Sunday, May 22, 2016

Good bye to all that (what's been happening to my leg)

My legs in better days
Hiking in Picture Rocks, Michigan, 2012
I love my legs.  They have taken me many places in this world and have served me well.  Prior to January 9th, I would walk an average of 20 miles a week.  I love walking, whether in town or through to the neighborhood or maybe to the marina.  As any of you who have read my blog knows, in my past, I’ve done extensive backpacking trips including the Appalachian Trail.  So when on Saturday, January 9th, a freak accident on the foredeck of a sailboat occurred, in which my leg was pinned and my body fell back causing something to snap in my leg, I found myself for the first time since an infant as unable to walk.  I also felt the most horrible pain I’ve ever experienced.  That day, I visited the emergency room.  An x-ray later, I was assured that no bones were broken, that I needed to be evaluated by orthopedic surgeon.  Hopefully, the PA said trying to cheer me up, “it’s just a bad bruise.”  They sent me how with crutches and pain pills. 

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.

After surgery
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. 
Current 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


  1. Dude! Hope your recovery continues!
    I can't imagine what its been like having to be so immobile.
    You've got be thinking, and quite frankly I'm upset with myself, but I had a fairly decent walking habit going during the winter which has petered out now that I have to cut the grass in my yards.

    I really need to get back off my ass and start walking again.

  2. Oh my gosh I really had no idea what you had been going through. I am so sorry. It sure sounds like you are in good spirits despite the challenges and that is over half the battle.

  3. That is a lot to go through. My husband had relatively minor surgery compared to that about 6 weeks ago and still doesn't feel back to normal. It's harder to heal at this age, isn't it?

    Your puzzle is beautiful. Glad you are back to sailing for the summer!

  4. Good to hear that rehab is progressing well. I also understand having one knee/leg that will never be the same as it was. I've had one of those for over two decades now but have grown to know its limitations and how to take care of it to the extent that outside observers would never guess. I hope yours gets to that point as well.

  5. Oh my. This sounds quite painful and like quite a nightmare to have to go through. I'm glad to hear that you are healing and making progress. We don't realize how fortunate we are and how much we take being able to walk and move properly for granted until something like this happens. I hope your knee continues to heal and improve and become stronger.

  6. I've been wondering how your leg was. I'm sorry for all the pain and trouble you had, but I'm glad it's getting better. The fact that your doctor has given you the okay to kayak and sail is awesome.

  7. This sounds horrible - I admire your tenacity!

    Also admiring (on a different level) your puzzle. I work jigsaws regularly and this one looks tough. Too much white/gray. And what a bummer about the missing piece.

  8. I'd be a basket case by now. I love to move and when I can't I'm not good company. Ask my husband. Glad you're on the mend, but what an uphill trek this has been.

    I have that missing puzzle piece. For a fee.. . :-)

  9. Wow, tough period you went through there. I'm glad you are on the mend. I depend on my legs for so much.

  10. I am so pleased you wrote this post and detailed what you have been through - as many may find this very helpful.
    It is surprising the time that the body can take to heal but heal itself it can.
    I am so pleased that after all this time you are beginning to enjoy sailing again.

    I do like that puzzle, a lovely picture.

    Take care, and keep healing

    All the best Jan

  11. Glad you are mended. If you were a woman I'd send you hugs, but since you're not, consider yourself firmly punched on the shoulder.
    I was a bit worried for you.

  12. You're a sturdy, resilient man, Sage. Good, healing thoughts to you and I'm sorry for all the misery and frustrations.
    One small step at a time.

  13. Wishing you the very best. I know it has to be frustrating but sounds like you are well on your way. Consider yourself hugged.

    @Kathleen01930 Blog

  14. I'm so glad to hear that you're up and walking around again. It takes time after doing damage to a part of your body. I broke my shoulder and arm in 3 places last year and I still can't move my arm in the same way that I used to. Even after months of physical therapy I was told that I may never be able to put my arm behind my back again. But I'm still hopeful.

  15. I'm so happy that you're active again. When my wife had knee problems a few years ago cycling was recommended as one of the ways to get back into the action. Well done you! :-)

    Greetings from London.

  16. Fascinating. Sorry, don't mean to sound mercenary. It's just I never really knew what was involved in this sort of injury before. Glad to hear everything's healing at a good rate.
    I understand a bit more what it means when this sort of thing happens to hockey players...Amazing that you're going back to all these activities already. It sort of makes me think I should be exercising more, because a fit body can handle such stuff more easily than a sluggish one...

  17. Glad to hear that you are improving. As active as you are, I'm sure the inactivity was very hard for you. Hang in there!

  18. Glad to hear you are better Sage I know you love move :)
    Nice you can back to make all the things you love.

  19. So glad you can get back to doing the things you love again - like sailing. That was indeed a freak accident, sounds like.

  20. Gosh, I can feel your pain and suffering through each picture. You sure have had quite a bit happening, and the strong and determined person you are is going to pull you out of all of this! You have so much more to see and do and walk and hike. Thank goodness, life is wonderful at every corner isn't it? And when the feet have to rest the eyes take over too!