By Joseph Anthony
These Blogs are “my truths!” I stake no logistical claims, nor research to support my opinions and experiences.
I was always clearly and visibly bowlegged. The kid that looked like he just got off a horse but was in fact, afraid of horses. Our neighbor Jeanne, on Fairbanks Avenue, would call my mother every day, after watching me make my way up the block to the bus stop, at six years old, and refer to me as, “Little Mafia,” regarding my unique stride. In our routine ribbing, my dearest teen friend Anthony would say, “I can just see you, as an old bowlegged man, smoking cigars and chasing young girls around.” Once, it was even hypothesized by a female guest, “you know what they say about guys with bowlegs!” I never asked her how that all worked out for her. Funny stuff, except for the nights, writhing in pain as a youth. Needing Tiger balm rubbed on me, as I worked through it under a blanket. I do not know why my parents never took corrective action, but it is the only clue that I have, that most likely led to the physical demise of my lower joints in my 40s.
For the record, I am “not crying,” about it. Nor am I comparing my medical hurdles, to that of ANYONE else’s. People always try to one-up each other, in the suffrage department. “Oh yeah, but how about this Cross that I must bear?” No, I have understanding for fellow victims and empathy for those with worse clinical afflictions. This … is just my story! It is also NOT a “Rah-rah,” Armchair psychologist, rise-up and fight piece either — intended to preach or inspire. God knows I had given up hope on many occasions! However, if there is a lesson here, it is that you will need to find within you (and that means different things and methods for all), strength — at some point, if you are to ever “live again!” For example, my children were always my biggest source of motivation and inspiration. The likes of Wayne Dyer and Shakti Gawain (I had a lot of rehabilitation times to listen, read, and practice Spirituality) taught me metaphysical coping and the paths to enlightenment. That, and lots of pain killers … but we will get to that. If you deal with chronic pain (any “chronic issues” in fact), do not beat yourself up, because you never arrive! But hopefully, you continue to grow, even in the face of constant setbacks.
In 2008, I attributed the tightness that I was feeling behind my knees, to the fact that I had just bought into a Deli and found myself standing for long hours. I began to start walking and stretching more, thinking I could counterbalance this new discomfort. The progress that I was seeking was not coming, so I joined a gym and hit the Tread Mills. That triggered the shot heard around the world. Not really, all it did was cause increased alarm in me, as my knees blew up with fluid. My Primary Care Physician started sending me to Specialists. Rheumatoid Doctor’s speculated and drained fluid. A young Orthopedic Surgeon sent me for an MRI and said it might be a Meniscus tear and that he wanted to go in (surgically) and do an exploratory. “Might be,” was not reassuring and the pain and limitations were growing rapidly. Finally, I went out of Network (got to love our shakedown system of Medical Insurance coverage) to the Surgeon that my sister had been working for in New York. Quite simply, he stated, “you’re bowlegged and overweight and none of these idiots (the other doctors) took a standing weight-bearing x-ray?” This article by Washington University Physicians compares the latter type of X-ray to an MRI when addressing knee issues. We took the films right there in the office, and clear as day, even to a layman, he pointed out to me one of my diminishing Meniscuses. He explained that the extra weight I was carrying did not help and that how over time, the cushioning capabilities of all four of these rubbery cartilages in the knees, would disappear, leaving me a bone on bone with no way out except for knee replacement. This was a look into the future so crystal clear — better than any Gypsy on the boardwalk could have ever pinned it — that it consumed the literal story of my existence for the next six years! As things worsened for me, this same Surgeon, who would have done the single knee replacement on me at that point, regardless of my age, set me up with two Unloader braces, which I lived in and could not live without for almost four years. The case of New Zealand wine, that I bought him as a thank you for the apparatuses, only goes so far. I was stuck seeing my In-Network doctors, in New Jersey, who were trying everything — as I spiraled downward — not to do the replacements, because of the time-limited duration of the hardware, in relationship to my age.
Time marched on, and friends and Comedians were all but begging me, knowing the severe grief this was causing me, to get the replacement surgery. For me, it was always about money and I could not find a window of time where I could suspend my Stand-Up income, yet still provide for my family. Comedians do not have medical leave! Those without fame, or a regular day job, live week to week. I believe it was my fellow Comic and friend, Chris Covert, who suggested a Roast. I was not a fan of charity. This was an extremely hard decision for me to come to terms with. But I was desperate, tired of answering questions, and following useless advice, so when I agreed, SO MANY of my friends, family, and fans rose to the occasion. Short of listing them all, suffice it to say, that I will be forever grateful for the support! The feature, that allowed my pride to be accepting of monetary donations, was having this Roast. I had put my time in the Comedy business and had been enough of a colorful character, that I figured I was Roast worthy, and we were providing entertainment (great food, Music, comedy) as opposed to just asking for a handout.
I had practically been telling the Orthopedic Surgeon that I was seeing that I think we have no choice but to do the replacements, when one day “he decided,” that we were out of options. The following is a fair warning to my Readers/fellow joint pain sufferers, that the medical community will provide you with textbook answers to your many questions and concerns, as opposed to revealing all possible outcomes. Many of us, cannot afford this kind of physicality roulette!
WebMD (see photo/paragraph 1) determines a bi-lateral knee surgery to last 1–2 hours. The recovery time (see photo/paragraph 9 of the same) is quoted as being 3–6 months. There is also information on this page, about a solution for a curved penis … hey, I do not make the web pages, I am just trying to present my argument! Watch out for the veiled lies that I received and the corresponding loopholes that can exist, in one’s own situation. This is key information that should also be provided by your Doctor’s but generally is not. Concerned with what lay ahead, I had timeline questions, and in response, I received very affirmative answers. Well, despite what I was initially (and so confidently) told, my surgery lasted five hours. For this, I can grant a pass, since my situation was so dire, having been put off so long. Naturally, there was tremendous post-operative pain, so my regimen of pre-operative pain killers was administered every four hours (and that fourth hour could never come soon enough). On the interesting side, I also had an existing prescription, of a small dose of anxiety medicine (my life was full of worry), that could be taken up to three times per day/as needed. They were giving me an Ativan with my pain meds, every four hours. I was “flying” man — complete with hallucinations. Although, I unwittingly entertained visitors and hospital staff, as well as having some great — some scary — trips, my wife questioned my behavior, (she often does) and I stepped out of my euphoric state, realized the mistake the staff was making, and promptly smacked them on the wrists. After having surgery of that magnitude, your trust is in the medical profession, and you are in no condition to pilot your own course.
DO NOT DO THIS! As immobile as I was, I could not imagine having someone help me with toilet detail. Using purely my arms, hands, Walker, and wall rails, as I could not walk yet, I managed (within the first day after surgery) to complete throne duties (pun intended) on my own. It was an Olympic feat, that can only be described as an act of pure pride, desperation, and stupidity, that is even too difficult for me to recall succeeding in retrospect. When divulged to the Nurse, I was promptly schooled on what a misguided choice I had made. It was my foolish decision and I do not recommend it!
When my communicated, 2-to-3-day hospital stay, turned into six, I was livid! Once again, I dragged myself using only my Walker, into the doorway of my room, barking at the staff worker in the hall (perhaps the Social Worker) in charge of my discharge to, “get me out of here!” Having lost my father, to essentially what began as a Staph Infection during his hospital stay, one year earlier, I was petrified of adding the latter to my existing challenges. Finally, I was transported to a Nursing Home for my rehabilitation. That is right … a Nursing Home … Comics working the Circuit, forgo other Insurance frills.
There were numerous follow-up visits to the Surgeon, where I learned that 6 to 8 weeks, had suddenly become 3 months, then 6 months. Ladies and Gents, I worked my ass off — or legs as it were — at Rehabilitation. In the Nursing Home, at the Outpatient center, and at my residence. My goal was to LIVE and earn again, without pain … that is what this was all about. My determination turned to despair rather quickly, as the results I sought were not coming. Six months mysteriously became disclosed as “it can take up to a year sometimes!” My operating Surgeon, who was so proud of the fact that he had made straight my once bowlegs, had since retired. Witnessing my rather wide scars, speculatively the result of being Keloid, his last words to me were, “don’t tell anyone I did that … and keep walking.” A kind enough man, who I thought looked a little like Paul Newman, whom I had confidence in, that just did not expose all the possible scenarios to me. It was not until I began to have serious Hip pain issues (a result of prolonging the knee replacements too long) and met his younger predecessor, at the one-year post knee replacement mark, that he informed me that it can often take two years for a full recovery. That truth, that was finally divulged to me, would be the accurate outcome of my real-life experience.
As of writing this, I am approaching my sixth year, since the bi-lateral knee replacements. I have had to have a left hip replacement, and as the result of a serious car accident (see; Tragic Reasons by Joseph Anthony), have my right ankle completely rebuilt. I wake up every day like I am coming to life, as Frankenstein did, and after about two hours start to resemble a healthy, nimble, human. My knees are weaker now, despite consistent exercise and most recently substantial weight loss *. They click and feel “weird …” I can tell where the fake joint meets the real bones. There is a voice in my head that points out these facts. There is yet another, that overpowers that one, silencing it — pretending not to acknowledge these observations. For, despite good clinical information citing the temporary life of such operations, I cannot fathom going down that road again. This is, The Truth About My Bi-Lateral Knee Replacement! But YOU … you will be fine!
*Advice — lose the weight much sooner