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Destination Rehabilitation Centre

The journey by ambulance from the clinic to the rehabilitation centre took barely 10 minutes. It would almost have been quicker to have taken me there in a wheelchair!

I was still feeling relieved at being pain-free and despite the clumsiness of most of my movements - it's trickier than one thinks having to use 2 crutches - I was glad to reach the reception desk, with the help of my ambulance boys, to fill out the admission papers.

"We're putting you in a private room for the moment until a twin becomes available".

Excellent, I thought, at least for the first night or two I'll be able to have some proper peace and quiet.

I had declined the offer of a private room, primarily due to the extra cost, but I was rather apprehensive about who I would be sharing with. I'd heard various anecdotes about having to sleep a couple of metres away from someone with round-the-clock flatulence, questionable personal hygience practices or who kept the TV on continuously into the early hours of the morning...

So, I was more than content with this announcement.

A healthcare assistant collected me from reception once I had completed all the formalities. My room was located on the 5th and last floor and boasted a stunning view of the Russian Church located just a couple of blocks away.

I was helped on to the bed, my case placed on the table next to me. A jug of fresh water and a glass were within easy reach on the overbed table.

A wave of relief and solace washed over me. I felt safe and secure.

I was informed that someone would be coming to see me soon.

That someone transpired not to be just one individual - a procession of medical professionals including doctor, nurse, occupational therapist, dietitian, and healthcare assistant, filed in and out of my room over the next couple of hours.

Although I was feeling well and in no pain, my face had turned bright red and was scorching hot. I mentioned this to the doctor, whose expression after taking a closer look conveyed consternation, almost shock. This was not what I had expected and I felt rather disconcerted.

Her bemusement prompted me into asking her if it could possibly be a reaction to the anaesthesia or medication. She nodded but appeared unsure.

"We'll take your temperature and be running some tests just to ensure everything is okay."

No sooner had she left the room than another nurse arrived to take some bloods and check my vital signs. Temperature was normal. I was given an ice pack to place on my knee, which I also used to cool down my face!

By now, I was beginning to feel tired, what with all the commotion, drugs and aftermath of surgery.

A healthcare assistant helped me undress and put on my nightie.

I was pleased to see next visitor, the dietitian. I was keen to take advantage of my 3-week stay to lose some of the extra weight I had put on over the last couple of years (even nutritionists are human!). I knew this was really important for my knee (one kilo of additional weight puts four kilos of pressure on the joints) and was determined to use my now well-proven method on myself. I knew it would be easier to do this if all my meals were served to me and I had no other commitments or stressful situations getting in the way.

I explained what I wanted to achieve, but was slightly disappointed that the dietitian didn't have much authority as to the actual content of the meals. She fully agreed with my comments and I sensed her frustration at not having more say in the matter.

For example, I asked for wholemeal bread instead of white, but was told this was only possible if I was diabetic. This seems ridiculous to me - a case of shutting the door after the horse has bolted!

Nevertheless I did manage to suggest a few tweaks that were acceptable, such as replacing the sachets of ready-made salad dressing (full of additives and sugar) with olive oil and fresh lemon.

My first night at the centre was relatively peaceful. I was given a special liquid (Nefopam, a potent painkiller often used to relieve post-surgical pain) to take during the night to prevent any discomfort, which I swallowed obediently.

I slept undisturbed until the early hours when I needed the loo. I was so proud of myself when I made it to the bathroom and back to my bed alone - a small victory for me.

However, I didn't feel quite right. I was feeling rather nauseous and the sickness steadily got worse as the day progressed, to the point that I asked for a kidney dish. I was told that this was most probably an adverse effect of the Nefopam.

When breakfast arrived, I could not entertain anything to eat and asked for a herbal tea. I forgot that I was in a hospital environment, not a hotel or health spa! The only choice was coffee, tea or hot chocolate, so I opted for a cup of black tea. This also got me thinking. Herbal teas can be effective for a range of ailments, so why are they not available? Surely it would be better to attempt this type of natural remedy before administering drugs willy nilly.

As feeling sick is not pleasant and something I particularly dread, I phoned my husband and asked him to bring me some freshly chopped ginger. I know from my personal experience that this is a highly effective antiemetic. A few hours later, I was feeling much better.

Later that morning, there was a knock on my door.

A friendly and petite woman in her early to mid forties entered the room pulling behind her a trolley with a machine that would not have been out of place in Christian Grey's Red Room of Pain! It looked quite intimidating.

"Hello, my name is Maria Angela, I'm one of the physiotherapists and we're going to put your leg in this machine to help improve your range of motion".

I smiled and nodded, albeit somewhat nervously. It really did look like an instrument of torture.

She placed the machine on the bed, lifted my leg into it and turned it on. From a fully extended position, my leg was slowly pushed into a flexed position.

"Tell me when it begins to get painful and I'll set the number of degrees accordingly".

I watched my knee being bent effortlessly - pleasantly suprised at how easy this was - until it reached a point where it felt slightly uncomfortable.

Maria Angela stopped it from going any further and asked me again whether that level was bearable.

"Yes absolutely"

"That's very good. That's a flexion of 85°"

I learnt later that this indeed was good news. Many other patients do not reach that level of motion, even after 2 weeks of physio.

The machine was left to do its work for 30 minutes or so and at the end of the session, I was told a porter would fetch me the following Monday morning for my first proper physiotherapy session on the premises.

I'd got through my surgery, my first night at the rehab centre and was confident that the rest of my stay would go smoothly, more determined than ever to make as much progress as posssible as fast as possible.

To find out how things developed (including a few surprises!), stay tuned!

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