Friday, April 11, 2008

My new best friend (s)

While I was in the recovery room immediately after knee surgery my surgeon walked in, said the operation went well, and patted the Continuous Passive Motion machine that had been delivered a few minutes earlier. 'This is your new best friend,' he said.

It seems that bad outcomes from knee joint replacement operations were mainly due to patients not doing the incredibly painful physical therapy. The solution; dope you to the gills, strap your leg into this contraption, and it bends your knee over and over again. There is some kind of mechanism in the plastic base, probably an acme screw, that pulls your foot up gently bending the knee and then pushes it back down. There are fleecy pads that hold everything in place, a nicely finished stainless steel structure for the machine, and controls for bend angle and bend rate.

Marguerite (friend #1), was my recovery room nurse. She got the fleecy pads on but struggled to figure out how to adjust the device correctly. The delivery guy (friend #2) was no help and quickly bailed. Marguerite recruited the occupational therapist (#3) and then the physical therapist (#4). No matter what they did the stainless steel bar at the end dug into my butt, and part of my leg was not supported. The machine was the wrong size they concluded. 'Don't worry' Marguerite said, 'You are moving to a room and I'll have a new one delivered.'

In my room I met my new nurse, Jensine (#5) who, in her way, was just as fabulous as Marguerite. Maybe it was the drugs but I don't think so - they were both fabulous. The new machine was delivered, set up, and I was strapped in again. The fit was much better but the bar at the end still dug into my butt. After a half hour of bending I noticed that my thigh was moving sideways in a weird way. 'It's broken,' Jensine said and sure enough one of the welds had given way. My TIG welding of stainless sure isn't the greatest but I expected a little better from the medical machine manufacturers.

A third machine was delivered, and Jensine recruited the nurse across the way (#6) to help. She took one look and said, 'The pads are on backwards." Sure enough, a little switcheroo, and I was in the bending business with no pains in my butt. Thank you, thank you!!!

Before I left the hospital my surgeon paid a last visit. 'We like patients to use these machines at home for a few weeks but your insurance doesn't cover it. Do you want to rent one on your own or just do the physical therapy exercises?" I demurred on the machine.

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