And what kind of cake would that be?

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

Ah, the books saved for the occasion. CDs stacked in easy reach. The laptop sharing a bolstered bed with Webster and Bartlett in case the muse should strike, and the promises of catered dinners from about a dozen friends.

How often have I coveted such decadence?

I’d even seen to details as fine as the color of the sheets. Taking a page from daughter Jean whose bed, usually squirming with little boys, is white from bolsters to comforter, and looks incredibly welcoming. I needed sheets anyhow, so I bought a queen set plus a couple of extra pillow cases. One pair, with self-embroidered borders, makes bolsters out of two king pillows, and the jacquard spread I bought years ago tops off the whole.

The finished bed looked so sumptuous I could hardly wait to burrow into its depravity.

The time came soon enough, although “burrow” is not the right verb. The knee surgery was on a Wednesday, at Piedmont Fayette Hospital, and I came home on Saturday, able to move about with a walker.

(One of several things I learned from the gadgets in this experience is that a walker or cane is not intended to take weight off an injured leg so much as to help provide balance.)

Burrowing is out. One lies down carefully with a wounded knee and one chooses one’s position cautiously. What feels ideal now will be uncomfortable in a matter of minutes.

This is the best place to insert an emphatic disclaimer. Everyone experiences pain differently. I have friends who say knee replacement was “a piece of cake.” I certainly could not disagree more. And I’ve always prided myself on being the tough guy. Ha.

I come home to my well-crafted nest and find that the wall next to it is lined with orthopedic necessities like bedside commodes, ice-recirculators, and a knee-exercising machine. Took a little glamour off the creamy sheets, but not much.

The meals, the wonderful meals, flowed through the front door and could not have been more appreciated. And as word got out, flowers, get-well cards, more books, and DVDs followed.

Here’s where the schemes o’ mice and men went awry, or “a-gley” as Burns actually wrote it. I gave myself a few days to settle in, learning exercises from the physical therapist who came three days a week, teaching myself how to shower and wash hair without soaking an incision or falling.

But remember all those unread books – including Dr. Sams’ latest, signed for me – and the articles that I was going to write? They all died a-borning, as my mother used to say. Reading or writing anything more complex than my name requires a certain amount of concentration, of which anesthesia, pain, and pain meds deprived me totally.

I simply could not focus. In the past, when I was going to be unable to meet deadline, I’d either stay up late or reach into the archives to recycle an oldie-but-goldie. I couldn’t even do that, I was in such a fog. Had no choice but to ’phone Cal and beg for two weeks off. That was a first, and he was very generous.

How foggy was I? Enough to be glad the professionals were looking out for me. I sent Dave to Kroger with a pain prescription and the pharmacist informed him I was taking too much of it.

Dave put the pharmacist on the phone. “The label says ‘Take 1 or 2 tablets every 4 to 6 hours’ and I know I haven’t exceeded that,” I argued.

“Look at the next line,” he said, insistently. “‘No more than 5 in 24 hours.’”


Things are better now. The first two weeks post-surgery were the worst, and then one morning I woke up feeling a little bit human. A friend took me out to lunch. Lucky it was that day, because occasionally a bad day interrupts the flow of good ones, and you never know.

I’m still in the hands of the professionals, getting rehab. Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy, like the day I exercised too vigorously and hurt too much to sleep that night. Felt like a Charlie horse had tied a knot in every muscle of my right leg.

(Another epiphany: You simply cannot believe that a knee that had such mayhem committed upon it can hold your weight. The fact is that the new knee is now stronger than the old knee. Overcoming the fear that you’ll do something to it is key to developing the confidence rehab takes.)

Okay. Not another word about my knee until I can honestly say something positive. And better than that: I’ll publish every happy account you send me about your experience or that of someone you know.

I KNOW I’ll be glad I had this surgery one day, but in the meantime, I’ll accept your testimony. I’ll even call it “Running with the Gazelles.”

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