Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

April 29, 2014

John Cannon: A severe case of homesickness: 04/30/14

ASHLAND — I’m homesick. There’s no other way to describe it. Three weeks after surgery to replace my right knee, I am still a resident of Kingsbrook Lifecare Center, and I just want to go home to be with my family and dog on Forest Avenue. Shoot, at this point in time, I would be elated to see even my granddaughter’s cats — and I’m not a cat person.

This is not a criticism of Kingsbrook. My room is great, the food is decent, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed several concerts since my arrival, and I truly like several of the nurses and certified nurse assistants who have cared for me since my arrival. But there is one thing Kingsbrook could never be, and that is home, and that is the only place I want to be.

That being said, even I must admit I may not quite be ready to go home and face the multitude of steps I will encounter there.

While I never imagined at the time I was brought to Kingsbrook that I would still be here, I must admit I have made remarkable progress here. I have mastered getting in and out of bed on my own and can even dress myself, although putting a shoe on my right foot is still something of a challenge. I have mastered walking on a walker, and I can stand on my own.

My new knee is still painful, but the level of pain I described as a “14” on a pain scale of one to 10 in last week’s column has now dropped to a two or three, and sometimes less than that. Except on rare occasions following a particularly grueling physical therapy session, the only thing I am taking for pain is Tylenol.

That’s the way I want it as I arrived at Kingsbrook with what was probably an unreasonable fear of becoming addicted to pain pills. That fear came from this region’s pain pill epidemic and having one good friend die from an overdose of pain pills. While I used some powerful pain medications in the first days after my surgery, I never came close to becoming a pill addict.

As I see it, three weeks after my surgery, my biggest challenges are straightening my new knee, maintaining my balance and climbing steps. I also have yet to walk without the aid of a walker, but I am confident I will be able to do so in just a matter of days.

The inability to completely straighten my new knee has been the most frustrating part of my recovery and the only part of my daily time in physical therapy (a.k.a. pain and torture) that remains intensely painful.  However, I have discovered my own way of dealing with the pain. As the therapist places my ankle on a raised surface and places weights on my knee to force it downwards, I begin silently singing old songs in my head. I began with “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” and have moved on to “Twist and Shout,” “Mr. Bojangles” and other favorites from my youth.

I can’t speak for others but trying to remember the lyrics to 40-year-old pop songs has helped keep my mind off the intense pain in my knee.

But the main reason I endure the pain is because it is necessary to force the knee to go where it belongs, no matter how much it does not want to be there.

The difficulty I have had maintaining my balance led to one of my favorite memories of my time here at Kingsbrook. On my second or third night here, I was doing something I was confident I could do when I lost my balance and fell while alone in my room. A young CNA quickly entered my room and assessed the situation. She then reached underneath me, completely lifted me off the floor and gently placed me back in my wheelchair.

I was both impressed and amazed. I estimated I outweighed this young lady by at least 80 pounds, but she picked me up like I was a five-pound bag of sugar.

“My husband doesn’t think I should be able to pick up someone big as you, but I’m pretty strong,” she later told me.

“I’ll admit I was stunned by how easily you picked me up,” I replied. “On the other hand, I was certainly glad you were there and could do it.”

I am getting better and better on the stairs, and as soon as I master them, I think I will be ready to return home. I can’t wait. Returning to work is another matter.

JOHN CANNON can be reached at jcannon@dailyindependent.com or at (606) 326-2649.

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