Feb 7, 2017

A Pain the Knee: Part VII (aka Brace Off)

Yes, you read that correctly! I officially am out of the brace now!

That weird bumpy look to my knee is the ace bandage. My knee isn't actually that weird looking. 
In our little household this is huge news and quite honestly it feels amazing! But just because I'm out of the brace doesn't mean I'm past all this. I actually have a long way to go still but my knee is strong enough that I'm not in danger of hurting myself doing my day-to-day activities. I won't be working out, running, jumping or doing anything much more than just slow moving around for awhile but it's a step in the right direction.

When I went for my check up a month ago, I couldn't lift my leg at all which meant that I was definitely in the brace for another month. Apparently being able to lift my leg means that my quad muscle is coming back and able to support me which means I won't fall down and land on the knee that just had surgery. But I couldn't do I had to stay in the brace. But I knew what I needed to work towards.

When I went to my next PT I was told that we were going to push a little more because if I couldn't do a leg lift in a month when I went back then they would be in trouble for not pushing me. So we would be really focusing on strength because it just wasn't coming back for me. So we started doing more things that required strength and quite frankly just wore me out. I was exhausted after every PT and wanted to just sit down because my leg hurt and didn't have any more.

It was about a week or so after my knee check up that my therapist wanted to see if I could hold my leg in the air so he lifted my leg and told me to hold it. He had his hand under ready to catch my leg so it didn't just slam into the table but somehow I manged to hold it in the air. We were both shocked. It was hurt and I had to really think to do it. And it really went against everything I had ever thought. When your body starts to hurt, that usually means you should stop and make sure you aren't hurting yourself. But my knee was screaming at me and I had to deal with the pain. It was going to hurt when I did this stuff and over time as it got stronger the pain would go away. So it was a bit of a mental challenge but hey I was holding my own leg up so that was definitely big. Then we lowered my leg and we tried a leg lift. Once I got past it mentally and dealt with the pain, I could do it.

That was the moment I got past the rut I was stuck in. It was almost as if I had just stalled. My flexibility was returning quickly but my strength just wasn't coming. And suddenly it took off.

Before I knew it I was stepping up - working my way up to stair height - and doing one leg squats and lunges and training my brain to walk without the brace without a limp. Of course these are all things I am still working on and sometimes still struggling with. But I could do all of them. Pain was part of it but I could start to see an improvement in my leg. I had lost 3 inches of muscles and I was starting to see some of it come back. It was still weak and I couldn't switch feet walking up the stairs and I still tired out easily but it was coming back.

So I was pretty pumped when we headed back for my knee checkup. She was pleased with the progress I had made in PT. I was getting a bend of 137 degrees (the average is 135 - but keep in mind I am pretty flexible) and my strength was returning. But she had to test me out. First I had to lift my leg and she pushed against me and I had to keep my leg in the air. Passed that one. I had to bend my knee to my chest. Hurt a bit but passed. Then I had to stand and balance on my left leg then balance with my eyes closed. My balance is definitely shaky but also passed. Which meant she was confident that I could stop wearing my brace. She recommended a small compression sleeve to help with the fluid and swelling, but otherwise I was good. I still had a lot of work to do but I was on track.

So now I am brace free. I am not moving fast by any means and I walk with a bit of a limp but it's getting better. I go back to see the surgeon in a month for a checkup and I continue PT. I have my re-evaluation Wednesday and we determine where we go from here and how much more PT I need. I'll be continuing my PT routine at home for a very long time but I'm in a good place. I still can't switch feet walking up or down the stairs, although sometimes I practice when I'm walking up and not carrying Connor (that's an extra 25 pounds I'm not ready to handle all on that leg yet). My leg still gives out on my sometimes (although I never fall but it's scary every time). And my leg is still noticeably smaller than my right. But I'm in the right direction.

Full recovery is 6 months. I'm 2 months into this deal and I'm doing good. I can get around better. My leg gets tired and sometimes I want to sit. My leg gets stiff at night and when its really cold. And sometimes it just plain hurts. But I also have more days where it doesn't hurt at all and things are almost normal - until I have to get up or down from the floor or walk - but mostly normal.

It definitely feels amazing to be out of the brace. I was scared to get out of it but at the same time very ready. I didn't think I could handle life outside of the brace when the way my knee was but now having been out of it I'm loving it. I hated wearing it and was taking it off whenever I could, plus it was starting to rub and hurt my knee more when it would slide down. So I'm not sad to see it go.

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