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. Thank you for sharing your story and your many talents. I wish you a speedy recovery and a happy holiday season.

  2. Best wishes for a speedy recovery with the physical therapy. I hear they do wonders these days.
    Big hugs from Colorado Springs, Colorado

  3. Very pleased you’re up and about. Thank you for the tell-all, I found very interesting. I am a ‘certain’ age and know this is in the offing, so I found your post really, really interesting.

    1. The healthcare system tries to put it off until later years but I had insisted. I think that also helps for a better recovery when some of the other health conditions have not started yet.

    1. I had thought I’d be stuck in a chair so I got a basket ready for crocheting but I’ve been too busy for it so far. I have missed doing some of my usual projects but it won’t be long….

  4. Barb,
    I am proud of you for your commonsense attitude towards exercise and therapy. I know it does not feel good and (speaking for myself), repetitive exercise can be so boring.

    My husband had both knees replaced and , unlike me, he was super-committed to doing his exercises.
    In the months following, we were to meet many others who had the operation and most of them were hobbling. The difference was the immediate and ongoing use of the exercises they were sent home with. We asked, and none of these men continued with them. Four months after the operation, my husband was hiking over lava fields in Hawaii. I kid you not! Soooo, keep up the good work. We wish you a speedy recovery and easing of your pain
    What joy when you heal up and get new freedom to do everything you love.

  5. Barb,
    Good to hear that you are doing so well. Keep up the great work. That is something that I am going to have done in the near future. We will be twining. LOL

      1. So glad to hear your story of surgery. I turned down surgery but now I think I should go for it. I’m 72. So not that young. Your story is encouraging.

  6. Hi Barb,
    How wonderful are our medicos these days? You certainly got going quickly after your Op.
    I also have had a break with my eco printing but am ready now as it is spring and the leaves
    and flowers are beckoning me. Take care and a speedy recovery!

    1. I am happy but also do not want to put any extra risk by diving into my ‘making’ too soon! ‘Spring’? Wonderful, as we are heading into winter and have heard it’s going to be quite a winter!

  7. Happy to hear you are mending and was happy to read your experience. I was scheduled to have my knee replacement surgery tomorrow however due to the covid outbreak in our area all elective surgeries have been canceled. I was prepared and now have to sit and stew for awhile longer. They gave me no idea how long before we can proceed but I understand it is not their fault. I just hope we can get it done before all my pre-testing expires. Thank you for the raised toilet seat idea and the cryotherapy machine recommendation. I will look into this so I am better prepared. : )

    1. Oh wow! Even when I was just about to go home another woman was all prepped with a gown and IV and the doc came and gave her the news that she was cancelled. It really ht me and saw how upset she was crying. He had said it would be a few weeks. I am in Canada though. Fingers crossed for you!!! 🤞🏻🤞🏻🤞🏻

  8. Funny, I had the opposite with epidural. It was horrendously painful especially when I was having contractions. It did not work well for me, and I wouldnt opt to do it again if I had a choice..
    I recently saw ortho because of knee pain. I thought I was a bit young for knee replacement, but was told that’s in my near future . Had and injection and that worked well…just wish it would last. Glad to hear that your surgery and recovery is going well. Thanks for the sharing your story. It’ll help me be more prepared. . I think the ice machine is the best for warding of swelling and pain post op. I used one for my shoulder surgery, and I never had to use pain meds.
    Keep up the good vibes, and be well, Barb!!

    1. Yes, the injection hardly lasted any time so I made that decision. ‘And I never knew about the cryotherapy machines!!! Oh, and then there’s more body parts… 🤞🏻

  9. I have endured 2 major back operations and I can assure you scar tissue is your enemy and needs to be avoided at all costs. Some people (me for 1) tend to suffer from ketoids ( not sure if that’s the right word or spelling) which is more than normal scar tissue formation.
    I was advised to seek out acupuncture on my incision to help speed up the healing and to minimize scar tissue formation. I pesonally hate needles but I had acuputure numerous times and I personally found it helped immensely. I highly recommend acuputure on scar tissue, however, check with your doctors before puesuring this type of treatment – and please note I dont’ think its covered by OHIP.

    1. Yes, I have read that the next while could be painful breaking up the scar tissue. Thanks for the tip, my mom used to use acupuncture for pain many years ago.