16 Weeks Later

On Ash Wednesday, February 26, I went in to INOVA Loudoun for knee replacement surgery. It was nearly 25 years after I had had the same knee operated on for a torn meniscus. At that time I was as told that, because of the presence of arthritis, I would eventually need surgery. The “wait and see” period lasted far longer than I had expected, but eventually it caught up with me.

Total knee replacement surgery has become quite common here in the States. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, https://www.ahrq.gov more than 600,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the United States. Several of my friends have had their’s done as have a number of my extended family members. One Aunt had both knees replaced and two hip surgeries! So it wasn’t something that I had any anxiety about. Still, I had some concerns regarding length of recuperation and, to be honest, whether or not I would actually be better off afterwards.

This past New Year’s Eve, a group of us went out together for dinner and dancing. This was the fifth year we had all celebrated together and it’s been a lot of fun. Since taking ballroom dance lessons as a group, we have all looked forward to getting together and ushering in the New Year, putting into practice the lessons learned in fox trot, swing, and waltz. But it was with difficulty I struggled through a couple of dances and I ended up sitting out most of the evening. My hope was that, with surgery and rehabilitation, I would at least be able to get back to an activity I enjoyed.

Surgery took longer than expected; years of compensating for my deteriorating condition had caused secondary issues with muscles and bone displacement. Thankfully my surgeon was able to correct my stance and now my legs are straighter than they’ve been in years (a decided plus for the fox trot!). 

But recovery was long, slow, and challenging. Shortly after I began physical therapy, the country went into quarantine as a result of Covid-19. Many businesses were closed, entire sectors of the economy shut down, schools closed, millions of people lost their jobs, tens of thousands have died from the effects of a virus we had not seen before.

And then we came face-to-face with the results of generations of unjust treatment when coast to coast demonstrations and protests exploded across America. Through all of this, we have just begun to recover and “get back to normal”. Yet, even as I know my newly refurbished knee won’t be the same as before, we recognize as a country we won’t be “returning to normal.” The challenge ahead of us lies in creating something stronger, better than before we were broken. Healing is never guaranteed but we can’t miss the opportunity to set things right, not restore but make better.

Twice a week for physical therapy, a Starbucks marker for each visit.

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