By Linda Wisch-Davidsohn
Stepping out…. the journey
I have to confess that I have been shopping for the last three years. It’s not the Nordstrom shopping that I loved to do — or even a quick run (tongue in cheek) into Central Market or Tom Thumb. The truth is that my left knee has officially fired me.
I knew in 1998 that this might happen eventually after a second arthroscopic surgery — this time by Dr. John Gill in Dallas. I was thrilled with the results — I was able to return to my nursing career after 10 days — but Dr. Gill told me to hold on to the knee as long as I could. I guess I can’t complain. I have shoes and handbags that have not lasted as long as that knee. To digress for a moment, my youngest daughter, Jordana, has my favorite pair of Zodiac leather boots that lace from bottom to top. The boots were purchased in Neiman Marcus’ Nonesuch Shop (Fort Worth) circa 1965 — immediately prior to leaving for Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. As Nancy Sinatra sang, perhaps that very year, “These (those) Boots Were Made For Walking.” I wore them proudly from the sixties to the eighties, and if they could talk they would definitely have their own stories — but those stories are not for the here and the now.
My knee remained stable with the help of my rheumatologist, Dr. Scott Zashin, who helped the osteoarthritis along with a series of five to six injections of Hylagan. These injections would last me almost two years, and I received tremendous relief — having the ability to do intensive daily exercise routines on the treadmill.
As the years passed, I took a couple of very hard tumbles, landing directly on the left knee, right foot, left wrist and left elbow. Thank goodness, I do not have to duplicate those indignities on YouTube. Falling can be the simplest and most innocent thing. My late mother was very ill at the time, and I was in the bath. All of the phones in the house were ringing constantly. My nurse’s instinct told me that it could be emergent. As I stepped from the tub, I fell hard on the marble floor, striking all the aforementioned places. I could not get myself to a standing position, but managed to crawl to a wall phone, knowing that I had taken a bad tumble.
I returned the telephone call, and discovered that the person that had called was busy shopping at Nordstrom. Mom was fine that time. Another fall happened, as I caught my foot in a grocery cart and fell against a curb hitting the left knee decently. Oh, my knee!
MRIs revealed that there was no cartilage left in the left knee, and that I would never be a contestant on “So You Think You Can Dance.”
The answers provided by the MRIs led to one solution — a total knee replacement. That answer was given to me almost three years ago. I began my quest to look for a skilled orthopedic surgeon who had performed a plethora of these procedures.
I talked to people. I watched in awe as Irv Munn had the courage to do a bilateral TKR (total knee replacement). I spoke to Garry Kahalnik at Israel Bonds, who also had a bilateral TKR.
Why can’t men bear children?
I spoke to Patty Traub, who provided a wealth of information. My best friend, Susan, accompanied me on all orthopedic visits. Somehow, I had not found the correct fit — no pun intended. I think I saw two to three orthopedic physicians. My quest was sidelined by a case of mono that totally exhausted me, as well as a new diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, which brought me the treatment of prednisone.
I am happy to say that after 1½ years, I am prednisone-free, but definitely not pain-free.
I decided to consult one more orthopod — Dr. Roger Emerson, of Plano, who has been replacing knees for 33-plus years. When Susan and I walked into Dr. Emerson’s office, I noticed something immediately. The chairs throughout his waiting room were tall with footrests, making it comfortable for his knee and hip patients. His X-ray equipment is state-of-the-art — no more climbing onto tables, putting pressure on a knee that can’t tolerate it — and no more getting into positions like a pretzel that make women perspire and real men sweat.
The machine does it all. I may be a bit spoiled, but I had a feeling that this was a physician who cared about his patients’ comfort. Dr. Emerson is a tall, bearded and mild-mannered physician, who inspires confidence.
My surgery date was set back in February for May 20, 2015. I was unable to schedule it earlier due to my granddaughter Tessa’s bat mitzvah, which occurred last weekend. An added bonus was a visit from my youngest son, Ethan, and his wife, Emily, who live in Portland, Oregon.
It was a wonderful occasion for us, and if I had ever doubted the necessity for this procedure, the toll of the weekend’s activities on my knee proved that I needed to move forward and take the “knee challenge.”
Getting ready…. preparations
For those of you that are familiar with how difficult it is to take care of last-minute details, I will tell you that I am exhausted from all that was accomplished last week. Family friend Jeffrey Goodman was my go-to helper for a plumber who could make the necessary handicapped accommodations in the bathrooms. He referred me to Thomas Garrison of Garrison Plumbing.
Thomas was a first-responder, who knew exactly what needed to be done. He had been severely injured in a motorcycle accident when he was 16. Thomas served multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan, and lived in the Middle East, Philippines, Thailand and Saudi Arabia. He worked for an entire day, but knew exactly what I would need and where the hardware had to be placed.
I knew that my bed, which was 37 inches from the floor, would not be suitable following surgery. Based on my son Reuben’s recommendations, and dear friends Christie and Kyle Morris’ thoughts, I bought an I-Comfort bed. The bed is all that it claims to be. I cannot remember resting as well in years — except for last night, when I couldn’t shut my mind off.
Last Wednesday, my “A” support team (Jordana, Reuben and Susan) and I attended an educational class for joint replacement surgery at Presbyterian Hospital of Plano. The class was taught by Carol Inman, who presented the material thoroughly and clearly, and at times in a light-hearted way.
This is a nurse who cares about her patients. Of course, I have to say that Reuben was the star pupil in the class, asking at the minimum 100 questions while staying in constant contact with his office. He is still somewhat like the little boy who asked, “Why do frogs hop?”
As the class ended on somewhat of a high note, class members wished Reuben “Good luck with your upcoming knee surgery!” Jordana sat, listening thoughtfully and actively as the teacher she is. Her comments were that she found “the class very reassuring.”
The task ahead
“Do I want to dance?” The answer is an emphatic “Yes” — even though I have no rhythm. I know that nothing good happens without commitment and hard work. I am prepared for the challenge. I know that there will be speed bumps along the way. If only I could leave the nurse at home and just be a patient patient. I am lucky to have cheerleaders all around me. I hope to be tapping the keys again soon.