Saturday, August 4, 2012

Reflections on 2011 & a knee replacement

To be honest, 2011 was not the best year for my rheumatoid arthritis (RA).  I was in pain more than I wasn't.  I had a lot of work related travel and stress which affected me negatively.

I finally took the steps  and did all my research to have my left knee replaced.  One doctor kindly remarked that my knee was trash and replacement was over due.  Having RA meant that I would be off ALL of the RA medications which made my life bearable for a minimum of eight weeks (two before and six after).  Holy cow!  That was going to be miserable.

As part of the preliminary testing, my family doctor arranged for an EMG test on my left leg to determine if there was nerve damage that would hamper the replacement or ensure that the pain in my left hip would continue after the knee replacement.  Minor nerve damage was found.  Next test was for extended allergy panel to see if the root of the pain could be there.  Ironically I found out that I was allergic to both wheat and chocolate.  The allergy to wheat threw me in the mostly gluten free lifestyle.  But, after stopping to eat anything with wheat (and the list was long), within two days I no longer had any pain in my left hip.  Discussed this undocumented feature with both my rheumatologist and my pain clinic therapist.  Nothing either had seen before but believed it could be possible.  This lead me to the book, "Wheat Belly", which talks a lot about the mutations that wheat has gone through in the desire to feed the world faster.

Met with the orthopaedic surgeon again, scheduled surgery for early December and stopped all the RA medications just mid December.  There was a family funeral and gathering during this time.  A large group for a funeral and Thanksgiving dinner, as we all clung together one last time.  The next week there was a hard snow, and I fell on my left arm breaking both forearm bones at the joints and two additional fractures.  The only major storm of the year! 

Instead of having my knee replaced, I ended up with surgery on my arm receiving a y-shaped stainless steel plate and five screws.  The day before I had surgery on my arm, a new grandson was born that I couldn't pick up or hold due to the cast on my arm. I never realized how many things I used my left hand/arm for until I could not.  It was three weeks in a cast, staples removed, three weeks in a splint, ten weeks of physical therapy and weeks of rolling arthritic flares! 

Finally in April 2012 I was able  again meet with the orthopaedic surgeon and arrange to have the knee replaced.  May 30th was my date.  I stopped all the medications two weeks before and settled in for a few weeks of pain.  Imagine my surprise that I now know the knee replacement was the best thing I've ever done for my RA.  Sure surgery and recovery have pain and discomfort.  My doctor had post surgery down to a science.  Three weeks in home physical therapy and nursing care!  Ice machine and continuous movement machine to improve the flexibility of the knee.  Awesome experience!  It's been six weeks of physical therapy and I'm walking without a limp, can walk up small flights of stairs without going one step-one step, and I can pick up and cuddle my grandchildren. 

The best part of this is that I've been able to reduce some medications by half!  I still take a weekly Orencia injection but the methoxetrate has been cut in half for the first time in six years.  I am so happy with the results.

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