I planned to make a ceremony of it. When it was time to get up this morning, I'd sit up, carefully take off the brace for the last time, and dump it in the wastebasket. All right, that isn't much of a ceremony but I was envisioning it and seeing myself head for the shower, where I could stand under the water for the first time in five weeks. It didn't work exactly like that.
Last night I had difficulty getting comfortable enough to get to sleep. I have had this problem from the start, and have gotten to sleep with varying degrees of difficulty. It seems like the past few days were the worst, perhaps in part because I anticipated today and my body had less patience than ever. I admit I resorted to drugs. During these five weeks I have not yet made it through a night without them. Yet they did not do the full job, and I kept waking up, jerking up to sit on the side of the bed, sometimes to get up and walk a little, and always to stretch as much as I could. I thought stretching would reduce the "restless leg" kind of jerky spasms I was having. I took another hot shower in the middle of the night, and that helped relax me for a little while. But I kept waking. Finally, when the clock said four a.m., I sat up and took the damned brace off. Threw it down on the floor. Pulled my leg back under the covers.
It helped! The spasms were diminished, I was more comfortable, my leg felt less like a lumbering whale attached to my body and more like a living part of me. I managed to grab a few more winks this way, adjusting as needed. Definitely an improvement. I think, too, that letting my leg relax under the covers for a bit was not a bad way to adjust to the coming bigger change: standing on it without any support.
The time finally came to get up. I sat on the side of the bed, a wee bit worried, and went for it. I grabbed the cane and stood up. To my surprise, it felt shaky but stable. When I walk I can feel the muscles and ligaments adjusting to being given the whole load, causing a shimmering kind of shakiness. It's okay. I think a few days of walking on it will reduce the shaking and give me back my leg. I also think it will be easier to get more from my exercises, even though it will feel a little scarier at times.
I took my standing shower and dressed in long pants. I will still wear shorts or short pants most of the time while I am working on the knee, for access, but from time to time it will be nice to have this option. The end of this tunnel looks just a wee bit closer now.