Hello on this Tuesday morning, gentle readers.
It’s been a fun week so far, and I don’t mean that to be as sarcastic as it implies. Allow me to elaborate.
First, a bit of back story, because I have deemed this shit important. Once upon a time twenty-two years ago, I was a precocious 11-year-old. The world, well, she was my oyster. I had plans for myself, by golly! Then, in an instant, life was altered forever (I’m very good at dramatics sometimes).
I believe it was a cold, snowy day in December and I was outside for noon recess because it was the very early 90’s and back then, we weren’t whiny little bitches like the kids today who get a day off school if it’s too cold outside. In my day, we played outside in below freezing temperatures and we liked it! It built character! Look at how much character I have now because of it! I’m lousy with character! I have too much of it! It gets in the way!
Anyway, I was playing on this bizarre bit of playground equipment my elementary school had; it was a twenty feet tall by twenty feet wide wall of used tires that were connected together by chains. We’d crawl all over that damn thing like the little monkeys we were, which is what I happened to be doing.
Over two decades later, I’m still not sure how it happened, but I was crawling on this tire wall and fell off from about four feet off the ground, which doesn’t seem like a great distance to the ground, but when you land on your hands and knees like I did, it was a doozy. I had immediate and intense pain in my right knee and could barely put weight on it to hobble over to the teacher and explain what happened. My knee swelled up like something that gets really swollen and that’s the day my life was different.
The orthopaedic doctor I went to initially had no idea what I did. I didn’t fracture my knee or anything major like eff up tendons or ligaments, it was just a huge freaking knee. About two years later, I had my first arthroscopic surgery on it and had a bunch of fluid drained from it and things were okay for a while, until I was basketball practice in junior high and twisted my knee just right–or wrong, depending on how you look at it. Enter another arthroscopic surgery. By then I was told I should stay away from contact sports because the next injury I have will be a big one.
Things were okay again for a few more years, and my memory isn’t the greatest, but I ended back at the ortho and when I was 17, had my first major surgery where my leg had to be broken to realign it properly and screws were placed and yeah. Ever since then, it’s been a downhill trip.
My knee never returned to normal size and as the years went by, it was painfully–both literally and figuratively–that my knee was beyond fucked. Pardon my French.
Due to inactivity because of a busted wheel, I obviously gained weight and I was trying to get that weight off, which I did successfully but it did come with some consequences. See, the thing is, to lose weight, you must be active. I became active and that ended up causing my knee to give me tremendous issues, so I went back to the ortho and things did not look good at all. In the span of ten years, I had developed a lovely case of osteoarthritis and my poor joint was barely recognizable from x-rays taken. I was told at that appointment that in cases such as these, a knee replacement is warranted, but given my young age of 28, no doctor was going to touch me. Artificial knees only lasted roughly fifteen years and a revision can be done after that, but if my math is correct, I’d be in my mid-fifties and out of options because I’d have exhausted them all by then. I was told with a sorry shrug to come back when I was older and then we can do something for you.
Disappointment galore! But I did just that. I’ve learned to live with this thing, testing my limitations to find out what I can/cannot do, and dealt with the pain.
Flash forward six years to just a few weeks ago when, same old song and dance, I have put on most of the weight I lost before and am working on losing it again. I was at the gym using the elliptical machine and towards the end of my workout, I felt a new pain I hadn’t experienced before. Oh, goody.
Since I work for a doctor, I asked her the next day if there was a knee brace I could get that would help me out a bit. She’s familiar with my medical history, so she erred on the side of caution and requested x-rays again.
I wish I had a camera when my doctor looked at the images. The look of horror on her face was golden. She was adamant I return to the orthopaedic doctor for evaluation because in the time since my last appointment, things had gotten far worse.
So, that’s what I did yesterday morning. I visited with the same doctor that performed the surgery when I was 17 and you know how when you do something dumb and your parents aren’t necessarily mad at you, but say they’re disappointed in you and how that’s so much worse? I feel that’s what my doctor’s reaction to my knee was upon examining it. I don’t mean he was disappointed in me specifically, but rather the knee itself and maybe he felt bad his surgical efforts sixteen years ago should have yielded a better outcome.
He examined me and this is what he came up with: yes, Erin, your knee is a piece of garbage, but again, I wish you were ten years older because I would without a doubt replace that thing for you. But since you’re still a baby in terms of such procedures, here is what we can do for now. First, I want to determine the strength in the leg and joint. Second, I want to give you an injection into your knee that will offer some extra cushion and lubrication for the joint because your arthritis is extensive and severe. Based on the results of the strength testing and how the injection works for you, our only other option is partial knee replacement, aka getting a new knee cap, since that’s were the majority of your issues lie. Sound good? Sounds good. Okay then, let’s get this puppy fired up.
I just got back from my strength test and I can say with certainty that was one of the most unusual things I’ve ever done. The machine used for this test was ancient and I was nervous about getting near it because it looked like an electric chair. No kidding. How it works is, you sit on the machine and the PT guy strapped my normal leg down on a hinged arm. I had to do three separate tests, but all tested the same things: how strong my quad and hamstring are. First test was kind of difficult as there was some pressure being applied, but basically, all I had to do was extend my leg straight, then bend it back down as hard and fast as I could. Second test had less resistance, but same flex/extend deal, and the third, no resistance at all, just up down as fast as I could. I knew at the end of the first test how fucking horrible it was going to be on my right leg. I have barely a quad muscle on the right and know it’s weak as shit.
We switched legs. Hilarity ensued. The therapist printed off my results and said, “you don’t cry easily, do you?” Oh, Jesus…
He showed me two graphs, one representing the left leg, the other the right. Just looking at them, I knew it wasn’t good. He went over the numbers and said that my left leg is great and strong I performed really well on all tests.
“The right leg, however…” he trailed off, ” look at the difference in the measurements. Based on these results, you have over sixty percent muscle deficit in your right leg compared to your left.”
This didn’t surprise me at all, but it was just weird being told that and having numbers and graphs to back that claim up. I can put all my weight on right leg and within seconds, it starts shaking violently because I have no muscle mass. It’s really rather funny to see, but I have an odd sense of humor.
I don’t know what’s next for me, aside from the injection. I’m supposed to have a follow-up appointment with the doctor to discuss the results, but that hasn’t been made yet.
I’m conflicted about how we treat this thing. I want some normalcy back in my life and I want to be able to ride a bike for a long distance without wishing I could cut my right leg off. I want to be able to walk up and down stairs with ease. I just want to have a normal knee. If that means surgery, then by golly, hand me the damn scalpel and I’ll make the first cut for you.
But in the same breath, this couldn’t have come at a worse time. I wish I hadn’t made a fuss over this at all because if I do need surgery, that’s going to effect how I am able to help my dad out and getting him to chemo and looking after him. I’ll be laid up for a few weeks post surgery and won’t be able to drive for a few more. That’s not cool when I’m the one who takes my dad to and from chemo. Yes, he has some people to help him in the event I’m unable to, but that makes me feel like dog shit because I feel it’s MY responsibility to get Dad places, not these other people, even though they have offered because they are kind and good, but still. It’s my dad, I should be the one helping him out.
Plus, and this is what happens when I start thinking too hard about stuff, but I’m also struggling with the fact that did I instigate action on my knee because I wanted the attention? As in, “sure my dad my have cancer and that’s completely horrible, but hey guys, look at me and my knee and I have issues, too! Pay attention to me for a minute!” Like, that totally bummed me the fuck out when I thought about it that way. How childish of me if that really is the root of why I am doing this. I don’t think it is because I’m not faking anything at all, but the timing again seems too coincidental for me to ignore that possibility.
And that’s all I have for now. Thanks for letting me ramble on. Sorry to bore those who are masochistic and read this whole thing. You know I’m grateful for your reading, though.