I can walk.

I’m moving around so well. Even with one good knee. It’s been four and a half weeks since my total knee replacement. And just a few more days until my next one.

My life has already changed drastically. Anyone looking in from the outside might not think that’s the case. But everyday I get out of bed I’m amazed. Every time I walk a hundred feet I am amazed. Every time I can stand more than thirty seconds I am amazed.

The pain I used to have in my left knee was so unbearable that the knee replacement surgery felt like a vacation! I told everyone that I would take knee replacement surgery over the arthritis pain any day.

Today I met my neighbor. A sweet little lady who lives next door. She has some mobility issues also, and my brother takes her trash out and helps her with little things when she needs them. I’ve gotten out so little in the past eleven months we’ve lived here, that I had never once met her. She said she saw me out yesterday and today and that something amazing must have happened.

And it has. Just the fact that I could stand long enough to have a five minute conversation could never have happened before.

My legs have been in such bad shape that it is making the recovery a long and hard process, but one that I am jumping into wholeheartedly.

Every part of my legs from my hips to the soles of my feet have been affected.  And I have been working so hard at getting back into shape. I already have a range of motion of 115 degrees. My doctor eventually wants me at 120 degrees, so I’m almost there.

My right knee is the only thing holding me back. Monday is the day. After Monday I wont have to be ashamed and embarrassed when people look at me. Kids wont stop and stare. People wont come up to me and asked me whats wrong with my knees.

I put on a pair of jeans last week. It was so amazing. I looked down and I had a knee that looked completely normal. It looked like everyone elses.

My stitches were removed a few days ago. My scar in very thin. And much smaller than I was expecting. I thought my days of shorts and cure little dresses were over. No sir. Once Im able to loose this Prednisone weight, I’m going to go nuts! Do you know how hard it is to shop for clothes that work around bent and deformed knees? Its hard. Trust me.

I’m still so happy. I had what should have been a terrible past few days. My doc forgot to call in my pain meds over the weekend. My R.A. is still very active in my other joints since I’m still of my R.A. meds. I was pulled over because my break lights were broken and I got a ticket. And that was some of the milder problems, but I’m still on too big of a high from this miracle of a knee. It’s given me a different outlook. It’s something I hope I don’t lose.  I cant stay upset too long.

Is there anyone who can appreciate walking as much as I do right now? It hardly seems possible.

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Relief

I had a follow up appointment with my Rheumatologist today. Everyone was so excited about my knee! Im on week eleven without my R.A. meds with the exception of Prednisone. And it will be at least four more weeks.

It’s been so worth it.

Now that my most painful knee is out of the equation, I’m handling the rest relatively well. It’s hard to be annoyed at the morning stiffness when my new knee is coming along so nicely.

I was a bit naughty and drove myself to the doctor. I’ve been told driving was out of the question, but my left knee was the one operated on and I don’t use that leg when driving anyway.

On my way home it finally hit me. What a miracle this new knee is. And I started bawling like a little baby. I had to pull over. It’s like I could actually feel the weight coming off my shoulders. I have never cried out of happiness or relief, but today I did.

Only two weeks after surgery and Im already getting around on my own. And that’s with just one good knee and no meds!

I cant even imagine how amazing I’m going to feel in another couple of months. It’s so close.

The Next Knee

I had my follow up appointment with my surgeon. My knee is looking great. I’ve been getting around without the walker and now I’m back to my trusty cane.

I looked like a complete goob today but couldn’t make myself care less. I got the usual stares that seem to accompany me wherever I go, but I can’t even blame them this time. First of all, my gait is completely hilarious. Since I have one straight leg and one bent leg, I’m looking a bit like this:

pppppTo compensate for the height difference, I now have to stand on my tip toes on my right leg. And since my knee replacement was only two weeks ago, Im still a bit wobbly. I feel like a new born horse. When they’re all shaky and unsure of themselves.

In addition to my lovely physique, I had a decidedly unusual fashion delimma. After surgery they make you wear these super tight bright white stockings to prevent clots. I have to wear them literally all the time with the exception of showers. So this morning I realized that I couldn’t wear jeans wince the surgeon would want to examine my knees.

My wardrobe is very small at the moment because of the steroid weight I’ve gained. I don’t own a dress that fits at the moment, so my only option was a pair of green cargo-esque capri pants. Over my white stockings. With a pair of sparkly black slippers since my usual flip flops weren’t an option, and my feet have been too swollen for normal shoes.

It was pretty funny.

But I found out my second surgery wont be until June 1st. It was a bit disappointing. It’s going to make physical therapy an issue since I only get so many visits a year covered on my insurance. Not only that, but it will be an additional three weeks with no R.A. meds. Ugh. Ugh. Double Ugh.

But the longer I think about it, the more I think it will be for the best. My left leg should be stronger so it should make the recovery that much easier.

The reason they are delaying is because they want to make sure the left leg is completely healed because of the infection risk. My silly immune system would not be helpful. And I know what a big deal an infection can be. One of my closest friends had her knees replaced when she was nineteen. She had leukemia and all the medications and steroids destroyed her joints. When she had her knees replaced, one got infected. And it was not good. So even though I’m disappointed my surgery wont be next Monday, I can see why they’re waiting. If it wasn’t for Memorial Day, I could get in a week sooner. But what can you do?

Anyways, I’m pretty upbeat today, it felt so good to be out of the apartment. Everything is so green. Im missing so many lovely photo opportunities! At least it’s for a good reason.

Mothers Day 2009

This September it will have been a decade since my mother passed away. Ten years…. I cant believe it’s been so long.

Anyone who has ever lost a loved one can understand me when I say that the pain of losing her is as fresh today as it has ever been. And that sometimes, when I feel like I’m at rock bottom, my heart still cries out that I just want my mother. Her shoulder to cry on and her unconditional love and everything would be ok.

Every mother’s day for the past ten years, I have just hung out at home alone and tried to pretend it was like any other day. But this year, I wanted to write a few words about my mom.

Because she was a wonderful wonderful mother. And I know how much she loved me. That is one thing she never let any of us kids doubt.

She died suddenly when I was fourteen with no warning, and no chance to say goodbye. But thanks to her, I have so many wonderful memories of my childhood.

One of my earliest memories was sitting on the back steps with her, watching the rain, and her singing “Rain Rain go away, little Ashley wants to play”

Or singing in the kitchen as we made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

An argument with my best friend when I was eight or nine. She demanded her half of our best friends necklace back. I was devastated. Mom found an old chain in her jewelery box and made a pendant for me.

Her silly nicknames. Ashbe Crispy Crunchy.

When I had my teeth pulled she promised me a leopard beanie baby I had wanted. She looked everywhere in a twenty mile radius, but there weren’t any for sale. A sales lady at one of the stores sold her her own personal one. Mom could make anything happen. Haha.

Summers at the lake. Barbeque and camping in the backyard. Although she always went inside to sleep.

Her love of animals and the passion she felt about any injustice.

We did not have much growing up, but she never let us feel it. She went without alot.

She was just such a strong person. She was so many people’s rock. It wasn’t until after she died that I realized that. Everyone seemed to fall apart without her. And it was years before people started recovering.

I just hope that if I ever do have children, that I can be the kind of mother she was.

Reflections IV

So I have this voice in the back of my mind whispering that the worst is almost over.

But if four years of battling rheumatoid arthritis has taught me anything it’s that I shouldn’t let my hopes get too high too quickly. Isn’t that a terrible way to view the world? I know it is. But it’s just more practical.

I’m generally an optimistic person, but four years of perpetual disappointments can change anyones point of view.

Since all of this mess has started I’ve always had these goals. Like I would be ok as soon as this or that happened.

When I was twenty and my symptoms started I was working my way through college and had no health insurance. I was just so sure that I would be ok once I paid for all the blood work and got on the right meds. Looking back, it was incredibly naive of me. I had never really been sick before. I didn’t really have any experience with inept doctors. I had never had to deal with costly medications or blood tests. Oddly enough, when I was first diagnosed I was still wildly optimistic that the whole thing was just a small inconvenience. Something that I could easily control and manage.

When it became painfully obvious that my small savings account wouldn’t make it past a few visits, I looked for programs that could help. Or insurance I could afford. I have a file full of denial letters. Full of ugly words like pre existing condition. Government letters full of excuses like over eighteen, or too young, or non immigrant, not pregnant, education level too high. Just silly silly things.

I learned far too quickly that all doctors were not made equal. But most of all, that the only thing that mattered was the amount of money in my wallet. Sympathetic and helpful if there was money. Cold and rude when there wasn’t.

I knew I needed to see a specialist. I needed to get to a rheumatologist. From what I read online, I knew I wasn’t getting the right treatment from my family doctor in my small town. It was my new goal. I just knew that if I could make it to the specialist, I would be back on track.

But specialist cost about three times the rate as my family doctor. It took months, but I eventually made it. I knew I would be ok! In fact, on my first appointment, the nurse told be the doctor would have me running within months. I would have my life back.

A few months went my. The initial medication wasn’t cutting it at all. I had an aggressive case and it hit me hard and very quickly. Within a year I lost almost all the cartilage in my knees. Medications were so expensive. So was the doctors visits and tests. I lost everything. Car payment or medication that might take the pain away? It wasn’t even a real choice. Rent? Or something that will have me walking again? I lost my waitressing job. I thought it would be temporary.

So getting to the specialist wasnt a magic cure all. It didnt get me anywhere. What I really needed was the stronger medication. Enbrel was being called a miracle drug. Enbrel would save me. If I just got on Enbrel. But Enbrel cost thousands of dollars a month. I eventually was able to get on a program that covered the cost, but my this time, almost three years of my life had been wasted.

When Enbrel didn’t save me, I was more focused on winning my appeal with Social Security Disability. The whole process took nearly three years. If I would be accepted, then I would finally have health insurance. I would get real care and not the bare minimum I had had the past three years. Health insurance would solve everything. I would finally get my life back. Back to school! Back to work. But after so long, insurance alone didn’t help.

My knees were already bent and deformed. I could finally afford physical therapy but it was too late. There was no fixing me. The only thing keeping me out of a deep dark depression has been the fact that I have always had these goals. These stepping stones. Lately my goal has been new knees.

And it’s happening. And so I have this voice in the back of my head saying “The worst is over. You’ll get your life back”

But honestly, I’m terrified it will be like everything else.

I’m feeling better than I have in years. But it’s hard to let myself get too overly optimistic. That’s one of the biggest things R.A. has stolen from me.

But I really really think I’m going to be ok now. I know I still have a hard road. I know this. I know my R.A. is still something I will have to deal with. But without my knees being so bad, I think it’s something I can handle. I think I’m going to be ok….

 

P.s. If anyone is curious, I have a picture of my knee without the bandage on. It’s quite disgusting, so if you have a weak stomach, dont click. Lol.

http://i69.photobucket.com/albums/i73/ashleynicole_999/londonjordan915.jpg

New Knee Part 2

I keep catching myself grinning when I get out of bed and walk. Every once in a while a small giggle escapes. I have even stood in the middle of the room and balanced on one leg. Because I can. And now that I can get in and out of bed by myself, I find myself doing so more than I probably should.

I have a straight knee. I don’t know if there is anyone in the world who can possibly understand how much it means to me. For years now, my knees have been deformed and bent. As a consequence, I haven’t even been able to stand straight for a very long time now. So I’ve looked something like this…untitled1

Now I have one straight leg and will have another one in just a week and a half! My pain level has already dropped dramatically. If it wasn’t for my other knee, I would be all over the place.

I’ve been progressing in physical therapy. I’ve lined up an exercise bike from a friend of a friend. My exercise options are very limited after surgery. And not just immediately after. From now on. No running, jumping, skipping, etc. Biking and swimming are my only real options. Fortunately, I enjoy both more than anything else anyway.

I just feel like such a load is being lifted. I’m still in a bit of shock. Do you know how it feels when you are standing and you lock your knees? I did that yesterday and it just felt so weird to me because it’s probably been three or four years since I’ve done that. Such a little thing. But I was so excited. I told everyone who I talked to.

This is the best decision I’ve ever made. Im so ready for the other knee. Then nothing will hold me back!

I have couple of pics of my knee. Ignore the rubber chicken in the first pic. It was the day of the surgery, and it was a gift. I was a bit out of it and found it funnier than I should have. The second pic was taken yesterday.

 

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New Knee Part 1

Im at home and recovery nicely. I was only in the hospital from Monday through Wednesday afternoon.

So….overall……this has been the best thing ever! The actual surgery went really well and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting. In fact, the post op pain is nothing compared to what it was before surgery.

They had me up and walking within a few hours of my surgery and I had to stop because my OTHER knee was hurting too bad! Not the one that was just replaced. It still blows my mind.

And it’s straight! For the first time in YEARS I have a straight knee. The surgery took about an hour longer than he expected because the bones were bent and stuck so badly. But the whole procedure was under three hours.

I arrived at the hospital at six in the morning. My best friend joined me for moral support. The I.V. was my least favorite part, just as I suspected it would be. The nurse had to do it twice after a vein was blown. I waited around for about twenty minutes, and then they rolled me into the operating room. I didn’t even have to have a catheter. Thank God.

I was out really quickly and they put the tube in my throat after I was passed out and took it out before I was up. Then they took me to recovery and gave me some Morphine. Which did not work. Then something else (Vicodin maybe?) Which still didn’t help. Then they gave me a shot of Demerol which was magic. Lol.

After that, I went to my room and everything went very smoothly. Everyone I came into contact with, from the nurses, to the physical therapist, to the social workers, were amazed at my age. They kept saying it was so weird to see someone under 70 getting this procedure. In fact, when going over paperwork, I had to answer questions like ” Do you have your own teeth?” 

So now I’m at home. My friends managed to find another mattress to make my bed higher. The hospital sent me home with a CPM machine which is amazing. I just put my leg in it, plug it in, and it exercises my leg for me. They also sent me home with this ice pack machine which constantly flows ice cold water over my knee. I also had a literal tub of medications beside me.

Today I’m feeling pretty good. My muscles were the sorest after surgery. He had to manipulate them quite a bit since they were so bent for so long. So they have hurt way for then my actual knee. My knee isn’t so bad. It just makes my whole leg feel so so so tight. Mostly just uncomfortable. I can put all my weight on it, which is amazing.

Anyways, I’m still doped up from all the different meds, so I feel like taking a doze. I just wanted to give a quick update. I’ll write more about my stay later.