Me and My Bum Knee

For posterity’s sake, I have decided to document yet another physical dilemma in my own ongoing soap opera, entitled, “Doctors on the Payroll.” I have had a bum knee since 1977, when I tore my ACL playing soccer in a tournament. I never did have the torn ligament repaired. (I did have surgery to repair some cartilage in this knee, and it has carried me well for about 30 years.) In early March of this year, my knee would mysteriously lock up on me while doing normal, everyday tasks, such as walking.  Within a minute or two of kind of shaking it off, it would return to normal. (Whatever “normal” means. I was shocked that I could even just spell that word!) I knew that this could not be good, but in my ever go-to-state of denial, I plugged along. Within six days or so, it just decided to lock up one day and stayed that way. (It would take more than a certified locksmith to reverse this condition.) So, surprisingly (or not so much to those who know me), I found myself yet again in a physician’s office, this time, an orthopedic surgeon. After an X-ray and MRI, it was determined that a piece of bone or something had chipped off, and I would require arthroscopic surgery to “clean it up.” (I had been worried that I would need the ever-dreaded ACL reconstruction, or even worse, a total knee replacement. I dodged those two bullets. Whew!) I hobbled around on crutches for the 10 days or so leading up to the 15-minute surgery, and figured I would be up and around again within no time. I could not have been more wrong!

I began physical therapy the day after my surgery, and spent most of the first week in bed, elevating and icing my swollen limb. For those of you, like me, who do not turn the TV on during the day, I am here to inform you that there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING INTELLIGENT ON TELEVISION BETWEEN THE HOURS OF 1:00 AND 4:00 PM. I was begging to go back to work, which I did after taking that week off. I could only stay at work for a few hours, though, because my leg would become so uncomfortably swollen, that I could not wait to get home to elevate and ice it and watch MORE MIND-NUMBING TELEVISION! Thus was the vicious cycle I was caught up in for about two to three weeks.

I continued with my twice-weekly, one-and-a-half hour physical therapy sessions, where my progress was slow, to say the least. My therapist, Chad, apparently missed his calling as a Boot Camp Sergeant for the Marines, and instead chose physical therapy as his method of torture. I nicknamed him “The Nazi.” He would consistently push me through my exercises, and then “reward” me by bending my knee until the pain brought me off the table. Once he had stretched every tendon, ligament, and muscle housed in that part of my leg, he would grab his handy-dandy measuring thingy and record my progress. I slowly graduated from two crutches, to one crutch and then briefly to a cane. (The cane only lasted a few days, as I could sense that Chad was secretly planning on snatching it from me and whacking me across said newly repaired knee.) One day, as I came limping into the room for my daily torture  routine, he yelled across to me, “Joan, WHY ARE YOU LIMPING?” Gosh, at some physical therapy offices, they at least say hello before they start yelling at you.

Chad and I did eventually develop a friendly patient/therapist relationship. We belong to the same gym, and both enjoy the spinning classes they offer. I also found out that like me, he has a hankering for ZERO candy bars, a favorite of mine since childhood. It was candy that would be my ticket out of therapy. In the past week-and-a-half, I finally turned a corner and began regaining my normal gait, with just the slightest limp. I have returned to the gym, riding a recumbent bike, and revving up my heart with the elliptical machine. I have quickly worked my way up to my previous weight levels on several of the leg machines, and last week, I even spent 40 minutes in a spinning class. I was back-or at least 90% back. It was time to break it off with Chad. So, yesterday, I walked into the PT room and pulled out a gift bag filled with ZERO candy bars, and offered Chad a bribe. I told him I would trade candy for a release from physical therapy. By the end of my session, I was signing my final papers.

So, nearly six-and-a-half weeks after my “piece of cake surgery,” I am free. I will have an extra three hours a week of my life back, along with an end to ever-mounting medical bills. I am able to begin to catch up on lawn work, which has patiently waited for my recovery. My son has gone back to being a child, and not his mother’s caregiver. The dog and I took a walk together one evening-the first in about two months. It is Spring, a time for rebirth and renewal. I feel both. And, just for the record, my doctor warned me that I may need a knee replacement down the road, to which I say there is NO WAY IN HELL! I will patiently wait for a medication (in tablet or liquid form) that miraculously grows back your ligaments and eliminates that unsightly and annoying arthritis. With just one little pill, my aged and torn up knee will be returned to its once youthful, healthy state. I am pretty sure that brilliant scientists all over the world are working on such a cure as we speak.

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