Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Bionic Hubby

It’s been a tough couple of weeks. The Big Guy (hubby) just underwent a total knee replacement. It’s a popular surgery among aging baby boomers. Certainly it isn’t because it is “easy” - far from it. It has become very common and, in most cities, there are numerous surgeons and hospitals that do these procedures. To them it is “run of the mill” stuff. Believe me, to the individual, it is earth shattering, traumatic, painful and extremely difficult and frustrating, just to give it a few adjectives. From the spouse’s viewpoint, I can tell you, it is exhausting, frustrating and stressful.

Few things stress a relationship like being closed up together in a house for multiple weeks! Stress began with talk of the impending procedure as it was being scheduled. (We sort of knew it was coming for at least a year or two.) The Big Guy is one of those people who is a laid back Type B personality. He doesn’t worry or stress over things until there is something to worry about, even then, he tries not to think about it much. Therefore, he asks very few questions. I’m not usually a Type A worry wart but I do like to know what to expect and what the possible problems can be. I like to plan for contingencies, etc. I began getting frustrated when he didn’t have answers for my questions since he had never asked the doctor about these things. His theory was, “they’ll tell me what I need to know when it happens.”

I went online and researched the subject. I may have learned more than I wanted to know. I spent an hour and a half on the phone with the telephone admissions interview. (The Big Guy wasn’t home and had told them to simply speak with me.) The nurse described every step for the 3 ½ days of hospitalization. I began to worry full force. I don’t think the procedure itself was scary for me (it wasn’t MY knee). I think I was more worried about being able to handle him when they discharged him three days later and I was his sole source of care.

With the help of morphine, he was fairly comfortable for his hospital stay. We had the normal complaints most have as in-patients. They woke him up every 40 minutes or so to see how he was doing, the food was pitiful, the staff took their time answering the call buttons, etc.

There was one unusual twist - the thermostat in his room was broken and they tried to freeze him to death that first night when the room temp hovered around 55 and his body temp was hanging out in the low 100s. After 5 or 6 hours, maintenance finally appeared and, when they couldn’t regulate the air conditioning level, resolved the matter by simply turning on the heat. (This is August in Maryland!!!) By mid-morning that second day, the room had reached the 90 degree range and the nurses were avoiding the room due to the extreme heat. It was hard to tell if The Big Guy was running a fever or not. Once again, maintenance appeared and actually replaced the thermostat allowing us to finally create a comfortable environment.

There were a few tough times when it came to getting him up and moving. The Big Guy is, well, BIG. Thus, the name. Picture a football player, way past his prime and beyond paunchy. He was weak (what with the impromptu cryogenics treatments those first two days and pitiful excuses for nutrition). He was feverish. (Yes, we did finally establish that he did run an elevated fever.) Most of all, he hurt - big time!! The average nurse there ran about 5’ tall and slim - not much of a match for holding him up. They hesitated to take responsibility for moving him. His physical therapists were great but were only with him for very short periods of time each day. They did teach him to walk with a walker and let him practice going up a few steps. (He did two steps, twice, before they kicked him out.)

I was beginning to panic about bringing him home. We have several large square concrete steps in front of the house and then a flight of nine steps to get up into the living area of our split foyer home. Since he was scheduled to come home midday, there would not be much help available. I had to be the one to hold him up and I was beginning to doubt my ability to do that! As it was, he had no problem on the steps, using the walker for the outdoor steps and the rails for the indoor set. As they say, just coming home is excellent medicine for any ailment. He began feeling better immediately.

The correct wording is not my spouse had a knee replacement. It should be we had a knee replacement. It takes the whole household to get through this procedure. The Big Guy is quite patient and not very demanding but there were frequent needs that had to be met. He needed constant assistance with just about every activity. He was unable to get himself in and out of a chair or to prop his own leg up. He needed frequent ice packs, lots of fluids, medications, etc. He spent the first few days in his Lazyboy as the bed is just not comfortable at that point. (The doctors actually suggest the recliner.) I was afraid I would not hear him if I was sleeping in the bedroom so I slept in the other chair next to him for three nights. By the fourth night, I needed to lie down and sleep in my bed. I needed to snuggle into my pillows, pull up my quilt and relax. I needed more than two hours of sleep at a time. I was exhausted.

We finally came up with a plan. I’d leave the cell phone next to his chair. If he called out for me and I didn’t hear him, he’d phone the bedroom. I knew the phone next to the bed would wake me. We had a peaceful night. I slept soundly for 4 ½ hours. I was a new woman come morning!!

And on the fifth night, he slept in the bed - at least for a few hours. We’re getting there but it’s a slow road back!

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