In 2018 I underwent surgery to have partial knee replacements on both knees. A lifetime of running and parachute jumps had finally caught up to me. On my left knee I remember my doctor telling me that the knee would be good for twenty-five years. On my right knee he said there was plenty to cartilage remaining and if I hadn’t worn it out by then, I probably would not wear it out. Well, that didn’t work out so well.
In October 2020, we were camping at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point in North Carolina. One day I came back from a four-mile walk and my right knee was in great pain. By lunch it was swollen and there was obviously a lot of fluid in the knee. It was painful to walk and I couldn’t walk without limping. I went to an urgent care clinic and they suggested I see an orthopedist to have the knee drained.
Fortunately we planned to spend the winter at Recreation Plantation near The Villages in Florida. I guess if you are going to have knee problems it’s convenient to be close to one of the largest senior communities in Florida. I located an orthopedic clinic near the RV park and the doctors there had years of experience and had performed thousands of surgeries. The week we arrived I had an appointment where the doctor drained the fluid from the knee and sent it off to be tested. I had instant relief! Unfortunately that relief lasted about a week and the swelling was back. After more x-rays and an MRI, Dr. McCoy determined that I had worn away all of the meniscus and the cartilage in the knee looked like “potholes on an asphalt road.” Of all of the options available, the most viable one was a Total Knee Replacement. In order to have enough time to complete the rehabilitation I wanted to have the surgery performed as soon as possible and they were able to schedule me for December 22nd.
Having gone through surgeries, before I felt like a pro preparing for the surgery. It was a bit different in a COVID-19 environment, but Pat was able to come with me to the hospital and stay through the procedure. The operation was performed with no problems. I was surprised to find I could put my whole weight on the knee as soon as I was moved to my room. My only problem is that there was some bleeding from the incision that wouldn’t stop. The day after surgery they put my left in a knee immobilizer and thought they had it under control and I was discharged. However, when I was getting ready for bed that night we discovered that it was still bleeding, and my sock was soaked with blood. We changed the dressing with the first aid supplies we had and I reported this to the home nurse. She changed the dressing and we thought we were good, but that night it was still bleeding. We reported this to the clinic and when the home nurse came that day she covered the incision with an anti-coagulant called “Gold Dust.” That did the trick, but now I had not been doing rehab exercises for almost a week and I was getting concerned that scar tissue would form.
The home rehab was minimal and I felt it was ineffective, and that I should be doing more. However, the therapists were insistent that I shouldn’t push it. Finally I was transferred to outpatient physical therapy. I liked this therapy a lot better as here I felt I was being allowed to push myself more. At one point my therapist told me the “gold standard” for range of motion with a total knee replacement was 125 degrees. I had 135 degrees with my partial knee replacements and kept working to improve beyond the 125 degrees. By the time I finished therapy (a week ahead of schedule) I was consistently bending the knee to 135 degrees!
My knee still has some minor swelling that Dr. McCoy said could last from eight to twelve months. Other than that the knee feels better than it did after the partial knee replacement. Having gone through this, I am encouraging anyone to discuss having a total versus partial replacement and only go through this process one time.
Overall, I was fortunate. The problem occurred when we were within a few days of a long-term stay. Our stay at Recreation Plantation was long enough to diagnose the problem, have the surgery, and complete the rehabilitation. It would have been a major problem had it occurred after we left Florida.