This is part 5 of the story of my full meniscal repair surgery and recovery process. In all its raw and real glory, my best account of the journey I have been on. To those who may be facing this road, you can do this! In this instalment, we dive into the next phase of the journey as I am relearning to walk !
LET’S GET WALKING!
DATE: November 6, 2019
WEATHER: I completely missed FALL, we have a foot of snow on the ground.
TOTAL TIME SINCE SURGERY: 7 weeks 2 days
TOTAL DAYS WITH ZERO WEIGHT BEARING: 1 million. But seriously, it was 46 days
STAGE OF RECOVERY: The 6 week surgeon follow up appointment
My 6 week follow up was November 1, 2019.
Translation: my 3rd time out of the house since having a full meniscus repair on September 16th! Like the last time, getting down the stairs was relatively manageable, with a combo of railings and hopping, but getting back up was still a chore. I’ve decided that I am just not equipped to climb stairs on my bum. Who is though, really? What I wouldn’t give for one of those motorized stair climber chairs!
Once I had hopped to the car, I meneuvered my walker down a step, then through the garage. Eventually I got my way to the jeep and collapsed into the front seat, so gracefully. NOT! Wadey got my wheelchair and crutches loaded and we were off!
15 minutes later, we arrived to the parking lot and got the wheelchair and crutches unloaded. I carefully got out lifting my surgery leg, then holding it as I lowered myself back down into the chair. We wheeled our way into Central Alberta Orthopedics. Then our traveling circus piled into the elevator and up to the 3rd floor where got checked into the examining room. By then I was dying of heat and Wadey was in warm room heaven, taking a moment to close his eyes. Probably celebrating that we pulled that off in one piece.
A VERY QUICK APPOINTMENT
I am not really sure what I expected from this visit, but looking back I definitely thought it would be more involved. Doc breezed in, asked how I was feeling, then leaned in and squeezed my knee extremely hard asking “does this hurt”? Ummmm yes, yes that hurts!! To this day I have no idea why he did that, or what he was trying to learn, but yes, it hurt! A LOT.
If anyone has any guesses as to why he gripped the sides of my knee please feel free to share. Maybe he was he testing my reflexes? Was he making sure that my kneecap was in the right spot? One of the journey’s biggest mysteries. I’ll have to ask him next month.
He then looked at my chart and told me that it was time to start the rehab process. For the next two weeks, I could bear 25% weight on it while still using crutches. My bet is you’re probably asking the same thing I did. How on EARTH do you measure 25%?
IT STARTS WITH A SET OF BATHROOM SCALES
The way that you do this is by using a manual scale. Standing on your good leg propped up with crutches, you start to lean into your surgery leg propped on the scale and watching the needle go up until you are at 25% of your total weight. The goal is to get a sense of what 25% feels like so that when you go to walk you can put approximately that much weight down on your toe or foot. I still feel this is ridiculous and near impossible, but I am trying my best. Most days this involves grazing my toe down as I walk through, still sort of hopping with my good leg. I’ve also watched 9 million YouTube videos on the subject.
As I mention 25% toe grazing, let’s revisit WHY. All of this is because I had a full meniscus repair, vs just a clean up of the cartilage. Since there is such limited blood flow to that area, when a full repair happens, they insert anchors to the area, then suture it back together. It’s great because it essentially saves the cushion, which bodes well for later in life, arthritis, etc, but the recovery is the slowest. The standard is six weeks with zero weight bearing, giving it time to fully heal. When it is “fused” together enough, they begin reintroducing weight bearing. That’s where I am now.
TRY YOUR FOOT ON THE FLOOR
He did say though that I could try walking the 25% with my foot flat on the floor, but the moment I try to attempt it, the brace falls down to my ankle. Seriously as high tech as this medical is, they sure have not designed a brace that stays in place no matter what we do! I’m also finding that full foot equals more pins and needles along with achy pain, so it’s been mainly toe.
WHAT ELSE WAS I ALLOWED TO DO?
He also told me that I can begin to:
- Sleep with the brace off if I want.
- Watch TV with the brace off if I want.
- Lie on BOTH sides, brace off, as long as there is a pillow in between my knees.
I do a few of these things but sleeping with it off has not yet happened. I’m told a lot of people who have a full meniscus repair and wear this type of brace have to wean themselves of that, I figure I am definitely in that group. While it feels positively GLORIOUS to take it off, it just makes me too nervous, in the event of having to get up in the night to go pee, or just flailing around while I sleep, I don’t want to damage it.
IT’S DEMO TIME!
After doc left, we saw one of the physiotherapists, who work one floor down. He answered ALL of my questions and even did a couple demos of 25% walking with the crutches for us. It was a relief to hear that the pins and needles in my foot I am feeling are normal, but that sometimes with lower extremity surgery there can be some nerve damage, and that we will just keep an eye on it. We all figure this is largely in part to it just not being used in any capacity for this long.
He also had me walk him through which range of motion exercises I had been doing daily, in order to work on strengthening my surgery leg, as well as building back up my poor GOOD leg that’s been the silent hero for the past 2 months. Overall our chat was good and Wade and I both felt they were the right team to help with my physio needs.
So why did I leave so sad?
I think I left the appointment feeling slightly dejected because I think I was under the impression that after almost 2 long enduring months, I was going to be granted all this new freedom. Meg you can FINALLY begin to walk again!
The stark reality however, what I am allowed to do now is not much different from what it was before the appointment. I still have to use crutches until the middle of December, I still am in this damn brace until the middle of December, I still have to shower on a stool, I still have to be in the wheelchair for any extended movement in or out of the house, I cannot climb any stairs until December, but I CAN expect a NEW form of pain as I begin to try to move again. Logical Meg knows this is all a part of the road. Impatient, emotional and exhausted Meg just wants December to come tomorrow.
But how do I feel today?
It’s Wednesday November 6, as I write this. The small victory I can celebrate today after a full meniscus repair is that I am finding that I have a little more balance. When I stand up from bed and steady myself with my walker, I can rest my toe to the carpet. If the brace wants to cooperate and not fall down, I can even place my full foot flat on the ground before I “take off”.
I’ve said this time and time again but imagine completely eliminating the use of ONE half of your lower body, for almost 2 full months.
It’s still there but you cannot use it in any way. You become so used to engaging your good quad. Gripping your good toes into the carpet to steady yourself. Tilting your entire body to the right, for fear of swaying one inch to the left and stepping down when you cannot. Then imagine being given permission to slowly, carefully shift ever so slightly so you CAN even out your body.
How quiet I become when I am making that shift. Probably unnoticeable to many, but to me, it’s everything. Then once I make that slight shift, knowing how that feels to be able to stand up straight, ever so carefully, with both feet on the ground, hands at my sides. It makes me cry when I type this, because I guess for so long I didn’t think that would ever happen again.
And so, the journey continues.
We begin physiotherapy this Friday. I will never take walking for granted again. I repeat. I will NEVER, take walking for granted ever again.
Talk to you soon! Meg xo