|My legs in better days|
Hiking in Picture Rocks, Michigan, 2012
On Monday, I showed up at an orthopedic clinic. I was first seen by a physician assistant. In thirty seconds, he felt my knee and then asked me to kick (I was sitting on the table). As much as mind willed my leg to move, it couldn’t. He frowned. “It’s up to the doctor to diagnose, but I am pretty sure you have a torn quad tendon.” I had only a general knowledge about what he was talking about and asked why he was so sure. He pointed to a gap in between my knee and thigh, how the patella (knee cap) was lower in my left leg, and said that inability to kick with the leg indicated the tendon wasn’t connected. “How bad is that?” I asked. Shaking his head, he said, “Bad.” The doctor agreed and said that I’d have to have surgery. Furthermore, although he wanted the swelling to go down, I needed surgery sooner than later for my quad muscles would begin to retreat up my thigh and become more difficult to reattach in surgery. Over the next week, I had a full MRI on my knee to confirm the damage. During this time, sleeping was often disturbing as I’d wake feeling my quad muscles retreating up my thigh. It was a weird feeling.
Eleven days later I had surgery. I went in thinking that they were going to drill an anchor into the patella and then attached the tendon and I’d have a two week break before I could began rehab. When the surgery was over, I learned that there was a complete mid-tendon rupture and because of this, the doctor had to sew the tendon back together. My recovery would be even longer. For the next six weeks, I’d have to have the leg in a straight brace to keep from having any movement of the knee so the tendon would be able to grow back together. I was on morphine (as I am allergic to many of the other pain drugs), but on the second day when the block they’d given me in the leg wore off, my pain level went through the roof. I waited in anticipation for each dose of morphine. It didn’t end the pain, but it generally put me to sleep. I also keep ice on the knee (with a handy pump that could keep ice water flowing around my knee. I spent most of the next ten days in a morphine stumper with an ice knee.
|Left to right: First brace, sock puller-upper, adjustable brace|
After a week, I was told I could put weight on my leg. I did go into the office but only for the mornings. I’d catch a ride home at lunch and if anyone wanted to see me, I’d meet them at home. I was never able to be comfortable more than an hour or so behind my desk with having my leg in a straight cast. Even in my office, I spent much of my time on the couch, where I could sat my leg out where it was supported. During these weeks I had to be helped in and out of the shower (which was a once a week treat). The rest of the time I was just doing sponge baths but since it was so hard to move, I wasn’t really working up a sweat. I’m glad I endured this in what goes for winter here in Georgia. I also wore short pants almost all the time (even into the office), the exception being going to church, but even then I had to find “breezy” dress pants that allowed me to keep my brace on under my pants. The other problem was putting socks on my left foot. They even make a funky sock “puller-upper” which I used. I could generally get shoes on but someone else had to tie my left shoe. During this time, as the morphine began to wear off, I started reading more and putting together puzzles.
|Brace with movement |
(this was once they allowed me 90 degrees)
Six weeks after surgery, they allowed me to have 30 degrees of movement in my left knee. I felt free. For the first time in two months I could drive as I couldn’t get my leg inside on the driver’s side of any of our vehicles (with the exception of the golf cart and I did use it frequently). With 30 degrees of movement, I could walk more normal instead of walking with a peg-leg. This couldn’t have come soon enough as my hips and back were beginning to ache from my peg-leg strut. I was also sent to rehab. The horror stories that were the tales told by those with knee replacements weren’t my experiences as they had to go very gently with me, slowly pushing my knee movement further while working to strengthen the quad muscles. Since my problem was with the tendon, which was still growing together, they took it easy on me. It took four weeks before they got me up to 90 degrees (but when I was not in rehab, I had the brace to keep me at 30 degrees. Then, after another month, they allowed me 90 degrees of movement in my knee all the time and in rehab they continued to work my knee. Currently, my left knee can easily move to 120 degrees and they can force it to 126 degrees, which is about 10 degrees lower than my right knee. After another month of having the brace that ran all the way from my thigh to ankle set at 90 degrees, I graduated to a much smaller brace.
At this time, the doctor released me to do things like sailing and kayaking (But no basketball, tennis, pickleball, or returning to active duty as a volunteer firefighter. That will take more time). In rehab, they began to work me on weight machines (instead of the easier exercises I’d been doing there). I am now doing these exercises every other day and on the odd days doing the lighter exercises at home. I am also now able to bike and have been trying to put in 20 or 30 minutes a day riding. Although I am slowly getting back to normal (I can walk a mile and a half now, but then I’ll need to ice my leg), I have a ways to go. I will probably always have some issues with my left knee as the tendon is shorter than on my right knee. But I am glad to be back sailing (I’ve yet to kayak) and to be able to walk, even though I haven’t got my distance back to anywhere near where it was before. That will come.
|The Last Puzzle of this season|
This one was hard and I ended up losing a piece