Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First Treatment

It's a milestone: I now have Medicare. Another milestone: my first set of knee injections.

Not sure just what to expect, despite reassurances from the Doc on the initial evaluation, I was a bit leery of pain. The word he used was "sore." I suspected it's a bit like "uncomfortable". It still means pain, except the Doc is too wimpy to admit it to you just how bad it was going to be.Yes, there was some. It just wasn't anything like I expected. I'd brought Steve along as backup driver, just in case. Didn't need him, but bless him, he bought lunch afterwards.

After the initial sitting in the waiting room, you get called back to the very. back. office. Not the one close to where you sit, not even halfway down the hall. The very. last. one. They do know why I'm here, right?

Once there I got to sit right away, and stay put until everything's over, maybe 10 minutes. The assistant finds the space in the knee where you can insert a needle between all the bones. Verified with a fluoroscope (cool view, by the way), she marked it with a pen. Then a thorough wipe to sterilize, and a spray to freeze the area. That's actually the worst part of the procedure itself, all 3 seconds of it. The needle goes in, ink is injected to make sure it's flowing where the good stuff needs to go, and the syringe is swapped with one holding both the anesthetic and coating. Then remove the needle, wipe, and apply bandaid. Same for next knee, and don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Of course, out only means to the physical therapy area. You are immediately parked on a bicycle machine, with a seat so low to the floor I figured I'd need to be pried out. It'd be a comfy height for potty training. At least for the first treatment there's no drag on the machine. They just want you to move your knees for 5 minutes to make sure the coating gets spread around evenly within the knee. They don't even care if you pedal backwards, so long as you move. Since the up position of the knees was nearly kissing distance from my face, I found it much more comfy to pedal backwards, making the push out stretch starting in the lower position rather than in a lift. After all, I haven't done anything like this for over 22 years, since living in Lake Elmo. By the time my 5 (10 - they got busy) minutes were over, my legs were trembling. I sat for a full couple minutes before hauling myself up out of that seat.

You need to know, the anesthetic in the knees was working well. It was the rest of my legs that were complaining. They were wobbly during the balance exercises, stand on one leg as long as possible (not very), then the other, then one toe-to-heel with the next, and finally the little stair drop down. They give you a very wobbly pole to hold onto for balance, but since I was next to a counter, I used that. The other seemed unwise.

Finally, I could sit. Next were the sitting stretches, some just to strengthen and loosen the joints, some to evaluate my strength against the therapist. "Dont let me pull your leg this way" kind of thing. She's stronger than I am. Finally there was a combination of electric current and ice packs. Four patches on each knee, current turned up until you tell the therapist it's no longer comfortable. "Tingly" is what you're aiming for. Then ice packs top and bottom of each knee, held in place with velcroed elastic. That ten minutes is half as long as the bicycle's five. Since it has its own timer which shuts the current off at the end, I tend to trust it.

Finally I can leave. Except for one thing. I'm supposed to get a loaner brace. I've gotten bowlegged, thanks to the arthritis, and contributing further to the wear on the knees. Problem is, it's going to cost me $145 per brace, which I should have for both knees, and I need to be sure I can tolerate wearing them first. With dermatographic uticaria, anything that rubs, binds, or pinches raises itching welts, making it impossible to wear it. (Don't even bother to ask me what I think of bras!) We got one fitted for me, and it's mine to evaluate for a week. They put a knit sleeve underneath, making it comfortable except, two hours later, where the top is stretched a bit too much, rolls down, and gets caught under the brace in a lump. 

Counter productive.

I was only to wear it two hours today, make it 3-4 tomorrow, longer each day until I can go through a whole day. I think tomorrow I'll check it out without the sleeve. The straps are wide and soft. Enough? We'll see. The leg actually did feel better while I was wearing it, and it didn't interfere with getting in/out of the car.

The painkiller inside the knees did wear off, as expected. No problem, actually. I'm taking it easy, as directed. But sore? You betcha! Sore like you feel the first day after a lot of exercise, without waiting for a day to go buy. Hips to ankles, everything but the knee joints are sore. Where's a hot tub when you need one?

I just finished my evening regimen of PT exercises, with less strength and stamina than when I did them this morning after the bicycle. Hey, I figure a couple days and I can actually do them they way they want me to. I'll be ready for next week.

Except they think I should get myself a bicycle exerciser. Sure, that'll happen. Uh huh.

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