I’m having a bad day.
My new knee is hurting in multiple different ways. The doctor told me there are different types of pain so I’m on three different medications to combat it. I had a total knee replacement one week ago yesterday. Everyone tells me I’m doing exceptionally well and I believe I am. I’m way ahead of schedule on being able to bend my knee, do the exercises, walk longer distances than expected, and put full weight on the leg (with support close by). This is all great news.
But today I’m exhausted, in pain, and overwhelmed. Thank God I live in a seniors’ complex where I have friends and support. This morning, one friend called me to see how I was doing and to bring me a cold pack. I admitted I was struggling and didn’t have the energy to do anything more than make it out of bed to use the commode and then wrestling my way back into bed to find a position for my leg that might alleviate some of the deep aching and intermittent stabs of sharp pain that were plaguing me. When she arrived, she immediately took control and made me a bowl of oatmeal, since I hadn’t eaten anything yet. She wrapped the new cold pack for me and placed the used one in the freezer. She sat with me for a while as I started to eat the oatmeal and then on my assistance, she left to deal with her own aging issues. She’s twenty years older than me but before she left she scolded me as a loving mother would do, for doing too much the day before.
I admire the seniors that live in this complex. At the age of almost sixty-two I’m the youngest one living here. The average age is about eighty. Aging is not for the meek or mild. Aging is hard. These people face it with courage and conviction. Many of them far more mobile and healthy than I am. But hearing about someone falling and needing an ambulance, or hearing about someone who needs a hip replacement or cataract surgery or hearing tests is common place. Worse of all is hearing of someone who can no longer care for themselves enough, even with help, and must be moved to ‘the next level of care’. For some, it means leaving their home here in our complex after fifteen or twenty years. Being forced to move from your home is extremely difficult for most people and without further support and love from their community, they can whither and die in a very short time period. Funerals are not uncommon and every person living here is aware that we age each and every day.
And yet, there as so many smiles here; so much laughter, so much life! There are so many different activities to become involved in that a person can’t possibly take part in all of them. People greet each other in the halls and in the doorways. The staff are incredible and are always there to lend a hand and listen. It is a place to thrive and I am eternally grateful that I am part of this community.
I arrived here a year and a half ago; both mentally and physically disabled. I was over 400 pounds and used a scooter to travel down the long hallways. I was dealing with PTSD and mental exhaustion after a breakdown in January of 2016. I retreated into my apartment and rarely ventured out. I was a loner.
But slowly, by patiently being there for me when they could, others coaxed me to take part on one or two activities centered around things I love to do Over time I found acceptance and support for who and what I was. My embarrassment and shame of being so over weight and having a mental disability eased. I began to come out of my shell. With a support team of a medical doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, and staff and residents from the senior’s complex where I live, I began to believe I could take steps towards gaining a much better quality of life. I needed to lose weight, do something about my bad knees and damaged back, and I needed to gain coping strategies to deal with my mental disability. I increased my swimming schedule and stuck to it so that I was consistently swimming five days a week. I started making better choices in food – well as much as I could when a person lives below the poverty line. I worked hard with my team to implement coping mechanisms for my depression, anxiety, and flashbacks. I decided I was going to become a thriver instead of a survivor.
Then, in November 2017 I was finally accepted into the Bariatric Surgery Program here in Saskatchewan. I was disappointed at the time to find out I had to go through and pass a six month program before I would be considered for surgery. After being on the waiting list for three years, I just wanted the surgery done! I had been on every one of the diets over the years and had managed to lose a huge a mount of weight, only to regain it all again plus more. What could the program possibly teach me that I didn’t already know about dieting? But the program was amazing and changed my life. My way of approaching food completely transformed so that by the time I had the surgery in August of 2018 I had a much better chance of successfully getting the excess weight off and keeping it off. It took, and continues to take a great deal of work but as of now, I’ve managed to remove 165 pounds ("another whole person" as one senior exclaimed) and continue to lose a bit each and every month.
But then came the knee replacement surgery. I knew I needed my right knee replaced. There was no cartilage left and the bones were grinding on each other with every step I took. Some days I still needed my walker to get around while other days, with my weight loss, I only needed my cane. I was warned that the surgery is extremely painful and that it would require hard work afterward to ensure success.
I’ve never been afraid of hard work.
Four days after the surgery I arrived home. The first two days after surgery were really rough but the nursing staff was amazing and with their help I improved to the point of making it home. I had arranged for one friend to come in daily and feed my fish so when I arrived home my healthy, living fish greeted me. Another friend had helped me ensure I had enough healthy food that was easy to prepare stocked up. I had arranged to have my evening meal delivered to my door for the first week after I arrived home. And yet, trying to live alone after a serious operation is difficult. It is the little things that get in the way. Like having to get up to change the cold pack or go into the kitchen to make my own lunch or deal with dirty dishes or having to get up out of bed just after finally finding the most comfortable position because I had forgotten to bring my cell phone into the bedroom in case I had an emergency during the night.
I was ready for the worse but all the hard work I had already done seemed to speed up my recovery. Within twenty-four hours I was walking (with a walker) all the way down the long, long hallway to the elevator and then down the main hallway to the common areas. After the first night home, I cancelled the delivery of my evening meal and managed to make it to the dining room each evening since then.
But today is a bad day.
All night long I couldn’t find a comfortable position and no matter what the medication regime was, the pain level never dipped below a seven out of ten with ten being the most intense pain I’ve ever felt (and I’ve felt pain) and zero being no pain at all. Today I have no energy and my constant battle with depression seems to loom heavily over me. My leg hurts – a lot. I’ve forced myself to get up and move around the apartment since movement is crucially important in my recovery but it is much more difficult today than it has been over the last few days and I lean heavily on my walker as I attempt to walk.
It would be so easy to give up and just crawl back into bed, cover my head, and make the world go away.
But I have friends that will help if I make a single phone call. I have support and acceptance and dare I say it, I also have love. I tend to isolate myself but I have friends and staff here that will only put up with that for a short time before intervening.
I will battle on in my quest to thrive as a senior and create a better quality of life.