Updated: Apr 19, 2020
Crutching sucks, crutching in NYC...REALLY SUCKS.
Last week, I had my 6th knee surgery. This time, I decided to do things differently and go to a knee specialist surgeon in New York at the Hospital for Special Surgery - the #1 Orthopedic Hospital in the country. I knew traveling to NY to have surgery would be difficult and less than ideal logistically, but I really believed in this surgeon and his resume spoke for itself. After one consultation and many raving reviews and recommendations later... I was sold. NYC here I come!
I didn't know how I was going to pull it off really. My mom aka my go-to bedside nurse for all 8 of my total surgeries, was worried. She had never been to New York so I understood her concern.
"You mean I won't be able to drive you to the hotel after surgery?"... "How will I get out to get you groceries?"... "Isn't New York dangerous?".
"Mom, we will figure it out. Flights are booked, we're doing it."
The flight there I was hype! I know most people probably don't get excited to have surgery, but this one was long overdue and I was more than ready to get back on the road to recovery. I wasn't nervous at all about surgery, but I was for my mother. For someone whose never been to NY, it can be overwhelming.
We arrived Tuesday morning, with surgery set for Wednesday, so I spent my last day of mobility showing my mom all of NY that you could see in one day. We got our official MetroCards and were off. Chicago's public transit prepared me well, because I successfully navigated us all over the city.
We went to Central Park, Ground Zero, Battery Park and Time Square. Of course we took pictures with the Naked Cowboy.
"Why are people talking to pigeons?"
"Idk, that's normal here mom."
We stayed at a hotel literally attached to the hospital. Perfect. Home sweet home for the next seven days. As we're unpacking, getting ready for bed, we're met by a friend.
A giant and I mean GIANT roach scurries out from underneath my moms bed.
He was dead. Night one was going well. Needless to say, we were spooked. I called the front desk... no more rooms available. We were stuck in roach land for a week. I called my New York native friend Sofia Roma for consultation. She informed me roaches travel solo and it was probably just a one time offense. The roaches to look out for are flying roaches, and since this one was on the ground, it was a good sign.
We flipped the mattresses, checked under the bed, and slept with the light on. I dreamed of roaches the night before surgery.
The next morning we headed to the hospital at 8am for a 10am surgery. I went through the routine day of surgery steps. Got the gown, bonnet, and my favorite "surgery socks".
The doctors and nurses were SO nice. The hospital even had "sister-service" as I like to call it. Name your religion, and a sister would come in to pray and bless you before surgery. Now that's what I call 5-star service! I wasn't nervous to begin with, but after Sister Sue's blessing, I was ready to rock and roll.
Anyone who has surgery knows the best part is the anesthesia. You get the good stuff, start feeling loopy, and everything is just... funny. Unfortunately, they waited to give me the good stuff until I was already in the OR, so my loopy phase lasted about 20 seconds and the next thing I know...WALA! I was in the recovery room.
Now I'm aware it could have been the meds talking, but I swear I had the best Apple Juice of ALL TIME in the recovery room.
Because our hotel was literally 500 feet away, a nice hospital employee helped roll me in a wheel chair back to the hotel. Luckily my pain meds were still working because the sidewalk cracks of NYC are something serious!
Surprisingly, the first few days of recovery honestly weren't bad. I still have PTSD from my ACL surgeries because I swear it felt like an anaconda was wrapped around my leg those first few days. I don't know if my pain tolerance is just high now or the doctor was really good, but the recovery was a breeze.
My mom had a lot to do with it. Every meal served in bed, ice machine changed on the reg, help taking me to the bathroom/shower, etc. The definition of GOAT.
Now taking that first shower after surgery is an ordeal. Let's just say you need someone helping you that you're comfortable with because it is a scene.
Pain pills around the clock. Knee hurt obviously but pain was managable.
Highlight of the day: got up to use the bathroom twice!
Pain pills around the clock. Pain wasn't too bad but still didn't leave the room. Ordered a chocolate shake through Uber Eats. Kevin delivered it by bike. Slightly melted upon arrival but what can ya do.
Highlight of the day: Chocolate Shake
After 72 hours confined in the hotel, I was feeling better and dying to get outside. I was in desperate need for a change of scenery and fresh air. I had my mom steal a wheel chair from the hospital (we returned it don't worry). Our hotel elevators were small, and I'm a large woman, so I barely fit in the elevator with my leg extended. The doors almost closed on my leg... I saw my life flash before my eyes. Luckily she has quick reaction time and saved me. We made it outside and started our stroll, which didn't last long. I wasn't on pain meds anymore and the sidewalk cracks were too treacherous. I lasted 5 minutes. The "fresh air" smelt like dumpsters. Back to confinement.
Highlight of the day: 5 minutes of freedom
BIG DAY! 96 hours later and I was a new woman... ready to face the sidewalk cracks. This time I was innovative and put a pillow under my knee.
We were cruising! We went to Starbucks AND the grocery. Since I was in a giant wheel chair, my mom had to park me outside at all of our stops. I got a lot of strange stares to say the least. Someone even asked if I needed help. I mean, I probably would've too - it looked like someone had just abandoned me on the street.
Highlight of the day: Wheelchair cruising
Sad day. My mom had to leave me so I was on my own. I was feeling good pain wise and could get around decently well so I assured her I was fine. Then reality set in. Wait.. how am I suppose to crutch non-weight bearing and also be able to refill my ice machine, feed myself and get in the shower? This is where improvisation set in. Through trial and error, spilled coffee and a messy kitchen, I figured it out.
Post-Surgery Life Hacks
Ice Machine: Key - Frozen water bottles. Freeze the water bottles, crutch to the freezer, throw them to the bed, crutch back, fill ice machine. Boom.
Food: Key - Throwable food. What do I mean? Packaged food, light, easily throwable. For example PB&J Uncrustables. Crutch to the kitchen, grab an uncrustable, throw it to the bed and crutch back. Dinner is served.
Shower: Key - The Baptism approach. A shower was too difficult, so I opted for a bath because I couldn't get my knee wet. First - wrap it in saran wrap. Second, sit on edge of bath, left foot in, right foot on side of tub. I'm too long to dunk myself with a straight leg so this is where the baptism approach comes in clutch. Have a cup handy and pour water over your head. Rinse and repeat.
There's a learning curve for sure, but I successfully managed to figure it out. Later, in need of fresh air, I crutched myself outside to a bench and propped my leg up. I 100% looked like a homeless person, but I didn't care.
Highlight of the day: Uncrustable
Traumatic yet exciting day. It was a big day - my first physical therapy appointment! My PT was 20 minutes away, so I knew getting myself there would be a challenge but I was confident. I could easily get in an Uber right? Wrong.
Step 1: Crutch to sidewalk. Check.
Step 2: Call an Uber. Check.
I successfully found something to sit on while waiting and this is where things got interesting. Because my leg was down, the blood started rushing down and it was starting to become purple. Oh no... please hurry Uber driver.
Because I'm staying by the hospital, the area is super congested. Taxis, ambulances, honking cars, it's nuts. I started to get worried the Uber wouldn't find me. I was right.
"I'm by the Ambulance dude! The girl on crutches!"
The 5 minute wait time turned into 20 but he finally found me. As if NYC traffic wasn't enough, he parked in the middle of the street in front of an ambulance with its lights on. Welp, no taking my time getting into the car it looks like.
I crutched at lighting speed to the Uber. Adrenaline pumping! I threw the crutches into the car, hopped myself with my left foot into the car and forgot to support my right. OW! Then it gets worse. I couldn't reach the door so it partially closed on my leg. OW OW!
A nice woman on the street ran over to help me out. Not gonna lie, there were a few tears. Not because it hurt, since I had my brace on luckily, but because I felt helpless. My poor Uber driver didn't know what to think. He tried to console me, but I wasn't having it.
By the time I reached PT, I had it together. I successfully slowly maneuvered myself out of the Uber and it was all up from there. I had an awesome first PT session and they were impressed with how well I had recovered. I then successfully Ubered my way back to the hotel with no casualties!
Highlight of the day: Nice woman saving me on the street AND successful PT
1 Week Post Op! Wooooo! It took 7 days, but I finally figured out how to crutch with coffee and not spill it. Talk about true talent. After 7 days confined in a hotel room, you have to come up with creative means of entertainment. I finished a book, a Netflix series, wrote a blog, even organized files on my computer. I was desperate.
I was starting to feel like an old retired woman because I was starting to binge watch day-time television. Not going to lie, I've always LOVED Live with Kelly and Ryan and Good Morning America... but when I found myself watching hours of The People's Court... I knew it was time. I had to get out. Luckily, my friends came to visit to help me pack my stuff up and get to Brooklyn. I'm here now staying with my friend Faith so I can do the first couple weeks of PT in NY.
With a week under my belt, I think I've mastered the trials and tribulations of recovering from surgery in NYC. While the inconveniences have been challenging, they've given me a new appreciation of the simple things. Like walking, getting in and out of a car, grabbing coffee, etc. I can't imagine being terminally handicap, let alone in this city, and have extreme empathy for those who are. Luckily there's strangers who are willing to help - whether it's opening doors for you or saving an Uber door from crushing your leg.
Little acts of kindness go a long way.
I'm not one to slow down and I'm not good when I have nothing to do. I love the go-go-go crazy lifestyle. But with surgery, you have no choice. You're forced to slow down and it's not a bad thing. It's eye opening and makes you appreciate much more. I know it won't be long before I'm back to my non-stop ways, but for now I'm trying to enjoy the change of pace.
More reading, more catching up with friends, more blog posts... but less People's Court.
The inconveniences haven't been ideal, but I know the end result will be well worth it!