Knee rehab, day 12

Things continue to progress really well. Walking fine and normally, doing the stretching with less and less effort. All the vitals good and getting better. Only need Tylenol for pain.

One small glitch – during today’s PT visit, I got a little enthusiastic doing one of the new stretches with the PT guy, and bumped my incision on a counter. It bled some, so he changed the dressing. We took advantage of that to take a picture of the incision with no dressings on it.

Frankenknee

You may think it looks horrid, but I’m very happy with it. The scar should be very fine. Upper leg (thigh) is still pretty swollen, but lower leg is great. That’s due to all the time I’ve spent with legs elevated. Turns out I’m pretty good at sitting around all day. Go figure.

September memories

September 11th. Another day that shall live in infamy. I tried to think of something particularly pithy to write about on 9/11/20, but no luck. I’m having a quiet day, focusing on knee rehab.

So I’ll look into the past. Here’s a shot from a much happier 9/11 in 2004 when we were getting to know our new pup Bogie. He was a great dog, and one of the all-time cute puppies. I note that I was skinnier then and we hadn’t remodeled the kitchen yet.

One more Bogie shot. He was very photogenic.

Moving ahead in time to another September (though not exactly 9/11) in 2010, my buddy Todd and I played in a Rancho Bernardo charity golf tournament with Will Farrell.

Todd’s a great golfer, and won one of the trophies.

And Kathryn got to meet the celebrity himself. He was very gracious.

We also got to meet one of my favorite golf personalities, David Feherty. It was quite the event.

My clean-shaven face looks a little weird to me. But K looks great.

Stridor and atrocities

I learned something new today. A noisy breathing problem has kept me awake a lot of the last two nights, and I learned it has a name: stridor. I think it’s affecting me because I’m (a) sleeping in a lot of AC, unusual for me, and (b) even more unusually, sleeping with my head below my feet in attempts to keep my swollen leg/knee draining toward midsection, not toward feet. That combination has narrowed some part of my airway and is making a whistling sound upon breathing out. This only happens at night after a few hours semi-inverted – once I’m upright in the morning, all is normal. That’s my diagnosis for now; I’ll ping my doctor to be sure.

And in politics, the revelation that Trump knew exactly how deadly COVID-19 was in January and then slow-rolled the danger to the public for months is…astounding. In any other presidency, this would be the resignation moment. He’d be finished. But with Trump, this is just one more atrocity piled atop many others. I don’t know how he understood his political invulnerability early in the game ( Remember the 2016 quote “I could shoot someone in daylight on 5th Avenue and they’d still vote for me”), but he did. It’s insane that he’s still in power.

To that end, I’m glad someone is keeping track of Dear Leader’s blunders, crimes and atrocities. It’s a full-time job. Fifty three days till the election.

Adaptation

Yesterday’s whiny post ended with a promise to write something more optimistic, something that discusses how I might adapt to the surreal situation of September 2020. As the blog title says, better late than never.

But first, my blogging friend Robert over at Blue Heron Blast observed the same weird yellow light I commented on yesterday, but he went out and did something creative/useful about it. He took some stunning photos in the yellow light – you can see them here. As always with Robert, superb photography.

But back to adaptation. The past week has been totally unique in my life – it’s my first surgery and first recovery. So I’ll excuse myself for getting a little off kilter. I spent a lot of time thinking about it all the last 24 hours and I can see what needs to change.

First, I need to make myself focus for a month. The next month needs to be all about regaining health – heal the wound, stretch the knee, regain strength, lose some weight (ANY amount), get as healthy as possible. A month goes by fast; I can do this.

Next, I need to set some mid-term goals for the period after the health-only focus. Those would be:

  • Get back to KY and see the family and grandkids again
  • Finish the second full draft of my novel
  • Walk and play 18 holes of golf

Each of those things have lots of moving parts and sub-goals, but getting those three things done by the end of 2020 is plenty to keep me motivated and moving in a positive direction.

I started by thinking about adapting to the reality of 2020. My realization is that the adaptation I need is a shift from just “passing time, getting through each day” to days spent with a purpose. I’ve been drifting, directionless, allowing the macro shitshow that is 2020 to distract me from setting a course to somewhere better. But I have a purpose for the next month, and I now have three specific goals to achieve in the next 100-ish days of 2020. Here we go…

Sure, I’ll have a little cheese with my whine

Man, I don’t even know where to start. Four days of dealing with the most extreme heat wave in recorded Socal history. Four days of having weak/irregular AC during that same period (I know, first world problem). Same four days dealing with the physical and mental aftereffects of knee replacement. I am…kind of exhausted. It’s a lot to deal with. All my go-to stress relief mechanisms – golf, dinners with friends, wine, BBQing, traveling – none of them are practical right now. Neither the heat nor the knee rehab are going away anytime soon. I need to adapt.

This morning of Sept 8th it’s only 70 degrees outside, but it’s an uncomfortable, peculiar 70 degrees. It’s muggy, very humid. And the light outside is dull yellow, from all the smoke in the air. The still air is like thin soup. It’s all very Lovecraftian. It just wouldn’t surprise me to see Cthulu lurching about in the driveway.

These things – heat and knee rehab – are hyper-local concerns. But beyond those, out in the larger world, there are several semi-existential threats that add to the background stress:

  • The way COVID-19 is burning through the US population unchecked by common sense. (I’m pretty disappointed in Americans).
  • The CA wildfires, which could become a very local threat at any moment.
  • The upcoming election, with the real possibility of another four years of Trump’s malevolent presence.
  • The way civil and racial injustice is dividing Americans (again, disappointed).
  • The astoundingly open political stage-setting for the elimination or minimization of Social Security, in which I expected to participate in 18 months.

So the question is, how do you adapt to all that? I’ll try to cover that in a more optimistic post later today.

Local warming

My take on climate change is that it’s happening and that we don’t have any real clues in terms of short term effects. Long term, sea levels and global average temperatures will rise. Just how much is an argument. Along the way, it seems that all kinds of unprecedented weather events are now possible and happening. We’re living through one of them right now in Socal.

It’s 730am and 90 degrees! It was 87 degrees at 4am, when it would “normally” be about 67. It will be 112 again today, and likely another crazy-hot night. I can’t tell you how abnormal this is. People who like desert or Mediterranean climates expect hot summer days but also expect cool clear nights. Why not, it’s been that way for thousands of years.

I could go on and on about the near-term effects of this, but there are two that stand out in my mind. One, we have to upgrade the AC and insulation of our home. We’ve lived here for 16 years with ancient and substandard AC. It’s not that we’re cheap – we’ve constantly invested in the property – it’s just that the AC was never a priority. Some years we never used it at all. And at this moment, in the all-time heat wave, one of our systems has died hard and the other is loud and struggling. So that’s going to happen ASAP.

The other standout near-term effect is fire danger. Fire risk and damage is already off-the-charts in CA, but events like this put things in a whole new category. Fire risk may depopulate much of CA where cost, taxes, crowds, etc. failed previously. In our immediate case I’m happy to say that our two-year fire system project gets completed and tested next week! We’ll have a system that, in the event of any fire within one half mile, automatically pulls water from our pool, mixes it with foam and puts a nice wet bubble around the entire house and lots of the property. I started this project two years ago and will be thrilled to get it into operation.

One last thought. The misery index for a heat event like this has to be awful. I feel for those who are homeless, and for those who have no AC. I’ll check in with my 211SD team and see what we’re doing to help those stuck in this unprecedented heat.

Trouble in paradise

Rough night last night. Our AC isn’t working properly, and the devil’s own heat wave has moved into Socal. Was 95 yesterday; supposed to be 105 degrees today and tomorrow. Add to that my leg has decided to go back to Day 1 stiffness – I think it’s just accumulated fluids draining into the back of the leg, but, the net effect is much tougher stretching and less mobility.

I guess it’s that time. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” So here I go. Happy Saturday.

Update from 430pm, same day. Turns out the leg wasn’t the big challenge for the day. I just needed to dive back into walk/stretch/ice, and it’s now feeling looser. Doin’ fine.

The heat wave, however, heard me complain about 105 and said, “Right. Hold my beer.” We hit 112 degrees today, and have cooked at a steady 110 all afternoon. We’ve never come close to 112 in the 16 years we’ve lived here – 105 may have been our all-time high. And for bonus points, our AC isn’t working properly – we’re only getting a little cooling from the systems.

One of those days, I suppose.

New knee, day 4

The days are blurring together, each one a long, scheduled marathon. Drugs in the morning and evening, though fewer each day. Walking and stretching every hour. Do that 10-11 times, eat a couple of meals and the day has come and gone with very little time left.

In spite of this short-term grind I’m feeling an intense sense of peace and thankfulness. I’m happy to be in this process and to have come through surgery in good shape. I’m thankful for my situation, my partner-in-recovery Kathryn, my puzzling though wonderful lack of pain (still only taking Tylenol!).

There’s a lot to look forward to, and every step I take in these first days of rehab get me that much closer to the real goals. Traveling, playing golf, walking normally and regularly – all those are now back on the table and within sight. It’s a great feeling.

Happy Parisian Traveler

This month eight years ago we were on our first wine-themed trip to France. Pictured above is Kathryn inside a nice restaurant in Paris.

Day 2 update

In a few words, things are very good. Negligible pain, and interrupted but sufficient sleep. Way ahead of where I thought I would be in recovery from knee hacking.

Yesterday showed me that the first few weeks of rehab are filled – very busy. Every hour I walk and do one or more stretching exercises. In between I get a chance to read or write or watch TV with knee elevated, but those 40-ish minutes go by fast. And then back to the walk/stretch routine. Repeat this 10 times and you’ve got a pretty full day.

I am used to having days defined by hourly events (meetings), so this isn’t new.

Image above is of course grandson Jesse, looking happy as usual. He’s a special one.

Grunge bin

Back about 18 months ago I started this blog to document the travels that Kathryn and I would take, having retired and bought a travel trailer. That went pretty well for a while, and then COVID happened. Hard to do a travel blog when you’re pretty much stuck at home, so the blog has become more of a journal, documenting whatever the hell is top of mind for me most days.

But today I get to document a trip to an exotic place. A place I had only been once before, 40-ish years ago when I got part of a finger reattached at the UK Medical Center. That place is the Operating Room, or OR. A place that I hope you don’t have to visit, but most of you have or will.

Kathryn dropped me off at Kaiser Zion Hospital yesterday with a sad goodbye. She couldn’t enter with me (COVID again), and no hugs because I had done the ritual cleansing with anti-microbial liquids before leaving. So it was weird.

I’ll spare you the tedious check-in and waiting. I arrived at about 1045am, and didn’t get rolled into the OR until about 2pm. I spent the majority of that time flat on my back in pre-op, wired up for electronics and fluids with nothing to do but sort through the clutter in my head. After about 2.5 hours of this, I was ready for whatever would happen in the main event.

Finally things began to happen. I received a nerve block for my knee area. The only interesting part of that was watching the needle probe around in my leg on the ultrasound display.

And finally, I got wheeled into the OR. That was surreal. A large room, glistening and sparkling white and chrome, populated by three people in space suits. Looked seriously like something from my favorite sci-fi movies. Things began to happen fast.

First they moved me from the gurney to the OR table. That felt awkward – these days I’m like a turtle on my back. Then I sat up and slouched over so they could get to a specific spot on my lower spine. Simultaneously, the anesthesiologist started something in my IV that would, as he said, put me in a light “twilight sleep”.

I was extremely nervous about the spinal block. I had received a nerve block for my finger reattachment all those years ago, and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. A Resident was showing an MD-in-training how to do it and how to hit the nerve under my armpit with a long needle. It took double digit quite painful tries for him to succeed. So that was my reference point.

That in mind, I was anxious for the twilight drug to kick in and insulate me from the expected agony of the spinal block. I could feel people poking around my back, and I said to the anesthesiologist “When is this stuff going to kick in?” I don’t remember his answer, because my visual field suddenly receded. It’s like everything moved away from me fast. There’s a verse in Pink Floyd’s song Comfortably Numb that describes it perfectly:

There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship smoke on the horizon
You are only coming through in waves
Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying
When I was a child I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons
Now I’ve got that feeling once again
I can’t explain you would not understand
This is not how I am
I have become comfortably numb

So that worked. But I was still worried about the spinal block, and in my now-addled mind I had visions of a Matrix-style plug and cable in my back. How would I lie down? I’d break the connection. I mumbled something about this, and the doc assured me that there was no cable attached and got me flat on my back.

Music started and the surgeon, Dr. Amy Steinhoff, said something like “Let’s rock and roll.” It was a Bob Seger song, not a singer that I care for. Never one to be shy about imposing my musical tastes on others, I said “Do you have any Kruangbin?”. My new musical fave. Or at least I tried to say that, because the doc replied “I think he said grunge bin. Mr. Nichols, do you need to throw up? Do you need a pan?” I laughed and slurred, “No, Kruangbin. Kruangbin!” I imagine it sounded like the noise a circular saw makes when it jams up.

And that’s the last thing I remember. I woke up in post-op, feeling pretty good. Lots of blood pressure checks later, they let Kathryn come up and confer with the physical therapist and then wheel me back into the real world.

I can’t say enough good things about the Kaiser Permanente doctors, nurses and staff. They were all superb. I feel proud to have once worked there, and happy that we have them as our guides through the weird world of health care.

At this moment about fourteen hours after surgery, I still feel pretty good. I’m waiting for the heavy pain that everyone warns me about, but I’ll deal with it if/when it happens. Me and my Grunge Bin.