One year. 12 months. 52 weeks. 365 days.
That’s how long it’s been since I had my 4th surgery on my right knee and my 7th knee surgery overall.
The past year has been…rough. A year ago my mum (God bless her) drove me up to Vancouver (Washington, not BC) for yet another surgery on my right knee. For the first time in my 10+ years of knowing my surgeon he was actually ahead of schedule; the turnaround between checking in, changing into those glamorous hospital gowns and being whisked away to the operating room was as fast as I can remember.
The nurse put in my IV and prepped my leg for surgery – your leg will never be as clean as it is pre-surgery – before the anesthesiologist came over to introduce himself and explain what he’d be doing for what felt like the thousandth time. Then, it was time for my surgeon to pay me a brief visit. He explained what he’d be doing, asked if I had any questions and initialed my knee; this poor guy has had the pleasure (?) of operating on both of my knees multiple times.
Then, we shook hands, both agreeing that this would be the last surgery I have for a very, very long time, if not ever. I’m voting for ever but we’ll see.
If I’m honest, things didn’t start off very optimistically after my surgery. If you’ve seen my past posts about my knee you’ll know I’d planned on going back to work two weeks after my surgery. Instead, I woke up with a huge knee brace from the just before the top of my thigh to my ankle that I ended up having to wear for 5 very long weeks. Never take the ability to bend your knees and do normal, everyday activities for granted. Those 5 weeks were hard.
Once I was released from the confines of the world’s most obnoxious knee brace it was on to physical therapy. And oh boy, was that an experience this time. First I literally had to relearn how to bend my knee, then it was walk without limping or with a peg leg, strengthen the good ol’ hip muscles (seriously, my right side was so damn weak) and try out a million different tape jobs. Only on the knee; from my ankle to my knee; from my ankle, around my leg, up to my hip with extra tape on my knee and finally the big kahuna, from my ankle, around my leg up to my hip and across my back to my left shoulder. That was a two-person tape job.
Eventually, my time there had to come to an end. Once again my progress plateaued. My poor physical therapist was at a loss as to what else he could try to see what might help my knee and he really had tried everything. It was disheartening for me but it was also disheartening for him and others working at the clinic (keep in mind that he’d basically worked on my knee 3-4 times a month from mid-March to mid-August). Every other patient gets to graduate and goes home with a t-shirt that says “I Survived Physical Therapy”, even my mum got one when she was done at PT. I’ve technically ‘survived’ every time but I’ve only graduated once, after the third surgery on my left knee.
So it was back to my surgeon to see if he had any other suggestions or ideas for what we could do to make my knee feel better. He didn’t. It was basically, ‘this will probably take a while to heal, be patient’. Patience is not one of my strong points, I’m definitely one of the least patient people around, so hearing that was not what I wanted to hear. I got stuck in traffic on my way home from that appointment and cried a lot of frustrated tears.
Frustration tears have been a very prevalent thing over the last 12 months. I get pissed off with my knee and get grumpy and angry with the people around me for no reason at all. There are days that I’m genuinely no fun to be around at all; if I didn’t have to be around me on those days I wouldn’t be.
I played the waiting game for a while, still doing the physical therapy exercises my therapist had assigned me at home but nothing was working and my patience level was at an all time low. I even had a hard time getting around Vancouver B.C. when I went with my friend for a quick vacation; when I got home I basically didn’t move from the couch for 4 or 5 days.
The ‘be patient’ message from my doctor was in August. I finally reached a boiling point with my frustration and lack of progress and made an appointment to see him at the beginning of December. Once again, being patient was suggested, but he also referred me to a pain clinic and suggested that I go to a new physical therapist to see if a new set of eyes would have any other suggestions.
I’ve gotta say, I was really freaking nervous about going to the pain clinic. I made the mistake of looking them up online and there were a lot of comments saying they liked to prescribe their patients morphine which just isn’t something I’m willing to do.
Luckily, one of the first things the pain doctor I went to said was, “you’re too young to be on morphine for the rest of your life”. DAMN RIGHT I’m too young, I’m only 26. He suggested a compound pain cream that I can just apply to my knee, and making more frequent use of a TENS machine. The compounded cream contains lidocaine, prilocaine and diclofenac. Two pain numbing agents and one anti-inflammatory. It’s not working. Apparently I’m immune to any type of pain relief.
A TENS machine isn’t designed to make afflicted body parts better; the vibrations sent through the electrodes are to distract you from the pain you’re feeling. So it does work for me in the sense that when it’s on I’m not necessarily thinking about the pain but instead the funny vibrations being sent to my knee, but it isn’t a long-term, going to solve my problems type of solution.
I also started over with a new physical therapist a few weeks ago. She’s been good and very patient with me, listening to my concerns, encouraging me to listen to my body and how my knee is responding to things. Once again we’re focusing on hip strength because it seems like nothing I do is working to build up the muscles there so I’ve got a few new exercises. And I’m taping my knee. Again. This time it’s a tape job to encourage my kneecap to sit where it’s supposed to, instead of off to the side like it’s inclined to do.
My knee is just shitty.
And that’s where I am.
One year. 12 months. 52 weeks. 365 days. And pretty much no progress whatsoever.