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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Step Two: Wake Up on the Operating Table...

If you haven't read part one, you probably want to click here.

We set a surgery date of the 3rd of March and that gave me about six weeks to prepare myself.  I'm one of those guys who escaped childhood without any broken bones and aside from a few minor procedures, never have experienced any major, stay the night sort of operation.  Even though, when people would ask me if I was nervous or having second thoughts, the answer was absolutely not.  To put it into some perspective, I've been in pain for years with these knees and if I had to experience even excruciating pain for a short period in order to fix things, I was welcoming the opportunity.

The wife of a co-worker who works in rehab for orthopedic patients told me the best thing I could do was to prepare myself with pre-op exercises.  This would strengthen the muscles in the areas that will be traumatized with the idea being that, once I start post-op therapy, it won't be such a shock.  This was incredible advice.  I got a copy of about six or seven different exercises that would be helpful and for most of the days leading up to the surgery, I spent about twenty minutes on them.  Not a huge investment for the positive outcome.

I know, you want to know how I almost died.  I'll get there, but I'm hoping that if anyone who is considering knee replacement surgery stumbles across this via Google, they will find the information helpful.

Up to the day before surgery, I was planning for two partial knee replacements.  The idea of doing both at the same time, though clearly a rougher go at recovery, seemed like a guarantee that I would not chicken out on doing the second knee if the first knee was a bad experience.  I was sitting at work, pretty much setting up my Out of Office messages, finishing up last minute paperwork and such.  I figured that I could be out for up to twelve weeks.  That's another thing I hadn't experienced.  I don't think I've ever taken more than a week, maybe two off at a time from work, and the idea of being out for so long was more of a concern than the surgery and recovery.

About an hour before I was leaving work, I got a call from Dr. V.  He said that he got a chance to look at the MRI I had done after our initial meeting and he concluded that both knees required full knee replacement versus partial. The only question was, which knee did I want to do first?  We talked about it and I decided that the right knee really needed to get fixed first, though in all honesty, I could have just flipped a coin because they are both so bad.

On the day of surgery, we showed up at BAMC which is also called SAMMC for San Antonio Military Medical Center.  SAMMC is really made up of BAMC and WHASC (Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center) and a host of clinics that serve the San Antonio military population.  I just thought I'd throw that in in case you wondered.
My knee waiting for pre-op.
Eva and I signed in and it wasn't even ten minutes before we were called back to the pre-op area.  The nurse handed me a gown and some socks and told me to get nekkid (well, might as well have been nekkid considering my junk was flapping in the breeze for any interested parties to see).  I got into the bed and started a fairly long waiting process since my doctor had one patient ahead of me.

While we waited, I would get visits from various technicians, doctors, the anesthesiologist, and eventually my surgical team so they could meet Eva and let her know how things would work.

There are a lot of interesting things going on with the pre-op staff as they attend to business.  A lot of it is waiting around in the central area.  All the pre-op rooms are along the outer walls with the staff stationed in the center.  They leave the curtains to each room open except for when some sensitive procedure is taking place (like when you get nekkid), so any f the staff can see into the rooms.  When they are attending to one of the patients, they sit in the center and have a little gab fest.  At one point, my nurse was teaching the other nurses how to Salsa dance.  That was entertaining, especially when the commander of the until walked in on them.  She was embarrassed, but they all got a good laugh out of it.

Eva was looking around at the other rooms noting people coming in and then leaving on their way to the OR.  At one point, she noticed a really older man across from us had his old man balls exposed for anyone to see.  Perhaps his wife could sense the exposure because she eventually covered him with a blanket, much to the appreciation of everyone involved.

For the record, I'm pretty sure medical people see more than they care to on a daily basis, but for us civilians, I think they should let us wear our underwear during these things.  I constantly felt the blanket riding up and in truth, I feel certain that everybody in BAMC has seen my old man balls, too.
My only tattoo.
Dr. V's resident came in and asked me all my identifying information, asked me which knee they were operating on and then pulled out his Sharpie and wrote on it to make sure nobody made a mistake.  I have no idea what it even says, must be some secret medical code.

Finally, the anesthesiologist came in and asked me some questions, then explained that his goal was for me to have no memory of the surgery at all.  They do an Epidural to block the feeling from the waist down, then give you some of that night-night juice to keep you conscious, but fairly knocked out.  Because I am a veteran of two colonoscopies, I'm familiar with the scenario where you close your eyes just as they start to intrude your backside then, eight seconds later, wake up to a technician wiping down the hose.  As an aside, if you ever fear the colonoscopy, I promise, the preparation is a lot worse than the actual shoving of a camera up your butt.

I was given some drugs to help reduce the pain for the Epidural, then they wheeled me off to the OR.  As soon as you get to the OR, the temperature drops to just above freezing.  I do remember the room looking very warehouse like, almost like a weird empty room that had all sort of medical equipment rolled into it.  Maybe it was just my imagination.  Aside from them telling me they were giving me the epidural, I don't recall a whole lot of pain.

The next thing I know, I woke up and I felt great.  I could hear the sound of hammering, but I could not feel it.  I looked forward and could see Dr. V banging away on my knee.  Then I looked up at the anesthesiologist and said, "This feels great."

He looked at me and asked if I could feel anything.

"No, nothing at all, but I have to tell you, this is the best sleep I've had in months."

"Well, technically, you aren't in REM sleep, but I'm sure it feels pretty good." He offered.

"It's wonderful!" I added.

At that point, our conversation was disrupted by Dr. V semi-yelling, "Hey, you wanna put this guy back to sleep?"

And then I woke up while the technicians were cleaning everything up and they were preparing to wheel me down to post-op.

Post-op is where I had my near death experience, so I'll have to explain how that happened in our next installment.  Spoiler alert:  I survived.

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