By BJ Reyes
That's how many days it's been since this last happened ...
Now on to Day One -- of rehab. Real, honest-to-goodness rehab!
First, Monday was the seven-week mark since the second surgery (getting harder to keep up with the different number's procedures and such) and all indications from the doctors is that the infection appears to be out -- finally! -- and the hardware seems to be healing nicely. All x-rays showed I had been doing everything they had told me to do, which is probably why things are a little ahead of schedule.
While the healing has mostly occurred, getting the range of motion back is another story, and that's going to take some time.
The bending of the knee felt ... different, only because it hadn't been done in 17 weeks (when the first surgery took place to put the antibiotic spacer in place). The muscles have atrophied a little bit, although the isometrics helped to keep those strong enough that I can still do a leg lift on my own.
Right now the knee only bends about 30 degrees before the muscles and tissue stop it, and a new brace I was fitted with will stop it from going any further than that (but that brace is only for when I actually walk or venture outside the house). That will come this week with some actual outpatient physical therapy.
In the meantime, it's up to me to get to get it to start bending again. Because the length of the new prosthetic is actually longer than the original by about 2 centimeters -- making my legs about even length for the first time since 1985 -- it will take a little use to as far as walking goes. It also will mean the tissue and muscles will have to stretch farther than they ever have in the past.
At this point, the big danger is doing too much too fast and tearing the tissue completely. As I slowly work it to bend to 90 degrees over the next six weeks (that's the goal) the tissues will tear slightly and then repair themselves, a lot like the way muscle is built up through weight training.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the whole process is that during the surgery, my surgeon mentioned that there were some muscle tendons that simply were not attached to anything.† So he went ahead and attached them. Now, it appears they have healed properly, because the standing hip abduction exercise -- always one of the hardest ones I had to do in the past -- feels like I've been able to do it my whole life.
Honestly, I almost cried tears of joy when this happened in the doctor's office. Felt like I was 13 again!
For now, patience. I've done everything they've said up to this point, so no sense in toying with things now and going faster than need be.
The new goal for now is to get to a point where I can do stand-up paddle boarding.‡ My surgeon says he actually does this on the chilly Lake Erie waters, so if I send him a picture of me on a board in Hawaii, he'll fly down to experience the water for himself.
See you all in the water, I guess!?
UPDATE, 8:30 p.m.: Just as an aside, do not, under any circumstances, underestimate the healing, restorative powers of a nice, long, loooooong, 17-weeks-in-the-making-long-because-the-first-surgery-required-absolutely-no-bending-of-the-knee-followed-immediately-by-seven-weeks-in-an-immobilizer-24/7-because-of-the-second-surgery-and-recovery long ... shower. Even in the cold dead of 16-degree Cleveland winter! Finally, an end to sponge baths and shampooing in the sink!
† How that happened no one really knows, but my bet is they probably got torn during a previous rehab, maybe from as far back as 1985. After five hip operations, there were any number of times this could have happened.
‡ Apparently this would be good exercise for continuing to develop my leg muscles. Although I should note, it is not an activity I have ever done before.