Warning: this post contains graphic images.
One year ago this month I was training for a 5k race. The entry fee was paid, and I was excited. This course was going to be flat and fast. I was sure I could be competitive.
On the Monday before the race I went out for a what would have been a four-mile run. After two miles I felt my right knee get tighten up. That’s when it happened. I felt a snap and instant pain. Dang it. I wouldn’t be getting a T-shirt on Saturday.
My knee was extremely painful, but it didn’t swell very much. The pain was keeping my up at night so I called my doctor. She asked me a lot of questions about how and where it hurt. (Why does it never hurt that much in the doctor’s office?) She pushed and pulled and moved it around. She said there was not any complete ligament tears since my knee was “intact.” And there was no catching or clicking either. She put me on some prescription-strength anti-inflammatory pain medication and sent me for an x-ray.
The x-ray didn’t show any fractures, but didn’t show much of anything else as expected. Only an MRI would give a definitive diagnosis.
Finally, after six months I decided to get the MRI which confirmed the original diagnosis. The report read “there is a medial meniscal tear identified . . . involving the body and posterior horn of the medial meniscus.” Surgery was the only option if I wanted to return to running. It was more that just wanting to run. I needed to run. It’s not good for an Army officer who can’t run. Besides that, running was my best stress relief.
Last Wednesday, almost one year after the injury, I finally had the surgery. Below are the photos of my knee taken during the surgery. (Click on images for full size.) Images #2-#4 show the damaged and frayed meniscal cartilage. Even to my untrained eye, it looks pretty bad. All that frayed stuff was preventing the full range of motion and occasionally would cause some pain. Imagine #1 shows some stuff that had accumulated around the joint.
These photos, #5 & #8, show the debridement of the damaged cartilage. I don’t know what image #6 shows, but you can see the tip of one of the arthroscopic instruments. Image #7 shows all the junk the doctor cleaned out.
The doctor said I had “good looking knees,” but in about 15 years I might start having some knee pain and arthritis because I have less cartilage now. But by then I would be a good candidate for a knee replacement. So, this surgery comes with a 15-year warranty.
I walked out of the surgery center with just three small stitches around my knee, but I was still very sleepy and nauseous. I didn’t feel like eating; I just wanted to go back to sleep. Later that night I snarfed down some pizza, but what I really wanted was a fat, juicy cheese burger. Or a steak. Cheeseburgers are my comfort food of choice after traumatic or physically demanding events. That’s what I craved the most after Basic Training.
I spent the rest of the week and the weekend flat on my back with my knee elevated above the level of my heart. I started the physical therapy the next day which was more painful than the surgery. One of the exercises involved bending my knee until it was tight then straightening it. As I bend my knee I heard and felt the most awful crunching sounds. But I can’t wait to be able to run again soon.
The pain medicine hasn’t really given me much relief. But there was one thing I knew would do the trick. Late one night, I cooked up a big cheeseburger! I savored the juicy beef, the cheddar cheese, the garden-fresh tomatoes, the thinly sliced onions, and the thick mayonnaise.
I felt no pain.