When I last wrote, I had decided that the time had come to have knee surgery. I knew with utmost certainty that it would be a total knee replacement, all other therapies having been exhausted.
We had moved to our retirement house and were no longer in a large metropolitan area, so the question was how to find a surgeon and a facility in which I had confidence. For me, this was no small matter. Having dealt with knee pain for decades I had also dealt with a number of orthopedic surgeons and therapists. Knee surgery is practically routine, but MY knee surgery did not seem that way to ME. I wanted someone who was competent but also empathetic.
Some background: When I was 60 I sought medical attention in the greater Washington, DC area after an extremely painful trip to Spain which left me with bruises from excessive use of aspirin to control pain and swelling while touring. The doctor I chose, based on reviews of his credentials and affiliations, turned out to be a huge disappointment, not to mention an insult. Having gone over my long history and current distress, I was told, “What do you expect? You’re getting old.” So much for bedside manner. Still, I went ahead with the recommended arthroscopic surgery to see what was in there. Well, well, well. The results showed that while no debris, the degenerative arthritis was “worse than I imagined,” said he. Although vindicated, I was not cheered. He may have been more interested in major league sports figures and youthful athletes. Definitely not in women of a certain age, I concluded.
So, after the recommended period of physical therapy I parked the matter of remedy until I could sort out my desired lifestyle and my options. In the meantime, we headed for the Finger Lakes, beautiful but not abounding with major medical institutions. A new chapter in the saga.
My new primary care physician was sympathetic, but recommended the now-exhausted treatment: physical therapy. (What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result?) This was followed by a referral for Synvisc injections which would replace my lost synovial fluid. No luck here. While useful for many patients, I was too far gone. And, again, I felt that my pain was treated in too cavalier a manner. How long a history does one need in order to move to the true remedy?
Dateline: The Finger Lakes, September 2010. Time to take control. Many friends have had their knees replaced; all appear to be happy with their physicians. I’m glad for them. I think we need to feel confident in those who take our lives or at least our bodies into their hands. And, most are happy with their outcomes, allowing for some bumps on the road. I heard of only one poor outcome and it was complicated by other medical issues.
Why my hesitation? Well, I’ve told you I am a wuss with respect to things medical. In truth, I am a medical coward, something which I finally admit to. Perhaps, I think, it will smooth the way for me with the professionals, or at least put them on notice.
Once again, I started researching the nation’s top medical establishments: the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic, large orthopedic hospitals. My sister-in-law suggested that I have my knee(s) done in her Florida locale where they perform more replacement surgery than practically anywhere in the country. I could stay with her and my brother-in-law while I recuperated.
What was I thinking? Who wants to have surgery, recuperation and physical therapy hundreds of miles from home? I wanted to be in my own bed in my own home.
Friends extolled their own surgeons and the local facilities. I was not sold, not because there was anything wrong with them. I simply was unfamiliar with the local medical landscape. As it happens, there is a world-class medical school in Rochester with an acclaimed joint replacement clinic. A check of its website revealed that its physicians were top-notch. A call to a physician friend from college days made the decision for me. After describing my search and the Rochester clinic, Steve opined, “Why wouldn’t you go with the best?”
I made an appointment, and a couple weeks later Ray and I were hearing what to expect. There would likely be a few months wait as the clinic was fully scheduled. In the meantime, I could read the comprehensive manual provided, get busy with strengthening exercises to facilitate recovery, and attend their seminar for prospective patients. I was pleased that a big step had been taken, but also secretly relieved that I would not be going under the buzz saw in the next few days. I had some time to absorb it all.
Wouldn’t you know that some patient ahead of me canceled, and I got a call that the date was set. Just as well – less time to ruminate or back out.
Next time, I’ll describe the hospital experience and recovery process. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you. Leave a reply.