Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Handicap Mounting Block and Still not Riding...

I was hoping that by now I could post a picture and a pat myself on the back posting about my first ride back on Golly after my knee replacement.  I have to admit its a bit hard to write a blog about dressage riding when you haven't ridden for hmmm... let's see.... its been six weeks!  I can't remember the last time I went six weeks without riding.

I had a goal to ride by week four and worked hard to get there.   Like many riding goals though... you make them... you work hard to get there and sometimes it doesn't happen and you need to set new ones.  Injuries of either you or your horse, weather, time conflicts or you just simply set a goal too lofty. 

The Sunday after Christmas, I had it all set.   It was an unusually warm and sunny day which would help ensure a mellow horse.   A good friend had volunteered to get on first and then let me do the cool down.  My knee was feeling good and my doc had given me the all clear to do any low impact exercise with "common sense and moderation".  I was good to go.

Then a few hours before we had scheduled the ride, my knee got a sudden sharp pain that nearly knocked me to the floor.   Turns out it my physcial therapists feel it was probably nerves refiring but it was a clear sign to me that I just wasn't ready and I need to let my body heal a bit more.  Very dissapointing.  

I am good with goals that require you to work hard.  When my therapists told me that I would have to push past the pain and do my exercises every day multiple times per day, I made it happen.  No problem.   Now that they are telling me that I need to be patient and let my body heal, that's not so easy.   Patience is not my best virtue.

But I've invested a lot of time off, pain, and work into this knee.  I'm dedicated to doing it right.

On a positive note though... my husband made me what I am calling my "handicap mounting block" for Christmas.  Its 2 feet x 3 feet wide, 2 feet high and very sturdy.  I should be able to mount and dismount from it.  I can't wait to use it!  

Hopefully I will be on soon and will be writing about my first ride back but if not, I have some other posts that I have started that I would love to finish so either way... I'll be checking in soon.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Post Knee Replacement - Resisting the Temptation to Ride

Its now been 2 weeks and 4 days since having my knee replacement surgery.  I am walking without cane or crutches.   If you don't see the big red scar on my knee, you wouldn't know that I recently had surgery.  I am walking with just the slightest limp.   Physical therapy is still taking up about 6 hours a week of my life but I enjoy the time there and like seeing the progress.   At my Thursday appointment I could flex (bend my knee) to 132 degrees and extend (make it flat) to about 3 degrees.  I am seeing big improvements in my flexing but the extension is slow work for me.

I started driving at the 2 week mark and at the same time went back to feeding and caring for my horses.  Last week it was easy to resist the urge to ride because 1) I was in way too much pain to even contemplate swinging my leg across my horse and 2) I wasn't seeing, smelling and feeling his soft sweet muzzle.

Lately I have been contemplating how and when I will be back in the saddle.  I want to feel that gentle sway and warm back again.  The big wet sighing blow of the nostrils and relax of the back he does after a few circles around the ring.   The perked ears in front of me leading the way on a new adventure.  The smell of fresh air, horse sweat and leather.

This knee replacement was a big investment of pain, time, money, risk of infection, and the kindness of my family and friends who cared for me and my responsiblities though.  I can't willy nilly just decide I want to ride and risk that investment.

But I want to ride.

So here is the plan....

Christmas is coming and my super talented husband has agreed to make an extra sturdy wide and tall mounting block for my gift.  My instructor has agreed to ride him first and then let me do the cool down.  I think with her help mounting and dismounting onto a sturdy base and settling for just ambling on a relaxed happy horse should let me test the waters in a safe sensible manner.

Before the surgery I was told that it may be three months before I could get on and I'm afraid they may stick to that plan.   My post-op appointment is next Thursday and I'm hoping he is so impressed with my progress he agrees that I can move forward with MY plan. 

Cross your fingers for me!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Partial Knee Replacement Healing and Rehab

In recovery a few minutes before
they told me to walk.
While you may not consider my knee replacement a "horse" or "dressage" topic to me it is ... because it was the day I realized that I was not enjoying or able to ride my horse that I knew it was time to head under the knife. I tried to make it work by finding new ways to get on and off and taking pain meds but in the end it was just too painful to tack him up and ride and I was riding less and less.  It felt like a chisel was permanently installed in my kneecap.

<Warning up high in this blog entry… I put some pics of the knee as it is healing at the bottom.  If you are squeamish you may want to stop halfway through.>

I know many riders face this same decision so perhaps a log of how mine went might be helpful to someone.

My surgery was eight days ago last Monday. I arrived at the hospital at 8 am for pre-op, bloodwork and to confirm for the second time that week that I was not pregnant. (No chance of it but they didn't believe me.) The lack of fluids through the night made the IV difficult to place but by 10 am and with the help of the anesthesiologist; I had an IV and was bent over so they could place an epidural in my spine.  I remember bending over and the stick and that must have been when they knocked me out because the next thing I remember was waking slightly during the surgery to have them tell me that it was nearing the end of the surgery. 

I had an epidural so I could very lightly be put under (making it easier to come out of anesthesia).  I woke up a couple of times during surgery but it was like being VERY drunk.  I didn’t care in the least that I was in the OR. 

By 12:30 I was in the recovery room and by 2:30 I was walking with a walker to the bathroom.  I have to admit I was a little terrified when they asked me to walk and put weight on a leg they had just chopped but it turns out the pain meds were still working well and I did pretty well getting there. 

I had what is called a partial knee replacement which means that they replaced only the joint on the inside of my knee – the area of my knee with the majority of the arthritis and the cause of my pain.  The recovery is generally faster and there is much less blood loss.

By a little after 3 pm I was in the passenger seat of the car and heading home.  The surgery was a little over an hour away from our house and I rode all the way home with my eyes shut praying I wasn’t going to throw up.  (I didn’t but I had a bag ready.)

We had to pick up my son from school on the way.  As he approached the car, “Mom, what is wrong with YOU?”  

“I just had surgery… I don’t feel well.”

“Oh… well you look like you are dying.”

Thanks.  You can always count on teenage sons for the truth.

The first couple of days were not fun.  I had physical therapy the first day and they spend most of it trying to see how far they can bend your knee.   I was sure the stitches barely holding my swollen knee together were going to burst in the therapists face.  I couldn’t believe he wasn’t ducking.

Each day gets better though.  You have a decent day and decide that sure… you can go to work for a couple of hours.  I mean all I do is sit -- its not like I work construction.  What’s the difference between sitting there and sitting at home?   I tried going for two hours on Tuesday and paid for it all night.  No sleep because the pain meds just couldn’t keep up.

I haven’t seen my horse since the night before the surgery.  I hope he remembers me.  I am hoping that next week I can start driving again and can stop relying on wonderful friends who are currently caring for my horses.   Until I wean myself off the pain meds I can’t drive.  Right now I am down to a little less than half the dose I was on the first week so I am getting there.

The good news is that although my knee hurts its completely different than the hurt before the surgery.  Instead of getting worse every day … its getting better every day.  I have high hopes that I will be riding soon and will be doing it pain free.   The goal is to be able to bend my knee at least 120 degrees and extend it completely flat at 0 degrees.    At my therapy session yesterday I was at 108 degrees flexion and 2 degrees extension.

I can’t wait to  post the entry about my first ride after surgery.  The sooner the better.

The picture to the left is the day after surgery.  The word "Yes" I had to write
on there to make sure they replaced the correct knee.  The knee to the right
is a week after surgery.  The bruising didn't start showing up until
about day three.