Friday, November 15, 2013

Knee Surgery and Update

Its been almost 3 months since we arrived here at Beale AFB and a lot has happened with my knee. The last time, I gave you all the details about how it happened and what I did after it happened, over HERE. Once we arrived at Beale, we got settled in and unpacked; I was finally able to make an appointment to see my PCM. This took about a month due to the government shut down, which made it hard to get my family in-processed into the base. Once we were in the system, after the shut down was over, I made the appointment which was I believe two weeks after I called.

I waited the two weeks, saw my PCM, and she gave me a referral for Travis AFB orthopedic surgeon. When I finally got the referral cleared I called to make the appointment and that appointment was set for October 25. When we arrived I simply thought the doctor would look at the MRI (from the ER visit) which I had on a disc, and then set up an ACL surgery, probably a few weeks later. Boy, was I wrong! He looked at the MRI disc, came in and told me that my meniscus had slipped, and was sitting under the knee cap. It had also folded and thats why I wasn't able to open my leg fully. He also said I had a locked knee, from my knee sitting in the arched position for so long. He said that the ER doctor should have mentioned how important it was to see a surgeon as soon as possible, as this kind of damage could be detrimental to the knee integrity. I was shocked to find out anything was wrong with my meniscus, as the ER doctor only talked about the ACL tear. I was so confused, and he continued on saying he wanted me in surgery ASAP! He looked at his calendar and said "well, I don't have any openings for today, and I have training on Monday and Tuesday, so lets put you on the calendar for Wednesday." I looked at my husband like, "uh, is this really happening?" We both agreed if it was this important then yes, it needed to get done NOW!

We spent the next hour or so walking all over the hospital finding where we needed to go to get set up for surgery. Once we had all the paperwork done, we headed back home. I was happy, overwhelmed, and feeling confused. My husband and I discussed how upset and angry we both were because yet again another doctor has let us down. The ER doctor at Urgent Care Irvine, should have mentioned how important it was to see a surgeon as soon as we could. The ER doctor never did, and I honestly felt "rushed" out of that hospital/ER, even though I was still IN pain and still hadn't received much information on what REALLY was going on. The Orthopedic doctor at Travis, Dr. Walker, took his time, discussed my options, and tried several different things. We went over details and discussed what he could see from the MRI and x-rays. Dr. Walker even tried a shot of fluid and a shot of some type of numbing directly into my knee to see if he could straighten it or fix it right there in the doctors office. It didn't work and he was able to see the extent of the damage done.

I felt so much better that Dr. Walker had caught the meniscus tear, and was able to diagnose it fast, and get the surgery on the calendar for the following week. It was finally feeling like it was all going to come together well! Our next stop on the train of craziness was the day of surgery. We arrived at the hospital on October 30th, early afternoon. I was set up with a room, climbed into the bed, and the process began. Changing into a gown, getting my ID bracelet, getting my IV (after 3 tries, yes 3), and the final step, the waiting game. By the 2nd attempt on my IV, my husband had left, took the kids out for a drive, and some lunch. We made sure the nurses had his number, of course, before he left.

Gowns are so sexy, no?

Finally, an IV!

I waited for a few hours, and shortly after 4pm I was taken down to the "holding" area. I waited in another bed, where my IV bag was connected, I was asked a ton of questions, and eventually one of the doctors signed their name on my left knee. Have to make sure they are working on the correct knee now don't we! After a few, what felt like hundreds, of nurses and doctors to talk to, I was looking in the eyes of the anesthesiologists and getting my warm and fuzzy medicines. I didn't even make it out of the "holding" room before I was out. I recall mentioning the warm feeling, and that was it.

I woke up, what was several hours later and my surgery was complete. I felt horrible. Tons of pain, and sick feeling. They gave me something for pain, and then it all began again, throwing up. I threw up, over and over and over again. I was still slightly fuzzy but I remember them giving me zofran, I believe it was. Which never works well for me. I informed them that the last time this happened they had to give me the nausea medicine that makes me sleepy. They then waited for the zofran, to "kick in", which it never did. Meanwhile, while we waited, I was asked how my pain was and I kept saying horrible, 8, 9, then a 10. Pain meds were not working. My leg felt like a log, but a throbbing one. The doctor, or nurse, eventually discussed a nerve block, and I agreed to it. It required a very large needle and for me to sit extremely still. While that was being cleared, and I was still throwing up, the female nurse finally gave me the medicine for nausea that makes you sleepy! Next thing I knew, I wasn't feeling sick, and in comes the male nurse, or doctor, whatever he was; with a very large needle and an ultrasound machine! I think I recall them prepping my leg for the nerve block, and then everything started to get fuzzy, and I started to get tired. I recall looking at the female nurse with the ultrasound gel, and hearing her mention that I needed to stay real still. Then I passed out from the nausea medicine and I stayed real still, well in my opinion at least.

I woke up, in the room where my day had originally began. This time it was really late at night, something like 8pm, maybe 9pm. I can barely recall. My husband was there, and so was a doctor. The doctor was talking to my husband about everything and they were discussing pain medicine, and what I needed to watch for, etc. I just needed to pee, and then I could go home. I think I peed about 30-45 minutes after I woke up. I was then cleared to get dressed and go home! Thank goodness. I was so ready to be back home in the comfort of my own bed, sheets, pillows, and bathroom. Yes, bathroom. Nothing like peeing on your own toilet, in your own house.

The drive home was not bad at all. We stopped to grab something to eat, as I was now going on more then 24 hours of no food. Of course my first meal was none other then In N Out! I know, such a true California girl! I scarfed down the burger and fries, and drank very little of my drink. When we were getting closer and closer to home, I was nodding off from pain killers and possibly everything else in my system. I must have looked like a bobble head in the passenger seat. Once at the gate, I felt joy, we were on base... only minutes away from our house! Both our kids were passed out in the car, and all I wanted to do at that moment was cuddle both of them and sleep next to them, as I had missed them so much.

Right after getting home from the hospital.

Got to love the iodine!

I don't remember too much of the first night home, but I remember sleeping our couch fold out bed, and lots of pain pills as well as water close by. I had a pillow under my knee and crutches at the bed side to use for restroom breaks. I had the TV on most of the first night, as I would wake up often in pain, and would not be able to fall back asleep right away. The TV helped pass those moments of emptiness, and pain. Helped take my mind of the surgery, the thought of my kids, and how I was not going to be able to hold them, carry them, or play with them for god knows how long. I was feeling very low, at those moments, and just wanted to feel better.

The day after my surgery, my cell phone rang and it was my Orthopedic doctor, Dr. Walker. I was unable to see him after surgery, so he called me instead. It was so calming to hear him and know he was there for me. He talked about the surgery, explaining that when he got inside, there was more damage then expected. His original plan was to fix the meniscus tear, place it back in place and remove all the scar tissue. However, when he saw the meniscus, the part that folded over was decaying and he was unable to save it. He then had to remove HALF of my meniscus. I was shocked. He mentioned had he been able to do the surgery weeks ago, he might have been able to save it and repair it. He also said the amount of scar tissue he removed had to be from years and years of abuse and damage. I reminded him that the original accident was probably about 14 years ago. He agreed and said some of the scar tissue looked to be well around that, and some fairly new. He said he hadn't removed that much scar tissue in awhile. He said he cleaned up around the ACL as best he could, to help me with rehabilitation, but that the ACL surgery was something that he recommended be done sooner then later, as I now had very little meniscus to help me stand or walk. I was pretty upset to hear all this, but happy to know it was all getting done, and my knee repair was headed in the right direction!

Each day went by, and each time I stepped or walked it seemed to get better. After 48 hours I could take my bandages off and see the stitches and scars! It was two extremely small cuts and a few stitches in each cut. The skin around the cuts were red, and swollen, but looked clean and healing well. My knee looked like a softball, and was still swollen. The nerve block was starting to wear off in my ankle and upper thigh, but I still wasn't feeling too much around the knee. As the nerve block wore off it was like the feeling you get when you get nova-cane in your mouth. It feels weird to the touch, and you start to feel the pain and your tongue etc. This was just like that, my knee would brush against a blanket or my kids would touch it (on accident) and I would feel something in certain areas, and nothing in others. It felt horrible, but it was a good thing my nerve block was slowly melting away, as the nurse had mentioned if it didn't go away after 48 hours I would need to go to an ER! Yikes, thanks for making me freak out a little! However, after about 50, maybe 54 or so hours, the nerve block was completely gone. I woke up that Saturday, I believe it was; and all I felt was pain, throbbing pain. It was the worst pain yet.

Baby wipes, iodine is somewhat gone!

Our base scheduled Halloween for November 1st, so we trick or treated on Friday instead of Thursday. Which actually played to our benefit. (Since, I still had the nerve block). I was on a crutch, and was out walking with my kids! So when I woke up on Saturday, I realized I might have taken advantage, maybe a little too much, of the fact that I couldn't feel the pain. I was unable to fully straighten my leg, as the swelling was really making it impossible; and bending it was about maybe 6-10 inches, and hurt even worse then trying to straighten it. It felt like bones were stuck, or making contact with each other. It was all so painful. Saturday night, I was finally allowed to take a shower. I could finally get all the iodine off me, and maybe even the signature on my leg.

No crutches for the picture, but after I was back on them.

After what felt like an hour in the shower, and a lot of orange colored soapy water, I was clean, but still had a faded signature on my leg. I slept in my own bed that night as well. It was heaven! I slept extremely well, and had a pillow under my knee to help stabilize it while I slept. Sunday began my "I will do this", stage. I got up and I remember thinking, I am sick of my poor husband ALWAYS taking care of me, and I am done. I recall making myself breakfast, with one crutch in hand, and I remember helping with the boys, feeding them, and clothing them. I believe we even made a trip to Sams club and Lowes later that day too. I was not going to let this defeat me, I needed to find the hope, the happiness, and most importantly, the end goal in all this pain.

Stitches, and swollen.

Signature, so hot!

Its now been almost 2 1/2 weeks after my surgery and I can almost straighten my leg. I would say I am about 90% straight. I can bend at about 90 degrees, but any further and theres tons of pain, and what feels like a muscle that pulls. Which my Orthopedic doctor feels is the muscle that wasn't getting any work while my knee was locked up. So, it might just be the one of many muscles I will have to rebuilt in strength. I am yet to see a physical therapist as Beale AFB referral system has been extremely LACKING in getting the job done. After 4 phone calls and going in to see them twice, we were finally able to get the referral sent over to the Physical Therapist facility. We then (same day) went over to tricare to push the authorization. Which it has been the 48 hours that they said we had to wait, and still no phone call from the Physical Therapist. So, hopefully, I will get some answers when I call tricare tomorrow. Once again, the lack of urgency in these employees!

I did see my Orthopedic surgeon on Tuesday for my two week follow up, where I had my stitches removed and mobility looked at. The doctor is happy with the surgery and wants to see me back in 6 weeks for assessment on the ACL surgery. I need to be able to straighten and bend my leg at a full functioning female and I will be able to sign up for the ACL surgery. A female person typically straightens their leg at 105%, if I remember him correctly; he however, thinks I will only be able to straighten at 100 or a fraction less then that. I feel like I have a long way to go, but who knows, maybe in 6 weeks I will be walking normal and feeling normal again!

Stitches are gone, tape in place!

Today I am walking without crutches, and I can walk up and down stairs with help from the hand rails, of course. I am able to stand on both legs, sit down and stand up with little help. I still am feeling some slipping, but this is expected since he removed half of my meniscus. I can only hope to get into physical therapy soon, and maybe my next update will be progress, and only positives!!

The journey has begun,
Sarah

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