Dec 6, 2016

A Pain in the Knee, Part II (aka The Surgery)

If you are just tuning in today, go back to yesterday's blog for Part I to get the full story.

So I got an appointment with physician's assistant to the Ortho who looked at my knee and listened to me explain everything. She told that the MRI showed a torn meniscus, which is basically along the side of the knee but otherwise my results were all normal. However as she listened to me talk about my knee and what I have been experiencing for the last 16 years, she said it sounded just like patella slipping/dislocation. She said it wasn't all that crazy for the MRI to be normal but for there to be an actual problem.

So she basically took my right knee, which is my strong knee and showed me what she wanted to try on my left to test it out. Luckily she said my right knee felt strong. And when she moved along to my left, she confirmed that it was definitely loose.

So the biggest question was where do we go from here. I honestly didn't think they would do anything. I was sure that without something showing up on the MRI, there was nothing to fix. But she said told me that for every day problems like me where it slips out of place doing every day activities, they can tighten it back up. In order to keep the knee in place, there is a rubber band type thing that holds it in place. Over time with each time it slips out, it stretches it. Just like with a rubber band it doesn't shrink back up which means it's easier to slip. But they could fix it by folding it over and tightening it back up, which would stop it from slipping out and dislocating. At the same time they would fix the tear they saw which would not repair itself otherwise but was unrelated to the problems I had been having.

So suddenly I had a outpatient knee surgery scheduled in two weeks. I was floored. First of all I didn't think anyone would ever do anything about it and second I didn't know it could happen so fast. It all seemed a little crazy considering it was December 2, right before the holidays and I had two small kids. But I was ready and we were excited to finally get this problem of 16 years fixed.

I was a bundle of nerves leading up to it, especially since my knee had finally stopped hurting so it was hard to not question why this was a good idea. I had to constantly remind myself that it would just slip out again and what if I was on the stairs or holding Connor when it happened. It was finally time to fix this.

The day of the surgery came and I was starving and had to pee (TMI??). Between midnight to six am I could only have two pieces of plain toast and 8 ounces of clear liquid then nothing after six. My surgery wasn't until 1:30 that day so I was definitely hungry. I had to shower and brush my teeth that morning but I had to be careful not to swallow any water. I was also told that I had to leave a urine sample (they had to double check that I wasn't pregnant - turns out, I'm not) but without being able to drink anything all day I was afraid I wouldn't be able to go there which meant no surgery so it was a long morning, let's just say.

But we got to the surgery center - it was just an outpatient center and also the same place I had a lump from under my arm removed years ago - and it was busy. But as we were told that at the end of the year they get busy because everyone has met their deductible and Fridays are just a busy day. The truth is part of the reason we decided to do it when we did was because I had met my deductible thanks to having a baby. I got all checked in and just waited to get called back.

Once I went back, I went through all the leaving my urine sample, answering questions, telling about a hundred people that it was my left knee - left knee - left knee. They really don't like when they do surgery on the wrong side. I also got changed into a gown and given the most painless IV in my hand. At that point they let Rob come back and hang out with me while we waited for the doctor to come in and just wait for the surgery in general.

The anesthesiologist came back and we went through a few questions then he told me about how they like to do a nerve block in surgeries like this. There are risks but in my case they didn't see how those would be any problem for me and would definitely be the best thing in order to help with pain for the next 24 hours and that meant less anesthesia during the surgery itself (which has its own risks). So I agree to it. Rob had to go back to the waiting room because this was a procedure.

They numbed the area and gave me some sedation to help me relax then used an ultrasound to find the right area of the femoral artery to numb. I was awake - although tired and a little out of it thanks to the drugs - but it was definitely weird. They basically triggered spasms in my leg to find the right area to numb. I heard them say that they needed the patella to jump - which is a bit of a freaky statement. But in no time at all, they got it all numbed, which felt a little like an epidural only just my thigh to just below my knee was numb. My leg basically felt like it weighed a hundred pounds.

Right after that was down, my doctor came back and talked to me about the surgery. Honestly I can't remember much of that since I still had the sedation from the nerve block but by that point I had said what we were doing and which knee several time. His main reason for coming was to actually initial my left knee.

Rob was able to come back and hang out with me for a bit before they took me back. Things started moving pretty quickly at that point and Rob was only with me for a few minutes before it was time for my surgery. He went back to the waiting room and the hot chocolate that waited for him and I was wheeled back to the OR. They put something on my other leg that basically kept massaging it to keep blood flowing and prevent blood clots. They hooked me up to monitors and gave me an oxygen mask and told me to take some deep breaths.

The next thing I know I'm waking up in recovery. The nurse asked if I needed anything I said sleep and she told me to sleep. A little bit later I woke again, and this time she offered me something to drink and some food. I took her up on the animal crackers and water then asked for Rob. She wanted to wait a few more minutes then would go get him. Apparently by this point I had been out for about an hour and a half to two hours. The surgery itself had only taken about 30 minutes. Pretty soon, Rob was able to come back and they went over all the post-operative care with him since I was a little out of it then I could go. It was then that I saw the giant brace on my leg that meant I could go from straight to 30 degrees but no more. We didn't want me undoing all the work they did basically.

I struggled into the wheelchair with the top of my leg still numb from the nerve block but at least I was still allowed to put weight on it. It was just hard. Then we were on our way home. I was exhausted just getting from the car to my bed using crutches and going up to flights of stairs (stupid house for knee surgery) and ready to eat and relax.


Rob told me later that the doctor went out to talk to him after the surgery and said everything went well. The tear that they saw on the MRI wasn't actually there after all so there was nothing to fix there. While I was under before they fixed my knee, they did push on my knee cap to see how far it went which is a crazy thought to me. Apparently it went quite a ways so it was good it was getting fixed. But everything went well.

So now it's time to heal. I have to use crutches when I need to (and since I'm only a few days out from surgery, I still need to use them), but I can bear weight on it. I had to wait 48 hours to take a shower and I had to start doing four exercises about 3 times a day. I am mostly taking it easy and just trying to find a way to get comfortable at night sleeping. I have medicine to help with the swelling, plus I had to ice it every hour for 15-20 minutes. I was also given pain medication which I take as needed. While the nerve block was working I didn't have to take it much but now that it's worn off I am definitely taking more pain medication.

Mostly I'm just bored at this point and I'm only a few days into this 4-6 weeks of this brace and being laid up. Pants are also impossible to wear because of the huge brace so as long as I don't have to go out, I wear shorts around the house. I have to set up a pile of pillows to up my leg up on when I sleep to have it above my heart to help with swelling. It's just taking a lot of adjusting and it's hard to get around. It's hard to be able to pick up my kid when he's crying.

So that's where we are right now. I'm sure I'll add more to this ongoing story as more develop. I have 4-6 weeks of how things are now then from there I have probably about 6 months of rehab to get my knee back but then I have a new normal with two good knees. So stay tuned for more to this story as time passes.

xo, B

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