One of the best ways to appreciate something…

…is to not have it for a while. Like showers. God, I appreciated showers so much yesterday afternoon. (I initially wrote “this afternoon”, but I keep forgetting that 12:45am is technically Thursday.)

Perhaps I should clarify a little bit. It hadn’t been that long since I’d taken a shower. It’s not like you could see a layer of crust forming on the surface of my skin yet, but it was getting to the point where I could scratch various parts of me and end up with dead skin cells under my fingernails. Icky.

I don’t have to take a shower every day to avoid such catastrophes, but when I do take a shower, I use a scrub brush. (No, it’s not a toilet brush, though that would probably serve the same purpose and there’d be no shame in using it on my butt.) Using the brush helps get rid of the dead skin cells, leaving my skin bright and shiny. That may be why I spend so much time in the basement—I don’t want to go outside and blind people with my bright and shininess. Just doin’ y’all a favor.

The last shower I took at home was Thursday afternoon before my Managerial Finance exam. I took another at the hotel in Chicago on Saturday morning, but all they had was a bar of soap. When that happens, an old Zest commercial usually pops into my head. “Most soaps leave a sticky film on you that won’t rinse away…” That’s about what it felt like: clean, but sticky. Which sounds really gross when you think about it.

Didn’t take one at the hotel Sunday morning, spent the day driving home (technically riding home, so thanks to Marie and Porter for the ride and for letting me sleep in the back seat—I was uber exhausted), woke up early Monday morning and subsequently lost permission to take a shower for two days. My leg was wrapped up in a long elastic bandage that stretched from my ankle up to my lower thigh. In the middle of that, my knee was huge. Thankfully, almost none of it was swelling—I took the dressing off before getting into the shower and it was in two layers that each looked as thick as a baby diaper, which is why I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to squeeze it into a pair of jeans.

Anyway, I was supposed to wait for two days after surgery before taking a shower (taking a bath or going swimming will be a lot longer, but all I needed was to rinse off at that point). It was Wednesday afternoon—two days later—when I went into the bathroom, unwrapped my leg, removed the baby diapers and saw my knee. It doesn’t look too bad.

There are two spots at the top of the kneecap, one on either side, which is where the scopes went in. Below that… I think Dr. Lewis basically extended the scar that was already there as opposed to opening up the same spot or making a cut next to the first one. He must have done something since those little holes above my kneecap aren’t big enough for pulling out a screw, but it’s hard to tell exactly what because of the little white Steri-strips covering it.

I’d say I jumped into the shower next, but big movements like that are still a delicate operation. I can walk up and down the stairs one step at a time as opposed to using both feet on each step, but trying to do it quickly would be asking for an express trip down to the lower level. I’m making good progress, so why push it?

And now I’ve got class tomorrow… today. (6:00pm, so in about 16 1/2 hours.) During that time, I’ll take my car for a short test drive and decide if I can get to school myself or if I’ll need a ride. Once I get to school, I’ll have to decide whether I want to try to look normal (or at least as normal as I’m capable of looking) or play up my injury and try to get some pity points. If I go with the latter and no one cares, hey, at least when I get home, I’ll be able to curl up in the shower for a good cry.

Scalpel… clamps… scr– Where’s the screwdriver?!

Looking back through the archives, it took me about two weeks before I wrote about what happened the last time I had knee surgery. Yes, the last time I had it: this was Operation #2. I played soccer for a couple months in there, but I’m off the field for a while again. How long? Well, it’ll be a lot less than last time.

Now that I think about it, this has been a really long process. If not for insurance reasons, I could have set the surgery date for October 7th. Maybe I’ll go back to all of that in a later entry, but for now, I promised a bunch of people that I’d let them know how surgery went.

Surgery was scheduled for 11:00, so I got to sleep past 8:00—when I woke up, I was still really tired and thought about resetting my alarm for a couple hours later. It was a long weekend and I was planning on plenty of rest and recovery given my current lack-of-schedule, so why the hell would I wake up so early if I didn’t need to? It took me a moment to remember that yes, I needed to.

Things started out swimmingly when I got to the front desk to check in and the woman there asked me for two things: my driver’s license and insurance card. The problem was that I followed the instructions to leave all of my valuables at home. Among those valuables: my wallet, which contained my driver’s license and insurance card. Mom and Dad had driven me to the hospital and Mom offered to drive back to the house, but since all of my information was in the system (they got it from my pre-surgery physical two weeks earlier), they let it slide. Off to a great start, right?

Thankfully, that was pretty much the only hitch of the morning. They brought me back to my room, I put on my gown and long purple “Bair Paws” socks, laid back, got a needle stuck in the back of my hand, talked with my parents for a while… no big deal.

Actually, I guess there was sort of a hitch in there, but it was a physical hitch: the nurse was having some trouble shaving my knee. She carries a shaver with her and each room has a shaver head attached to a holder on the wall. She snapped them together, turned it on, dragged it up my leg and didn’t accomplish much. (For those who haven’t seen them, my legs are kinda hairy.) It felt like she was tugging on the hair more than cutting it, which wasn’t really pleasant. The next pass, she moved much more slowly and MAGIC! The shaver started working properly! My leg hair was grateful.

Dr. Lewis came in soon after—the same doctor who did my ACL replacement surgery—for a quick consultation and I told him about some pains I’d been having in my shin recently. I first noticed it when I’d been riding an exercise bike, but it sprung up the day before as well during a long car ride. The spot was about two inches below the kneecap on the left side of my shin. He was feeling around with his thumb while we talked, then found a spot and started pressing down on it. Apparently, that’s where he put the tibial screw when attaching the new ACL. I don’t know if it was coming loose or just sticking out a little and causing irritation, but it’s kind of a moot point, seeing as how the screw is currently located in a sterile plastic bag on a table across the room.

Soon after that, I was wondering why I could hear so many people making so much noise before my operation started. It was because the operation was over and I was in the recovery room. Things were pretty fuzzy for a while after that and I’ve double-checked with my parents about what happened between unconsciousness and leaving the hospital a few hours later.

As previously mentioned, the surgery was scheduled for 11:00. Dr. Lewis was talking to my parents in the waiting room by 11:20. Needless to say, everything went smoothly. “Everything” ended up being more than we thought it might be, but MRI scans apparently don’t always show everything that’s going on.

Just as a quick aside, when I went in for my first consultation with Dr. Lewis in September because of the problems with the back of my knee, he gave me three options: 1) go back to playing soccer and see what happens; 2) get a cortisone shot; or 3) have a scope done and see what we find. I opted for 1 and 3: I played soccer for a couple weeks without any problems, but I’m definitely glad I decided to have surgery as well.

The official diagnosis is… (._.)?

Yep, it’s a head-scratcher, all right. I thought getting the scans done would provide some answers. I was wrong.

I got an appointment with the specialist on Wednesday, so I picked up the MRI results from the clinic on Tuesday afternoon to bring to my appointment. (What’s funny is that they told me I was supposed to sign for the results—maybe I have a trustworthy face, but the person at the desk ended up leaving the form paper-clipped to the envelope instead of taking it off for me to sign.)

So I brought it home and curiosity got the best of me, so I opened it up to take a look. I opted not to look at the images on the CD and instead read through the report from the radiologist. Depending on your viewpoint, the news could be interpreted in two ways. First: it didn’t show anything. My knee looks pretty much awesome. That’s good. However, that also doesn’t explain what’s wrong with it. It may look really nice on the MRI, but I know there’s something pushing against the back that’s there in the right (surgically altered) knee and not the left.

When I went to visit Dr. Lewis (the specialist and knee surgeon who cut me open the first time), I told them that the news was mixed: it didn’t show anything, so it didn’t provide any explanations. They ended up having me get some x-rays done (they wanted me to change into some of their cheap linen shorts, but I’ve gone through this stuff enough to wear soccer shorts underneath my jeans). When Dr. Lewis looked at the results of the MRI and the x-rays… not a clue what the problem is.

I shouldn’t say that. There might be a problem, but it might not be a problem and it still probably wouldn’t explain what’s wrong. When he looked at all the scans, my knee looks really healthy. There are no obvious problems, though on the inner part of my knee, there’s a lighter part that might indicate something wrong. It’s not light enough to show a tear in the meniscus, but it might be something wrong. He figured that if we scope it, there’s a 50/50 chance that he’ll find anything.

Which means we have a potential issue, which probably wouldn’t affect the back of my knee regardless. Truth is, one of the options he gave me was to just ignore it and go back to playing soccer again, see if something happens. The other options he gave me were a cortisone shot (which wouldn’t do much more than relieve any pain I’m feeling… and it doesn’t really hurt, but it’s annoying) and arthroscopic surgery to see how the 50/50 odds pan out.

Thus, I opted to have him take a peek on October 31st. (As as added bonus, if I’m feeling whacked out from painkillers, I can answer the door and scare all the little kids looking for candy.) Trust me, ignoring it was reeeeeeeally tempting, but there were two reasons why I decided to have Dr. Lewis poke around inside my knee.

First off, the curiosity factor. I could let it go, but that wouldn’t provide me with any answers, especially the deal with the back of my knee. Ignorance may be bliss, but whatever this thing doesn’t like being ignored very much. The second (and more important) is that one of the signs of a tear in the meniscus is the knee locking up. If it suddenly stops moving, it might be pinching the tear and the knee stops to prevent any further damage. Something like that, anyway.

Looking back a couple months ago… or maybe more than a couple months… my knee did just that. I was running across the field and it locked up as I was striding forward. Again, it didn’t hurt and seemed like an inconvenience at the time, but if it’s a sign of a larger problem… yeah, I want to have Dr. Lewis take a look and see what’s going on.

So on Halloween, there are two likely possibilities. The first is that he won’t find anything and I’ll be stuck with (._.)? for a long, long time. The second is that there’ll be a small tear or something wrong and he might have to cut away some of the meniscus. That’s not necessarily a good thing—I’ve got a limited amount and it won’t grow back—but at least it won’t cause me any problems in the future (I hope).

In the meantime, it’s tempting to play soccer for the next couple weeks until surgery, but I’m totally out of shape at this point. I haven’t been on the field since April and haven’t had a decent amount of exercise since then. I guess maybe helping to move lots of furniture and stuff like that might help, but that doesn’t provide much cardiovascular exercise, so if I try running around, it wouldn’t be long before I’d be a somewhat muscular wheezing puddle of Shawn out on the field. Probably not such a good idea, but we’ll see what happens.

In the meantime… I just hope the only confusing things I have to deal with in the future are based entirely on Managerial Finance. And in theory, I’ll be able to find answers to those.

The results are in, but…

The specialist said on Monday that the MRI results would be ready in 2-3 business days. The radiologist at the clinic didn’t look at them until Thursday evening, which is probably why I didn’t get a phone call about the results until I called them on Friday afternoon. By the time I finally talked to one of their nurses on the phone, it was too late in the day (and thus too late in the week unless the front desk is open on Saturday) to take the next step: set up an appointment with the orthopedist.

Turns out I still don’t know what the problem is. The scan shows that the ACL graft was fine and there isn’t a Baker’s cyst. It looks like the meniscus in my knee is swollen, but the doc doesn’t know why. I’d say we’re back to Square 1, but since we know two things that aren’t the problem, I’ll say we’re at Square 1A. That’s not very comforting. So now I have to sit back and wait until next week at the earliest to get some idea of what’s wrong and how to make it right again. I’m generally okay with waiting, but this is getting ridiculous.

I fell asleep in the MRI tube again

I guess this story stretches back awhile. Not sure how much of it I may have told before, so I’ll start from the beginning (at least of this chapter).

I was playing soccer after my car accident for a couple weeks (after a short break—I’m not that crazy) and at one point, I was running and felt a sudden flareup in the back of my right knee. Yes, the one that’s surgically repaired. I subbed out of the game immediately and was able to hobble over to the side of the field under my own power, but I was able to do that when I tore my ACL the first time.

That was my big concern: I might have retorn it. Over the next few days, I’d feel pressure against the back of my knee sometimes. Without the ligament, there’s no support to keep it from hyperextending and it felt like that’s what was happening. I scheduled an appointment with the knee specialist as soon as I could and spent the next week being almost positive that I’d need surgery again. Continue reading “I fell asleep in the MRI tube again”

The circumstances had to be just right

Well, the results of my PT appointment weren’t what I’d hoped, but given the nature of what happened during the game yesterday, it’s not like I had high hopes to begin with.

As soon as I got there, I told Chad (the physical therapist) that I had a question unrelated to my shoulder. He didn’t know about the knee surgery, so the first thing he did was have me lie down and bend my knees so he could pull and push my legs in different directions. The ACL graft and knee structure are about as symmetrical as they can get, which meant there wasn’t an obvious reason for the right one to lock up like it did.

His best guess: When I got hurt, there was a slight tear in my meniscus along with the torn ACL. Since it was slight, the doc didn’t trim anything off since the pad between your knee bones doesn’t grow back. It’s possible that the tiny flap moved in just the right (or wrong) direction to start getting pinched between the bones. As soon as that happened, the muscles locked up to protect it, thus preventing the tear from getting worse as well as allowing my body to tumble to the ground.

It’s a feasible explanation and doesn’t rule out the possibility of a repeat performance. I’m willing to take that chance—something as simple as this isn’t going to keep me off the soccer field—but if my knees become totally symmetrical and both start locking up at random times, Chad may have to come up with a new best guess.