Adventures In Knee Replacement

November 5th, Bill waiting to go into the OR.

Last week I took Bill to Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital for the replacement of his knee.  His right knee was replaced two and half years ago.

Over the past year it became evident that his left knee was ready to be done as well. When we first moved to this new four story town home a year ago tomorrow, we both insisted on using the stairs most of the time rather than the elevator which was one of the features we were looking for if we couldn’t find a one story home. 

I think we weren’t ready to accept the idea that we were aging more quickly than we thought and not as flexible as we used to be. Bill’s replaced knee was doing great and my occasional knee pain wasn’t that bothersome. 

But we were downsizing and planning for the possibility of failing body parts and the need to slow our lives down. We still felt pretty good and for about three months we ignored the growing pain in our knees until it was simply time to give it up and start using the elevator. Accepting the fact that things were changing was not as easy as I thought it would be.

Bill has been hobbling around ever since using his cane. The left knee grew more painful and the cursing grew louder.  His pace slowed to a crawl and his enjoyment of the activities he so loved ebbed as the days passed. Going anywhere was all about how many steps it would take to get him from the car to whatever venue we chose, even if handicapped parking was near by.  

In August he decided to revisit his surgeon. He was nervous about it. He wasn’t sure that she’d take him on. He hadn’t lost much weight, which had been one of her requirements when he’d checked in with her earlier in the year.  But this time she said, “Yes, let’s do it. “   

November 6th, Post-op and going home later in the day!

It’s a week since his visit to the OR and the patient is doing well. He’ll see the Doctor again today.  We had a bit of a scare Monday when we thought he might have a blood clot. We spent a good 4 hours in the ER waiting for his surgeon, who was operating on someone else, to decide what to do.  But thankfully there was no blood clot and things seem to be moving along again.  We’ve had visiting nurses and physical therapists who were great, and he’ll go out for physical therapy starting next week.  

As for my knee, it still is fairly good and I’m doing what I can to keep it healthy.

It’s been a long, patience straining week but we’re getting through it nicely.  Between several bouts of tears and panic attacks on my part, we’ve been laughing a lot, and enjoying the loving kindness of dear friends and family who have brought us delicious things to eat, along with laughter, prayers, and comfort.

Thank you to all of you. 

   

Falling Leaves

There’s a lot going on in the world these days both politically and environmentally.  Most everyone I talk to is struggling with their personal lives, as well as how to live in a country that is being led by a madman who isn’t making life easier for anyone, including himself.

Change is a constant feature of life, leaving many unable to find their way back to where they were, whether it’s because their homes have been swept away by vicious storms, they have lost life-long jobs, or they’re living in fear of the raging fires that  sweep through parts of our country on a regular basis. 

Both my primary care physician and my therapist have said that since the election in 2016, they are working more and more with people trying to come to grips with the politics of our time. I have several acquaintances who are so traumatized that they find it difficult to go out.  It doesn’t help that Charlottesville is frequently mentioned in the evening news.  There are many who are still trying to heal from the damage that was done here in August of 2017.  

I’m feeling particularly grateful that I have a roof over my head, food in the fridge, a lovely place to call my own, and that for the moment at least, my mental health is good. But aging has moved into my home. Both Bill and I are trying to stay on track as aches, pains, and increasing forgetfulness become more and more a part of our lives. 

Bill is scheduled to have his left  knee replaced on November 5th,  just days away.  He had his right knee replaced along with a shoulder several years ago and we’re hoping this surgery will be the last.  

I’ll be having my right rotator cuff sewn back together on December 14th.  I’m praying the procedure will cancel out the chronic pain I’ve been living with for over a year. The cuff is apparently torn in a number of places.  Though I’m looking forward to being able to have the pain gone, my arm will be in a sling for 6 weeks and I will not be able to drive for 3 months. YIKES!

I’ve been preparing for a month now. I  practice using my left hand to type, stir pots of delicious chicken soup I’m freezing for later when I can’t cook, and to perform certain sanitary tasks.  I’m gathering clothing that will help me to get dressed and undressed more easily. Getting painful arms into tight sleeves does not feel good.  I’m also gathering a pile of books to read, looking forward to having more reading time than I’ve had in ages. So let it snow, or do whatever it’s going to do. I’ll be fine!

This is where I lead up to tell you about my new writing project.  The working title is, Elder Lessons, and will be a collection of personal essays on aging and about my sometimes fumbled attempts to get through the final chapter(s) of  my own life with grace and humor.  

I’ll be giving you all a taste of what I’m doing, reading, and thinking as I move through the process. I am counting on the writing to keep me moving forward through my own struggles and the slower pace I’ve embraced. 

I’m also hoping to add the voices of others who are dealing with the same issues and how they handle the ups and downs of later life. 

Until next time,
I’ll take time to rest and walk
through the great outdoors,
watching how nature does it.
As autumn leaves fall,
they change from green into the most magnificent colors,
leaving a canopy of cold, dark branches.
But I know they’ll  be back again soon.  

    

The Now Of My Life

 

This past week I closed my Facebook home page and promised my followers I would be taking up writing blog posts once again.  For the moment I will be posting here every other week on Wednesdays.  Maybe I’ll decide to write here every week, but for now I’m giving myself some extra space to grow into.  Where any of this goes depends on my pulling my “now” together. I intend to begin changing and rearranging the pieces of my life that I have a tiny bit of control over.

I was encouraged by friends and told by publishing experts that if you write a book, you MUST have a page on Facebook in order to boost your sales.  So I took the plunge.  It was fun at first keeping up with my children and grandlings on a daily basis.  There were friends, other artists and writers I followed that often sent inspiration my way. But for the last couple of years I’ve used any free time I had on Facebook swimming in the toxic pool of politics and losing my connection to our beautiful world.

 The worst of it began in  2016 when the roof blew off my world. I quickly became addicted to watching the constant chaos in Washington, while I got more and more angry, anxious, depressed, and devastated. Watching it all unfold kept my mind off moving and packing and then the obvious unpacking. Then during the Kavanaugh doings, just a few weeks ago, I finally realized that if I didn’t stop, I would spend the rest of my days following and sharing whatever the news of the day was on Facebook, MSNBC, or CNN. 

My anger was at a high point, and I took it out on those around me.  My anxiety was over the top.  I didn’t want to go out much or talk to anyone. I told myself that if I didn’t stop it, my body would shrivel up into an unusable mass of dying cells and I would get crazier and uglier by the minute. Like a drunk whose tired of what alcohol does to her, I decided to close my homepage on Facebook. I will  keep my author page,  posting cheery, interesting posts about writing and creativity.  

Will I miss you?  Of ocurse I will. But there are other ways of staying in touch. You can subscribe to my blog on my home page at, www.joanzrough.com, or by liking my author page of on Facebook. You could also send me an email by by clicking the contact button, again on the home page of my website.

I do have a new writing project that I’m excited about.  I’ll tell you more about it in a future blog post, but for right now, I’m working on getting my daily schedule cleaned up so that I can add at least an hour every day for sitting in front of my computer, filling page after page with words from my heart. 

I believe that spreading positivity and love is the way I can best serve myself and those around me to get through whatever the future holds.  We all knew that there were big changes ahead and that the process of recalibrating our lives would not be pretty. Reconstruction takes time, patience, stamina and strength to move through the complications of reshaping a world gone bad.  I will turn 76 years old next month. I can’t afford to allow myself to OCD on the news that our country failing and is no longer a democracy. 

I’ve learned that by ignoring my here and now, I will miss the season of colorful leaves that are falling all around me as the season changes. I’d miss noticing the confused Magnolia trees, who think it’s spring, and are in their second lovely bloom this year, and of course the last of the hummingbirds coming through as they journey south for the winter. I don’t want to miss out on the laughter of children as Halloween creeps closer, and all of the things that inspire me to keep moving forward with smiles and a delightfully warm heart.

I do have hope for our world,
however, and absolutely will vote in a few short weeks.
I pray you will, too.

   

What’s Next?

The view from upstairs just a few weeks ago

Today is sunny and gorgeous.  Early this morning the grass was cut. But the weather people are calling for snow on Saturday.  Maybe not a lot, but snow none-the-less. On Monday there could be more white stuff.  This is Virginia for heaven’s sake.  What’s up?

Like the weather, the past year has been a muddle of activity focused on constant change. Time has rushed on, dissapearing into the fabric of life. But there are loose ends everywhere. As soon as I tuck one in, others pop up. I search for a place to anchor each one, but it’s not that simple. There are always loose ends. That is nothing new. There is no controlling where and when they will appear and at times the process of weaving them back in is daunting.  Like housekeeping it’s an endless task. We vacuum the floors, then someone comes in with grass clippings all over their shoes. 

I had thought by now I’d be completely settled into my new home.  In the past moving has always been easy, but this time around it’s been a long, slow process. I’d planned on having my studio up and running by now, but some kind of neurological disorder is causing severe pain in my shoulders especially in my dominant arm on the right.  Sometimes it’s fine, other times I have to stop what I’m doing, ice the pain away, and start again.  

Working on the computer is especially difficult at times and I’ve had to quit in the middle of writing, so my blog posts have been few and far between. The beading project I restarted a few weeks back hasn’t progressed. But this morning I’m feeling quite good. I’m doing what I can and hoping to get this post finished before whichever nerve is giving me problems starts screaming.

That same view today!

Like the weather, my moods have been high and low.  But as every cherry tree and magnolia sends forth new blooms, as they do at this time of year, I open up along with them.  I am visiting local nurseries and choosing pots to plant flowers in. I’ve had a tiny area out front cleared of shrubbery and once spring really arrives, will put in herbs … rosemary, sage, basil, lemon balm, and others.  I’ll load up one of my big, new pots with mint, as it runs wild in the garden and easily takes over.

And the birds … oh so, beautiful. Yesterday tree swallows arrived trying to take over several of the blue bird boxes that the blue birds have already started nesting in.  The gold finches are now brilliantly gold, having shed their dull winter colors.  Every day more arrive adding their voices to the morning song fest.

It’s a promising season.

I’ll not let a bit of snow or cold rain stop me
from continuing to move forward, loose ends and all.
After all, that is what life is.

It is not one big, continually blooming rose garden.
It’s an ever changing landscape filled with peaks and valleys.

Sun, snow, joy, pain, and sorrow are always on the horizon.
What we do with them makes all the difference
in how we live our lives.

Adjusting To What’s Next

The Thinker, Auguste Rodin

Bill is 78 and I’m 75 year old. We both have arthritis and these days we talk about aging a lot. As many of you know Bill has already had one knee replaced along with a shoulder. The other “good” knee is now giving him trouble. It isn’t bone on bone yet and he’s taking his time using a brace and gently working on it until he feels he wants to have it replaced. He’s also been having a bit of trouble with memory loss. We haven’t yet heard of brain replacements, and even if that were possible, how do you download 78 years of memories into an artificial brain and still be human?

Although joint replacements never work like the real deal, artificial knees help make those suffering from pain continue to move about comfortably. Our Orthopedist says that those who tell us that we’ll be as good as new after a replacement are full of you know what. And when it does happen it’s extremely rare, especially if you’re of a certain age. But we go for being comfortable and spending our senior years continuing to go on adventures. Bill’s recent week on board a ship with 700 joyful Irish musicians was a wonderfully fun time him and he got around happily using a cane or a wheel chair when he had to.

I myself have just been diagnosed with bone on bone arthritis in my right knee. Although I move around most days comfortably there are days when it’s too painful, especially during this stormy winter when I can predict a tempest coming well before it arrives. I, too, will be trying a brace for a while, and use a heating pad or ice to lessen the pain. Our good doctor does not want to jump in with his knives. He’s conservative and doesn’t like to be overly invasive. So we’ll spend a while seeing how it goes before we enter an OR.

The other complaint you often hear at our house is how long it can take to get things done. We’re moving much more slowly than we used to and completing tasks that used to take an hour can now take up to one or two hours more, depending on how complicated it is.

I’ve just discovered how addicted I have become to schedules and time. It seems to be how the world operates these days. Everyone is in a rush to get somewhere. We wait in line overnight just before a new electronic device comes on the market so that we can be one of the first to own it. And big box stores open their doors on Thanksgiving day giving all the “must haves” a chance to get whatever it is they want before the store runs out. They forget that spending time doing something relaxing with their kids and other family members is essential while the world spews more and more stress our way.

I may not know what to do about my knee right now, but I do know what to do about this newly discovered schedule addiction of mine. Firstly, I quit wearing a watch a few weeks ago. Silly me used to check it constantly to see if I had plenty of time.  Secondly, I’ve discovered that by taking more time to do things, I notice all of things I used to miss when I was in such a hurry. What I sometimes considered distractions, like watching the birds at the feeder or a flower slowly opening its petals in the garden, help me to be at peace with myself and the world around me.

Aging may be something that many people don’t look forward to, but I’m discovering that it is delightful to allow myself to go with a much more slow and gentle flow than the tornadic activity that too often accompanied my younger days.  It’s all about adjusting to what’s next!