Two months ago as I pivoted towards the kitchen I felt a familiar pinch in my right knee. I immediately took stock in my most complicated joint, twisting and rotating, asking myself what is this? I resumed motion but there was a new awareness, something was not quite right. The next morning I woke up and my knee was the size of a soft ball, it didn’t hurt but it looked awful. I had a full day of running around before I was set to board a plane bound for Portland to meet my Tofino girls (and get my first tattoo.) With each step I shortened my stride and soon there was an unmistakeable change to my gait. As I stepped out of my Uber and up to my first beer, I wasn’t so sure I was going to be able to move much past the food carts. The next week I made an appointment to see my orthopedic doc, another week later there was an MRI and the week after that, a diagnosis, not one but two meniscus tears that would require immediate knee surgery.
When I was 9 I was long and lean and someone thought it would be a good idea to compete in the Girl Scout Olympics. I was running hurdles when I caught the edge of one and blew out my right knee, goodbye ACL. I didn’t have it repaired infact I only saw my pediatrician who would from time to time drain my knee with a needle that looked like something out of the Game of Thrones era. Draining usually required the help of several nurses to restrain while I tensed and yelped. This went on for years. In high school I wore a brace to prevent buckling that sent me to the floor but it didn’t always work. I was a cheerleader who could do nothing more than stand and smile.
I waited until the last year and the last semester in college to have ACL replacement surgery. Completely unaware of the severity of this surgery I scheduled the procedure over Spring Break. I figured a couple weeks would be enough, oh my dear 23 yr. old self what were you thinking. Turns out I would never return to college. I abandoned all coursework, credits and eventually a diploma. I recovered at home, it was hard, I remember the heaviness of post surgical depression. My on again/off again boyfriend eventually stopped coming around and my parents were either in the process or just had divorced I can’t recall. All I know is that time in my life sucked hard.
Eventually I was that summer I recovered, I moved my stuff back home and took a temporary job during Nordstrom’s Anniversary Sale. That job became a full time position and blossomed into a full blown career in management. A year later a coworker would invite me to her annual holiday party where I would meet my future husband.
I continued to ski and do all the normal things an active person can but eventually my knee began to lock up again and in the summer of 2002 I had arthroscopy to fix a bucket handle tear. Recovery must have been a breeze because I have absolutely no memory of it. I must have recovered quickly seeing this photo taken less than a month after surgery.
During my post op appointment the doctors removed my bandages and took a couple xrays. They went over the procedure because I don’t remember a thing after waking up, my poor knee went through the wringer; meniscectomy, chondroplasty and one titanium screw (from the ACL surgery) removed along with the bone spur. No wonder my knee is so pissy. My entire thigh looks like a bratwurst, quad muscle completely offline. Only time will tell if the surgery was successful.
During my post op appointment I mentioned I was feeling awful from the anesthesia. Ears ringing, thoughts racing and at times I felt as if all the oxygen in the room had emptied. Worse yet was the sense of hopelessness that clouded all my thinking. I somehow felt I just wouldn’t get better. The PA completely understood and told me to give it a few more days but that afternoon I felt a panic attack coming on. The heat on the back of my neck spread to my shoulders and down my arms, my chest tightening as I tried to take deep breaths. I felt dizzy as I fanned my face to bring me back to the present. The tears welled up and I could no longer contain the despair. I thought to myself THIS must be what depression feels like, unforgiving and all encompassing.
I phoned my husband out of fear that I was losing my grip on reality, he tried to soothe me with his reminders that this is common and especially for someone like me, highly sensitive and “detox challenged.” I don’t drink for this reason.
Healing takes time
A big part of the process has been watching the days go by without doing much of anything. The more time spent in the vertical position, the less swelling and inflammation. Problem is I don’t do vertical position very well. I prefer the perpetual state of constant motion. I’m a busy body it’s how you get sh*t done. Right? Well I had to come to terms with my new normal which meant doing absolutely n-o-t-h-i-n-g.
I didn’t drive for 3 weeks. Grocery carts became walkers and shopping for dinner was physical therapy. I signed up for meal delivery (Dish Republic) and Door Dashed on the regular. When my entire leg swelled up like a sausage I was asked to take a long hard look at how much sodium I was eating. I started replacing meals with collagen boosted protein shakes and my new favorite snack Quest Cheddar Protein Chips and drank water balancing tea.
After an injury some muscles will turn themselves off, this is a form of self preservation. Problem is when the muscles involved are in your leg your gait, the way you walk, slip into unhealthy positions. Before I injured my me I was practicing yoga 4-5 times a week, working hard to fly my crow. But after the initial pinch I backed off of everything which meant muscle loss started two months ago. It’s amazing how quickly things go and how long they can take to come back, except fat, that seems to come back in a matter of days.
One Day At Time
The rest of my summer will go like this. I will awake each day and stretch my legs taking quick stock of the level of stiffness. As I swing my legs around and let them dangle of the side of the bed I will take a few deep inhales as I tell my quad its time to wake up. I walk slowly and with purpose making sure I walk heel-to-toe. I will express gratitude for a new day as I commit to do an extra set of exercises. I will make myself a cup of coffee and follow that with a nourishing breakfast. I will take ALL my vitamins and supplements happily. I will sit with my coffee and read with my leg elevated, this is a prerequisite to sitting at the computer which inevitable blows up my the lower half of my leg like a balloon. I will take frequent breaks from the computer to prevent pregnancy cankles.
I will get a fourth of the things done I normally do on the daily and I will be OK with that.