O Solo Knee-O: Bond Gadget Recovery for Bachelors--by Reb MacRath

I couldn't have done it without James Bond: have a total knee replacement operation on 3/5...go home the following day...survive the first couple of weeks filled with level 10 pain...try to not go stir-crazy from my inability to sit or stand for longer than 10 minutes at a time...and somehow figure out a way that I could continue to write. 

For the first 7 days, I had a care companion. But even after the first day, one thing became painfully clear: I needed gadgets, lots of gadgets worthy of James Bond if I was to prevail. And so...

             An Illustrated GT My Dirty Decuple

1) The Magic Gadget Bed

a) A bed becomes a gadget when it has as many functions as a Swiss Army knife. Long before surgery, I realized that I needed a much higher mattress than I'd been accustomed to using. For a six-foot man with a knee replacement, I wanted a height close to 30" instead of the 17" height I'd been using.  I chose a Nectar foam mattress for comfort and back support. Height: 11". Amazon Basic offered two sizes of no-assembly bed frames: 11" and 18". With the taller size, I had a height of 29". And the space beneath the 18" frame can be used for storage--AND for stretching the surgical knee down and back behind the frame. 

b) Finally, the Magic Gadget Bed converts into my Bedser Writing Corner since I'm unable to stand or sit in a chair for any length of time.

2) The indispensable leg lift

After a knee operation, your entire leg is like a block of wood. Nerves and muscles have been cut through, leaving them unable to implement the brain's commands. Take a leg lifter with you to bed and attach it to your walker whenever you get up. At all costs, keep it with you in bed--to make sure your wounded leg doesn't slip over the mattress and go crashing to the floor. Leg lifters come in all styles on Amazon but many of them are overpriced junk. Recommended instead: a medical 'gait belt' like the one I received at the hospital. Also sold on Amazon to under $10.

3) Double Neckies

Wear these two around your neck at all times and you will sing my praises. Your phone is your lifeline if you live alone but in your medicated and distracted state you run the neverending risk of forgetting where you set it down...dropping it and not being able to reach it...or setting it beside you in bed and dozing off--only to wake up and find that the damned thing's got lost in the bedding.

The second neckie addresses the same issue: a sleep mask attached to a lanyard. Trust me. Without one, the mask is a goner. The bedding gremlins love to make off with sleep masks!

4) A reacher

Speaking of dropping your phone--or anything else from your smartphone stylus to your undies--this gadget with a magnetic tip will quickly become your good friend. And it will keep you from losing your other good friends with constant calls for help. After all, Eden, Sandra, Bill, and Umberto can't always run or fly to help you free the undies snagged on your big toenail.

5) A sock donner

When your surgical knee flexion is only 20% instead of 90%, let's face it: you'll need help putting on your socks. And this baby does the job beautifully!

6-7) Two magic shoehorns

The shorter stainless model in the foreground is good for removing the compression socks you'll need to wear for a couple of weeks after surgery. The surface is smooth and won't cut your skin or shred the socks. Eden, Sandra, Bill, and Umberto will thank you for not calling nightly for help. 

The 14"-37" telescopic shoehorn on the left is ideal for regular use until you regain more flexion.

8) The Recovery Corner LaunchPad

Your physical range of motion, as well as your knee ROM, will be limited. At the start of your recovery, try to limit your coming and goings to a small section of your domicile. When every movement hurts you why aggravate your grief? I set aside a very small Recovery Corner, where I spent much of my time. Beside that office chair is an old steamer trunk that I converted into a powerful gadget. Its surface was carefully loaded with all my immediate needs: from a pill container tray to a water bottle to pages of my WIP to books that I wanted to read....to even my favorite chocolate. 

9) The Spectacle-ular

Be warned: you're toast without 2 pairs of glasses--or better yet with three. The odds are better than average that if you set your one pair down in bed to close your eyes for a moment you'll wake up to find that you've slept upon them--and the frame is mangled. What if that happens and then your only backup pair falls to the floor...out of reach or out of sight? I show three pairs ranging from my oldest to my newest prescription. And I keep these in different spots in the room. So wherever I am, eye relief is in reach. Actually, I have a fourth pair...but I don't want to jinx them. 

10) The whistle cord

Though I acquired other gadgets, I want to close with this one. Why?  Because it is at once particular and universal at the same time. How so? Particular: In my medium-size studio the only switch to an overhead light is high over the back of the sofa that divides the room. In order to reach it, I had to lean in and reach over my head--a dangerous position for a TKR recovered. But I had a lanyard with a police whistle attached--and, attached to the light switch cord, the whistle itself was chest-high and easily reached. Universal? No matter where you live, inevitably you will have risks of your own. Risks you'll need to overcome if you're to avoid falling or tripping.


I could go on. As a Yank, I'm tempted in the strongest way to include a handsome shot of my elevated toilet seat or the urinal jar by my bed. But this joint is too high-class for that, so I've overcome the temptation. Instead, I'll close by offering a bonus instead of one more gadget. I offer you a magic box.

A wood Nautica cufflink box? A box that small is magic? No, not the box but its contents...in a size I am able to carry about. This box is my reserve account of the things that I need for recovery--some of which you'll need yourself if you ever become convalescent. The contents are invisible to anyone else who looks. But I know what I load in there daily--and transfer at each week's end into a large Chinese vase. Each day into this little box I load my efforts that day on the following fronts:

1) Exercise of the core muscles I need --not six-pack abs or Arnoldian arms, but the functional muscle strength required to get in and out of bed, rise from a chair or sofa, again and again, every day. More difficult than you may think!

2) Exercise of mindfulness--the power to avoid falls or to keep a fall from turning fatal.

3) Exercise of patient persistence--without which there is no recovery.

I see myself loading this box every day with grains of sand. No day's effort the vase or makes a dramatic increase. But day by day the reserves grow. And you may also find if you keep a small box of your own that the reserves are there for you when you're in need. 

This is my report.


Welcome to MacRathWorld, if you like premium blends of mystery, action, and suspense. From Caesar's Rome to Seattle today, the twists fly at the speed of night. If you're unfamiliar with my work, I recommend starting with the new Seattle BOP mysteries. Here's the link to my AuthorPage on Amazon for a detailed look at the variety of 'rides' in my amusement park.



Sandra Horn said…
Brilliant, Reb! This needs to be a pamphlet in hospitals and surgeries!
Ruth Leigh said…
Superb, Reb. I wish you a speedy recovery. My joints are still all my own, but I have a pair of glasses by my bed, one on my desk and a third pair in my handbag. All bases covered.
Reb MacRath said…
Thanks, Jan. How could I not keep smiling, knowing you're on call to unsnag my manly man briefs from my left big toenail?
Reb MacRath said…
Thanks, Sandra. It wouldn't hurt, would it, to have this or something like it on hand in hospitals or surgeons' offices? What must seem commonsensical to professionals, or too small to mention when they're doing thousands of surgeries a year can be overwhelming to the first-time patient. I didn't have room here to cover what I call the Zen Ballet--the amazingly complex orchestration of moves required to get safely into and out of bed and to arrange one's matters position sometimes with arms alone.
Reb MacRath said…
Thanks, Ruth. Many people many to believe the importance of having at least 2-3 pairs of specs. But it really is essential! Imagine the heartache of sleeping on your first of two pairs of specs...then dropping the second to the floor--and stepping on the frame which you were 'blind to' in your medicated state. Bad enough but if you're immobile and can't to an optometrist?
Bill Kirton said…
First, my urgent and sincere wishes for a quick recovery, Reb, to free you from at least some of these constraints.
But second - and far more important - to the rest of you, my rates for the services Reb has so kindly advertised on my behalf are ridiculously reasonable for such quality.
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Reb, sorry to be late to the party. I was waiting for your call to help pull off your socks. Phew! I'm so relieved you now have a sock donner. Seriously, I'd never heard of such a thing!

Looks like you're not only full of gadgets, but you've "McGyver'ed" together some pretty cool contraptions to help you through this time. You are a true example of "Necessity is the mother of invention."

Wishing you rest, inspiration, and a speedy recovery.

Umberto Tosi said…
Welcome back! Glad you're mobile gain and I sympathize with your ordeal.
Reb MacRath said…
Thanks, Bill, Eden, and Umberto for dropping by and weighing in. Today, two months after surgery, I'm starting to see some real progress.

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