A Long Post about My Knee

Like my past posts about my feet, this will probably be pretty boring to anyone not interested in knees, and if you’ve never injured your knee, that group of people almost certainly includes you.

But I’m going to write about it anyway, because I find health decisions and surgery interesting myself (having had three now).

Some background: I tore my ACL in two when I went skiing with J’s family back in February 2014. I tore it the first day of our ski trip, on the first slope after my one lesson with the instructor. J hoped it was just a sprain, but we all suspected it was something more since it “gave in” any time I put weight on it. Amazingly, coached by J’s uncle, I managed to ski all the way down the slope on my severely damaged knee. Also amazingly, we had no pain-killers left because everyone had taken them upon arrival for altitude head-aches, so I spent the night with bone bruising without any pain medication.

I started physical therapy immediately at the ski resort, and also upon our return to Poitiers where I also immediately saw the local knee surgeon, since I had an appointment with him already for my left foot. I waited over a month for the MRI that confirmed it was torn, and that also showed bone bruising and a torn meniscus (though nobody saw the torn meniscus at the time).

Surprisingly, both health professionals I saw at the time were first skeptical that it was torn and then advised me not to have surgery right away and possibly not at all. I always find that attitude promising coming from a surgeon who makes money on each surgery. I did lots of physical therapy and life went back to normal. I went to Squamish with J the following summer and went hiking with no pain and no problems.

So why did I even have surgery?

Well, after that fabulous vacation in Canada, I had my second foot surgery, on my opposite foot. Eugh. The recovery from that surgery was hard and depressing. When my foot didn’t hurt, my knee did. It hated the extra strain from my left leg being off duty. I started walking weird during that recovery by pushing off laterally on my right foot.

There was also the continued feeling that my knee would give in. Sometimes it did, though I always caught myself before I fell. Unexpected movements could often led to that weird feeling that my knee was going somewhere without me. I was unable to play tennis with J last summer, which, though I play terribly, is something we like to do together when it’s nice out. I couldn’t start bouldering again for fear of falling on my leg and hurting it. I had occasional knee pain from muscle weakness, and was skeptical about my ability to keep up muscle strength in my right leg.

I could have waited, still, but I didn’t want to. J and I would like to have kids at some point, and knee surgery is both impossible while pregnant and complicated with young kids. A friend of mine advised me to be in the best shape possible when pregnant. That’s not a reason I give to just anyone who asks me about the surgery, but I feel like anyone with a brain can deduce some of the reasoning for the health decisions of a 31-year-old woman (without necessarily saying it out loud).

I didn’t go to the original surgeon I’d seen because he does a patellar tendon graft that takes longer to recover from than the hamstring graft and I’ve just about had it with slow recoveries. When I saw the other surgeon in April he also saw the meniscus tear that had gone un-noticed. Fortunately when he opened up the knee for the surgery (although it is arthroscopy so they don’t really open it up), he saw that the meniscus had healed on its own. Hurray!

I’m 17 days out from surgery now and recovery is totally different from the foot for many reasons, but essentially it’s much more active. The foot recovery was a question of waiting until the bone recovered, and believe me it takes its merry time. The knee recovery is not just a simple question of time but also how much work you put in. On the other hand, if you don’t put in the work the surgery can fail.

I’m off work for at least another two and a half weeks, possibly more, but I’d love to be back there soon as long as walking around isn’t painful.

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