Thursday, January 28, 2016

Knee Update

My orthopedic surgeon's office on the left (under the green wall) and
Mark's physical therapy office on the right (under the wood-plank wall).
In fact, you can see Mark's backside in the workout room window, riding the equipment.
January 27, 2016

Today I went back to see Dr. Reagan for my post-op follow-up. I reported that, although the first week of recovery was more painful than I'd expected (and I definitely returned to work too soon), this second week has been somewhat better. Some pain, but mostly just discomfort. This week I've been able to limp around without my knee brace, and I'm able to put weight on it, but my whole leg sure gets tired fast.

I described the sensation of a band wrapped tightly around the bottom half of my right knee, squeezing like a vise, as well as the tightness of a muscle behind the knee, on the inner side, so tight it's almost cramping. And, in the center bottom of the kneecap, I still feel that painful pressure, almost like it wants to click when I bend it, but can't quite get past something pressing into it.

The doctor nodded knowingly and told me this is all typical, due to the fluid that's still in my knee. Then he showed me how my kneecap is floating and bouncing in the fluid, unlike my normal kneecap on the left. That was a relief! I was almost afraid the surgery hadn't done what it was supposed to do.

After that, he went over all the photos of the surgery, explaining step-by-step what was done and showing me the part that was most invasive (where he'd cut away some tissue) and thus probably causing most of my pain. Sure enough, it was in the exact spot where most of the pain is found. I love when a doctor takes the time to explain and demonstrate, as if you're actually intelligent enough to understand!

Then he removed my stitches. One of the incisions is still lightly oozing, so he prescribed an antibiotic to be sure it doesn't get infected while it finishes healing.

My next appointment is four weeks away. Dr. Reagan feels confident that the fluid will drain off during that time and I'll be walking normally before my next visit. If not, though, we can revisit other options we discussed today, such as another shot in the knee (noooooo!) or physical therapy. Hopefully I won't need either, because I don't want to pay for it!

Progress, one step at a time!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Beautiful World, by Dylan

Jake watches the sun drop in the western sky over the Rim at 5:17 p.m.
January 22, 2016

On Friday, my son Dylan hiked the Mogollon Rim Trail just a mile from our home. He had his camera with him and captured some beautiful shots of the darkening sky over a period of 35 minutes. I hope you'll enjoy these images as much as I do. (As ever, remember you can click on any picture to enlarge it for a better view.)

5:29 p.m.

5:31 p.m.

5:50 pm.

5:52 p.m.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Knee Repair

Sunrise Ambulatory Surgical Center in Aspen Ridge Medical Center
Friday, January 15, 2016

The day of my surgery finally dawned (and I mean that literally). It was still dark when Dylan drove me to the surgical center at 6:15. I took these two photos outside the building when we left, about 3 hours later. 

The entrance to the medical center.

By 6:30, they had taken me back to get me prepped. Sarah soon joined me, after dropping her husband Chris off at work. She was there for the long haul, my ride home when it was all over (and my next-of-kin if anything went wrong, but we won't think about that!). The surgery was scheduled for 7:00, but it took a bit longer than expected to get me into surgery. In fact, I was getting a bit nervous, starting to wonder if I would be having the surgery that day at all.

Inside the entrance, the surgical center is dead ahead.

Two days before the surgery, I'd unexpectedly developed a urinary tract infection. Everything was fine when I left for work just before 7:30 on Wednesday. An hour later, reading aloud to my 1st period class, I suddenly realized I needed to use the restroom, but the sensation was so uncomfortable I knew what it meant. I've had plenty of UTIs in my day. Then, by the time I was able to take a break at 9:00, I was already peeing blood! I'd never had a UTI progress that quickly before.

My biggest concern was that my surgery would be cancelled. I know that surgery is often postponed if the patient has a fever on the day of the procedure. So I arranged to have my 3rd period class and homeroom covered while I raced to the clinic, where I was their first patient of the day, thankfully, so I got right in (they open at 10:00 and I arrived at 10:10). They confirmed the infection and prescribed an antibiotic. I spent 45 minutes at Walmart waiting for my prescription, but I managed to be back at school in time for 4th period right after lunch.

When I took my temperature the night before the surgery, it was perfectly normal, which was a huge relief.

Pictures of the inside of my knee, with notes by the surgeon.
It looks more like one of Saturn's moons to me!

As it turned out, the problem issue had nothing to do with my UTI or fevers. It was my arrhythmia that made the anesthesiologist hesitate. Sinus arrhythmias and premature ventricular contractions are considered fairly benign, and while I hate how they make me feel, I'm okay as long as I keep my potassium and other electrolytes balanced. However, he decided to do an EKG before proceeding, "just to get a baseline" he said, and then he spent a very long time reading the results. I watched and waited nervously.

Finally, he said it looked like I had an infarct (an area of dead tissue) in one of my lower lobes, although it was inconclusive. I'm knowledgeable enough to understand that means I may have unknowingly had a heart attack sometime in the past few years. (My last stress test, echo-cardiogram, and other cardiac tests were 6 years ago. At that time my heart was healthy and my arteries were clear despite the arrhythmia.) But I also know my stepmom Kathy was told the same thing after an EKG a few years ago and it turned out to be a false alarm. At any rate, the EKG will be shared with my primary physician, and I'm sure another visit to the cardiologist awaits me in the not-too-distant future.

Meanwhile, the anesthesiologist seemed satisfied--despite the apparent infarct--that he could safely sedate me, so they started rolling me back to the operating room. But then I asked if we could stop again so I could use the restroom, since they weren't catheterizing me (thank goodness!), and thus I ended up walking myself into surgery.

The only thing I was secretly dreading was being put under general anesthesia. I hate waking up with a sore throat from being intubated. Even worse, I hate waking up all groggy and nauseous. I hate how long it takes to feel normal again.

So I was pleased to find out that this time they were putting something in my IV that would just make me extremely sleepy, so much so that I would feel like I was asleep the whole time. If I was too twitchy or not "out" enough, then they would go to general anesthesia. I wasn't too worried, though. I'm always easy to put to sleep. 

This pink tape that covered my IV made me think of my pink-loving
daughter-in-law Danielle!

I remember lying on the table while the doctor, nurse, and anesthesiologist were working around me. I was looking at the ceiling and wondering when they were going to inject the anesthesia. Then I started feeling all warm and cozy, and no sooner did I think, "This must be--" than I was out. Totally.

Next thing I knew, someone was asking, "Are you awake?" I thought, "Are you crazy?" but I opened my eyes to see the nurse standing over me, smiling. There was no nausea and no grogginess, although I did feel a little loopy. My throat was a little sore because they did put a smaller breathing tube through my nostril, but the soreness went away within the hour.

They wrote "yes" on my right knee to ensure the correct knee was repaired.
The orange streaks are the antiseptic with which they cleaned my knee.

Despite my loopiness, it seemed like everyone persisted in asking me questions or talking about things that required me to speak. The surgeon showed me the pictures of my knee and took time to describe each and every one. The nurse went over my release instructions in detail. I was thinking, "Don't they realize I can't even think yet? I'm never going to remember all this." It seemed like so much work to think of the correct words to respond with a modicum of intelligibility, but I kept trying.

Just a little bit of gauze and bandages to cover my tiny wounds.

Sarah's perspective of my awakening was humorous. They brought her back to me right away, and I remember seeing her when I sat up. She told Dylan I was so loopy that I didn't stop talking. And here I was thinking I was only saying what was absolutely necessary. She tells me I said things I don't recall saying, like telling the doctor that my eyes were cross-eyed when he showed me the pictures.

I wasn't supposed to change the dressing until Monday morning,
but the bandages kept slipping. I finally gave up and rearranged it all
on Sunday afternoon. Not too bad. Two small incisions with stitches,
and a mildly swollen knee. Still hurts like heck to walk on, though!

I  was sent home around 9:00 a.m. My knee was sore, but it wasn't too bad to walk on. They gave me a prescription for narcotic painkillers, which Sarah had filled for me, but I couldn't imagine I'd actually need them. My pain tolerance is pretty high and, as I told people, the post-surgery pain wasn't as bad at what I'd been enduring for the past few months. I spent most of Friday sleeping, anyway, first in the recliner for a couple of hours and then in bed for the rest of the day.

The only comfortable position these days: in a recliner with
my knee up on two throw-pillows.

And then whatever drugs they'd used to numb my knee wore off late Saturday morning. Oh. My. Gosh. I had to pick up Mark and Jake from work Saturday afternoon, and just walking out to the car and driving was a nightmare. After that, I told everyone they had to find their own transportation. I also joked that I needed a little golden bell to summon them, because they were going to be waiting on me for the rest of the weekend.

Sitting at my desk and working on my desktop is also painful,
so I'm blogging this from my laptop, on my lap.

I never did get a golden bell, but everyone has been good about fetching for me in order to limit my need to move around. Mark and Jake were at work all day today, leaving Dylan to wait on me, but he was marvelously patient and quick to respond. Instead of a bell, I'd just call his cell phone!

Jake, Chris, and Sarah chop vegetables for Sunday dinner.
Dylan had already assembled all the ingredients and measuring cups for them.

And then, for tonight's family dinner, the kids pulled together to make our meal while I relaxed. The nurse said I'd be sore for three or four days, so hopefully this will begin to improve soon. I might need the knee brace for another week, but then they say I should be able to walk normally again and gradually increase my activity. How I hope that turns out to be true!

Navopache Chicken Salad for tonight's dinner.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Three Storms

Looking out the window of the high school library at 8:40 while
my freshman English students were Galileo testing during 1st period.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016

During this past week, three storms hit us here in the White Mountains. The first, on Monday and Tuesday, brought mostly rain with just scattered snow flurries. It wasn't even a heavy rain, so it wasn't bad at all. However, the second storm was supposed to hit on Wednesday and bring plenty of snow, so Mark and I went shopping after work on Tuesday to make sure we sere stocked up on supplies for the next week. We remember March 2006, when we got 4 feet of snow and were snowed in for 3 days, until the snow plows could get back into our neighborhood. We were stocked up then, but we realized how bad it would have been if we hadn't been prepared.

As promised, the second storm hit very early Wednesday morning. We woke up to heavy snowfall, which persisted until about noon. Driving was slick and tricky, and everyone expressed surprise that school hadn't been cancelled. Several inches had fallen by noon.

Looking out the window of my orthopedic surgeon's office at 3:15.

After noon, the snow lightened up and fell intermittently throughout the afternoon, sometimes lighter, sometimes heavier. I left school two hours early for an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon and the driving wasn't too bad by then.

I'd finally had an MRI done on my right knee on Monday, December 28th. Even prior to that, I'd already made an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon for Wednesday, January 13th. Two days after the MRI, though, Dr. Reagan's office called to tell me he'd read the MRI report and didn't want to wait that long to see me. Thus we moved the appointment up one week, to this particular snowy Wednesday. I'd been able to schedule my original appointment for after school. Now, of course, there were no later slots available, so I had to request a sub to cover my last two periods of the day.

It turns out that I do have a tear in my meniscus, as well as something that looks like a "bruised bone." Otherwise, the doctor said I have almost no signs of arthritis and very little wear and tear on the knee joint. Not bad for my age! The scope-surgery is scheduled for this Friday, January 15th. The doctor will cut away the troublesome parts of the meniscus tear and clean up anything else he finds in there.

Looking out the window of Denny's at 4:40.

Mark had an appointment for physical therapy to help alleviate the pain in his back, which happened to be at the same time as my appointment. Luckily, my orthopedic surgeon's office is right next-door to Mark's PT office. We were both done by 3:45. The snow was falling very lightly at this point, but we knew it would get heavier as the evening approached. 

Mark had invited me to Denny's for dinner that night, since he'd been given an after-Christmas bonus gift card for $25 at work. Looking at the heavy gray clouds overhead, we decided to go ahead and have an early dinner. That way, we would be able to get home and stay inside when the weather worsened. Besides, he had skipped lunch and it had been 4 hours since my lunch at school. We were both ready! (And it was yummy, and Mark got lots of special attention from his co-workers, who clearly like him a lot!)

Our front yard just before noon on Thursday.

The next storm brought all the snow it promised. School was cancelled for both Thursday and Friday. By the end of the day on Thursday, we had a foot of snow on the ground. The snow is beautiful and I love it dearly, as long as I don't have to be out driving in it. And as long as the electricity doesn't go out for more than an hour--which, thankfully, hasn't happened for six years or so. A house can get really cold really fast! We do have a fireplace, but it only heats the living room.

At 3:00 on Thursday.

I posted a short video of snow falling on my Facebook page several days ago, but below is a much better one. The snow was very heavy when I took this, and my camera captured it pretty well. In the background you can hear Dylan's voice talking to me; you just can't quite make out what he's saying. 

Dylan was clearing the snow from my car so I could drive up to Pinetop and pick up Jake from work. At 6:30 that morning, Jake had attempted to drive himself, but he took a spin on the slick road and ended up across the median, facing oncoming traffic. He returned home, shaken up a bit, and so I took him to work. Jake only started driving 5 months ago, being from the Bronx in New York City, and driving in snow is tricky even for experienced drivers.

Heavy snowfall at 3:00 on Thursday, January 7th.

A note for my friends who are not on Facebook: I've started posting to my diet blog, My fat Friend, again. It's New Year's Resolution time, after all! In the past 9 days I've lost 7.6 lbs, so I've started strong. Besides chronicling my progress, I'm including low-carb ideas and recipes. Please join me if you're interested!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Ringing in a New Year

Our family tradition is to toast the New Year with sparkling cider at midnight!

We spend most New Year's Eves at home, having a quiet gathering with my children and their spouses. We enjoy homemade cheesecake and, at midnight, break open some bottles of sparkling cider and toast the New Year. That's our usual tradition, and I like it.

This year, however, Jeff and Dana have moved back to The Mountain, and that means PARTY! Dana texted me at 11:00 that morning, saying they were inviting everyone for games and snacks, so I texted my kids from the movie theater (where Mark and I were waiting for Star Wars to begin; his first viewing and my second) and it was decided that we would join in on the merriment.

Jake's delicious lasagna (or what was left before we had seconds...).

Dylan, unfortunately, had to work from 5:00 to 11:00 that evening, so we decided we would all go ahead to the party around 9 or 10:00 and he would join us after work. Meanwhile, we had an early dinner so Dylan could eat before he left.

Jake has often told us about the amazing lasagna his mom and grandmother make, so I asked him to make it for our New Year's Eve dinner. It seemed like good timing, since my New Year's resolution, as it so often is, is to get healthy and lose weight in 2016. There will be no lasagna noodles or garlic bread (or any bread, for that matter) anywhere on the low-carb menu during the coming months!

Dylan made the garlic bread. Better than store-bought!

The lasagna was amazing, as evidenced by the fact that we ate the entire pan in one meal. And Dylan's garlic bread was to die for, as well. No leftovers for another day this time around!

Family friend Crystal joins Dana, Elsie, Cheri (Dana's mother, aka "Nana"),
Jeff (my brother), Marcus, and Hayden in tackling a very tough puzzle.

We arrived at Jeff and Dana's place right around 10:00. Let the fun begin! And it was a fun night of visiting and joking and laughing and loud music and noshing on yummy snacks like chips and dip, homemade cheese balls (my mother's recipe by Dana, my favorite!) and crackers, caramel corn, and chocolates.

Their goal was to finish the puzzle before the New Year.
It took more than three hours, but they made it with 5 minutes to spare!

Sarah, Chris, Jona (Dana's sister) and her husband Kim, and my nephew
Burke play several rounds of Apples to Apples. In the background,
Dana's stepdad Dee plays cards with my niece Haley (off-camera at left).

My niece Emma and her cousin Mallory (Kim and Jona's daughter)
prepare to break hearts at the New Year's Eve dance.

My niece Callie wants in on the action. She's not shy!

My niece Brinley pauses for a quick photo.

Mark, Dylan, and Jake take it easy while Jeff and Dana's grandson 
Aiden walks by in his kingly crown.

Poor Dylan had to work until 11:00 tonight. He said he sold more liquor tonight than he has in the whole nine months he's been at Walmart! He finally joined us around 11:20, and he brought a big box of fireworks with him!

Mark and Dylan share a "touching" father and son moment.

Jona photobombs the sparkling cider just before midnight!

Ten minutes before midnight, Kim and Jona helped me gather all the sparkling cider bottles donated by our various families and get them opened before we gathered everyone to fill their motley array of cups and glasses. Someone turned the TV to the channel showing Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve (with Ryan Seacrest and Carrie Underwood) so we could watch the countdown to midnight.

Watching the ball in Times Square just. about. to. fall...

We all started counting down: "Ten...nine...eight..." And then, "HAPPY NEW YEAR!"

A beautiful midnight moon over Jeff and Dana's neighborhood.

As soon as the Times Square globe dropped, we all toasted the New Year with our assorted cups of sparkling cider, and then we headed outside to enjoy the fireworks Dylan had brought with him from Walmart. Throughout the neighborhood, we could hear the concussions of others setting off firecrackers. Ours were more sparkly than noisy. Just the way I like them!

Then it was time to head home. Jake had to work at 6:45 a.m. and Mark had to work at 8:00 a.m. (meaning I had to get up at 7:30 to drive him), so we didn't dare to stay and revel any longer. But it was fun celebrating the arrival of 2016 with friends and family. Thanks, Jeff and Dana, for hosting us!

Dylan brought the fireworks.