Most of our readers (and fellow osteoarthritis sufferers) realize that this disease is not only painful but also very frustrating. When I was first diagnosed with OA approximately 12 years ago, I knew very little about it. At times, I'm not entirely sure that I'm that much more knowledgable now! When I had the first surgery to replace a joint in my foot that had deteriorated due to OA, I assumed that this was the end of it, the OA was gone, and I could continue my life as usual. Little did I realize that this was just the tiny beginning of my battle with OA! May 6, I again will be having orthopedic surgery and will have a total knee replacement.
This is my ninth surgery from the waist down due to OA. I've had several joint replacements, fusions, and even nine small joints removed from one of my feet. Amazingly, thanks to the skills of great orthopedic surgeons, I seldom even limp unless I'm having one of those horribly extra painful days!
The extra challenge now is that the deteriorated knee is having a major negative effect on the artificial hip on that side. To add to this problem, my low back is also deteriorating now due to OA. I've always tried to avoid most pain meds because I didn't like the side effects. I was on the pain patch for a couple of weeks - it seemed to help the first week, then it began making me extremely nauseous all of the time. When I wasn't throwing up, I seemed to need to sleep all of the time. This was obviously not quite my idea of a good time, so I talked to my doctors and I decided to again try to go without pain meds. As the back pain became excruciating, I finally gave up and ended up back at the hospital.
At first, the doctors thought my artificial hip on that side was totally dislocated due to my symptoms of incredible groin pain as well as hip and back pain. It was one of those good news/bad news type of things, since both of my artificial hips were in place, but the deterioration in my low back has progressed - I STILL don't know why they call that sort of thing progress! I was put on a double-strength dosage of Vicodin and made an appointment to see my surgeon the next day. My doctor told me to sleep on a heating pad (already do), try rubbing Biofreeze into the area (already do), and he added a Celebrex prescription to hopefully reduce the inflammation.
My surgeon is maintaining our original "schedule" for surgeries. May 6, a total knee replacement of the right knee followed by lots of physical therapy. When that is healed, total knee replacement of the left knee and more PT. After that, the spinal surgeon will determine a potential course of action for me. YES, I do get discouraged at times. I will admit that the pain is unbelievable much of the time now. I also fully realize that if this sort of thing was happening 15 years ago, I'd probably be in a wheelchair. I'm incredibly grateful for the advances in orthopedic surgeries, and my skilled ortho surgeons. Although I love my work and my life in Africa, I know that such medical help is simply unknown there.
When I had about four weeks left before my "coming out party," I sat down and made a lengthy list of things that I simply MUST get done before surgery - you know, vacuuming, changing all of the sheets, scrubbing the kitchen floor, dusting, but nothing quite as grandiose as re-painting the living room, or planting new bushes in my yard.
Of course, two weeks later, little has been accomplished. I find that when I'm in excruciating pain, my focus has to be on taking care of me. One of the most important things I've learned while living in Africa, is to prioritize - to decide "in the end, what does it matter really!" My parents were workaholics and I was brought up to be one too. In Africa, I've learned to try to look at things openly and decide if they really ARE that important - I really don't have to be productive all of the time. I know, for me right now, I need to rest as much as possible. Sleep at night is not good because of my pain level. It helps me to rest during the day in one of my reclining chairs that has good support. My house is still messy, but I probably won't be receiving a visit any time soon from the Immaculate Homes Inspection Team!
Since I returned from Africa in March, I've been planning to surprise one of my granddaughters who lives in Kentucky by "popping in" for her 11th birthday. Miranda is active in her Girl Scout troop but doesn't know that I became active in a Girl Guides troop while living in Africa. I have many pictures of her new African friends as well as t-shirts with the Girl Guide crest and Girl Scout crest from Tanzania. I know she'll be excited, but now I'm in a quandary. The "old" me would have gone on this long drive in spite of the pain, simply because I'd planned on doing it. The reality is, due to my health at this time, it probably wouldn't be such a good idea to barrel ahead. Friends keep calling to ask if I'm going on this trip - I honestly don't know - everything depends on how I feel physically at the time. I've learned that with my OA, I can't make decisions far ahead like this (and it's ok with me)!
As I've told my friends, "but it isn't Tuesday yet..."
Published On: April 26, 2010