Post Knee-Replacement Surgery and Return to Oaxaca

You haven’t heard from me since Thanksgiving, two weeks ago.  That’s because I’ve been flat on my back recovering, calmed by a drug-induced stupor from ample doses of powerful pain medications Oxycontin and Oxycodone.

I can’t remember ever having such surreal dreams, supercharged, electrified, day-glow wonders.  My mind took me to worlds I’ve never been, to the middle of a lightening storm of a Fourth of July fireworks show, up in space surrounded by the sounds of a rock band amplified for the universe to hear in one blast. No wonder there’s a black market for these meds.


It was then I realized I was hallucinating, I was on an emotional roller-coaster and needed to get off the drugs as soon as I could. As I sat in the hospital bed posing for the post-op glamour shot in my last post, I had no idea that moving through the recovery would be so difficult. And, I expected to be driving a car after two weeks.  Huh!

Today, I get the staples removed. My plan is to return to Oaxaca just before Christmas. We shall see.  Meanwhile, I’m down to one oxycodone a day. I must say I could miss that dream I had last night, being somewhere amid an extravaganza of indigenous Oaxaca clothing at an expoventa the likes of which I have never attended before. Gourmet chefs in the adjoining hall prepared the most dazzling buffet of roasted root vegetables, squashes, corn, blue tortillas. The colors were a palette of freshness, goodness, deep magenta, ochre, spring green.  Perhaps this is a signal I’m getting my appetite back!

It’s what Blanche DuBois said,  “…. I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.”  Well, not exactly. I’ve been in the wonderful care of dear friends Chris and Jeff in their home. Cindy rescued me for outings when I thought stir crazy is a permanent state of mind. Dear Oaxaca and North Carolina friends called, emailed, visited and sent flowers. My Facebook friends gave me incredible support and lots of value advice. My family connected from California regularly via FaceTime. This helps immensely. Being alone, physical or virtual, during this type of recovery is not recommended.

Even with my partial knee replacement, great physical therapy sessions from Phil, and an excellent Duke Medicine orthopedic surgeon Rhett Hallows, M.D, the discomfort is real. But, the medications put a heavier burden on the body than I expected.  Here is my advice:

  • Talk with your care team before you leave the hospital. Understand the power of the medications and how to taper off the use of them before the Rx runs out.
  • Don’t go cold turkey. Don’t let the Rx run out without making your escape plan.
  • See when you can begin substituting Tylenol or acetaminophen instead of the Oxycodone to wean yourself off.
  • Take the laxatives prescribed regularly, your body shuts down with the drugs. Drink lots of water.

Most people go home from this “half knee” surgery in two days. I wanted to stay three. I was not allowed because insurance would cover it.  I’d say right now, I’ve turned the corner and by New Year’s Eve, perhaps I’ll be ready to dance again.

Today, I’m walking with one crutch, climbing stairs to a second story and eating breakfast.

And, by tomorrow, I will have quit the drugs completely!  Hurray. When I will have something else to say, I don’t know.



8 responses to “Post Knee-Replacement Surgery and Return to Oaxaca

  1. Wow! Norma, I have been thinking of you & wondering how you are doing. Now I know – and know why I have not had my own knee replacement surgery (full!) done. You are downright BRAVE!! Staples be damned! Keep on keeping’ on & getting better & I’ll see you in January.
    xoxo, Suzanne

    • Suzanne, it’s not for sissies, but it’s a medical must in order to have mobility. I want to climb the hill towns around Barcelona. I’m 16 days post-surgery, walking without a crutch inside the house and am down to one oxycodone a day. Yesterday I managed a flight of stairs to the second story. My doctor took the staples out yesterday. didn’t hurt at all. Wound is beautiful (if you can call it that). And, I hope to get into a rental car by the end of next week before I leave for San Francisco. Take good care, have a Merry Christmas, and see you in Oaxaca, mi amiga.

  2. congratulations on your way to recovery and dreams,
    and maybe you will be home in time for la Noche de Rabanos?
    see you in January, abrazos M

  3. Norma, In my head I see you dancing in the square in Veracruz. You will be dancing again and there will be nobody on the sidelines holding your cane!

    • OK, Mary Anne, that’s an image I want to hang on to. Thank you for reminding me of this. I am so grateful to you for your caring, support and continuing encouragement. It’s wonderful to have friends like you. I’ve turned the corner. Appetite is back. And, I’m feeling more mobile. Poco a poco. You are a dear heart.

  4. Wow! I am sorry it’s been so hard, but thank goodness for our communication devices. I guess your return to Teotitlan will either leave you in bed, tended by loving friends, or the increased exercise and hilly terrain will have you strong and healed! Not much in between?.

    • Marypelham, thanks so much. I’m actually now doing much better. I’ve gotten off most of the pain meds and hope to be “clean by the end of the weekend. Doctor says I can drive a car next week. So, I expect I’ll be walking some when I get back to Teotitlan before the New Year. Thanks for all your words of wisdom and encouragement on this journey. It’s meant a lot to me.

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