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Adventures in Orthopedic Medicine

Since I’ve been bitching about this stupid right knee of mine for decades, it seems, I finally made an appointment with an orthopedic specialist to have it evaluated. I’ll be honest with you — I assumed I was looking at a complete knee replacement after having it x-rayed nine years ago and being told, “You know that knee ain’t right.” Even socked away one paycheck to cover the deductible for our insurance and everything.

Well. After a somewhat fraught night (my biggest fear was that they’d take a look at me and say, “Yeah, we can’t operate on you. Come back when you’ve lost fifty pounds”) and an even more fraught morning where I found out that they wanted to move my appointment up an hour and fifteen minutes, I headed off to meet my new doctor. Everyone at the front desk was seriously friendly — point one in their favor. I got shown into an exam room super quickly (point two) while the nurse took a couple of details, then the X-ray tech escorted me off to the X Ray room to take 4 different shots of my knees — front, rear, bent from the side, bent from overhead. The one in this post is from the front, I believe, and my right knee, aka ShitKnee, is on the left side of the image. A layman can tell that there’s something wrong with it.

Then the doctor came in. He was super nice and cheerful, and immediately put me at my ease about everything. We reviewed each of the x-rays, and he told me that I had the normal amount of wear in my left knee for a 54-year-old woman (go me). Then we discussed ShitKnee.

It turns out that the official name for my problem is chondromalacia of the right patella. I have very shallow tracks in both knees for my patellae (“It’s morphological, you got it from your parents,” he said. I replied that my dad had bad knees all his life. “There you go — blame your dad”), and ShitKnee’s patella is way out of alignment with its track. The strain that’s putting on the muscles is causing inflammation and pulling the joint inwards towards my other knee, which also causes mucho pain as I hobble around. To demonstrate what was going on, he was able to gently straighten out my knee with his hands. Mind you, that was not fun by any means, but it proved it could be done.

And then he shocked the poo out of me. He said that replacement surgery was always a last resort, and that a patella problem like mine is the easiest to fix with PT. “I prefer to try a biological solution first,” he said. I agreed that yeah, that would be my preferred method as well. We settled on 6-8 weeks of PT, 2-3 times a week (well, hell, I have the money socked away for the surgery–I can use it for the PT), with a return visit in six weeks to re-evaluate the knee and see what’s going on with it. I cannot adequately describe the intense relief I felt after he told me that. I had resigned myself to getting a knee replacement and learning to live with it, and to hear, “Yeah, no, this can be fixed with PT” was astounding.

One other thing that I really liked about this doctor — he said, “This is not your fault. You could go climb Kilimanjaro tomorrow, if you wanted. It would hurt like heck, but you wouldn’t do any additional damage to the knee.” Translation: my knee problems aren’t due to me being fat. I just have shallow patellar tracks — it’s how they developed in utero. Which makes sense because Dad was always a gym rat and very fit for much of his life, but that didn’t stop him from having shitty knees. I thought was exceptionally kind of the doctor to mention that.

I’ve already picked a place from the list of rehab centers he gave me and made an appointment for next week, and after watching a YouTube video I now have ShitKnee wrapped with a cradle support of KT tape. I have to say, doing that made me a believer — the knee still hurts, but the tape is providing enough support for my patella that I can put my right foot flat on the floor instead of walking on the outer edge towards the ball of my foot (you would not believe the callus I have there). Even better, I was able to make dinner without breaking out into a rolling sweat and having to sit down from the pain, and I may well clean the downstairs bathroom today. Small steps, but they’re moving me in the right direction.

Let’s Get Healthy! (AKA Run Fat Writer, Run!)

Hoo boy. So I’m sitting here writing this on my laptop while sweat is dripping merrily off my face and hair and rolling into my t-shirt, and my knees, calves, and ankles are throbbing like the rhythm of the samba on a hot Rio night. Why am I so drenched (not to mention throbbing), you ask?

I walked for ten minutes on the treadmill.

Yes, it was just ten minutes. Yes, it was just walking. Yes, I’m sweatier than a social media baron in front of a Congressional committee. Did I mention that I’ve already done ten treadmilling minutes today, and I’ll do one more bout before showering and bed tonight?

Audience: “Um … why?”

I’m so glad you asked. See, one of the problems of my job is that it tends to be seriously sedentary, which is not good for your average 52-year-old human, especially when that human also has a couple of metabolic disorders and a lot of extra weight. It also makes it difficult to do things like sleep (because my knees and heels are hurting like a stone bitch. You have no idea what I’d do right now for a decent night’s sleep — I would cheerfully shank Keanu Reeves if it meant I wouldn’t wake up every hour with my knees on fire). I’d also like to start traveling again at some point, and enjoy myself without dreading walking around these new and exciting places. In order to do that, however, I know full well what I have to do — I have to get off my ass and rebuild the nice leg muscles that support all these increasingly old joints, not to mention develop a faint glimmer of stamina.

In order to achieve this, I’m doing what the medical profession has been recommending for some years now — I’m walking for thirty minutes every day. Not really fast — I think I’m doing about 1.5 MPH, so that’s along the lines of a slow stroll. But it’s consistent and enough to get my heart pumping and blood circulating through all those big-ass muscles in my legs. I started this on Tuesday, which makes today Day Three, and boy I can tell. Tuesday night, I was in fucking agony and couldn’t sleep until I came downstairs and took my last two Midol and 500 mgs of CBD oil. Wednesday night I got smart and took some new Midol and a dose of Green Lotus before I went to bed. Slept remarkably well that night, only waking up a few times to pee. I’m hoping the same thing will happen tonight, and I eventually get to the point where I don’t have to dose myself with painkillers just to get some sleep.

“Yeah, yeah, we get it. You’re walking for health reasons and so that you don’t have to shiv Keanu. Why are you walking in ten minute chunks?”

Because a friend suggested it. Turns out that you don’t have to walk for 30 minutes consecutively — you can break it up and still get all the benefits of walking. And okay, I could walk for 30 minutes consecutively at the moment but I would not be happy at the end of it, and the thought of doing it over and over again every day until the end of time would make me cry.

So I’m breaking it up into bite-sized chunks; I put in my headphones and listen to Pod is My Copilot while I slog along the treadmill for ten minutes. The cats think I’m absolutely insane, by the way, but that may be because I’m laughing hysterically with Taffy, Taylor, and Rodan as I plod (seriously, check them out — they’re incredibly entertaining). And crazy as it sounds, this works. Even I can fit in ten minutes around writing or doing chores, and when I sit back down to work the brain is full of oxygenated blood. Even better, I seem to be more willing to dive back into the WIP. And anything that put words on the page is A-OK with me.

By the way, I don’t know if I’m losing any weight doing this — I’m not really focusing on that, to be honest. The goal is to build my leg muscles and stamina back up. If I shed some pounds, great, but I’m more interested in being able to sleep through the night and walk around nice places like New Orleans without wanting to shoot myself.

And like I said, it’s only Day Three. I’ll check back in on Day Ten and let you know how I’m doing (unless y’all want me to do a daily report — I can do that if there’s any interest).