Tuesday, April 12, 2011


A week ago last Sunday, Odel and I took a walk along the levee of the American River, knowing it was our last walk together for several weeks.  A week ago today (Monday, though I probably won’t get this posted until Tuesday), he had his surgery.  Today, the home health nurse arrived to draw blood and remove the staples from the incision.  In 24 hours, Odel will have his first shower since the surgery.  Whoopee!

Once again, I’m posting photos of the incision in a smaller format so those of you who are more squeamish can avoid the full force of the pictures!  Click on any picture if this seems tame compared to what you see on TV.

The staple remover.

Incision with staples.

Staples are gone.

Clean, new Steri-strips

Staple Remover With Staples Staples Out With Steri-strips

We made great progress this week.  Strength is returning to Odel’s leg, noticeable when we work on his rehab exercises and even more noticeable in day-to-day changes.  When he came home on Wednesday afternoon (two days after his surgery), he was completely dependent on his caregiver – me – to lift his leg on to the bed and onto the pillow pyramid.  He couldn’t put on a sock or put his foot/leg into his pants.  There was a total disconnect between his upper and lower leg… and his thigh didn’t want to do what his brain ordered.

This morning (Tuesday), eight days after his surgery, he can use his own leg muscles to lift his leg onto the bed or a footstool, and can put on his own pants (I don’t think he could do a sock yet).  He moves freely – slowly, but freely - around the motorhome with the aid of the cane-stool (and of course is trying to do way too much around the house).

During the first few days of caregiving, we had a couple of issues.  The first was that we didn’t have a good handle on a schedule.  Particularly at night, we forgot (or slept through) the regularly scheduled (every four hours) dosages of pain pills.  We needed to remember to do the exercises about a hour after a dose of medication – which needed to mesh with a reasonable meal schedule (recovering from surgery, patients should have another 500 calories worth of protein per day, AND we need to be vigilant about fiber, fighting the ongoing constipating effects of the pain medication).  And then the home health people pop in for a couple of hours – the nurse on Thursday, the PT on Friday…  After three days, I didn’t know whether I was coming or going.

The other problem was keeping track of all the little things Odel needs to have nearby to be happy and stay on track: cell phone, glasses, medications, water, pen, paper.  When he was in the bedroom, his phone would ring in the living room.  When he was in the living room, his reading glasses were on the bedside table.  When the PT called to let him know when she would arrive, he didn’t have anything to write with or on.  Though it was a short distance for me to get whatever he needed, I knew I could find a better solution for that problem.

OrganizedNone of the home health professionals came over the weekend, so I had time to get us organized!

So we wouldn’t forget the pain pills, we began to set our timer to go off every four hours, day and night.  That created a little problem of its own – I needed my timer for other uses (like keeping track of the 15 minute interval for icing his knee).  Odel now has a new timer of his own, with a memory.  When it goes off, pushing the memory button resets it for 4 more hours.  Cool.  Problem solved.

At the same time I bought the new timer, I picked up a “picnic organizer”.  Instead of silverware, napkins, and squeeze bottles of condiments, his organizer holds a water bottle, meds, a small flashlight (for nighttime medicating), pen, pad of paper, cellphone, and a printed weekly calendar of each day’s activities: drugs, exercise, meals and visits from the nurse and physical therapist.

Sometimes Odel will carry his organizer from place to place, but usually I move it from room to room when we resettle him – so I am moving everything he needs at once.  He can answer his own phone, schedule his appointments, renew his prescription, take and track his own meds – as long as his organizer is with him.  The printed schedule is a big help to me, making it easier to find blocks of time when I can take a walk, go to the grocery store, or pick up prescriptions or whatever (it is incredible how much “whatever” we have needed!) at the drug store.

So, at the end of our first week, we’re on a good track.  Odel can do more things for himself, and is showing noticeable improvement from his laser focus on rehab: exercises, elevation, and icing.  I have a couple periods of downtime each day, and I’m starting to remember the things that aren’t normally part of my routine – take a bag of trash EVERY TIME I leave the motorhome, for instance!  Yesterday, for the first time ever, I put a bag of trash in the car with me, planning to drop it off at the dumpster on my way to the grocery store.  It went to the store with me and sat ripening in the sunshine while I shopped.  I did manage to remember to toss it in the dumpster – 100 steps from our front door – before I parked, and we have only the slightest lingering scent of banana peel in the Jeep.  :)


  1. Yea Odel! Sounds like you two have gotten into the groove and are on track for a full and speedy recovery. If you read my blog today, I apologize for all of my whining..Compared to what Odel has gone through, I need to shut my pie hole and be grateful!! Keep on keepin' on and you two will be strolling along together in no time!!!!

  2. Looks like Odel's recovering slowly but surely ... slow and consistent improvement is good.

  3. Great organizational idea, Laurie! My hip dislocates on occasion (old injury) leaving me basically immobile, and it is SO frustrating when I am over *here* and what I want/need is over *there*. I will put your idea to use if/when it happens again.

    I am so glad that Odel is seeing improvements. That is very good news!

    Take care...

    Kerri in AL :-)

  4. You have a really good setup there. I LOVE the idea on the divided bucket!

    When I was recovering from a severe illness, the motorhome was easier to get around in than our own house. Everything was just a few steps away and I could lean on counters or cabinets to get around. So I "recuperated" for three weeks out in our own driveway in our rig!

    Karen and Steve
    (Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard

  5. My Mom had full knee replacement today at 9:30 a.m. Havent heard from my brother yet, but hopefully all went well. She will be 87 in Dec.
    I will wait to go down when they send her home from rehab. Not sure if they will keep her 1-2- weeks, She is not an outdoor active person, so this will definetly be a challenge for her. I have really appreciated reading your updates. Thanks for posting them.... Kelly

  6. Great to here the progress being mad. That shower is a God-send for all. You sure are bringing back memories of my knee replacements and recoveries. But time will erase this from both of your minds soon enough. Keep loving on each other.
    Wayne in Fair Oaks, CA

  7. Kelly, I'm glad to read that your mother will be in rehab for awhile. The rehab is definitely challenging - I think it would be helpful to an 87 year old person to have professional help with the therapy. If she lives independently, she certainly will need someone at home to help her afterwards. Good luck to her!

  8. Karen, that is so funny that you recuperated in your motorhome in the driveway! Yes, there are some advantages to the small space, aren't there?

  9. So glad to read how well Odel is doing! Keep up the good work! And Laurie, you are a gem for finding that organizer! A God send for you both.

  10. For putting on his socks..perhaps it's too early for this though...lay out the sock on the floor & put the toes on and then wiggle the rest of the foot in. It worked for me! Ya gotta learn to improvise! Glad things are going more smoothly for both of you. Just keep thinking that next week will even be easier than this week!

  11. That's a great idea about the organizer Laurie. Wish I had thought of that. Having gone through a knee replacement, an ankle fusion and now replacement of rod in the fused ankle and straightening a broken bone, I definitely can relate to your caregiver role! Hang in there both of you! I'm sure it's as frustrating for Odel as it is for Johnny not to be able to do the things he normally takes care of, but they will both be back at it before we know it!

  12. sounds like you are finally getting organized where life in general will be a wee bit easier!..on the road to recovery can be a bumpy ride!..take care of yourself too, Laurie!..each day will be a bit easier!

  13. So glad to hear how well the recovery is going for you Odel. Not that I doubted for a minute that you would exceed all expectations. Good job Laurie on all your organizing and care-giving. It's good that you have figured out a schedule that gives you some down time too. The caregiver needs to take care of herself also so that she can take good care of the patient. Had to laugh about taking the bag of garbage with you to the store. Can't count all the times that a large bag (tall kitchen bag size) of garbage has ridden on the back of the truck all the way to the store and back. Keep up the good work.

  14. That's impressive...the speedy recovering and the organizing! Nice!


  15. The incision looks really good buddy. You are doing great.

  16. Glad to hear you both are doing well. Sounds like being organized is part of the battle. Looks like you have that under control though. What a great idea! I'll have to use that next time my mother has her other knee done. It seems to help in not having to run around all the time looking for whatever they need. Thanks for the idea and tell Odel to keep up the good work!

  17. Hey, how about a trip to Canada when Brenda gets her knee done. I will be referring to your guide as we go, whenever it may be.

    Good to here Odel is getting along. I know the attention to rehab is important, my granddad almost wore out a stationary bike with his three knee replacements and even though the last one wasn't till he was 95 he never really had much of a limp.