Roy Exum: You Kneed To Know

Monday, July 9, 2018
Roy Exum
Roy Exum
It has now been one week since a one-time pitcher on the University of Alabama baseball team replaced my terribly angry and most unwanted right knee. The most startling finding is that ever since Matt Brenard of the Center for Sports Medicine installed my 2018 model, any pain I’ve had can’t compare with what I’ve been living with for the past three years.
That’s right, build a statue for stupid and put my name on it in gold leaf. Today my right leg is twice the size of my left but I am walking without a cane or crutch, go up and down the 14 stairs in my house every two hours using only the bannister for balance, and have taken no opioids for pain since I left Erlanger East.
In other words, if you or somebody you know is crippled by arthritis, what Dr.
Barnard and other terrific orthopedic surgeons can do is incredible. Matt has even got a procedure where he does “a total knee” and lets you go home the same day! I stayed a few extra days for prophylactic antibiotics but today’s medicinal standards dictate you walk just hours after surgery and, brother, I’m here to tell you “F.E.A.R. ain’t nothing but ‘false expectations appearing real.’”
My life’s story is rife with years when I have tussled with infections that will kill you. Believe me, my fears are well-founded. All of the doctors who watch over me were against the surgery but each agreed when the arthritis becomes so bad it affects your lifestyle – just walking through the grocery store was terrible – you roll the dice rather than shoulder the misery.
I am just finishing my first week post-op but had I been able to see such a obvious upside, I would have done the surgery two years ago. Better, if I were to develop an infection tomorrow morning, I’d still be happy I went ahead with it. That is how thrilled I am the greater pain is gone forever and in a couple of months my left knee will be next. I’ll guarantee it.
America’s hospitals are doing a better job with “in-house infections” than ever but I bet I’ve gone through ten gallons of Hibiclens surgical soap in the last three weeks. I shampooed with it, washed the back of my ears with it, and was so sanitized by the morning of my surgery you could have eaten a slice of lemon meringue pie off my bare stomach. Son!
The new rage is “a Clorox bath.” You fill up the bathtub with warm, comfortable water and then you get a bottle of “blue top” Clorox (not scented) and fling a half-cup of Clorox into the water. Stir it good with your hand and then submerge your fat self into the water from your neck down for 10 minutes. Yes, it took me about two weeks to get up my nerve, believing I might look like one of those albino squirrels, but think this through.
All that “a Clorox bath” really becomes is water with chlorine in it. It is just a tad stronger than the water in most swimming pools and is absolutely harmless after the half-cup of Clorox is dissipated by the 40 gallons or so of tap water. Do this twice a week and you’ll totally remove any germ colonies on the skin. Why do people put chlorine in swimming pools? It is the exact same principle.
Understand, the Clorox bath is a new trick. None of the nurses at Erlanger East I talked with have heard about it yet but each could see the benefits. Anybody who is having surgery of any kind should show up smelling like their washing machine. Another tip: Whether Hibiclens or Clorox, do not “wash it off” with regular soap, like Dial. Every-day soap just puts another layer on your skin it doesn’t need. The Hibiclens scientists tell you to pat your skin dry when you use their soap instead of wiping off the skin barrier it provides. Even better, they say, is to let your body dry on its own … the water will evaporate but, then again, everybody in the house will want to know why you are just standing there naked.
I’ll admit I am paranoid about pain medicine. Opioids, when taken properly, are wonderful because they work but since I’ve been home from the hospital I haven’t taken any because the worst sickness I’ve ever had was when I suddenly stopped taking them. The most important part of opioid treatment is learning how to taper off the things. If suddenly your bottle is empty, you are going to get “drug sick” and it’s worse than knee replacement surgery. And good luck getting more opioids in today’s over-reactive idiocy.
Some years ago at Mayo Clinic the nurses taught me how to “sandwich,” which every doctor (who is not in pain) will tell you is a bad thing to do. The way it works is to get two different types of over-the-counter pain reducers. Each dose should work for four hours. So you get your Tylenol and your Advil and you sandwich the two every two hours. For instance, the two Tylenol you take at 8 a.m. are going to work until noon. But at 10 a.m. you take two Advil that will carry you until 2 p.m.
That’s right, the Tylenol is still working from 8 a.m. when you take the Advil at 10, and the Advil will still be working at noon when you reload your second dose of Tylenol to work until 4 p.m. I agree it isn’t good for you long range but when pain has you in its grip, sandwiching is a heckuva solution.
Then there is the yogurt trick. I’ve had over a dozen emails asking me about knee surgery since word got out and I try to share the yogurt trick with all of them. Anytime you have surgery or get heavy antibiotics, you’ll likely have “gut problems,” severe constipation, and the yucks. The yogurt trick can prevent it!
Your lower GI tract has good flora and bad flora in it right now. The good flora is what makes things work, and overwhelms the bad flora. But antibiotics kill all flora, not to mention germs, so the idea is to replace the good flora even while you are still in the hospital. You see, all yogurt includes “culture,” and it is good flora.
Guess what? Every brand of yogurt has a different culture. So, you need two different brands every day that will help each other restore happiness. Eat one brand in the morning (like Yoplait) and another brand (like Dannon) at night. Two brands are better than one and while you may need a dose or two of Mira-Lax power that you can buy at any drug store or supermarket, a happy gut really helps in the great scheme of things.
Now, if you are in need of a shoulder, a hip, or a knee, let’s quit worrying, procrastinating, or putting if off because I can promise it will only get worse. As a recent devotee, I’m begging you slay the dragon. Arthritis doesn’t just go away and every day you wait just means your stupid statue is getting bigger. Slip on your Nike’s and “Just Do It!”
* * *
FUNNY HOSPITAL STORY NO. 1 – This is not an ad but instead a fact: Erlanger East is the best overall hospital east of the Mississippi River. As a frequent critic of my beloved Erlanger some years back, today’s brilliance is overwhelming, its employees are the kindest and nicest collection of people between here and the country of France, and the food so good I wish they had carry-out. About a week before surgery, I went out to Gunbarrell Road for a pre-surgery work-up and was seated next to a very attractive middle-aged couple, one of whom was being admitted. They had their bags, their books, and other stuff when I spied a 6-pack of bottled ginger ale, the beverage of choice when one’s stomach is queasy. “See that one bottle without a label?” I told the man. “That’s really vodka.” He promptly executed the deer-in-the-headlights look and gave the Cheshire Cat grin to his wife. He asked, “Is it that obvious?” as his wife couldn’t stop laughing. I told him once the ginger ale trick was in vogue but that today most of today’s millennials use a commercial water bottle because vodka looks a lot like water.
* * *
FUNNY HOSPITAL STORY NO. 2 -- The third night I was “an honored guest” last week, the walls were starting to close in when, about 11 p.m., I decided to step outside and enjoy a cigar. The poor nurses went nuts. I had to sign a release and argue with three people before I plunked down under some trees to enjoy my smoke. One nurse – cute Jessica -- sat near the Emergency Room entrance watching my every move. A security guard with a walkie-talkie also watched, thinking he was hidden by the trees and, after about 15 minutes, two nurses came out, sat with me, and I could tell they were “evaluating my mental condition.” Finally, my Coke bottle was empty, I knew I could walk beautifully without a crutch or cane, and was assured that I wasn’t oxygen-deprived in the least. My lone regret was that I hadn’t hitched a ride to a bar for a Coors Light because if I had, I could have added to the legend.
* * *
F.E.A.R. – False Expectations Appearing Real.”
‘Just Do it.’

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