Recovery Update: Veterans Day Edition

Today marks day 9 since my knee replacement surgery and I can finally feel some improvement. From what I’ve been told and from my own experience, everybody is different when it comes to recovery. I’ve had 2 rotator cuff surgeries on my shoulders, and I’ve also had a ruptured disc repaired in my lower back. I’m terms of comparison, my rotator cuff was just a little worse than the knee. My right shoulder required some bone work to clear a lot of arthritis that had built up over the years and from a lot of shoulder dislocations from playing sports. It was very painful, and the pain lasted a few weeks before subsiding. At least with my knee, I can sleep in my bed at night, with the rotator cuff surgery, I had to sleep upright in my Lazy boy for the first few weeks of rehab.

Rehab on a knee replacement starts the day after surgery and the biggest goal in rehab is getting back to a good range of motion with the new hardware attached to the bones. Something that isn’t really addressed in the days leading up to the surgery and something I didn’t realize is the fact that they not only cut and reshape the end of your femur and tibia bones to accommodate the new hardware, but they also cut a lot of the muscles that are attached to the knee. There are some big muscles around the knee and cutting these muscles make it a lot easier for the surgery team to make the needed repairs. The muscles that were cut during surgery hurt the worst and make it very hard to move the leg. It feels like my leg weighs a ton and it’s very painful to try and move the whole leg with the muscles that were detached and then later sewn back into place. Pain management is the biggest focus for me. I’m bored out of my mind, and I want to get back to my normal activities as quickly as possible. For that reason, I am very aggressive when it comes to my rehab. Being aggressive is good but it’s also very painful. Getting into a routine of pain medication to stay ahead of the pain is imperative because it can be very very painful. Right now, I’m taking hydrocodone every 6 hours and it’s keeping my pain at a minimum, but there are some flare-ups and shooting pains that occur and you just need to kinda suffer through those. I’m trying to keep my focus on other things, so the pain isn’t at the forefront of my thoughts. The knee replacement recovery takes time and I still need a few weeks to get back to fishing. My boat is just about finished, and I have a brand-new powerhead to break in as soon as I can get back out there.

Veterans Day

Today is a day that we honor our veterans for the many sacrifices they endured during their time in service. Understanding these sacrifices are often times underrated or misunderstood. There are the sacrifices of being away from home and not being able to enjoy a family life like most of us take for granted and then there are the mental sacrifices and battles that many veterans endure that we don’t really know much about. Some jobs in the military are great jobs that you can build a career on when you separate from the military. Some jobs give you the experience you need to be successful in civilian life and then there are some jobs that are just plain dangerous without much of a payoff when it comes to a civilian equivalence in the labor force. The struggle to re-adapt to civilian life after working in a dangerous position in the military can be an overwhelming struggle filled with mental failure. One of the biggest struggles I found was coping with the loss of my friends or the people around me. Early on in my military career I learned of loss and coping with it. If you work in a dangerous environment in the military loss is usually something that comes quickly, and you learn very quickly to put it behind you and move on. I call it “desensitizing” and it is a natural reaction when you work in a dangerous job that requires a lot of focus to survive. You can’t dwell on what has happened so your feelings are quickly put in check, usually by alcohol, and you move on. There isn’t time to properly process what’s happened and there’s little to no time to grieve. I can still remember one of my good Marine friends sitting on the floor of my apartment, laughing, drinking beer and having a fun night and less than a week later he was gone. A few weeks later a pilot that I had just had a conversation with and launched for a training flight crashed into the side of a mountain and was killed instantly. You don’t dwell on those things, and you tend to just move on as it’s part of the job description. Some loss was very tragic and some of the incidents you see are very graphic but after a while you get desensitized to the personal aspect of the tragedy which makes it easier to deal with. It’s like all your feelings and emotions from an incident are rolled up in a little ball and tucked away somewhere in the back of your mind to be dealt with in full on another day.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, the lack of emotions from a tragedy is only temporary and a lot of times, after you separate from the military the desensitizing starts wearing off and you start to get those emotions back. There can be anger, there can be guilt and there can be other emotions that come into play. Usually, it’s the same treatment for these things in the for of sleep aids and antidepressants to deal with your emotions. These treatments do nothing but kick the can on down the road and sooner or later the emotions need to be delt with. It’s hard, very very hard to cope with these things. It turns into a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario and suicide can come into play. I can say from personal experience that time is the best medication for dealing with these issues. Having like-minded people around you is another good way to cope with these issues and a great tool for support. It gets better over time and dealing with these issues can often be a process. The biggest thing to understand is that sometimes our veterans are fighting mighty mental battles that no one can visibly see. Understanding the full meaning of “sacrifice” is something we should strive to honor and respect on this Veterans Day.


2 thoughts on “Recovery Update: Veterans Day Edition

  1. Enjoy the fruits of your Navy life during this month of honoring veterans of all services in all wars.

    Semper fidelis


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