Saturday, May 7, 2016

On My Way Back—Doing the Physical Therapy

Measuring Knee Angle

I’ve had my new left knee for over ten days now. It has mostly been a positive experience. There has, of course, been pain, but not nearly so much as I had been led to expect. Modern anesthesiology blocked a great deal of the pain at times when it would normally been the worst. But current physical therapy practice is to begin moving replacement joints very soon after installation. My sainted mother used to say that, “Old age isn’t for cowards,” and the same can be said for surgery. But the pain is very manageable. And I can say without equivocation that I’m already more capable than I was before the operation.

Physical Therapy is key to recovery from any major injury or surgery. I learned this lesson well over thirty years ago when I originally broke my left leg. Proper exercise to recondition and strengthen the muscles and ligaments around the effected joint(s) are imperative. Physical Therapists are trained to evaluate progress in joint recovery and determine the next level of workload necessary to continue improving the situation.

I had my knee replaced at the Sentara OrthoJoint Center® in Williamsburg, Virginia. The Center has an outstanding staff of Orthopedic surgeons, Orthopedic Patient Navigators, nurses, and Physical Therapists who are dedicated to the most effective recovery for their patients. From the time one wakes up from the operation, the emphasis is to move, move, move! Inactivity is the enemy of those who would be physically capable, especially those of us with a few years under our keels. Complete success for every patient is their minimum standard of performance. I owe a great debt of gratitude to these consummate medical professionals!

Fortunately, My medical insurance allowed me to have home nursing and physical therapy services from the KARYA HOME CARE INC. These began immediately after my release from the hospital. I was assigned a skilled nurse, an occupational therapist, and a physical therapist. All three women are extremely knowledgeable and have skill in motivating their patients.

I have been continually surprised by my progress. After walking on a severely bowed leg for decades, I had expected to have difficulties adjusting. Instead, I felt immediately at home with equal length legs and my center of gravity back in the right place. I went from  shaky performance on a walker to easy walking with a cane in just a few days. My new situation feels “normal.”

I must say a few words about pain management. From well before the operation, advice from doctors, friends, and relatives who have had similar work done was to, “stay ahead of the pain.” In other words, don’t wait to try to overcome pain—preempt it ahead of time. That’s good advice, even if there are some negative trade-offs.

I’m not a fan of opioid painkillers. I don’t like what they do to my thought processes. I find it almost impossible to write while under their influence. I even found composing a simple Tweet difficult. Fortunately, my daughter/publicist, Karen B. Williams, has stepped in to keep things moving.  

Any reader of my novels realizes at once that I have great respect for medical professionals.  From World War II to Vietnam and beyond, many of my pages are peopled with doctor and nurse characters. In fact, one of the main characters in my upcoming book ENDURE THE CRUEL SUN, sequel to my bestselling novel HOLD BACK THE SUN, is a US Navy nurse! I believe that my personal medical experiences should make my writing about these heroes more authentic.

Warren Bell is an author of historical fiction.  He spent 29 years as a US Naval Officer, and has traveled to most of the places in the world that he writes about.  A long-time World War II-buff, his first two novels, Fall Eagle One and Hold Back the Sun are set during World War II.  His third novel, Asphalt and Blood, follows the US Navy Seabees in Vietnam.  His most recent novel, Snowflakes in July, was released on September 15, 2015.  He is currently working on a new novel, Endure the Cruel Sun, the sequel to his best-selling novel, Hold Back the Sun. For more about Warren Bell, visit his website at: or see him on twitter @wbellauthor.  



  1. It's fascinating to hear that you'd rather grit your teeth and put up with pain rather than take opiates. I can't say that I blame you, chap. I've had to undergo PT several times due to war injuries, so I can relate to your experiences. Your service to your country and how you share them is quite impressive.

    1. Thank you, Clinton. Serving in the Navy was an honor! Warren

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