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My orthopedic surgeries

Posted 10-30-2012 01:41 AM by Bakedroses
Updated 11-02-2012 12:35 AM by Administrator

Last week, I had my sixth orthopedic surgery in 16 years, on an ankle (the others were on knees and a wrist). I'm required to be nonweightbearing for some period of time. I thought that by posting some coping strategies, both before and after surgeries, my experiences might help some others here.

I like being independent and am used to doing things for and by myself, and feeling more in control of my life, so it's been difficult to adjust to being in a wheelchair, unable to exit my house or go upstairs without help while I'm currently unable to walk on both feet.

1. When you see a doctor or have diagnostic tests done like MRIs, fill out a "request for release of medical records". Most places will send you copies for free, or charge a very nominal amount. Then read the reports, progress notes, whatever, make notes and look up any words you don't know. If necessary, go online and look up diagrams of the body parts or conditions mentioned so you get a sense of what isn't working, its location, and what's wrong. Some doctors may be more forthcoming when they realize you 'speak the same language.'

2. Look up what your insurance policy covers, and what it doesn't, especially when it comes to durable medical equipment (stuff like walkers, wheelchairs, etc.). If a "letter of medical necessity" is required, ask your doc's office to write it in advance. If you have more than one condition that makes the use of a less-frequently covered device more practical than another more common one, make sure your surgeon's office includes that information--especially if it's a different doctor treating you for the other condition(s). If the equipment you need isn't covered, see if you can find it free or at little cost on recycling sites. Note: a walker can double as a toilet safety rail--just put the front of the walker behind the toilet seat

3. Whether or not you're going to be nonweightbearing, it's a good habit to practice standing on each foot, one at a time. It's great for improving your balance in general, and you can do this while brushing your teeth every night. It'll be a help when you need to stand on only one foot for being nonweightbearing. If you get really good at it prior to surgery, make it harder by closing your eyes and/or standing on something soft, like a dense foam pad. (This same foam pad is now in use to protect my knee while getting in and out of a tub on only one foot as I transfer to shower chair.

4. Speaking of dense foam pads, I bought some scraps at a foam-and-fabric shop locally, and found multiple uses while being NWB (nonweightbearing). To get up and down stairs both inside and outside my house, I used a sturdy plastic child's chair with a foam pad strapped to the seat (to protect a knee), and knelt on it with the leg I was NWB on, moving the chair up or down a step at a time while holding onto the bannister and hoisting myself up or down on the other foot (moving the foot going down from one step to two below the chair, or going up, from two steps below to one). While transferring between the wheelchair and a toilet, a small piece of foam came in handy while pulling underwear and pants up and down--I put down the toilet seat, balancing with one knee on the pad on the closed lid.
Another use was to make a narrow wedge pillow out of scraps--cut them with a long thin meat-slicing knife,then glue the sections together with foam adhesive. An old tee-shirt that fit snugly over the foam wedge made a good cover, because it left easily grabbed "handles" at both the hem and the sleeves.

4. In advance, or with the help of whoever is helping you: in the kitchen and bathroom, put frequently used items within reach. In our kitchen, this meant pulling the knife block closer to the counter edge and keeping some glassware in a countertop drying rack instead of in upper cabinets. Lightweight plastic picnic ware dishes are easier to transport from one room to another, using the other hand to propel the wheelchair, than heavier ceramic plates -- and they won't break if you drop them. Pull-out breadboards, if your kitchen has them, are lower usable work spaces than the counters.

5. More about standing on one foot--pivoting on one foot inside the house on wood, ceramic and carpeted floors, works fine in a hospital-type sock (the kind with non-skid markings). Outside, I wore an athletic-type sandal with a rubber sole, which proved to be a bad idea, because it resists pivoting, which I frequently needed to do to get up and down again safely. Better stick to a leather-soled shoe, or at least one that doesn't grab the floor so hard.
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