I’m a bit preoccupied with my recent injury and not blogging about much else, so I might as well update you on The Knee and all it entails. Warning: Self referential commentary and icky stuff below the fold. Friends, you already know much of this. People who don’t know me, you don’t want to read this. This is for the in between people. There will be no discussion of needles, because I’m done with the needles, so E.W., you’re cleared to proceed if you wish.
Not all the people who went into the hospitable two weeks ago on the same day I did made it out alive, or at least so I assume. I’m lucky, and I use the word “luck” as meaninglessly as possible. I’m simply trying to make the point that I am uncomfortable blogging about my own negative experiences in any way other than as parody as humor, as I’ve done before. A friend told me the other day “I loved reading about your injury. I couldn’t stop laughing! That was so funny.” That might not sound like what one wants to hear from somebody who supposedly cares for you, but actually it is. That’s all I wanted from my public writing about this.
I have a new relationship to the world around me for various reasons. I notice hard surfaces more now, and they seem harder. The oaken armrests of the chair I’m sitting in mock my soft human body parts. I am no longer inured to characters on TV getting thrown to the ground or whacked with 2 x 4′s as seems to happen so often. Going down on the ice or missing the landing. Ouch. I feel a little burned by my experience. The world is covered with ouchy surfaces. I don’t like them.
I’m wrestling with the problem of my own neediness. Lots of people are there to help, and everyone has been very good. Mostly, people are graciously taking over the things I used to do but can’t now. So I see my wife now, en passant, as she goes from one thing to another. I discovered something that I can do for her that I never did before, which gives her back some time, and I hope to find more things like that. It is both heart warming and very troubling to find that yes, I really was doing stuff that was needed, and yes, I can (fortunately) be replaced, and yes, this is a huge burden for others. Not that they say it is, but it is.
I’ve discovered that my injury is actually rare and most people who have had “similar” injuries had something really different happen to them. My surgeon carries out hundreds of surgeries a year, and does about five of these a year, tops. The three different home inpatient visitors including two physical therapists I’ve seen have not done this particular kind of injury before. We are all googling me to see what to do and no do. I did not break my knee. I did not break my patella (The fact that some of my patella is gone is a minor aspect of this injury). My tendon was fully retracted. Cut in half. Disconnected. It is an ex-tendon. The knee was not dislocated, there is nothing to be pinned. The tendon simply came off, and then they simply sewed it back on, which involved drilling several holes. On the scale of things that can happen to your knee joint and you keep the leg, this is up near a ten out of ten, but with surgery and proper care I’ll be fine.
Proper care means I don’t move the leg for a long while, yet at the same time, deal with the fact that if I don’t move the leg it will atrophy. So, I do move the leg, but only in certain ways. I have to do one painful and difficult, and in fact rather scary thing a few times a day, and just now a new thing that also turns out to be painful but is so freaky that it is worth it, has been added. So I do maybe five to seven painful variously freaky scary things every day.
Which all sounds bad, but it beats living in a refugee camp in Goma or taking a random bullet on some street corner. I just can’t leave the house, get in car, go pick up my daughter or carry anything delicate or beyond a certain size including a baby.
Progress is so slow that I don’t expect to see a lot of it in any short period of time. Progress is supposed to be slow. That’s the thing. If I push to make “more” (of whatever I’m doing) I’ll break it. I have to bend my knee a certain way, a certain amount. I know I can get the knee to bend more, faster, sooner. That is what one might want to do if this had been a broken bone or a dislocation. But under the circumstances, doing more quicker will break it. More surgery, set back to the beginning, stern looks from the medical staff, delay of start of fishing season, no carrying the baby.
Ok, enough whining. Let’s talk about pain. Some of you may want to leave at this point.
I’ve had my share of injuries and illnesses that hurt, but I know that I’m having a new experience when I get to feel a kind of pain I’ve not felt before. There are several kinds of pain as you know. The stabbing white hot spike, the slicing dulled butcher knife through the joint, throbbing, and so on.
Have you ever had a shiver run through your body, perhaps because you are suddenly cold (or for any other reason)? The shiver really does start in one part of your body and then moves across different, other parts of your body. When it hits my injury, it produces a new kind of pain not like one I’ve felt before, such as a broken bone, torn ligament, muscle spasm, deep bruise, knife or sword wound, or being shot with an arrow. Different. The intensity is doubled if there is a fresh ice pack on the injury. So I’ve learned to put the blanket on when I put on the ice pack on just in case. Shivers hurt. Like a thousand angry grasshoppers jumping up and down on a delicate area of skin. On the pain scale of zero to ten its on a different scale. The weird scale. It’s a four on the weird scale.
The twisted leg pain is also new. It is not an entirely unique pain … I’ve certainly felt the pain of a twisting joint before … but this is a twisting of a joint that is not moving, and that makes me feel as though my leg is somewhere where it isn’t, and at the same time like it is being twisted off. But it is just sitting there. That is one of the two pains that commonly wakes me up. I wake up feeling like something’s got my leg. If I put on the light and remove the blanket and stare at my leg, the pain slows down. That’s the only way to make the pain slow down.
The other waking up pain is a version of the burning poker pain that is a little new for me but not entirely unfamiliar. I should mention that stabbing white hot poker pains do not actually feel like being stuck with a hot poker. That is just how we describe it. The hot poker feels quite different because of the sudden dulling damage to the neurons. This waking pain feels like a hot poker exploding OUT of my knee joint, as though it originated inside somewhere.
I can sit there for long periods of time with what I would call no pain. In fact, the pain is always there, but I don’t feel it. If you ask me I’ll say I don’t feel any pain, then I’ll check in with my knee and the pain is actually there, but I was ignoring it. So when the medical staff asks me about the pain I always pause and think about the answer, because they want to know the truth and not what my brain is pretending.
But really, most of the time the pain is low level with the occasional sudden shift to real pain, which then goes away. Unless I’m taking pain killers at the moment. Then, the low level pain is dulled out of existence unless I really feel for it (which I don’t). But, since I take the pain killers strategically, the spikes of pain that come along are stronger when I’m on the pain killers. The pain is worse by the end of the day, worse at night, and worse after a fair amount of activity.
Formerly, I had two kinds of friends. Those who had seen me in my underwear and those who had not. By the time this is over, I think everyone is going to be in that first category, like it or not. I only have two outfits: A blue robe and another blue robe. I recently made enough adjustments and developed enough finesse to put underpants on and off without too much difficulty or risk. Regular pants (including whatever pants you can think of) are just too difficult because of my brace, and my need to adjust it frequently. Socks are a possibility but so is running for the Senate. Not likely any time soon.
One of the four main muscles that make up my quadriceps would not fire when I tried to flex, which was a concern. So now I have a small electronic device that will make any muscle fire. I think that quad muscle was not firing because when it did it pulled on the knee and caused pain. But now I get to press this button and force it, and having done that a bit I can get the muscle to flex on its own. That’s good. Ouch. But that’s good. But ouch. Well, it does give me something to do!
Two other small items: 1) I always had strangely square knees. Now, one of them is nicely rounded off. 2) This is going to leave a kick-ass scar.
So, I’m not feeling too sorry for myself, and if the above sounds like I am, well, screw you I busted my freakin’ knee, man, get off my case. I am feeling sorry for my family who must endure the dead weight that is me. This enforced inactivity is scheduled for many weeks to come, and that will be followed by slow, controlled, steady rehab.
OK, everyone, stay well.