The following story was an assignment for my Creative Nonfiction class at CSULB. It was inspired by “Old Faithful,” written by David Sedaris.
Last June, I had the second of two total knee replacements. This time, the pain seemed to be more intense than the first one. So, I called the Orthopedic surgeon’s office about the pain. The conversation went something like this. Me: My knee pain seems worse than my first surgery this time. Them (In a caring voice): We would like to remind you that we just spent three hours ripping your leg apart, yanking your bad knee out, shoving a new titanium knee in there, and then putting your leg back together again. Me: Yikes.
Did I mention that I was also suffering from Sciatica on my right side before and after the surgery of my right knee?
I have now had two total knee replacements in the past three and a half years. It’s amazing what modern science can do. They can slice and dice you and create a whole new person. Not to be ungrateful, but the only minor problems that kept cropping up were the sometimes severe pain episodes and that my mobility was limited for the first month or so.
Painkillers are not my friend. As a former addict, I have a particular aversion to opioids. Even when I was an addict, I hated pills. They gave me the worst hangovers. After my first knee replacement, they had to give me morphine in the hospital because the pain was so bad. Now, I had to decide how strong a painkiller I was willing to tolerate. Oxycodone was always first on everybody’s list.
Yes, I’m a wuss. I don’t like pain. With both surgeries, they tried different variations of other lower dosage pain killers when I complained about the hangovers. However, the truth was that the Oxycodone was better than the rest, relatively speaking.
Here’s a tip that one of my doctors told me. Painkillers do not cure the pain. The pain is caused by your body’s response to the gross violation done to your knees during the replacement (see the first paragraph). What painkillers do, if they’re working correctly, is to get your mind to think, “Fuck the pain. I don’t care one bit about it.” I honestly didn’t know how to react to that news. It sure didn’t sound scientific to me.
Thank goodness, I am married to the most wonderful person in the world. I’m lucky to have someone to care for me after my operations. To come to visit me after my surgeries, to comfort me, to bring me changes of clothes and toiletries, and to drive me home. Not everyone is lucky enough to have someone like that to care for them.
Yeah, lucky me. Up to a point. One small, okay significant, side effect of a knee replacement is that your mobility is severely limited for more than a few months. There’s no jumping out of bed, no racing up and down stairs; even getting into a car and driving away can become a project. But it’s the other little everyday tasks that take some planning. Going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, showers, getting dressed and undressed. That’s where the love of your life comes in.
Look, I love my partner of more than thirty-seven years. And I know at our marriage ceremony thirty-five years ago, we pledged something about loving each other in sickness and in health. However, I’ve learned that there are exceptions. The bathroom is one example. I’ll leave it there. Getting in and out of the shower is better done alone (the shower stall is not that large). The reality is that unless my wife develops herculean muscles, there is no way she will be able to lift me in and out of most places or be my temporary chauffeur for the first three to four weeks. I mean, she has things to do.
If this sounds like she does nothing for me, I don’t mean this to sound that way. Trust me, I would never have been able to get through both surgeries without her help in many practical ways. I just mean that I had to learn to adjust and adapt to some things. Getting out of bed. Bathroom etiquette. Putting on my socks and shoes. Being realistic about how fast and far I move. After my second surgery, I braved up to drive two weeks afterward. I had to go to physical therapy, and yes, I took a painkiller before I left.
I don’t know if it’s just that I’m a man, but I’m pretty sure we can be the biggest babies in the world. I’m not saying I cried (all the time) when the pain decided to strike or when I couldn’t put one leg pants on during my dressing projects. Frustration is probably a good word to describe my feelings at the time. I’m glad my partner was there to whisper sweet things in my ear like, “What are you? A big baby or a man?” Thanks, sweetie pie, for all you did and do for me. I don’t know how I would have gotten through those knee replacements without you.
2 thoughts on “My Titanium Knees￼”
Wonderful writing and your story is very relatable.
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Thought to offer humor to cheer you. Restored a piece I withdrew some time ago [long story, another time, perhaps]. Got it restored before it dawned on me, I was reading your archives and you’re long past recovery now. Here’s the link anyway. Just for you.