Surgeons at work with bloody gloves and suction
Photo by Olga Kononenko on Unsplash

Getting My Throat Slit was a Lot Less Traumatic and Dramatic Than Being Cut Off at the Knees

Surgery —” A chance to cut is a chance to cure”

I was eighteen when I blew out the anterior cruciate ligament in my left knee for the first time, thanks to a bucking horse. Eight years later, in vet school, another horse flipped in to me and finished the job. I was thirty-seven when my younger son used my other knee as a bumper guard skiing down the baby slope.

At sixty-eight, having my femur and tibia ends sawed off and knee replaced with titanium and plastic seemed like science fiction meets the ax murderer. What if it failed? There I’d be with my foot flapping in the breeze, no way to walk.

Post op pain from total knee replacement is significant. I was tough. I enjoyed the anesthetic blocks that lasted 24 hours and got out of the hospital before that, got out of Dodge (or was that Durango) and started the two-hour ride home. Somewhere along the way, the blocks, the Ibuprofen, the acetaminophen wore off and the oxymorphone or whatever narcotic was prescribed had me reeling and vomiting all over the blanket my thoughtful husband had spread in my lap. I don’t know how anyone could become addicted to that stuff.

The last half hour up our switch-backed gravel road was agony. Grit and bear it, I told myself, and I did. I am tough. But not without tears and whimpering and clock watching those first forty-eight hours that had me gulping down ibuprofen every eight hours and acetaminophen every six, max allowable.

Don’t use it for six weeks. The bone was pretty much a moth-eaten shell, the surgeon said. My leg looked like a purple sausage. The ice bath in the passive motion machine sent chill fingers up my spine as I distractedly watched the now bionic limb flex and extend like a foreign body I couldn’t escape. Crutches and a walker to get to the elevated toilet. Indignity. A chair in the shower.

“Lift it, bend it, tighten those muscles, one, two, three, four,” and on and on the PT lady demanded. Every other day for three long weeks. Then crutches, but at last, I could stand in the sunlight.

Hot towels, massage. More lifting, bending, stretching. Crutches. Then bike, balance, flexion weights. PT in town, an hour away, twice a week. And first steps at six weeks. Finally.

Six months later, rinse, repeat. On the other leg.

No pain, no gain. Where have I heard that? Must have been from a surgeon.

By summer, I could get on a horse.

I put away the ibuprofen for good, I thought.

At sixty-nine, my immune system decided I’d had enough easy living. Graves’ Disease — autoimmune hyperthyroidism. Double vision, racing heart, atrial fibrillation from time to time. Prism glasses, drugs to slow the thyroid, drugs to slow the heart. Radioactive iodine? Surgery? Oh, and drugs to prevent a stroke. Stroke? My fear of losing my mind was much greater than my fear of surgery.

Post op once again. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen, swallowing hard, binge chomping Tums in case my parathyroids took a vacation. No riding, no dragging muck buckets uphill after thyroidectomy. It was duck soup easy. Not traveling during the Pandemic was no additional sacrifice, for two weeks.

I have my heart back to normal, I can see about as well as I could a year ago, and I just need a thyroid substitute in the morning.

No ibuprofen.

Back to previously programmed senior moments.

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Patty Latham

Patty Latham

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Veterinarian CSU 1975. Mom. Rider of mustangs. Author of Napa Valley Vets, novel Colorado Blood, and over 20 case reports and features for EQUUS and on line..