Work in Progress.
By Denisse M. Oller
Sometimes life sends clear signals warning you: “It is time.” You hear the message loud and clear; you simply choose to ignore the message: for days, for weeks, for years. Until suddenly, a small twist of fate makes listening to the call inevitable.
My right knee had been a painful intrusion on my otherwise healthy life for years. A month ago, as I walked gingerly towards my apartment building, the knee wobbled, and I tripped and fell: a beautiful serene summer day hiccupped by a misstep over uneven pavement. I came crashing down on my hands, and just as quickly, I stood up, embarrassed by what had happened. As I struggled to organize myself feeling unbearable pain, I realized the time had come to face reality- I needed to schedule total knee replacement surgery.
This was no easy decision. I had been avoiding it for more than 15 years. The first time I felt my knee “lock” was during a spinning class in my local gym. I was about to reach the top of the hill using maximum tension in my stationary bike when my knee became completely stuck in position, and I could not move up or down. This incident became an occasional but haunting memory with accompanying anxiety, as I kept living my busy life: with a grueling work schedule, traveling around the world for leisure, a very active member of an intensive tango program in New York City. My life has always been characterized by boundless energy, endless curiosity, and joie de vivre.
With respect to my knee, fear kept me from thinking about the need for surgery. I had heard so many horror stories about the procedure, its questionable efficacy, and the pain that was involved.
But the chronic pain and lack of mobility were becoming increasingly more debilitating. Ultimately, no amount of anti‐inflammatory medications, glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, and steroid injections could help my walking or moving up and downstairs. The real terror of another fall forced me to consider the surgery.
On August 25, 2020, I walked into the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, ready for the procedure to replace my damaged knee. What followed was a 72-hour roller coaster of the most absolute highs and lows of emotions, incontinence, and discomfort. But I walked home with a new knee.
Three decisions had been crucial for the best outcome of this surgery: choosing the right surgeon and the best hospital facility, preparing myself physically and mentally for the complex surgical process, and disciplining myself with respect to the post-operative physical therapy. I knew I was in the best hands with Dr. Jose A. Rodriguez, one of the top orthopedic surgeons in the country. He had come highly recommended by other respected surgeons in NYC.
I prepared myself physically and emotionally beforehand: I meditated, I changed my diet, I strengthened my quads. And I am following a rigorous post-op exercise regimen.
It has been a week since surgery: I am walking around my house unassisted, I am able to step up and down the stairs with my therapist next to me, blown away by my progress, and doing all of this, surprisingly, with minimal discomfort, and no pain.
This is above and beyond my expectations. I look forward to my new mobility opening old worlds and new worlds.
It has only been a week. I promise to keep you posted.