Friday, May 22, 2015

Back in Canada with cartilage in my knee!

Disclosure: I am heavily medicated. Sometimes blogging whilst stoned works, sometimes it doesn't. No guarantees. 

It's hard to believe that I was petting stingrays and sipping champagne at the Ritz Carlton just under a month ago - today I am falling asleep on the toilet and anticipating my big event of the day - a bath! How life changes in such a short time. 

hmmm…this isn't good.
Our trip back to Canada went fairly smoothly - with a few hitches, naturally. The morning of our departure the toilet in our condo began spraying water straight up to the ceiling, so while Ev played plumber, I double-checked our flight times, only to realize that our flight actually departed an hour earlier than I had reported. Ooops. Luckily, we were able to get our furry friends and 3 giant suitcases packed and en route to Canada. It was a long day of flights - Grand Cayman to Toronto, Toronto to Calgary, then Calgary to Saskatoon. The Calgary flight was completely geographically unnecessary, but actually saved us about $8000 - no joke! So we endured the extra 3 hours of travel. I was able to access wheelchair service the entire trip home, which was awesome! I highly recommend West Jet if you're ever traveling with someone who requires extra help. The bonus is the ability to bypass all the long lines. Totally worth it. At one point, as I was being frisked in my chair, I looked over at Ev who was sweating profusely. He had a dog under one arm, a cat under the other, and my crutches balanced under an armpit. As he walked through security, Biloxi, the angry cat, began swatting Dundee, the oblivious dog, repeatedly on the head. I could just imagine him saying, "You idiot! I told you the suitcases were a bad sign!" I tried to hold in my laughter as I overheard a woman next to me talking animatedly to her husband, "Honey, look at that funny man with the animals!" haha. Oh we were a sight to be seen!

My fabulous sister, Kayla, surprised us at the airport at 2:30am and offered to drive us home, which was such a fantastic offer after 12 hours of travel! Once we were settled in at our house in Candle Lake, I had a few days to mentally prepare for my 6th knee surgery - the 2nd cartilage transplant - this time in my left knee. I was extremely nervous, knowing what was in store. It turned out to be worse than I had anticipated.

The surgery itself went without a hitch. I was awake with a spinal, and I was ever so helpful, ensuring my orthopaedic surgeon was following all the proper steps to implant the cartilage in my knee ("Hey, Dr. M - did you make nice vertical walls?" - I'm  a "backseat" surgeon. haha. It's a very cool surgery! The cartilage is alive, and comes from a child cadaver. The cartilage was donated, and I feel extremely grateful to be the recipient of such a precious gift. It was my surgeon's second time performing the surgery - the first was my right knee 2 years ago. My condition is very rare, so there are few opportunities in Western Canada to perform this surgery, but I totally trusted my surgeon, as he and I go waaaay back with 6 surgeries together, and a trusting relationship that has spanned over the past 4 years. I'm grateful to have him in my life. 

ya, you smile, sister. Just wait until that freezing wears off !
The hard part came about 4 hours post surgery when the freezing began to wear off. We were unable to get on top of my pain. I was hooked up to a PCA - a device where I can deliver narcotics to myself every 6 minutes. In addition, I was given various other pain killers and anti inflammatories, but, unfortunately, since I've been on so many painkillers over the past 10 weeks, my tolerance is pretty high, and nothing seemed to ease the pain post surgery. It was pretty awful. There was nothing more that I could take to relieve the pain. I held my mom's hand, squeezed Evan's arm, and cried and cried. At one point, I whimpered, "Dr M, I'm too awesome to be in so much pain!" haha. "Yes, Kirstie, yes, you are," he replied. Not super at all. I thought that I was a seasoned surgical patient after enduring 6 knee surgeries - but this one was different - more challenging.  In addition, I had a whiny roommate - a hip replacement who lied profusely about her sleeping habits. This woman snored non-stop from 8pm until 8am and then had the audacity to tell her family that she "never slept a wink." Miserable and sleep deprived on the other side of the curtain, I whispered, "You effin liar!" Yes, it was time for me to get out of the hospital before someone got hurt!

It's been a week now since my surgery. I'm back at my mom's house now. Thankfully, mom and my step-dad, Lenny, have offered me their master bedroom while Evan finishes some renovations at our home. I don't know what I would do without my mom. She has been so awesome - ensuring I have my meds, brushed teeth, the right food, lots of love, etc. Just amazing. I love her so much! We've been spending a lot of evenings laying in bed together, watching "Southern Charm" online (awesome reality TV show - I'm hooked!) I really do have the best mom ever. Evan has been fantastic as well, finding creative ways to awkwardly shower me, without getting my left leg wet. Unfortunately my surgery took place on Evan's birthday, so his 36th was definitely overlooked this year. Evan always presents as cool, calm, and stoic, but I know this has been one of the most challenging years of his life, losing his father, and caring for his sick wife - again. Evan's always so strong for me and his family, but I see him lying awake at night, I notice his nervous eye twitch, and I know that he is struggling as well. During our hockey life, I watched Evan calmly endure heartbreaking trades, lose his job mid-season, and carry the burden of supporting us financially. I thought we had been through it all. In my immaturity, I didn't realize that the loss of a job is nothing compared to the loss of a parent and the challenge of facing recurrent health problems. I have so much respect for Evan and his choice to put his family first during these challenging times. He's keeping my spirits as high as possible, when I'm sure his spirits are wavering as well. 

It's very tricky to get around at the moment, as my "good" knee is not 100%. It's struggling to carry all my weight and I'm only able to crutch a few steps. Evan's been helping me by carrying me to and from the washroom. I'm still experiencing a significant amount of pain. The reality is beginning to set in that I'm much less mobile than I was the first time around, 2 years ago. I might be dependent on a wheel chair for a few months. It's a bit daunting, but I'm hopeful that my right knee will smarten up, the left knee will "accept" my new cartilage, and I will be able to walk again. I'm also hopeful that this condition does not affect any more joints in my body. My goal is to stay positive and try not to worry about things out of my control. I'm also cognizant of the fact that people face physical struggles everyday that are much more serious than mine. I can do this. 

I sure appreciate all the emails, texts, and Facebook messages from friends and family - thanks for thinking about us. 

Mom and Lenny's cat, Maggie. She hates that I've taken over her bed and frequently casts evil spells on me from her stoop. 


  1. You have such a great outlook Kirstie. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. I hope the rest of your recovery goes smoothly.

  2. It's a relief that you've gotten past the worst of it. That is what is important. Every healing is a journey, and there is always a Rubicon on its path. Crossing that means that you'll be able to move ahead and see the process through its logical conclusion. At least you've got the cartilage implanted on your knee, and are on your way to a complete recovery. Cheers!

    Agnes Lawson @ Pain Relief Experts

  3. My what a trooper you are. Time really does have a way of throwing us curve balls but it sounds like you are taking everything in stride, which is very good. Always enjoy your posts and keep us posted on what is going with the knee. Take care of yourself!

    Madalyn Oconnell @ Steadman Hawkins Clinic Denver