“You’re going to love it!”   “You will be so happy you had it done.”  You’ll do great!  Just make sure you do the rehab.”

These were the main responses received when I announced that I was having a full knee replacement late December of 2018.  I was excited to get so much support from friends and colleagues, but the best advice by far was: “Make sure you do the rehab.”

To be honest, I never wanted to have this or any surgery.  I don’t consider myself to be a good patient and even had one doctor tell me that a while back.  But, my quality of life was beginning to go downhill because of my right knee. Teaching, going up and down stairs, standing up after sitting were becoming challenging and downright painful.  My grandson even noticed once when I was playing with him and asked, “Zma, why do you run so funny?”  Also, the impingements were not only painful, but also embarrassing, especially when I was teaching my yoga class at El Camino College.  Nothing like having your leg lock on you when you’re in the middle of a pose in front of your students.

Trust me, I tried almost everything to avoid major surgery including creams, supplements, injections, arthroscopic procedures and even stem cells.  I thought for sure the stem cells would work since I really do believe in their potential, but when they were injected into my knee, they must have thought they were in hell, and my knee swelled up to twice the size. I think my knee might have killed them.

So, my orthopedic surgeon finally said I was ready and gave me a referral to a doctor that specializes in knee replacements.  I had to wait two months to get an appointment and another three months for the surgery, but if I was going to have this done, I wanted to make sure I had a good doctor.

Surgery went well according to my doctor.  All that was left was for me to recover and do the rehab.  When I woke up I immediately knew that my work was cut out for me.  Even though I wasn’t in pain, I was hooked up to an IV, a nerve block, a drain, an ice machine and nurses would come in all the time to “check” on me, do vitals, give me meds, etc.  I didn’t sleep for two days.  I thought things would be better when I went home, but that is when I really started to learn some important lessons.  As a former athlete, coach, and teacher, I always worked extra hard and went full force to achieve my goals, but now, as I recovered, I needed to finally learn a virtue I have never possessed.  And that is PATIENCE.

My home routine for the first three weeks was structured and slow.  I had a machine that moved my knee through flexion and extension, which wasn’t too painful, but I had to be on it for six hours a day.  I also had to ice when I wasn’t  Moving or on the machine.  I never liked to ice before, but because of the consistent pain, ice became my new best friend.  I also came home with pain meds, which I did not want to take, but did so in order to get through the rehab.  I  tapered off, but did so slowly.  I had a DPT who came to the house and helped with rehab.  He understood my personality, which I appreciated, and also kept  me from trying to do too much.  I wanted to improve, not screw everything up.

Besides the value of patience, I also learned some other lessons.

 

  1. Never take the small things in your life for granted. For the first three weeks I could not take a bath, drink wine, or have sex. (I didn’t know any of this before.)  Also, I had trouble sleeping, walking, and could not drive until I was released from my doctor. However, I was confident I would get there and if I needed to give these things up for a while in order to have a life where it is not compromised because of a bum knee, then it was worth it.  Boy did I appreciate these little perks when I got them backJ   By the way, being able to go #2 was a BIG perk.

 

  1. Follow the doctor’s orders. Like I mentioned before, I have usually done my own thing when it comes to my health.  But for something like a knee replacement, I had NO clue as to what was best.  So I followed orders and was lucky to have a great medical team that I could call whenever I needed them.  And trust me.  I DID.

 

  1. Some people will disappoint, others will shine. Before my surgery many friends and extended family members said that they would call and check up on me to see how I was doing.  Well, about half actually did.  I was especially disappointed in two friends that I have known for many years, who never showed up at all. But that has been balanced out by the people who unexpectedly were there for me.  However, my husband was a trooper.  He spent his whole Christmas vacation taking care of me.  Since he is a former volleyball coach, he also noticed things I needed to work on, especially when I was trying to walk.  “Heel to toe.  Bend your knees. Make sure your feet are facing forward, not out to the side.”

 

Okay coach!

 

  1. Surgery not only challenges you physically, but also emotionally. This was a shocker for me.  I thought it would be just about getting my range of motion back in my leg and recovering, but my emotions also took a hit.  There were times when I just wanted to cry because I didn’t feel like I was progressing as fast as I should.  I felt like such a burden on my husband and couldn’t do the things I loved.  I have never felt so vulnerable in my life.  But I think this is part of the process of recovery and when it’s done, I knew that I would be stronger.

 

So as I moved along the road to recovery I was reminded to be thankful for the amazing people in my life who really care about me, including my dad, who is ninety -seven years old and called every night to check on me.  He always gave me a free advice and his latest was to take “baby steps” toward recovery.  Also, now more than ever, I will give thanks for my health and take better care of my body.  It’s lasted for over seventy years , and it’s about time I started to appreciate it.  I spent too many years beating up my poor knee with all the sports and activities and never really listened when it started to give me messages to slow down.  Well, here’s to my new knee.  I promise I will take better care of you and thanks for teaching me the value of patience.  I needed to learn that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sharkie Zartman Health Coach, Professor, Radio Host, Author

Sharkie Zartman, MA, is a college professor, a former All-American athlete, and award winning volleyball coach. She hosts Sharkie’s Pep Talk on HealthyLife.net Radio Network and is a certified health coach, speaker, and the author of five books including Shark Sense, Empowered Aging, Have Fun Getting Fit, Hey Sports Parents, and her newest, WIN at AGING. She is passionate about helping people take an empowered approach to life so they can have optimal health, happiness, and success at any age.

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