Archive for Medical Adventures

Dr. Jesse Bennett-Known As The Doctor History Almost Missed

Historic marker on Route 42 just south of Edom. His name is on the web two ways: Jessee/ Jesse and Bennet/Bennett. Not sure which is correct but most seem to use Jesse Bennett.

My brother Ed recently asked me if I knew the first Caesarean Section was performed in Edom, a tiny, little, don’t blink, no stop light, blurb between Harrisonburg and Broadway, Virginia. Edom is not a town, it is just a “has been” area that 60 years ago had a filling station and tiny store, long gone, on the first floor of the McKay’s house (It is still standing-the burned out shell of a house). When we were young, we could safely ride our bikes the quarter of a mile to purchase penny and nickel candy from our hard-earned money. We would stand at the counter and gaze and gaze at the candy trying to decide how to spend those precious pennies. I had heard the story about Dr. Bennett sometime through the years, but would not have been able to recall it until Ed mentioned it.

It sparked my curiosity and I started digging for the story. I found several fascinating articles about Dr. Jesse Bennett on the internet. It is a story worth telling.

Bennett was born on July 10, 1769 in Frankford, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia. Historians disagree about his medical education but after completing his studies, decided he wanted to go west. In 1771, he stopped in Rockingham Country and stayed. He built a little log cabin, hung his diploma on the wall and started his medical practice. In the spring of 1793, he married Elizabeth Hogg, the educated and talented daughter of Peter Hogg, a noted attorney in Rockingham County.

Within the first year, Elizabeth became pregnant and Bennett solicited the service of Dr. Humphrey of Staunton, VA to attend to Elizabeth during her delivery. To me this was amazing as Staunton today is a 45 minute drive by car going 70 mph on interstate from Edom. How did the doctor get there on time and how was word gotten to him when she started labor? Did he ride the train to Edom or his horse?

Her labor started January 14, 1794 and after a prolonged, difficult and agonizing labor the two doctors determined the only two options were a caesarian on Elizabeth or a craniotomy (a crushing of the skull) on the unborn infant. They had tried to deliver the baby vaginally with forceps but were unsuccessful. Dr. Humphrey refused to attempt anything else and left as he knew Elizabeth could not survive the operation. The situation was dire and probably meant death for either or both the mother and her infant. (References #5 and #6)

Desperate to save her baby even at the cost of her own life, Elizabeth pleaded for her husband to perform the caesarian. This surgery had been done successfully to save a baby but had never been successful in saving the mother. The twenty-four year old doctor, with only about three years of experience, was faced with a horrendous decision. Weighing the consequences, he remembered his resolution when he first hung out his shingle, “that he would attend the sick, in good or bad weather, night or day, rich or poor, and do all he could to relieve pain and aches.” In an instant, his decision was made, he would save both if possible, and he did. He assembled a crude operating table from two boards supported by barrels and gave his wife Laudanum (opiate drug) to make her sleepy. Her sister, Mrs. Nancy Hawkins, held a tallow candle to light the makeshift operating table and two slaves supported and held her down on the table. (Reference #5)

Using a knife from the kitchen he opened her uterus with one long swipe and extracted his precious infant daughter, Maria. (Source #3 says 2 cuts) He then removed both of her ovaries and placenta saying “he’d not be subjected to such an ordeal again.” Using stout linen thread, the kind used in frontier homes to sew heavy clothing, he sutured the wound closed. When Elizabeth learned he had taken her ovaries, she was not a happy wife. After a month she was able to be up on her feet and on March 1, 1794 Jesse declared his wife healed. He wrote notes on the title page and margins of one of his medical books but refused to publicize the details of the surgery during his life fearing repercussions from the medical world. He said other doctors would never believe a woman could survive such a hazardous operation done in the backwoods of Virginia. He was not going to give them the chance to call him a liar. Elizabeth died in 1836 after living another thirty-six years. (References #2, and #5)

Dr. A. L. Knight, a boyhood neighbor of the Bennetts, remembered hearing the story of Maria’s birth when he was a youth and collected eye-witness testimonies from Mrs. Nancy Hawkins and the surviving African-American slaves after Dr. Bennett’s death and published the story in The Southern Historical Magazine in 1892 as part of “The Life and Times of Dr. Jesse Bennett, M.D. (References #5 and #6)

Jesse Bennett Way is probably half a mile from where I grew up. Route 42 is the main road running north and south between Harrisonburg and Broadway. Some years ago, Route 42 was widen and a mile long stretch of road coming through Edom was cut off to become a side road. It was named Jesse Bennett Way after the doctor. There are only maybe a dozen or so homes on the road and two churches; one home is an old homestead with a small log cabin behind it at the corner where the road turns into the Lindale Mennonite Church parking lot.

I decided to to pay a visit! This past weekend when I was in Harrisonburg, my sister Evelyn and I went by the house and found the occupants at home. I will refer to them as the B’s. The B’s were gracious and let me take pictures. They knew the story but had never had it connected to their place. The current house where they live was built in 1851 (54 years after the Bennetts left the area) by John R. Wenger and he had a broom making shop in the log cabin. This was the history of their place as they knew it.

History records that in 1797, five years after the historic caesarian, Bennett moved his family to his father-in-law’s land in western Mason County, West Virginia. There, he established a large, well-known and popular medical practice. He got involved in politics and helped to establish Mason County’s government and served as their representative in the Virginia Assembly. It is recorded that Aaron Burr tried unsuccessfully to get him to join the Burr conspiracy. Fortunately, he did not as Burr was later convicted of treason When the US and Great Britain began the War of 1812, he served as army surgeon. (References #5 and #6)

Mr. B said that Route 42 was not a road at the time of the Bennetts, it wasn’t built until 1928. The main road going north and south was Route 11 several miles to the east. There were paths connecting the farms to Route 11. They traveled by horse at that time and had to go through the a series of neighboring farmers’ gates to get there. That would make sense with the info in some of the below articles that said the doctor’s log cabin was located in the back woods. In those days doctors usually traveled to homes rather than patients coming to the doctor’s office.

Another reason I found this story so fascinating was my great-great grandmother Lahman was born prematurely, also very close to Edom, just a mile or so down the road on December 2, 1855. Her face was the size of a silver dollar, a kernel of corn covered her hand and she reportedly weighed 1-1/2 lbs. The story is found on my blog post, A Family Story: An Amazing Birth Miracle I had to look to see if by chance Dr. Bennett could have been the doctor attending her birth, but it was 58 years after he had left the area.

I am posting a picture of the log cabin at the B’s house. Was it by chance Dr. Bennetts? I searched and searched the internet and could not connect the dots but it is the only log cabin on a mile long stretch of road named in his honor. It was built in the same era of time. To me it seems highly possible but I do not know. I do know the current house was not his. If anyone has any more insight on the cabin and/or location, I would love to know.

The cabin is currently being used as a dog house. Sometime through the years a concrete floor was poured. The cabin is still weatherproof and the steps going to the loft are sturdy. Regardless of who built the cabin or who it belonged to, it is a step back into time. You can almost feel the history when you stand in the darkened cabin and creep up the stairs to the loft. And to think that one time the successful “factory” of Mr. Wenger or possibly the office of Dr. Bennett.

Quick Reference Time Line From This Post:

  • 1769: July 10, Jesse Bennett was born.
  • 1791: Dr. Bennett moved to Rockingham County and started his medical practice in a log cabin at Edom.
  • 1793: April 8, married Elizabeth Hogg.
  • 1794: January 14, Dr. Bennett performed a successful caesarian on his wife, Elizabeth at the age of 24.
  • 1794: February 9, Elizabeth was out of bed and by the 15th could walk. March 1, he declared her healed.
  • 1797: The Bennetts moved to Mason County, West Virginia.
  • 1812: Dr. Bennett served as surgeon in the War of 1812 against Great Britain.
  • 1836: Elizabeth Bennett died.
  • 1842: July 22, Dr. Bennett died.
  • 1851: Wenger house was built.
  • 1855: December 2, Pat’s Great-great grandmother Lahman was born prematurely.
  • 1928: Route 42 was built.
  • 1956-1972 Pat lived at Edom.

References:

Double-Knee Replacement-1 Year Anniversary

Last week I had my one year checkup, to the day from my surgery. What a difference one year makes! As I pulled up to the medical complex at St. Francis Hospital where my doctor’s office and physical therapy is located, lots of memories flooded back. I remember struggling to get in and out of the car, being let out at the front door so I didn’t have so far to walk and shuffling in with my walker and wondering if life would ever be normal again. Today there was no chauffeur driving me to my appointment, no handicap sticker dangling from the mirror and no looking for the closest possible handicap parking spot. Instead of riding the elevator to the second floor, I smiled as I walked over to the two flights of stairs, and confidently without stopping or holding onto the hand rail walked up to my appointment-simply because I could! I came down the same way-because I could.

This was a tough year for me but each week, each month, there was improvement and I am now living a normal, pain-free life. My knees are doing well, the tell-tell knee scar is very faint and I walk without limping. I still know that I have knees, but think about them less and less.

My biggest challenge is the bend of my left knee. I don’t have the bend I have in the right. That knee has been my challenge from day one. I actually lost a little of the bend I had at the end of therapy. I can’t get down on my knees and I have a little fear of sometime falling and not being able to get back up.

Dr. Kerr did x-rays and both knees look like they are suppose to look. He doesn’t know why I struggle so much with bend in that knee. I have mostly learned to adapt and sometimes I remind myself that I am much better than I was before surgery. I need to work again on some therapy exercises because at two years, what I have, is what I have. There is no more changing the situation.

Would I recommend doing the surgery? Absolutely.

Would I want to do both knees at the same time? Absolutely.

I will tell you, it was tough. Tougher than I anticipated or was prepared for. But, it is done, over, and all behind me. The end result is a huge improvement for me. I can walk so much better and am pain-free.

Before surgery
Now
Before surgery
Now

Inhale-Exhale

I am so sore tonight I can hardly wiggle!

I am still doing water therapy at the recommendation of my surgeon after my double knee replacement surgery. There is a physician approved therapy center called ACAC that I go to. They have lots of classes you can participate in or you can do your own thing in the heated salt water pool and Jacuzzi. When I started, I met with a therapist who went over the program and took all my vital signs. He was going to work with me. I haven’t seen him since.

Several weeks ago, I decided to do the arthritic session but was not impressed. There wee only “older” people in the class and it didn’t seem like there was much to it. I prefer to do the exercises that were given to me from my physical therapist. Today I decided to take the p.r.e.p session which is part of my therapy program. After all, that is why I am going.

It wasn’t at all what I expected. I expected to have one on one time with a therapist who would check my progress so that he could report it back to my doctor. Instead, it was basically a breathing class. Inhale-1-2-3, exhale-1-2-3. Most of the movements were standing still or almost still, keeping your eyes on a focal point while doing such movements as opening and closing your fist, turning your head, and squeezing your butt cheeks together, tighter, tighter, tighter. Now inhale-1-2-3, exhale-1-2-3 . One exercise included two steps forward-inhale-1-2-3, two steps back-exhale-1-2-3. That was the most active one!!! Another one was making sure you were standing up straight, looking straight ahead; inhale-1-2-3, exhale-1-2-3.  Now all my organs are lined up in their proper positions and my blood is flowing properly!

I left frustrated and determined I would just continue to do my own thing–real exercises. Several hours later I am complaining of being sore. Not just a little sore, big time sore; my ankles, knees, back, legs, arms, and neck, all the places where there are no organs.

Who knew breathing; inhale-1-2-3, exhale-1-2-3 for forty-five minutes could make a person sore! I thought I’ve been inhaling and exhaling for 67 years!!! Maybe my organs were out of line and I just didn’t know it. It is a three Advil night!

Bilateral Knee Replacement-Part 2: Recovery and Therapy

For two months before surgery, my number one focus was therapy; to strengthen my muscles to get me ready for recovery after surgery.

For three months after surgery, my number one focus has been therapy; to get me moving, bending and restoring full use of my knees and legs.

I do not like therapy or exercises. It is hard work, takes intense dedication and hurts! But, it is the difference between healing and getting better and becoming a fully functioning human being again.

I think therapists are on speed dial from the surgeon: “Patient is out of surgery, go, RUN!” Their preference is for you to meet with therapy the day of surgery. However, my first therapy session was postponed until the following morning as it was too late in the day when I got out of recovery and my spinal had not worn off yet.

The first week in the hospital is detailed in Part 1. When I left the hospital on Friday, four days after surgery, they asked if I wanted Home Health to come in. That sounded like a great idea-to let them come to me. The thought of having to leave the house to go one mile to therapy sounded like a big deal.

The morning after I was home, Home Health called and by mid-morning they were knocking on my door to do the paperwork, take my vitals and pictures of my knees. I was informed that I was only scheduled for three visits in two weeks. That was all they were allowed to do. That should have raised a flag but I wasn’t processing information very well at this point.

Later in the afternoon, the first therapist, came for the first visit. She was helpful and encouraging and assured me that what I was experiencing was normal but she pushed me to my limits. She was determined that I would get a 90 degree bend in my knees the first session. The most we could squeeze out was 75 degrees on the right and 55 on the left. The left knee just did not want to bend as well as the right. She suggested I cut the ice treatments back and decrease the pain meds.  I was exhausted when she left and took a long nap. It didn’t take long to find out that cut cutting ice or meds in the first week was not a good idea.

By the time the second therapist arrived five days later, I was eleven days past surgery and just getting my second “real” therapy session. I was worried about the length of time between sessions.  My left leg was really stiff, felt like a wooden post, and just would not bend as much as the right.  She wasted no time telling me that she is hard on her joint patients. She looked at my list of ten exercises  that I came home from the hospital with and said, “I want you do three sets of ten twice a day”.  My doctor instructions were to do ten of each exercise twice a day. That meant each exercise that I did ten times, I was now to do a total of thirty times, twice a day.  Physically, mentally and emotionally I could not do it.  I wrote in my journal. “My legs feel terribly tight, and are horribly sore. I can barely walk.” Her next visit was scheduled for eight days later.

The next morning I called my doctor and told him what was happening. I asked him if this is what he wanted in therapy. He said, “Absolutely not.”  He said Home Health is an independent company and they do their own thing. They do not communicate with the doctor, they don’t know what he recommends or wants for his patients.  He suggested that I use Ortho Therapy as it is in the same building as his office.

The Ortho therapist has access to the doctor and my medical records when needed and the doctor has input into the amount and type of therapy.  Ortho couldn’t start me until the beginning of the week which meant it would be sixteen days post surgery before I got on a good therapy schedule and program.  I was impressed with their program and they were very helpful and encouraging and committed to get me going. There was immediate concern about my left knee and we talked about the issue. The therapist mentioned that they can “manual manipulation” if it doesn’t respond to therapy but it is a last option.  Therapy was scheduled for three times a week plus they put me on an exercise program to do twice daily at home.  For the next ten weeks therapy and exercises consumed my days.

As I began to write this blog, I started to notice the post surgery milestones I had posted in my journal:

  • Twelve days: Was able to shower by myself without sitting or using the walker for stability.
  • Fifteen days:  Can leave walker outside of bathroom door.  Much easier to get in and out of bed and chairs.
  • Seventeen days: Started walking in the atrium at our church for exercise. The swelling in the legs is decreasing.
  • Nineteen days: Went out to our feed store for the first time (about an hour) and put in a feed order.  Started doing light office work every couple of days.
  • 3 weeks: At therapy my right leg bends 90 degrees and the  left 55. That is a big difference. The goal is 90 degrees at 2 weeks so I am running behind on the left.  I am now up and moving around most of the day. and cutting back on pain meds.
  • 4 weeks: Started going to church and more comfortable going out.  My legs hurt if I stand still or they “dangle” too long when sitting. I have to choose my chairs and length of time sitting and standing carefully. My legs still hurt at night and keep me awake but during the day, it is not bad. I now have 95 degrees on right knee an 82 on left. I have no trouble cooking and doing laundry as long as Gene helps me with carrying the laundry basket and getting pans out of the lower cabinets. I am now going steps to the office and laundry. I can now put my foot up on the edge of the coffee table to tie my shoes and trim my toe nails!
  • 32 days:  Had an appointment with Dr. Kerr and he is recommending water therapy.  Next week he wants to do a manual manipulation on my left knee. This scares me too death, sounds awful. They said it sounds like Velcro being pulled apart.
    • Started going to a neighbor’s pool to do exercises several times a week.
    • Incisions are healed and started using Coconut Oil and Coca Butter on them.
  • 37 days: Started driving. As long as I was on the strong pain meds I wasn’t allowed to drive.
  • 38 days:  Parked the walker and started using the cane full time.  My left knee cap would give out on me periodically and until we had those muscles strengthen I was suppose to use the walker.

  • 6 weeks: Manual manipulation.  Under sedation, Dr. Kerr was able to get 140 degree bend but when I left the hospital, I could only move it as before. I expected immediate results but discovered I was still going to have to work for it! I was very nervous about this procedure and how bad it would hurt. I knew I would be asleep for it but what about afterwards??? It turned out I was sore for about one day. I had a pool of blood just under the skin to the left of the knee cap that was tender for several weeks until my body absorbed it.

Picture given to me by my surgeon, taken during the manipulation.

    • Several things are affecting my movement. It is not the joints-they are artificial. There is still swelling and some fluid on the knee.  The healed incisions are tight-the skin around them does not move. I have to start massaging the incisions. Because of my poor posture in the months and years leading up to surgery the ligaments in my legs affecting movement have tighten and shorten.  I have to work hard with stretch exercises.
    • Ordered a portable pedal “mini bike” that sits on the floor in front of a chair. The therapist says pedaling is crucial to getting my knees to bend and the ligaments stretched.

    • They started me on a pedal bike in therapy. Man is that tough! The first time I could not do a full petal cycle. The therapist gave my left foot a little push to help it make a full cycle and it made me yelp! By the second session, I could do it.
    • Got rid of the potty “hi-rise seat”. I was waiting until after the manipulation as I didn’t know how things would be.
  • 7 weeks: I am seeing a definite improvement in my gait but still have a slight limp and a slight drag to the left leg.  I have had to relearn how to walk properly. I have to think; lift my knee like a march, come down, heel first then rock to toe. Repeat. Sounds easy, right!!!!!
    • I am working hard with leg extension exercises. My left knee, yes, the bad one, is doing great, but it is my good, right knee that does not want to extend properly so that the back of the knee touches the bed when fully extended. To walk properly and get rid of that drag, it has to happen.  After surgery my measurement was a 12. That is the gap between the back of the knee and a flat surface. That is not good. It needs to be a zero. Right now I am at 3.  After the therapist works on my knee, she can get zero, but I am not able to do it yet on my own.
    • I started making cakes to sell in the store again.
    • Got 96 degree bend on the left leg and 112 on the right. We hi-fived and cheered.
  • 8 weeks: I had my eight week appointment with Dr. Kerr. He was very encouraging and keeps telling me it will come, but it will take some time. He likened it to someone losing weight and stepping on the scales every morning expecting to see results. I said, “That is so me! That is exactly what I do.” I guess I am just impatient, I want instant results.
    • I am working on steps. I can not go fluidly up and down steps. It is one foot up (or down) and then the other foot like a baby learning to walk. I am working on the proper sequence. My left knee is lacking enough strength yet to bear my weight as I step up. I have to do exercises to strengthen the “step” muscles. It will come.
    • I have stopped using the cane in the house.  When practicing steps or going outside on uneven ground, I still use the cane for safety.  They do not want me to fall.

    • We went to the airport to pick up our daughter and family who had been on vacation. Their flight was delayed so we went upstairs where we could sit and watch people coming and going. I had taken my cane but when we came to the escalator, I stopped. I could not figure out how or which foot to put first on the moving steps. The steps looked like they were flying!!!! I didn’t long for me to decide we needed to take the elevator. It is funny what stops you in your tracks. It makes me realize the difficulty and inconvenience handicap people face. I have also faced this at Food Lion and Walmart. At this point I use the motorized carts as the stores are large and there is a lot of walking. If I want something on the top shelf I either have to stand up or use my handy cane; the hook is a “slick trick” for pulling items off the shelf as long as they aren’t glass.
  • 9 weeks: Today at therapy I got 105 degree bend on my left leg and 119 on the right and two days later it was 110 and 120.  The right knee has reached the anticipated goal for therapy and I am almost there on left.  The therapist and I cheered and hi-fived like excited school kids on the accomplishment. It is worth celebrating!!!
    • I am now going to church, therapy and to our store without the cane.
    • I am totally off all pain meds except for Advil and Tylenol on an as needed basis.

At my 8 week appointment, Dr. Kerr again pushed ACAC water therapy. When I questioned him about the difference between the YMCA and my friend’s pool, he said they have a heated salt water pool, medical staff on hand to work with you and the option of group classes in the pool.  They also report back to him on progress.

I finally decided that I was being stubborn like Naaman in the Old Testament (II Kings 5). Naaman had leprosy and his little Jewish slave girl told him that the prophet in her home land could heal him. Naaman went in search of the prophet Samuel and when he was told to go and dip seven times in the Jordan River he refused. He had his own rivers back home he preferred to use, they were cleaner.  But when he relented and obeyed, he was healed. I decided if I want to get better I need to listen to the advice of my doctor.  I signed up for two months at ACAC. The warm 95 degree water is wonderful and so is the huge Jacuzzi!!!!

I am now two days from the 10 week mark.  Today at therapy I got 113 degrees in my left knee and 124 in my right. They changed the way I am to walk. Instead of bending my knee as in a step or  march, I am to keep my leg extended, then heel down, rock to toe. That is to help my leg extension and prevent my “crouching” again. I knew before going to therapy I was improving on my bend. One of my exercises is to sit in a chair and slide my foot back towards the chair as far as I can, using the other leg to help push it back. The blue tape on the floor marks my achievements-where I can get my heel. My left foot almost touches the rung of the chair. I have made amazing progress.

 

Going up and down stairs is greatly improving. Going up is easier than down. On shallow steps I have the up conquered and the down is getting there. Steeper stairs is still a work in progress.  I can now put on panty hose which means I can wear my nicer flats to church.

As I read through my daily journal, I realize the huge progress I have made; little steps almost daily. It helps to look back and see where I came from so that I can keep my eye on the anticipated goal. They say It will take 1-2 years for full recovery.  I also realize that almost every day I write in my journal how bad I hurt during the night. I have trouble getting to sleep, my knees ache and my feet are restless.  During the day I am active and busy and not as aware of the ache.  Every step I take, I am still aware that I have knees. There is a tight band across the knee caps but it is gradually lessening with time.  I am now only going to physical therapy twice a week and  hopefully will done in a few weeks.

Many, many people have prayed for me. God is the ultimate healer and I give Him praise and thanks for what He has done in my life and how he has used the advances of modern medicine to help me. I look forward to complete healing and a new lease on life in the weeks and months ahead.

August 21: I am now between my tenth and eleventh week. I graduated from therapy today!!!!!!! My right knee has a 124 degree bend and my left 115. Because I am doing my home exercises, going to ACAC water therapy, my right leg extension has improved and I basically have full range of motion, the therapist is turning me loose. I will go back in two weeks for a final check-in.  It has been a long road and it feels so good to be moving on to the next phase. Hopefully, no more therapy-ever!!!!

 

Other blog posts about my surgery:

Bilateral Double Knee Replacement-Part 1: Surgery

Rahab and Ruth

Ready or Not, Here I Go

Domino Effect

Highly Motivated

I Can Help You!

 

Bilateral Double Knee Replacement-Part 1: Surgery

A lot of you have been following me on facebook but I wanted to document my experience as a help and reference to others anticipating the same procedure. One thing that I am being told over and over and am learning the hard way is that everyone is different, each knee is different even if done at the same time by the same doctor. There is no standard, only guidelines which makes the law of averages. It is easy to overlook the stories of those who struggle and only hear the voices of those who got along exceptionally well and then set that bar for yourself.  Before surgery I asked lots of questions, talked to others in the “knee club” and it was very helpful but it also set my expectations very high and I assumed I would be one of the “wonder” persons. It  did give me an idea of what to expect but somehow I missed how hard and painful it would be. For me, my journey became filled with struggles and several setbacks as you will see as my story unfolds.

Day of surgery: Day 1 (Monday)

Prepped and ready for surgery.

Our pastor came, prayed for me and sat with Gene and Jill as I headed off to surgery.

My two and a half hour surgery went well. I awoke in recovery with my family standing around my bed laughing. They were laughing at me! I knew they were asking me questions and I knew they were laughing at my responses but I could not control my answers. At least I provided good entertainment for them and at that point I didn’t care!

Jill took a selfie with me during my silly spell!

After I was awake and settled in my room (5 p.m.), my family left. It had been a long day and they were tired and hungry and I was sleepy, in no pain and had the most wonderful nurse, Barbie Adams, as my night nurse. She is a neighbor and I have known the family for forty plus years.  They put foot pumps on my feet to prevent blood clots and ice-wraps on my knees for swelling. They had me wiggle my numb toes and brought me a light supper. In the middle of the night I craved party mix. I finally asked Mrs. Adams if they, by chance, had any crackers I could eat. She brought me orange juice, saltine crackers, peanut butter and two cups of Hershey’s Chocolate Ice-Cream. It was a feast and tasted so good. I had a good night and they let me sleep with almost no interruption.

Day after surgery: Day 2 (Tuesday)

I awoke at 3 a.m. and was wide awake. I decided it was a good time for my devotions as everything was quiet and dark in the hospital.  I still had no pain, my knees did not hurt, and I could now feel my toes.  A one point I pulled my knees up and said to the nurse, “look at what I can do!” I felt like wonder woman. Two different nurses said they had not seen anyone do what I could do at that point.

 

At 8 a.m. my doctor made his rounds and took the large band-aid looking bandages off my knees. Now I could see my battle scars. There were no stitches or staples on the outside, the wound was super glued together.

Because my surgery was in the middle of the day and it was late until I got to my room, they did not get me up to walk yesterday  I was still too numb. But by 9 a.m. this morning, physical therapy was in my room and it was time to get out of bed, take a few steps and learn to take care of my personal needs. They let me sit in a chair for half an hour. Jill was in early and stayed with me all day. We had a good morning with lots of laughter and conversation.

In the afternoon they decided to give me 5 mg of Oxycodone as my knees were starting to ache and to prepare me for the afternoon physical therapy session. The spinal and nerve blocks in my legs was wearing off. They wanted me to sit in a chair and have a sponge bath before therapy. I sat on the edge of the bed and they took my blood pressure.  The top number was 166.

They moved me to the chair and I immediately started feeling bad-really bad. I turned very pale, started sweating and became nauseated.  They said I yawned, asked to get back in bed and slumped over. They took my blood pressure and buzzed for help. The top number was 77. I was in and out of consciousness as they lifted me back in bed. Fortunately we don’t have a picture of this! They restarted my IV and put ice on my head until they could get my blood pressure settled. We finally decided I had reacted to the Oxycodone. They switched the pain medicine to Tramadol and that worked well for me.  During the afternoon my level of pain started increasing as my legs were starting to swell and became very, very tight. It was a rough night and I was not allowed to get up to go to the bathroom as I was still too woozy.

Day 3: (Wednesday)

Physical therapy couldn’t do much with me today as my blood pressure was still unstable and I felt dizzy. Later they did get me out of bed and I walked 20-30 feet down the hall and then sat in a chair for about 45 minutes. I was so sleepy and at one point went to sleep in mid-sentence. My ankles and knees were so tight and swollen and very tender to the touch. They had me do a few exercises but my knees were so painful. It was a rough day. Usually they keep their bilateral patients two nights but there will be no going home for me yet.

My night nurse was not very helpful and acted like she didn’t want to be there. The rule is you have to ask for pain meds. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. I was on four different pain medications; one was twice a day, one every six hours, two I could have in between. My brain absolutely could not keep it straight. I could not remember the names of the meds, what I could have when or when I took what. I quickly learned the value of a family caregiver who watches out for your needs.

I asked the night nurse to please give me my meds during the night whenever I was allowed to have them. She was a follower of “the letter of the law”, insisting I had to ask, in spite of my pleading. It was very frustrating. I had ice packs on my legs around the clock and the ice packs needed to be changed every 2-3 hours. I had to ask for them to be changed regularly also. Sometimes I would sleep through the time when I could have meds and then would hurt so bad as it took a while for the meds to catch up. When the night nurse would come in, she would call someone else to come help me to the bathroom, take off the foot pumps, change my ice. She did only the basic. I was very glad when the night shift change and I did not see her again.

Day 4: (Thursday)

Therapy got me up and we walked down the hall and then I sat in a chair again for about 45 minutes. My blood pressure is still fluctuating but not as bad. I felt a little more encouraged today and walking with the walker is going better. My knees hurt and because they are so swollen and tight, they do not want to bend. It is hard to stay focused on the anticipated goal and stay upbeat when you hurt. However, today I began to think about going home and when Dr. Kerr came in for the night rounds he said that in the morning, I could go home.

Day 5: (Friday)

Today is the day and it is time to go home. It feels a little bit overwhelming and intimidating. In the hospital they are set up to handle me and there are medical people to answer my questions. I wondered, can I really do this? Am I ready? Can I handle my home set up? I know I can walk with the walker but I haven’t had a shower yet. How will I handle that?

In preparation for going home, therapy consisted of learning to do a 4″ and 6″ step so that I can get into the house. Oh the little things we take for granted!!! The therapist had not been able to do all that she wanted to do with me in the hospital because of my blood pressure episode and asked if I wanted In-Home Care therapy. That sounded like a wonderful idea and she signed me up for two weeks.  This soon proved to be a mistake-it will be written about in part 2. By 11:30 the paperwork was signed, I was released, and ready to go home.

The night nurse did not do a good job keeping my legs iced and by morning my knees were extra swollen and so tight they could hardly bend. The first issue in getting me home started when they brought a transport chair to take me down to our vehicle.  The seat on a transport chair tilts slightly backwards which means your knees have to bend more than normal to reach the very narrow rests for your feet. It hurt so bad I could not stand it. They insisted that was my only option. I reminded them that they had me in a wheelchair earlier and I knew that would work, to please let me use that. They finally consented and even provided pillows to help support my legs. The second issue was that I was now signed out of the hospital and no longer were they allowed to help me.  The strapping young transport fella that was to wheel me down to the main entrance to our vehicle could do only that-wheel me down.  He was not allowed to help get me into the vehicle.

Our daughter, Jill, came in to get me as we decided her vehicle had more leg room in the front to get my legs in and out. Getting me in the vehicle proved to be very difficult. I could not bend my legs enough to get in regardless of how I tried twisting and turning. The young fella just stood there and stared. Finally, we decided to have me sit on the edge of the back seat and scoot across with my legs straight out in front of me on the seat. Without a finger lifted from the strapping young fella, Jill finally maneuvered me into place and off we went on the twenty minute ride home.

By the time we got home, I was really hurting and exhausted.  I went straight to bed. While I slept, Jill got my prescriptions filled and organized. Now we began the process of figuring out how to function at home. The white wicker chair seemed to be my best sitting chair (arm rests on a chair are very useful in getting up!) and I instantly knew I had to have a high rise seat for the potty. Our bathroom is narrow but fortunately we had remodeled it several years ago making it more functional.  I had to go in the door with the walker sideways, park my chariot by the sink and hold onto the sink to shuffle to the toilet.

Gene and Jill took turns getting up during the night to give me my meds and change my ice. The long awaited surgery week was over. It was good to be home.

Other blog posts about my surgery:

Bilateral Knee Replacement-Part 2: Recovery and Therapy

Rahab and Ruth

Ready or Not, Here I Go

Domino Effect

Highly Motivated

I Can Help You!

 

Rahab and Ruth

 

I was lying in bed the day after surgery thinking as I gently rubbing my swollen, sore, stiff knees when I had the idea of naming my legs Rahab and Ruth. I am sure your first thought is, “how did you come up with those names?” Both were Old Testament women with fascinating stories. The struggles and decisions of life had been hard and bruising on both women but when God got a hold of them and changed their hearts, they had new purpose in living. The results were life changing with New Testament implications.

So, with that introduction, meet Rahab (left) and Ruth (right)….

My legs: Rahab and Ruth:

Each leg is so different. Ruth is more flexible and responding to therapy but Rahab is more stiff and swollen. Both of my knees had severe osteoarthritis, bone spurs and was bone on bone. The surgery on Rehab was a little more intense.  When I got to my room after recovery, full of drugs, spinal and nerve blocks, I lifted and bent my knees and exclaimed to the nurse, “Look what I can do”! That was a short-lived wonder woman proclamation!

I had several setbacks along the way and very quickly “wonder woman” became “I wonder if woman”! At two weeks, the  therapist is looking to see a 90 degree bend in the knee and at three weeks, 110. At three weeks, I am just getting to 90 on Ruth and 55 on Rahab. This is very concerning to me as I am not sure what has gone wrong. What have I not done right? Everyone says everyone is different and even legs on the same person are different. I have done my exercises faithfully, before and after surgery. I think Rahab is holding Ruth back because some exercises such as the squats, you can’t do with a “straight wooden leg”.

Therapy is working hard with me and talking to my surgeon to break up the scar tissue and get more movement. Yesterday was a rough therapy day but we got 10-15 more degrees in each leg. If we still can’t get what I need, they will put me to sleep (as it is very painful) and manipulate the knees to break the adhesions.

Biblical Rahab.

Rahab first appears in the Old Testament in Joshua 2. The Israelites were poised to enter the promised land. Joshua sent out two spies to survey the walled city of Jericho and the surrounding area. Before the city gates were closed for the night, the two spies slipped into the city and went to a house built on the wall, the home of a prostitute, Rahab. This was a perfect place to stay because “visitors” were always coming and going. It wasn’t long until the king was notified that strangers were in the city. After a thorough search of the city, the men were not found because Rahab had cleverly hidden them under piles of flax drying on her roof. Rahab had heard about the Israelites and revealed to the spies the great fear of the people for them because they had heard how their God had done mighty things. After assuring Rahab that she and her family would be saved when they conquered the city if she followed the guidelines laid out, she let them down with a cord out of her window and the spies escaped to the mountains until it was safe to return to Joshua. A very short time later the Israelities marched silently around the city once a day for six days and on the seventh day seven times. At the designated time they blew their trumpets and shouted and the walls fell in a heap of rubble except for Rahab’s house. She and her family was rescued. The detailed story is in Joshua 2. Hebrews 11:31 records that Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe because she received the spies in peace.

Her next appearance in scripture is Matthew 1:5 in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Salmon and Rahab begot Boaz.  Wouldn’t you like to know the love story of Salmon and Rahab?

Biblical Ruth.

The next line in the genealogy states that Boaz and Ruth begat Obed , Obed begat Jesse the father of King David. Twenty-eight generations later the family line ends with the birth of Jesus Christ.

The whole book of Ruth in the Old Testament is given to the story of Ruth.  This also is an amazing story. Elimelech and Naomi and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, lived in Bethlehem during the time of the judges. There was a severe famine and they moved to the land of Moab where the sons eventually married Moabite women, Ruth and Orpal. After ten years, Elimelech and both of his sons died leaving three grieving widows. Noami decided it was time to go back to her homeland and her people.  The two daughter-in-laws started out with her but Naomi begged them to stay with their families as she was too old to produce more sons for them to marry. Orpal turned back but Ruth refused to leave her beloved mother-in-law.

Ruth’s heartfelt response to Naomi has gone down in history as a beloved commitment which is frequently used in Christian weddings.

“Entreat me not to leave you or to turn back from following after you.

For where you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge.

Your people will be my people, and your God, my God.

Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.

The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.”

Ruth 1:16-17

 

It was harvest time when they arrived in Bethlehem. Ruth asked permission of her mother-in-law to go and gleam grain behind the reapers in the field. She “happened” in the field of Boaz who was close kin of Elimelech. Boaz noticed Ruth and inquired who she was. He had already heard her story and knew of her loyalty to Naomi.  Boaz invited her to only gleam behind his reapers, provided her with food and water, gave her extra grain to take along home, and admonished his workers to watch out for her and not harm her.

The culture in those times was very different from what we know and understand. It was the responsibility of the closest kin to marry a widowed woman to produce a son to carry on the dead man’s family name. The details of the story can be read in the book of Ruth. There was one man closer kin but he declined to marry Ruth so Boaz willingly took her as his wife. Rahab is now the mother-in-law of Ruth.

Two women: a prostitute and a Moabite. Two women who knew heartbreak, sorrow, disappointment and the bruising rigors of life. Two women who met God and married into the Israelite tribe which was strictly forbidden by God. Two women whose lives were given new purpose and from whom our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was born.

I kind of like the symbolism of their stories. My worn out knees need new life and purpose.

Other blog post relating to my surgery:

I Can Help You!

Highly Motivated

Domino Effect

Ready or Not, Here I Go

 

Ready or Not, Here I Go

The appointed time is at hand; I get new knees (Bilateral Knee Replacement) and the promise of straight legs and a new gait.  I can hardly wait but at the same time I dread the unknown of what I have to go through to get there.

I talked to one lady who is my age and lives in Powhatan. She had the very same procedure with the same doctor within the last six months. She has gotten along very well and was a great encourager. I have also talked to numerous others and I feel like I kind of understand what to expect.  Everyone I have talked to has done very well and are so glad they had it done.

It is quite the ordeal to get ready:  pre-op physical therapy, doctor appointments, preadmissions testing, class on procedure, CT scan, EKG, paperwork to fill out, release forms to sign, and pre-surgery cleansing routine. My post-operative care is lined up and a walker and cane have been borrowed.  The house is cleaned, flower beds are  weeded, the laundry done and my duffel bag is packed. A thousand last minute instructions about everything I could think of have been given. You would think I was going away on a long vacation and they can’t do it without me!!!

I am very grateful to my many friends, family and church family for their expressions and promises of care and prayers.

So now, ready or not, here I go. It is now time to git’er done!

Other blog posts about my knee replacement surgery:

 

 

Domino Effect

What we do affects others, often in ways we have no idea. This hit home really hard late Monday afternoon when I got a call from my surgeon’s office saying my Wednesday knee replacement surgery needed to be rescheduled.  I like to think I can be understanding and flexible but sometimes you find out it is hardier than you think. It would have been easier to take if the doctor was sick or an emergency in the family. But no, this was a mistake between the surgery and clinical scheduling offices.  I had caught wind that this might be the case a week ago, but was assured by the scheduler that my surgery was on.  Now I have to accept the fact that someone made a mistake and it affected me.

It was a big deal for me to get ready and everything scheduled for  this surgery.  I am a busy, active, working person.  After surgery I need a caregiver for a week, time off from work, and employees to cover for me and a hundred other details to attend to and delegate.

Before surgery you have lab work that has to be done within the month prior to surgery.  I only had a week to spare or all the labs would have to be redone. Seven days before surgery you have to go off all your vitamins and meds. Three days before, you start a cleansing route with surgical scrubs. The bed linens have to be washed twice in the three day process and I can only put on all clean clothes each day and night.  All of this was already in process.

On Sunday my knees became swollen, tight and very painful.  I was having difficulty doing steps and walking. It suddenly dawned on me that it was probably because I had been off the anti-inflammatory medicine in preparation for surgery.  Now I have to start all over on this process and more surgical scrub has to be sent to me.

My caregiver (daughter) is a business manager for two dental offices. Between work, home, church and teenage kids it is a big deal for her to take off and come help me for a week.  Her family is willingly making big sacrifices for me to have help. Now all her plans have to be changed which affects two business and numerous persons.

Gene had a root canal scheduled on my new surgery date. That had to be changed.  Feed delivery schedules were altered to help with me being out of the store. The list goes on and on.

We worked through it and all is well. There was even some positive in the midst of it that works out for the better.  Sometimes we forget so it is a good reminder that our mistakes or decisions can have far reaching implications, complications and inconveniences for other people. It is like a line of dominoes; when one falls, the whole line crashes. I also know that sometimes things are delayed for unseen reasons and it is for our good or protection.  I may never know what or if God had a reason it needed to be delayed.  I have prayed over this surgery and the surgeon and am trusting God to be the ultimate healer and know that His timing is perfect.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

Other posts related to my surgery:

I Can Help You!

Even with prescription inserts, my feet have hurt for years. I have blamed it on genetics and my lot in life. An everyday pair of shoes last me about six months. By that time, the sides are blown out and it is obvious that I walk on the outsides of my feet. In the last number of years, I have become more and more aware that I am getting very knock-kneed and have wondered if maybe my feet issue are a result of a larger “structure” problem. When I am sitting in the lazy boy chair with my feet straight out, it is startling how crooked my legs have become. I have developed an unnatural gait that is uncomfortable and frankly very unbecoming. Try knocking your knees together and roll your feet to the outside as you walk.

I finally went to see an orthopedic specialist last week that looked at my feet, knees and hips.  One of the first things I said to Dr. Kerr was, “I’m not sure you can help me but this is what i am dealing with.” After listening to me and looking at my x-rays he said, “I can help you!”  I had prepared myself for the worse; that there was nothing they could do. How do you fix such a mess?

I was ecstatic.  He. Can. Help. Me! There is actually something that can be done.

My Problems:

  • The tendons in my feet burn, especially in the arch area.
  • My feet always hurt. I can’t go barefoot and have to wear good shoes with prescription inserts. I am always aware I have feet. I only have one style of shoe that is comfortable for me to wear– my “granny shoes”!
  • Knees are larger than they should be and it often feels like my knee cap could give out.
  • When I get down on my knees,  I have a very difficult time getting up.
  • It is very difficult to stand for long periods of time such as waiting in line, standing at the kitchen stove or standing in church for singing.  I need to sit. It is much easier to keep moving. Long walks, particularly on concrete or uneven ground kill my feet. Running is out of the question.
  • My hips ache and often my lower back bothers me.
  • Coming down stairs, I like to use the handrail and it is right foot down, then left foot; not a continuous stepping action.

Diagnosis: Osteoarthritis.

I have severe arthritis in both knees, a bone spur, and the knee caps have gotten off center. It is bone on bone. I knew there was probably some arthritis in my knees, my little fingers show “Uncle Arthur’s” presence,  but I had no idea my knees were in that bad of shape!  It is truly amazing but I do not have pain in my knees. They ache and bother me, but no pain. My lower back actually bothers me worse than my knees.

He asked me if my knees clicked. I said, “no”, but as he moved them around you could hear, “click, click, click!” When I left the office and walked down the hall I could feel my knees clicking away! I simply had not picked up on it. He also noted that I have developed a little bit of a “squat” stance. When standing straight, my knees bend slightly forward so I am not really standing straight.

The good news is that it is not rheumatoid arthritis.  Dr. Kerr looked at my hands and said, “See how the end joints of your little fingers are affected. That is arthritis.  If it is the first joint on your finger and goes back into your knuckle, it is rheumatoid arthritis. That is worse”

I Can Help You:  Robotic Double Knee Replacement.

I was stunned as I had never even considered the knee replacement option in my brain.  The first thing I have to do is six weeks of physical therapy to strengthen the leg and knee muscles. The middle of April he will see me again and we will talk.  One thing he did say was that he needed to do both knees at the same time; it is the only way to get my knees and legs straight.  He said, “When I am done, I am going to walk out to the waiting area and tell your family that you legs are straight!”

How Do I Feel?

I have been doing lots of reading online and talking to a few people trying to gather information so that I know what I am facing. It is daunting to think of doing both knees at once and not having a good leg to stand on. I will admit, it is a little scary, but I am also very excited. I have to get through the busy spring months in the store before I can schedule this ordeal. It is a bit overwhelming to think about and at this point I have lots of unanswered questions. I feel this is something I have to do while I am still healthy and “young enough” to prevent more severe and untreatable structure problems later on.  After all, I have a surgeon who says, “I can help you” and I know a “Great Physician” who can help the surgeon.

It is very distressing to me to see pictures of how I actually look and how far I have slipped.  I think, this can’t be me.  I want you to see why I am so excited for surgery! The video is a very short “now” picture of me walking. In a few months I hope I can post another one that I can title, “Look at me now. He helped me!”

I will be writing my journey as it unfolds; I am hoping for surgery in June. I would love to hear from others who have had the same experience.

Other blog posts about my knee replacement surgery:

It Was My Bald Spot

A bald spot on a man can look very dignified and stylish, but for a woman, it is a cosmetic nightmare! As I kept tabs on the thinning spot on the back of my head, I decided it was time to take action and try something, anything!

My friend, google, guided me to numerous web sites and after reading the information, I decided on Keranique.com. It proclaims itself as the hair regrowth system for women with thicker, longer, stronger and healthier hair. And, it is clinical proven! After looking at pictures, reading testimonials and seeing the claim that 1,000,000 women have been helped, I decided to give it a try. After all, what did I have to lose except more hair.

The products are rather pricey, but if I had gone to a doctor and gotten a prescription, that would have also been expensive also. With anticipation, I ordered the kit; Scalp Stimulating Shampoo,  Volumizing Keratin Conditioner, Hair Regrowth Treatment, Lift and Repair Treatment Spray along with their super duper vitamins for hair regrowth.

I have been using it since January 2017 (1-1/2 years) and the results are very noticeable, I am very pleased. I don’t have the luscious, silky, flowing hair of the women on the ad, I never have. I admit I have always been a tad bit jealous of women with thick hair but for me the results are a huge improvement. My hair is still thin, but there is no longer a bald spot.

Now, I just look at another bald spot that I don’t have to have a mirror to see it. Shhhh, I took this picture while he was sleeping. I think he ought to start using my magic potion, it might even make him feel younger! What do you think?

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