"I had a knee replacement a week ago. Here's what it's really like."
This week, we’re proud to share the knee replacement story of 74-year-old, Allan. As of this writing, Allan is one week into his knee replacement (TKA, TKR) recovery. We spoke with Allan to check-in on his recovery and to get an idea of what it’s really like to be fresh out of surgery. Really, we wanted to find out directly from Allan if surgery is as bad as one expects and to see if anything about the process surprised him.
As we began our chat, Allan was insistent that there was nothing remarkable or extraordinary about his story. Although his journey towards a knee replacement may not be filled with the twists, turns, and complications of 29-year-old Travis’ story, his story captures an important message: “What you put into something, you will get out.” This was a line that Allan expressed a few times throughout our conversation and is the reason we believe his story is so inspirational for those awaiting a hip or knee replacement.
Like many of you, 74-year old Allan is retired after a fast-paced career. He enjoyed an active lifestyle of travel, cricket and table tennis. It was in the late 1990’s when Allan was in his mid-50’s that he really began to notice some problems with his knees and began to experience joint pain. Allan had to curb his active lifestyle, trading in cricket for golf.
It wasn’t until 2007 that he would visit a specialist who would examine his joints and confirm what he already knew: he had arthritis in his knees. This specialist gave him steroid injections in both knees and uttered the commonly reported message, “I advise you to wait as long as possible before getting a replacement.” With this, Allan carried on. He rarely saw his doctor and continued doing the activities that he enjoyed.
Five years later, Allan would once again have to make lifestyle changes as a result of his knees. In 2012, Allan traded in golf for a dedicated walking routine. Clocking close to 15 miles a week by foot, Allan was keeping active and keeping his knee pain at bay until it reared its ugly head. “I kept going with the walking until about 8 months ago. This is when the distance I could walk was deteriorating. I wasn’t feeling too much pain, but a lot of discomfort—about half a mile was the most I could walk comfortably,” explained Allan. With this sudden deterioration, Allan saw his orthopedic specialist once again to find out that his knees were “bone on bone” and that the right knee was due for an immediate replacement.
With a total right knee replacement (RTKR) finally on the books, he began to do what a lot of proactive patients do—he searched on google. “I started looking for information online and came across PeerWell when I was researching. It was very well presented and I thought it could be helpful.” With a scheduled surgery, Allan was a prime candidate for the PreHab app. He registered and started using PeerWell for 70 days leading up to his surgery.
Allan was very active in his PreHab, using the app once or twice daily and rarely skipping over activities. He shared that he even went into his home-office to do the mindfulness exercises which he admits, “I was rather skeptical of at first.” After running through the mindfulness guided meditations with an open mind, he quickly understood the purpose they served. “Obviously everyone is worried about these things and the mindfulness exercise prepares you for the hospital. Mindfulness was very relaxing and very useful,” he shares.
Surgery, Recovery and Beyond.
Flash forward to January 31, 2017—surgery day. In hospital, everything went according to plan. Allan was out of bed the day after surgery and the following day was able to climb stairs and work through physical therapy. He had surgery on Tuesday and was discharged straight home on Thursday—in just over 48 hours. Even Allan was surprised at how seamless everything went, “My hospital experience went way better than imaginable. I was imagining worse things. I was worried about the spinal injection, but again, it wasn’t as bad as anticipated.”
“Tuesday morning I went in and by Thursday afternoon, I was out. I was surprised by the speed. I put that down largely to the daily PeerWell exercises.”
But how has recovery been since Allan went home? He shares the mantra that he seems to abide by when overcoming life’s obstacles, “no gain without pain.” He puts it honestly, “It was a bit grueling. Since I’ve been home, I wasn’t feeling too good—sickly because of pain medication. I’ve been restless because I wasn’t sleeping well. But over the last day or so [Day 6 after surgery], I am feeling like my old self.”
When asked about pain, the top concern of most patients awaiting a replacement, he explains, “Yes, I’ve found it painful but more like a toothache or knee ache. Yesterday [Day 7] I felt a lot better. There was some pain—obviously—but I didn’t feel sickly so I could tackle the exercises more.” In other words, Allan is taking it day by day, but is already seeing small successes as he moves further along in his recovery. Its obvious that he’s keeping his eye on the prize—a full and fast recovery. With his proven determination, there’s no doubt he will get there.
Rapid Fire Questions
In typical rapid fire style, we asked Allan to answer these questions with the very first thing that came to mind. Here’s what he had to say about the whole process.
Q:What advice would you give people preparing for a replacement?
A: I would give the advice to spend a lot of time on exercising. I would also recommend PeerWell to anyone preparing for surgery.
Q:How exactly did PreHab help you in your recovery?
A: The PeerWell exercises are very similar to exercises recommended in physio and by the hospital. I found them ideal.
Q:You mentioned mindfulness being a major part of your recovery. Is this your favorite part of PeerWell’s program?
A: I think the exercises were most beneficial. I was never in severe pain but the mindfulness did help with the anxiety and taught me how to treat anxiety. I did find myself in hospital going through the mindfulness breathing exercises.
Q: What is one thing that surprised you about a knee replacement?
A: It was far easier than I expected!
Q: What is something that caught you off-guard about knee replacement surgery?
A: Nothing. It was more or less what I expected...only not as bad.
Q: Describe your replacement in one word.
A: Can I say this? Painful.
Q: Rate your entire joint replacement experience on a scale from 1-10 (1 being the worst thing ever and 10 being the best thing ever).
With Allan, it’s obvious that he is full of energy and has a zest for life. He’s eager to trade in his sedentary lifestyle for one that once again includes long walks, new adventures and time well-spent. For this reason, Allan dedicated himself to preparing in the best way he could for the surgery in order to get a headstart on his recovery. We’re honoured that he placed his trust in all elements of the PeerWell program to prep him for surgery—even those, like mindfulness, that he wasn’t quite convinced of.
In closing out our conversation, we asked if there were other aspects of PeerWell’s PreHab program that he was reluctant to get on board with. To this, Allan fired back, “I don’t eat things like tofu” (this is in reference to a nutritional tip in the PreHab program). Allan, we think you’ve done quite well without the tofu—no tofu for you.
Are you having hip or knee replacement surgery? If you think PeerWell’s PreHab could help you, sign-up today. You’ve got nothing to lose.