My first week post op was filled with lots of surprises, humbling moments and pain medication. I was on a regimen of 2 percocet every 6 hours as needed, and trust me it was. I had told my mom that my pain score was about a 7 at the most all through the first week, but now that I am on the other side I can confidently say I was floating around a 9 nearly the entire time. I had steri strips with a compression/ice sleeve over it, covered by an ace wrap with a bulky brace around all of that. My leg was HUGE and I wasn’t sure how much of it was swelling and how much of it was bandaging. Quite honestly, I was scared to find out.
The worst task of the first few days (besides PT), was getting up to use the restroom. It often times took both my mom and my dad to help me off the couch and down the hallway, not to mention the extreme pain that came with shifting from horizontal to vertical. My mom had to stay in the bathroom with me to hold my leg up just so I could sit down. My right leg was unbendable and I had no control over it no matter how hard I focused to bend or move it . Why??
I learned at physical therapy the day after my surgery (yes, I started PT not even 24 hours after my surgery) that waking up my quadriceps would be one of the toughest hurdles I would have to jump. What I didn’t realize prior to the operation, is that the trauma of surgery would completely shut off my thigh muscles. And not just for the day, but for damn near a month. That became very clear to me during my first PT session. No control over my quads means a lot of things physically, but on a larger scale it means no autonomy whatsoever. Putting on socks? Forget it. Getting off the couch? Forget it. Showering? You don’t even want to know.
But in case you do…I was allowed to shower on Thursday (2 days post op). That meant I got to take off my bandages and brace and that I was excited about. I had no idea what it looked like up in there. So that was about the only highlight of the experience.
My shower involved a chair from the dining room in my shower, a small step stool and my mom literally hosing me down like an animal and it was the most humiliating experience ever. Honestly I’m not sure how much of it was tears and how much of it was shower water. Aside from the pain, there was fear of slipping and a whole heap of realization falling down on me. Damn, this recovery is going to be vastly different than I thought it would be.
Maybe I was overly optimistic or maybe I just had no freaking clue what to expect, but I for real thought I would be walking in a week or two and definitely behind the wheel and back in the gym. As a dancer and someone who is extremely active, watching my left leg soar through the exercises that my physical therapists guided me through, while my right leg is unable to leave the ground was tough to take. Still is. I have had several moments of sheer hopelessness and discouragement and, on the complete other end of the spectrum, moments of accomplishment that come from the slightest movements that I never thought I would consider a success.
By the end of the first week, I was running out on my pain medication and we had failed to taper off gradually. On Sunday, I had only Tylenol and was feeling great. I was up and about more than I had been, my at-home PT exercises went great and I even showered standing up and without much assistance (thank fcking god).
By this point, I had found that doing little things like doing my hair or wearing matching pajamas during the day helped me feel more put together and less miserable. So my mom picked up a cute little set for me to put on. I felt on top of the world…until Monday. I woke up in the middle of the night Monday in excruciating pain and struggled to get back to sleep. I think what happened was that when I was feeling good and “not even on pain meds!” I definitely was still on meds. Although I didn’t take any that day, I had an entire prescription bottle of oxycodone in my system still from throughout the week and once that had pretty much left my system I was in for it.
Week one was a hazy blur filled with tears, pain meds and hard realizations. I had weird dreams almost nightly and had to sleep on the couch because I was unable to get myself on the bed, even with help. It took us 3 hours to figure out how to adjust the brace once we took out all of the stuff wrapped around my knee off and over an hour to navigate the first shower experience. I woke my mom up one night to ask her if she had enough zucchinis (???) for the zucchini bread that she wasn’t making and hasn’t made in maybe a decade. Thank you, narcotics. I couldn’t activate my quad and had to come to terms with the fact that this was going to be a long haul. I knew after week one that I would never take movement for granted again.
Check out week 2 here!