Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A New Knee On Life

On a post a little over a week ago where I mentioned one of the reasons for hiring the lifting part of our move done was because of a bum knee. I'm not sure I've explained my knee thing before and so I thought I would do just that.

I was 18 years old and helping my father put the finishing touches on a concrete project we were doing on the farm. This meant I was doing a lot of balancing on forms with a hand trowel crouching down and smoothing out rough spots where the bull float couldn't go. While kneeling down at one particular spot, I tried to stand only to find my knee 'locked' in a bent position. I couldn't stand up and there perched on a narrow form over a sea of recently poured concrete, I was in a real pickle. I ended up forcing my knee to straighten and in doing so, heard a loud pop followed by excruciating pain. But somehow I managed to get off the form without messing up the concrete and crawling all the way up to the house on my hands and knees.

I received several incorrect diagnosis as to what happened over the next six months as I had the same thing happen two more times. Once kneeling down to start a weed eater and once while kneeling down to put in a tent peg high up in the mountains and miles from any road much less doctor. That last one really scared me as I hobbled out of the mountain using a stick for a crutch wondering if I was going to make it back to the car. Finally it was diagnosed as torn cartilage in my knee joint and the torn flap kept getting folded back in the joint causing my knee to lock up. When I was forcing my knee to straighten, I was actually tearing my cartilage even worse. I had surgery to 'fix' the tear which meant that they just trimmed the tear out of my cartilage making it smaller.

The doctor had said it would take two to three weeks to return to normal and it took around 52 weeks. My leg would swell up and get very stiff and sore at the drop of a hat and take weeks to return to normal. But eventually everything healed up and life returned to normal. I felt normal. They about six years after the first surgery, I was mountain biking with some new clipless pedals and ended up dismounting rather suddenly on the downhill side of my bike and hyper extending my operated on knee and tearing the cartilage again.

This time however, I got it 'fixed' with more trimming by a different doctor and was about back to normal after two to three weeks as promised. I say about because it never really did get back to normal. By this time I was down to significantly less cartilage in one knee which means anytime I ran or did stuff that impacted my knee, the cushioning effect of my cartilage with less of it meant my bones were in effect hitting each other. It would cause me knee to swell up and get painfully stiff for weeks on end and every now and then fracture off a bone splinter which would puncture the fluid sac around the knee joint and create huge blister like bulges. All of it was very painful.

I have been to doctors over the years but have gotten varied responses. One said that my knee looked like a 60 year old and would probably be replaced. Another said that it looked healthy and that I shouldn't have any problems even if it hurt right at that moment. Most were somewhere in between. Over the years I have learned how to deal with it. I don't run anymore for sure and when I jump, I land on my good leg and not the bad one. I reduced my attacks of swelling to maybe a few weeks a year and just learned to live with some residual stiffness in the joint. But over the last month since I've been laid off from my former job, my knee has gotten much better to the point that it feels normal again for the first time in a decade even after the pounding it got from the move which would have taken me weeks to recover from.

I'm not sure why but I suspect that it is due to my change of jobs. I went from a job that required me to stand on concrete for extended periods of time doing tests to sitting in a chair for extended periods of time working on a computer. There wasn't a lot of walking between those two things. Now that I've been laid off, I've spent the last month of my life working on a house which means I am walking from here to there, up and down stairs and ladders and am rarely stationary or standing in one spot. I think this is strengthening the knee joint up in ways that exercising them on a bike doesn't do. It certainly will make me think long and hard about taking another similar job to my last one.


warren said...

That sucks! Hiring crappy work is always good anyhow, but with a bad have to do it!

Ed said...

Warren - For the most part I've been enjoying the work. Mostly because now I am my own boss and don't have to play office politics anymore. I can't believe I 'waited' this long to try this!