Hello. Let me say I am sorry I have to write this letter to you. Not because it is you, but because of the reason you need to hear from me and me alone.
What you need right now is the honest down to earth TRUTH about what is going to happen to you with this fusion (arthrodesis).
I hope you have a lot of time because this is going to be a very long painful letter for me to write and you to read, so be ready. And I hope I am not to late, and you haven't done the surgery yet.
In an earlier life I was a Broadway dancer. And 25 years ago they knew nothing about protecting joints from running jumps and landing on your knees for 8 hours a day. I was also an avid horse backrider, but in English saddle, that is where you use you legs to post up and down with the horse. So my career choice coupled with horseback riding and waitressing put a lot of wear and tear on my poor knee.
Fast forward, it is now 1998 and I am 43, my knees are in constant pain and I am on pain medication now for 10 years. I move to Kentucky, I found a great doctor, young but talented a wonder-kin. He says my left knee is worse than my right knee and a TKR ( total knee replacement) was the best way to go. So we did. I had the surgery and got a major staf infection and was in the hospital for 6 weeks on IV antibiotics, the infection went away. It is now 2003 and I have no trouble with this knee I can even take the heel of my foot and touch my chin with this leg. The doctor was amazed, tells me "its not made to move like that." Took a photo wrote an article and got an award for something. Complete success. Yahoo great.
1999, we waited out that year for my left leg to get back all the strength, figured no problem that my right knee was gonna be the same cake walk my left knee was. NOT!!!!
Start 2000, January did my first (mind you) TKR in my right knee. Recovery fast and smooth. Walking with no walker in two weeks. At four weeks my knee turned blood red and very hot and I was running a 104 temp. Rushed to the hospital. I mean RUSHED! The infection was killing me. My body was shutting down. My knee was full of green goo that was staf infection and the TKR had to be removed right away. I'm put on a Morphine drip 3 mg of Morphine every 10 minutes for pain for two months. Another 6 weeks IV antibiotics in hospital and another surgery to put another TKR back in my knee before I go home.
Same thing happened again 2nd time in and out.
3 rd time- My birthday present on July 15th 2000 was TKR surgery to remove another infected TKR,
4th time-September 21st 2000 back in hospital for another TKR removal because of infection and another replaced.
5th time-December 3, 2000 another TKR removal only this time he didn't replace the joint.
So here we have 10 TKR surgeries. Now keep in mind every single time I had the new one put in after the antibiotics I did great for about a few weeks. I was walking with no trouble.
Wanna hear some real bad luck-
During on of the good spells I had gone t o the doctor two weeks after my release from the hospital. I was doing great. I was bending my leg, not using the walker, and generally showing off in the doctors office because I was so happy. When I got home in less than 20 minutes of walking in my front door I slipped and fell!!!! I broke any ankle in 3 places!!! My doctor and I had gotten very close, so close I knew the extension to the room he does surgery in and I called him there directly since the office was closed and he was not on call. They piped my call into the operation room and he talked with me, I was crying and told him "I just fell and I know I broke my ankle I heard it break." I know he stopped for a moment and I imagined him looking up at the speaker and shaking his head because he asked me "Catherine is this a Joke?" " You just left my office you were fine." I cried and said no it was true and what did he want me to do. I was sent an ambulance and directly admitted to the hospital and had surgery later that night. In two I was ready to go home but.......................the nurse looked at my knee and said my leg was hanging funny and called the doctor, I was taken down to x-ray. My doctor comes in at 5 am the morning I am going home as says:
" Sorry to tell you this but, you fractured you knee cap and we have to do surgery and fix it" Another two weeks in the hospital.
Now back to that awful day I made the choice with my doctor for the fusion. December 9th, 2000 : It is weeks before Christmas, I want to be at home and not in the hospital any more. I am depressed, the doctor is depressed. This is the first time this has ever happened to him, he can't explain why I keep getting the infection. (Explanation as to why coming sit tight)
Because of all the infections we have two choices 1) I go home with a cast on my leg from my hip to my ankle for 6 months with no knee inside while everything heals, thus leaving me bedridden and no way of doing anything for myself, or 2) have the fusion (arthrodesis) because there really isn't enough bone for another replacement anyhow. And if I go with choice 1 I could end up with choice 2 after several more painful months and end up with yet another infection. Desperately not wanting to put myself, my family or my doctor threw any more pain and emotional anguish I did the fusion.
BIGGEST MISTAKE IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!!!
What are the down sides?
1) You can no longer walk up stairs at all, let alone try to go down stairs. I have to got down stairs backwards, because I have to place the fused leg on the bottom step first.
2) If you are sexually active now forget it, put it out of your mind, your leg does not bend-need I say more
3) loss of height in one leg- I lost 1 1/2 inches - special shoes weighs so much and catch's on floor, promotes falling
4) standing for any length of time with out the shoe is painful because your spine is now in so much more pain your body feel like it is competing for attention- my spine is so twisted I now have sever migraines and have to get adjustments to my back 3 x aweek by a chiropractor
5) the bathroom- get yourself a raised toiletseat- it needs to be at least 4 inches higher than the normal toilet because you can't bend your leg to get you up- and those bars for the walls are a line of doggie duddie
6) call the "scooter store" and have Medicare pay for a scooter, you're gonna need it and make sure your doctor has the special lift on the side you have the fusion on - why because you leg doesn't bend and walking any distant longer that 50 feet will wear you out
7) get ahold of the community services program where you live and ask if the have a community ramp program, most communities provide free ramps for people that are on a limited income- you will need it for your scooter.
8) sell your car- you can't drive now because your leg doesn't fit, because it doesn't bend
9) don't bother trying to work- I am a person w/ a BA and can not get a job to save my life, because of my leg- I can't sit at a desk or regular chairs because my leg doesn't bend
10) give away all your dining chairs and living room furniture- they are to low to the ground and you can't get up, because you can't bend your leg
I am happy to say after two years of searching the internet and hundreds of dollars in long distant call to doctors and manufactures, I have come up with a list of doctors that do reversals of the fusion(arthrodesis). My surgery to get me back on both feet is in six weeks. Anyone that wants to feel free to write me I welcome your comments or questions.