Monday, June 25, 2012

Moving the Hospital Into our House

A get-well present from CABVI friends means happiness

Dear George,
Katja got out of the hospital from her knee replacement surgery on Saturday, June 8th.  They had originally planned to discharge her on Thursday or Friday, but she had an adverse reaction to her IV painkillers the first night, and that slowed her progress.  The surgeon had said her operation was the best he’d ever done, and he was dismayed to find her in such an incoherent state the next day since he’d been elated about his success.  Our doctor son J told us that years ago Katja would have stayed in the hospital for three weeks after an operation of this sort, so she shouldn’t be in a hurry to get out.  However, the hospital didn’t offer any options, and Katja was eager to leave anyway.  Both of us were nervous about her coming home for her recovery since her condition seemed pretty delicate.  The physical therapist at our pre-op class said that she would require 24/7 care at home for fourteen days following her hospital discharge.  That was a challenging prospect.  I tried to explain to the therapist that we had two large dogs who required multiple walks a day.  She advised me to just put them out in the back yard since I needed to have Katja in my sight at all times.  Since we don’t have a back yard, that seemed unrealistic.

Because Katja’s leg needed to be protected against jarring and banging, I decided Mike and Duffy shouldn’t be allowed in the bed.  To get them used to the idea beforehand, I built a barricade of chairs and laundry hampers several days before Katja’s return. This was clearly the most traumatic event in the dogs’ entire lives.  They just sat outside the chairs, looking soulfully at me and uttering pitiful squeaks and yelps.  I spread out several camping blankets on the floor, hopeful that they might think they were in our tent, and eventually the dogs would reluctantly retire there for the night.  But they never got used to it.

When Katja came through the back door with her walker, the dogs were thrilled to see her.  However, they clearly recognized that something was amiss, and, rather than their normal jumping about and rowdiness, they were gentle in their greeting.  Duffy came up and sniffed the brace on Katja’s leg, then gave it a lick.  Katja spent the rest of the day napping, and, in her presence, the dogs suffered even more from their exile from the bed.

Katja had her first physical therapy session that Monday.  The physical therapist said that she was able to bend her knee at a sharper angle than any post-surgery client she’s had recently.  Katja has been working out on the recumbent bike several times a week at the fitness center for the last year.  I think her leg muscles were more ready for surgery than they’d been for her first knee replacement.  Her pain has also been less agonizing than the first time around.  While it’s still severe at times, Katja grits her teeth and carries out her regimen as best as possible. 

For the first few days Katja needed help with everything – getting in and out of bed, sitting in a chair, adjusting her pillows, meds, food and drink, turning on NPR, etc.  Then she gradually started getting out of bed by herself and moving about a bit.  After a week Katja couldn’t stand it any more, and she invited the dogs back into the bed.  That was the end of sleeping soundly, but good for some of the parties involved.  Now that Katja has finished two weeks of post-hospital recovery, I’m freer to go here and there.  The recovery process hasn’t been as draining as I’d anticipated, mainly because Katja’s doing better than last time around.  Being stuck in the house for two straight weeks, though, hasn’t been much fun.  A couple of times a day I help Katja get on and off her continuous motion machine, which mechanically bends her knee up and down for an hour or two at a time.  At the beginning she was bending her knee 60 degrees, and she’s now up to 120 which the surgeon said was her goal.  Afterwards we hook her up to an ice water machine which circulates freezing water through a pack which is velcroed to her knee.  Katja’s using a walker for outside the house excursions, e.g., to physical therapy or Panera, but she’s walking on her own in the house the rest of the time, getting steadier each day.  Whenever Katja calls from the other room, Duffy starts barking like crazy.  I don’t know if it’s protectiveness, alerting me, jealousy, or early onset dementia, but it creates commotion.  The whole situation has been difficult for Katja – boring, painful, physically demanding, seemingly endless.  And, given that we’re used to being self-sufficient adults who don’t need much assistance, the past two weeks have been a sometimes onerous change for both of us.  It once again reminds me how deeply intertwined people’s lives are, especially in marriage.  The other day Katja said I was being a saint, but that’s not true.  Saints don’t get grumpy and irritable from being cooped up.  But now we are clearly on a forward path, and it won’t be that long before life returns to normal (or maybe even better than normal).

G-mail Comments
-Linda K-C (6-25):  Maybe not a saint, that's a little hard to imagine, but saintly, but on the other hand, if you really did this alone, I'd look up martyr.  I am good for 7 days, then I hire someone, even if it meant I could not buy food, saint and martyr sound do religious , that in itself would drive me out of the house.  Glad everyone is getting better , love to Katja for being such a trooper.
-Phyllis S-S (6-25):  Dave,  Maybe saints DO get upset when they are cooped up in the house for two weeks.  You were a thoughtful and caring husband - who cares if you were upset and maybe wanted to scream - you did it...That's what counts.  Phyllis

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