Better living through titanium

It was starting to look like February might get past me without a post. But it’s a leap year! So I get an extra day.

In early January I had a little reality check with my orthopedist. He pointed out that the interval between my requests for cortisone shots was shrinking, and the gap between my knees was widening – as deterioration in the left knee caused it to bow further. He reminded me that eventually, cortisone shots become self-defeating, because they degrade both the cartilage and then the bone surface. So we decided to move forward with full replacement of my left knee!

A version of this contraption is now my left knee.

I found a gap in the office schedule where it looked like I could be on leave without inconveniencing coworkers too terribly much, and had my replacement surgery on February 19. February 20 I was discharged and I moved in temporarily with my old college roommate, who lives just about 20 minutes from me and has a spacious first floor bathroom! This sounded much more accessible than our second floor bathroom… And while I desperately miss our four exuberant dogs, I knew the first couple of weeks around them would be dicey, given the super-sensitive and wobbly new knee. Plus, in the Cleveland Clinic joint replacement program, they send a top-notch physical therapist to your home three times/week for two weeks! I couldn’t imagine managing the entries and exits of that brave soul at my home – with stairs, small rooms, and the canine security/welcome team.

Even more fortuitously, my mother was available to stay with me the first week, to make sure I didn’t get into trouble during the day when my host works. The only thing missing from my little “rehab retreat” has been my amazing spouse, but she has managed several visits and supply runs – while juggling her own long hours and making sure the dogs get fed and emptied at humane intervals through the day!

Frozen peas beat the heck out of most ice packs.

I don’t know, yet, how this new knee is going to feel in action. It’s quite swollen, quite grumpy about therapy, and – now barely into week 2 – has begun randomly yelling at me in unpredictable, shocking, and often breath-taking momentary spasms (the physical therapists euphemistically call this “healing”). But I’m getting around well, making progress in therapy, and pain has been bearable. During the first week, I tried using a reduced (by half) dosage of the prescribed oxycodone, as advisors kept telling me it was essential to stay ahead of the pain curve. But the oxy gave me all-night headaches and a variety of other side effects I can live without. So now I’m sticking to extra strength acetaminophen and frozen peas.

Rehab must remain my top priority for a while after I return to “real life.” I’m actually eager to get to the harder stuff. I can’t wait to put the new knee through its paces and get back into hiking and some distance walking.

Coincidentally, my oldest friend (the one whose challenge set me on a serious fitness quest seven years ago) freakishly broke her femur head and had total hip replacement a couple of months ago. She’s already jogging on a treadmill. “Better living through titanium!” she texted me, after my surgery. Here’s hoping!


Speaking of walking… it is underrated as a route to weight loss and fitness. To say nothing of mental health. And there are all kinds of challenges and trackers to get you moving, if you need help. Check out Diana Nyad’s EverWalk program for one. If you’re bling-motivated, look at some of the fun walk challenges at Yes.Fit. Or use one of the many free trackers that generate tiny donations to favorite nonprofits for each of the miles you walk. Charity Miles is one.

“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Everyday, I walk myself into a state of well-being…I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.”
~ Soren Kierkegaard


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