Knee Surgery 2015: Surgery And The First Five Days

  • Updated: November 07, 2015
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

This is part of a series of entries covering my fall back in 2011, surgery in 2015, and my recovery immediately afterwards.  If you came here directly the rest of the entries can be found here.

Below covers the day of the surgery and the first five days of recovery.

Surgery Day

As always with me waiting for the actual surgery to happen is (so far) the worse part of all of this.  I'd made the decision for surgery only a few weeks ago but it was still a relief when it November 5th finally arrived.

Getting all the right leg standing out of my system while I can

Jen drove me to the Surgery Center which was just downstairs from where I'd gone for the knee appointments with Dr Grumet.  Of all the doctors I've had over the years this is the one I've had the most confidence in which was a big factor in deciding to finally move forward on the surgery.

After the usual quick round of paperwork a nurse came to bring me back to the prep area.  They put in an IV, shaved and washed my knee, and went over a questionnaire to make sure I was ready for surgery.

There was almost a snag here and it was something I'd never anticipated.  I'd spent the last two weekends sitting around in hot springs as an excuse to get out of the house despite not being able to hike due to the knee issues and as a result I had some mosquito bites.  More from the first weekend in Arizona than this last weekend in Benton fortunately.  Apparently open mosquito bites are a major concern since they can get infected which makes sense I'd just never considered it.

Fortunately mine were old enough and closed up enough it didn't derail things.  Dr Grumet took a look at them and cleared me to my great relief.  I really didn't want to go through this lead-up again.

Dr Grumet always seems to take his time when he sees me and this was no exception.  He answered any questions I had and quadruple confirmed which knee was going to get operated on.

Smooth, shaved, and autographed sexiness
After that came a chat with the anesthesiologist (who was a reassuringly calm man but still open to jokes) and an injection into the IV before I was wheeled off into the operating room.

I remember entering the operating room and next thing I knew I was in recovery.

The first thing I felt was vast relief it was all over.  I didn't get to see the doctor but he'd spoken to Jen out in the waiting room.  Apparently everything had gone well, he'd been able to remove a problematic cartilage flap, and he'd done the microfracture.

Also I still had two legs which was a positive.

I was told they'd put a numbing agent in my knee for surgery and so the pain probably wouldn't bother me until the following day.  In my case it didn't seem to be very effective since I was in enough pain right away I gratefully took a percocet from the recovery nurse.

Post surgery recovery selfie!
My knee was locked into a knee immobilizer and well wrapped.  I was told that stayed on until at least Saturday night which would be the next time I'd be able to shower.

The biggest change from what I expected was the face I could actually be weight bearing on the knee as long as it was locked.  Apparently due to the location of the injury and microfracture there's no issue with applying pressure to the wound while it is locked.  I had strict instructions not to bend the knee past 90 degrees but I was allowed to take some weight on it while hobbling around on crutches.

I was given instructions how to use crutches.  Fortunately Jen was there also because things were a little hard to follow due to the pain pills coming into effect.

Jen's little Scion car was a little to compact so Kristen came out to drive me home.  I just got eased into the back seat for the drive.

The worst part was getting from the car to the bed once home.  I came close to passing out and the small stairs along the way are difficult to maneuver using crutches.  At least I was on the ground floor unlike every other apartment I've ever had.

Once in bed I mostly just slept.  The girls would wake me up every few hours to apply an ice pack and feed me another percoet and I'd be out again.  The only other thing I really wanted was food.  Right off the bat it seemed like I was ravenous.

The next challenge was trying to prop up my leg in bed which was recommended to reduce swelling. Since it had to be supported the best thing we found was a foam wedge 4-1 pillow from Brookstone. The bloody thing was $100 though and steep enough that after the first night I just used a thick pillow so I'd pass on that next time.

Day 1

I managed to sleep for most of the night thanks to percocet. I had to sleep on my back with my leg propped up (I'm trying to follow all suggestions of my doctor as well as I can)
Pain from my knee was better this morning though I was getting pain along the bottom of my calf.  From other surgery diaries I've read that could be due to how they position my leg during surgery.

Today was also fitting day for my CPM device.  Around 11 I got a call and a technician from Team Makena showed up.

The CPM is pretty simple, it just bends the knee in a very controlled fashion between two angles.  In my case I'd start 0-30 and increase by 5 every day.  It's also pretty slow only doing maybe two bends a minute.

So I get to spend 6 hours a day for somewhere in the range of the next 7-21 days using this thing increasing the angle 5% a day to a limit of 90 degrees.

I tried to move into my office in the early afternoon and sit up at my computer a little while.  It was mostly an experiment to see what I could manage.

I can amble around on the crutches ok but trying to sit at my desk I was soon hurting having the immobilized knee propped on on either the ground or a subwoofer that sits under my desk.  To spend any length of time I'm going to have to have the leg supported looks like.

By the time I made it back to bed there was enough pain I took another double dose of percocet.  I wasn't able to pass out like before though and kept waking up and having bad dreams.

Kristen woke me up a few hours later to replace the ice pack and provide dinner.  I went back into the CPM for another 2 hours and then called it.  I was in pain and really really tired.

Overall things have been ok but it felt like a really really long day.

Day 2

When I woke up I was able to get out of bed, hobble to my crutches, and make it to the bathroom on my own which was a victory in and of itself.

The biggest thing I need help with at the moment (other than things like food or picking items off the floor) is moving the CPM.

I'm told a lot of people set it up on one side of the bed so they can get in and out of it.  I've been using it nearer the middle with a backrest set up so I can use my laptop as a distraction.  It's not unpleasant in the machine, almost the opposite since it gets things moving and loosens me up which is a problem since I can only sleep on my back.

Once the girls aren't here all the time I'm thinking I may set up the CPM on the couch and just hobble out there for 2 hours at a time 3 times a day.  I have a few more days until that's an issue.

At least I have a view to keep me sane

Right now I mostly use my Macbook proped up on this tray.

It was the second best thing I bought to get me through this thing with the best item being the grey backrest I'm using above.

It's another Brookstone purchase and called the NAP Bedrest.  It was actually the 4th one I tried.  When I started looking into reading pillows like I remember having over the years it turns out most of them made today are really tiny.  I bought one from Amazon and Jen bought two locally and all were to small and uncomfortable.

This one works well though I wish the back hing let it go a little further back.  You end up with the same effect anyway you just have to deal with the arms popping up a little.  I've been living in this thing whenever I'm bed bound and not sleeping.

Tonight marked the point where I was ok to shower again and could remove the bandages for the first time.

It was wrapped really securely with an outer wrap and gauze.  Finally pulling all of it away I got to see the swollen mass of my knee for the first time.

It was swollen and I was very reluctant to poke it very much.  It made me nervous just having it out of the protector after being so set on protecting the (hopefully) newly forming cartilage.  Showering was somewhat challenging as a result.

Kristen had done a bunch of research and on advice found in other surgery diaries bought a stool to sit in the shower.

I experimented while still wearing the immobilizer at first but found at least with my showers (which admittedly are a little snug) that that required the door to be open and my leg stuck outside.

In the end standing seemed to make alot more sense.  I still needed help scrubbing the bottom portion of my leg but the shower has bars in it I could use to keep myself upright.

I had to keep the incisions dry so we bought some waterproof bandages from CVS.  Two of them cover the incisions and they're easy to remove but they seem to let some water in though so I'm going to try a bag.

I was instructed to keep the incisions covered which proved to be challenging with what we had on hand.  Jen ended up running out again for more bandages until we came up with this.

The rectangular no stick bandage sets over all the incisions and then I wrap the knee with a an ace bandage type of material.  I played with reusing the wrapping they sent me home with worked but it was just a little heavy.  After a few days of wearing it I was ready for something lighter.

First Voice TS-3183 Sterile Self-Adherent Stretch Sensi-Wrap Bandage, 5 yds Length x 3" Width (Pack of 10)

For the first two nights I tried using a lighter gauze wrap in the immobilizer.  It wasn't as tight but I found by morning it had worked down off of the incisions so I gave up and just kept the above on all of the time.

Again by the end of the day I was just exhausted

Day 3

I woke up nauseous out of nowhere.  I'd eaten some crackers and taken a percoet last night but that wasn't unusual.

Dr Google informs me this can be a common thing a few days after general anesthesia and advised water and food.

Today the CPM went up to 40%.  Once the first few bends are done it turns into a pleasant passtime other than it ties me to laying down in bed for so long each day.

I also got around to looking at the surgery report Dr. Grumet sent me in more detail.  It consisted of a number of images most of which are hard to interpret.  I have a followup next Monday where we'll go over in detail.

The flap of endless pain I presume?

Microfracture site

Day 4

Today was pretty much the low point so far.

First off progress.  I'm basically done with the pain pills and the post surgery + percocet constipation finally broke.  This is good.  However trying to use a toilet with one leg jammed straight out is not.

Kristen found a toilet raiser that other surgery diaries recommended as very helpful.  In my case it does make it a little easier to get up and down due to the side handles but it's kind of small.  I ended up removing it and trying to prop my immobilized leg up as best I can.  It's uncomfortable and a slight bit precarious but it gets the job done.

I'm also back at work now since it's Monday.  I have it worked out so I can work from home as long as I need which helps but I still have to fit in 6 hours on the CPM a day.

The biggest annoyance as I start to get up and move is the fact that when I'm on crutches I don't have my hands free to carry things.  So unless I'm wearing something with pockets even carrying my phone around requires planning.

So this is how I'm motoring around right now.  The backpack lets me carry things like my water reasonably well and I can talk on the phone with the headset.  Fuzzy slippers are a must since it's cold in here and I can't really wear pants since I need access to my knee wrapping.

After some experimenting with sitting at my computer desk we took the shower stool Kristen bought and set it length wise under the desk.  This could be adjusted to support my leg in reasonable comfort.

Unfortunately in addition to nausea I've been having some dizziness which is exactly the opposite of what you want on crutches.

We contacted Dr Grumet and verified I didn't need to avoid anything like antibiotics and explained the symptoms.  I was told to go see a doctor.

This meant a quick hop into the shower for everyones sake.  I can stand easily enough so as long as I don't try and clean anything below my knee.  Also it's a little nerve-wracking moving too much without the immobilizer since I'm afraid I'll bend it without thinking and mess up my hopefully rapidly building cartilage.

So after a that prep off to the urgent care we went.  Traveling via car with the knee immobilizer basically means I get the entire backseat to myself in whatever vehicle I'm riding in.  Getting in and out is easier and I'm getting better at moving around with the crutches if you ignore the occasional feeling like I'm going o fall over due to the dizziness.

The receptionist at the Urgent Care didn't care for the combination of dizziness and crutches and looked relieved when Kristen said she had a wheelchair for me and bolted for the car.

Kristen has done an admirable amount of research before I went in for surgery and much of the niceties that have been getting e by the last few days were found by her with Jen also contributing quite a bit.

The wheelchair was something she kind of latched on to, did a bunch of research, found where to rent reasonably inexpensively ($50 for a week) and keeps trying to get me to use despite me being resistant to it.  The biggest struggle with all of this has honestly been the being so dependent on people for stupid things like opening a window, adjusting a thermostat, or getting a blanket.  I think the wheelchair just represents moving more in that direction which is why I don't like it.

However, we have a show we've been planning to go to for months this coming Saturday and I'm doubtful on my ability to manage with just the immobilizer and crutches so I relented though still didn't jump to use it.

The Urgent Care office proved the perfect time to get me to try it out.  Kristen was thrilled.  Unfortunately the leg raiser they had given seemed to be to short.  I used the wheelchair as a footrest briefly then back to the car it went

The PA who saw me wasn't overly confidence inspiring and I ended up with travel sickness medication (Vertrin) and a course of amoxicillin.

I got home from this exhausted, took the pills, and spent my last 3 hours in the CPM.  I dozed off a bit which isn't recommended but I don't really have an issue moving around too much while asleep like that so seems to be ok.

Day 5

This morning was much better.

I actually went outside for a little while on the crutches which was nice.  I can get down the back stairs into the garden but of course can't kneel down to look at anything or really do anything useful.  Fortunately I have Jen and Kristen around fairly often keeping an eye on everything.

Today was the second day back to work (working from home) and the first when I was actually scheduled to be out of the house as I had a WTC meeting at 7:30 pm in Long Beach.  Since I had someone to drive I figured I might as well

The no driving restriction is still on and may continue for 6 weeks so I just had to find someone to ferry me.  Fortunately I have great friends and that wasn't a problem.

I just ride in the back seat with a pillow between my back and the door and the leg against the seat back.  Sliding in and out isn't hard since I'm allowed to be weight bearing and the crutches fit along the floor.

At the meeting I took the end of the table and propped up my leg on two chairs.  This worked but by the time the meeting was done a few hours later my ass and my leg both hurt.  It was hard to get a suitably slouching position worked out.

When I got home at 10:30 and had 2 hours in the CPM it was actually a good thing since it relieved some of the lingering discomfort.

So far so good but I really can't wait until next Mondays followup appointment.

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