largest pieces and screwed them together. The rest, he said to this 70 year old, will grow. Riiiiggghhhhhtttttttt. I am two weeks before the termination of my PT and I can’t bend the knee completely. Nervous…

    1. I remember discussions with my PT about range of motion. ‘Completely’ is differently for some. When I see someone be able to ‘sit on their feet’ I wonder how they manage that much range of motion. Being able to function enough in life can be with quite a bit less range of motion. It takes a long time to heal, and I’m over a year out and I still saw improvement. Keep doing the suggested exercises…

  9. WOW. You are brave. And I thought having someone take a laser to my eyes was scary. Isn’t it nice that our Maker left a repair manual and a great team of mechanics who understand how to read it.
    Surgery is a beehive, isn’t it? I was awake, too – at the beginning. It was fascinating, and I tried to remember everything, but when I woke up, all I could remember was my head in a bag, and pressure, and lights.
    There must have been 40 people working on me and every one of them asked me, “”Which eye are we working on this time?”” Better safe than sorry. The surgeons and techs were so well trained. They worked well together and not a movement was wasted. Every one of them seemed delighted to have a part in restoring my sight. They have a right to be proud of their work.
    My first surgery was the day after Christmas – no holiday feasting for me, not even a drop of water but my doctor sent me off to have breakfast with my friends before the next appointment. So cataract surgery is not so bad after all. Any time you can handle scrambled eggs with hot sauce, crispy potatoes, two sausage patties, and a cup of hot coffee between surgery and the follow-up exam, you know that you have done many things that were much more difficult. Actually, I was in a hurry to get it over because I was hungry enough to eat a boot.
    I stayed with some friends for the next 24 hours and came home braced for a bunch of bills in my mailbox. All that has arrived, so far, is greeting cards signed by both teams complete with hearts and a funny cartoon face sticking its tongue out at me
    – probably my surgeon.
    Mind your doctor. I know that he told you to take it easy for awhile. Don’t ruin all his hard work. When he says to rest, it is because it is the quickest way to get you back on your feet. I thought I could catch up by staying up all day and all night just finishing one more thing (and taking my eyes out for a test drive). Now I have a miserable cold I would never have caught if I had listened to him. Use your down time to think deep thoughts and jot down project notes for LATER. nv