Knee blog: rehab week 2

Mon. 7/2--wound care nurse expresses his own concern as to swelling, redness and warmth of knee. Consults head nurse who agrees. Bobby has no luck reaching the internist.  Meanwhile, trying not to worry and using the cane, I manage a full flight of stairs up to the 3rd floor and back. Laura applies some cris-cross strips of compression tape--hot pink--to assist with reducing the edema.  While I'm in the middle of PT (having done 18 min at 40% resistance on the recumbent elliptical trainer, getting 100 degrees of flexion, and now able to do my own leg raises & recumbent knee bends without assistance), Dr. W's office calls: even though my next appointment is Thurs. the 5th, he wants to see me stat, before 3pm: he's in surgery tomorrow, the office is closed on the 4th and if anything's wrong he wants to catch it NOW. So we order a wheelchair access taxi, to arrive 1 pm.  I get in some lunch and wait....and wait.....and wait...finally Flash Cab arrives at 2:15. Driver gives construction traffic on Fullerton as the reason. Cherry, the CNA, is my escort--we advise the cabbie to cut through the park and take LaSalle to the Drive instead.  No traffic that way. But am devastated to discover that Charlie Trotter's to Go is....gone.  Oh, what a difference a week makes! We arrive at the professional bldg. and find the cab was no costlier than a regular cab--and the driver took my credit card number even though I didn't have the card with me (I'd been advised to leave all cards--even ID--home).

We get to Dr. W's office (and I notice the big Doppler machine in one of the rooms--there goes one worry in case I need a scan).  I get to the bathroom, X-ray and then the exam room with just a cane.  X-rays were tough--that table is flat & hard, and this was the first time I've had to do the necessary contortions with a full surgical incision & staples pulling me.  Dr. W comes in, examines my leg and asks why I couldn't have chosen a color of compression tape to match my tangerine pedicure. He says he's not worried:  the redness is that of sensitive skin, not cellulitis; the warmth & swelling are due to residual edema. I have neither an infection nor DVT.  Then he asks me, "hasn't it been 10 days since surgery?" I say yes and he says, "Let's take these staples out." I mention that there's still been a little bleeding & lymph fluid with every dressing change, and he says that's no problem. After debriding with peroxide, he proceeds to remove the staples. Surprisingly, all I feel are a few pinches.  I ask, "Is that all of them?" and am insured they're indeed out. (He's the one with the pointy object in his hand, so I'm not gonna debate).  He says I can go home whenever I want and that I'm now ready to let the scar begin airing out, but I feel more comfy having it covered since my yoga pants might rub against it. His P.A. comes in to re-dress the wound and discuss discharge. I tell her I'd feel better waiting till Thurs.--I have that party Wed. during which I committed to sing and I can use the extra couple of days of PT and OT. She agrees. We postpone the followup appointment to Aug. 16 and she starts the home care transition team in motion. I am elated.  

We go downstairs, and wonder of wonders, the espresso bar is still open. Cherry politely declines my offer to buy her a drink and a snack; I get a nice cappuccino and a croissant the size of Paris. We order the taxi for the return trip and wait outdoors. It has cooled off to merely hotter than heck--low 90s.  Return taxi takes Webster all the way to Southport, and despite rush hour we're back in a twinkling. This cab lacks the capacity to take a credit card number without swiping a card, but fortunately I've got enough cash on me to cover the fare and tip.

We get in a short late OT session before dinner.  Everyone I tell about my going home Thurs. is happy for me but sad to see me go. Dinner was really lousy, so I finish the filet mignon & cottage fries Bobby brought me Sat. night. (Nurse nukes it for me). It is exquisite, reminding me that good food awaits me on the outside. 

Tues. 7/3--Breakfast sucks. I eat that croissant instead, with a little honey. I take a shower (to be on the safe side, the CNA covers my wound & dressing with a plastic bag) and get my hair done again. It is hot, hot, HOT out there! In PT, we were going to take an "uneven terrain" trip with the cane across the street to the 7-11 (not the pub, dammit), but since the patio has been closed due to heat, nobody's going outside.  I do my PT indoors, and out the window I watch the storms roll through.  103F before the storms, all the way down to 79 after and shoots right back up to 101 by 4 pm. Ick.  Carrie & Coco begin taking some stuff (especially laundry) home little by little. I show the PT my Leki Wanderfreund (the cane that masquerades as a mountain hiking staff) and she says that if I'm comfy with it there's no reason to use the big bronze one (I got in Vegas in '06 after seriously underestimating those huge walking distances along the Strip).  Coco informs me after the vet visit that morning that Matthew is not diabetic but does have early kidney failure, tartar on his teeth, and will need to see a kitty cardiologist again and probably get an echo before they dare attempt to clean his teeth. We will probably have to do home sub-cu hydration (which was a disaster with Pickles, who was so far gone that the water oozed out his pores, and he hated the needle); but Matthew tolerated it well at the vet.  He needs to be seen early Sat. morning for his shots, and the others have exam and shot appointments for July 18. Carrie can't help--she was so rattled by the experience with Mishmosh going psycho and Matthew peeing all over the vet's office when we took them to Uptown together in 2001 (and the vet--who's since been fired--insisting we never bring either of them back and suggesting Matthew be eithanized for his spraying) that she won't drive to the vet--any vet, with any cat--again.  

Bobby arrives and is delighted to know I'm coming home Thurs. We toast with some more seltzers.

Wed. 7/4--For the 4th, they serve a waffle (soggy & cold, with fake syrup, but it's the thought that counts) for breakfast.  I finish the last of the maple syrup I had smuggled in. I get in some PT with the substitute therapist, who performs some scar massage. Lunch is a burger--I recall ordering it with lettuce, tomato and onion, which the slip on the tray confirms--but all that's there is a blob of mediocre barbecue sauce. I hold out for the garnishes--when they arrive, the onion is missing, but I don't complain.  Dessert is a small but pretty good piece of strawberry shortcake.

I get to the dayroom a little early expecting to do a few songs to warm up the crowd while Chris finishes up next door at the Ivy, but find a boombox playing vintage Sinatra, Crosby and Doris Day. Some of the residents are singing along softly and keeping time with their feet but most are nodding off. I find the key to each song and just noodle along on guitar. The nurse turns off the boombox, and I do my original "Take My Hand" because it's got an easy chorus. Unplugged--it's a live room and I don't see the P.A. and mic stands they said would be there.  No problem--I am loud anyway. Suddenly people wake up and start clapping in time, and most jump in on the chorus. I'm on a roll, about to do some more Beatles, when Chris makes it in, with his portable P.A. (He whispers, "When you do these shows, take the kitchen as a shortcut').  He sings a few patriotic standards and I follow along, doing harmonies and some lead guitar fills.  It's quite different from Andina & Rich--Steve's a baritone and all my harmonies are the high ones. Chris is still a tenor after all these years--and I get to do the lower and middle harmonies, often the ones that provide the movement and chords. This is fun! I notice that everyone who said they'd be there are!  CNAs come around with red/white/blue cupcakes but I decline--I don't need the carbs and cake isn't very conducive to singing well. Chris then lowers the mic and puts it between us, pulls up a chair, and we alternate verses on "City of New Orleans" (I quickly pick up that he's doing the original Goodman progression--sans extraneous minor chords and the secondary dominant of the Arlo version).  Then we do "This Land is Your Land," and to my delight, one of the verses I get to do is the subversive one they never teach you in grade school (about the sign reading "No Trespassing" on one side and blank on the other).  The whole room enthusiastically bellows "THAT side was made for you & me!"  (We're still all high on the SCOTUS thumbs-up for Obamacare, and if there's a conservative in the room, you could have fooled me). As we finish, the Activities Director comes over, shakes my hand and says to give her my contact info before discharge.   Chris & I catch up on old times (or at least what's happened since we last sang together at Lilly's for the Dundee anniversary concert in 2011), and he carries my guitar back to my room as I wheel myself there. 

Dinner is a Philly cheese steak (really some shreds of Italian beef, a couple of chunks of bell pepper on a plain white hot dog bun, smothered in Cheez-Wiz. At least they got the Cheez-Wiz right--it's authentic--though I'm a provolone gal). Bobby comes over in time to watch "A Capitol Fourth" and the Macy's NYC fireworks with me. After he goes home,  I wheel up to the dayroom to see what fireworks I can see, considering how many towns' displays had to be canceled due to the extreme heat and brushfire danger. (The elevator feels like the schvitz at Lake Shore Athletic, minus the soothing eucalyptus scent). I notice a few patients and a lot of nurses and CNAs have the same idea. To the north, the Evanston and Saddle & Cycle Club displays are visible, but only from inside the smoking room. No way I'm going in there. So I look to the south: there's a line of displays, from the church down the block to Wicker Park to Greektown to UIC all the way down to Sox Park (aka The Cell). Not to mention kids on neighboring rooftops shooting off firecrackers and Roman candles.  It is so hot out there that I am glad there's no roof terrace--rather stay comfy than have a panoramic view. We drink 7-Ups, munch on Twizzlers and leftover M&Ms from the party, and chat.  The displays begin to peter out by 11pm, so it's time to go downstairs for one last night of sleep before going home.

Thurs. 7/5--D-DAY!!! (Discharge) They asked "You wanna stay in rehab?" I said-a "no, no, no. I really feel it's surer to heal if I go, go go." (someone had to say it. There--it's out of the way).

One last blood draw for old time's sake.  Wound care nurse comes in, asks if I still want a bandage, and then does a double-take: there are still a couple of staples left in there. (In my surgeon's defense, they were kind of hard to see and none of the other wound care nurses noticed them before).  I said they'd better come out because I'm not going home with staples--that could be a recipe for infection. Nurse agrees--but says will need a doctor's order in the chart. I say that's nuts, since they were supposed to come out Monday and everyone, doctors included, thought they were already out.  Breakfast is powdered eggs, bacon and (though it says "creamy wheat") grits. (Sure wish I had some Parmesan, but honey will do fine). I do my last PT session--102 degrees of flexion. (Dr. W's P.A. had said 110 was the goal for discharge from home to outpatient PT). I am way ahead of schedule but dare not get lazy or complacent. Last lunch is cheese ravioli marinara with marble cake. I get weighed. The morning of surgery, I was 225 on an empty stomach, before I got dressed and left the house. On admission to rehab, despite only picking at my meals in the hospital, edema had ballooned me to 234. Now, dressed and with two meals in me I am back down to 225. 

I tell Lori I'll get one last OT session in after lunch, once Carrie & Coco get there to complete packing.  Nurse says to wait till staples are out before I do OT.  So the usual comedy of errors:  Carrie & Coco are late, and everyone coming into my room--from the concierge to the photographer to the Activities Director--wants to do anything but remove staples. I answer surveys, write testimonials, make suggestions (they're going to start giving non-diabetic patients honey packets and are looking into single-serve olive oil as a butter/margarine alternative), get my contact info, etc. A nurse comes in, but with a giant bag of carded prescription drugs and instructions on how to take them. I ask about the staples and he calls Wound Care, who again says they need a doctor's order (I'd called Dr. W's office numerous times this morning, but everyone who could authorize it was still on holiday).  Finally, the wound care nurse comes in to remove the last staples. I asked who finally issued the order, and he grinned, "I called your husband."

As Carrrie & Coco pack, I go to OT, only to find Lori had left for the day. I text her to apologize for the snafu and to hope to see her tomorrow night at Old Town School First Friday--I invited her to the Songwriters' Exchange so she could observe, and her songwriting teacher was to give the faculty concert. As I get wheeled out, I stop and say my goodbyes.  The CNAs say, "It always happens like this--the nicest patients heal fast and leave too soon. I promise to be back to sing from time to time.  Carrie pulls up, I slide into the passenger seat, and home we go!

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