Knee Surgery: A Recap

Hello friends, and happy Monday! It’s been a while… and I guess I’ll share a more in-depth “surgery recap” since I have not been doing anything else these last two weeks. Is a surgery recap a thing? Like a race recap? Well, I’m doing it…

On the Tuesday after my last post, I went in for surgery. For those of you who’ve followed my blog or have been in my life, you’ll know I’ve had moderate to severe knee pain in my left knee over the last 2-3 years.  After countless chiropractor visits, doctors visits, trial and error, and frustration, I found an orthopedic surgeon who came up with a different theory I hadn’t heard before… the hardware and screws from my ACL reconstruction surgery in 2008 MAY have been pushing on tendons and nerves behind my knee, causing the pain.  We scheduled surgery and I went in on 07/25.

The surgery went well, but had a complication because as he began unscrewing the screw from my tibia, it broke. UGH.  He had to make a decision in surgery, to leave the remaining part of the screw, or to dig/chisel the screw out of my bone.  Because of the pain I had been having, and the fact that the screw was still poking out the back of my tibia, the surgeon decided to get it out. This involved chiseling and digging the screw out of my bone.  The hole in my tibia was packed with parts of my bone and a putty like substance called calcium tri-phosphate. The surgeon also removed some of my meniscus that was torn.  The surgery lasted about 3 hours total, and I went home the same day.

Photo Jul 25, 3 10 11 PM

Home from the first surgery.

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Broken screw, huge staple and anchor, removed from my left tibia.

I don’t remember a whole lot about Tuesday and Wednesday. I know I was on a lot of pain meds, and pretty groggy from the anesthesia and pain meds combined. My pain was pretty well under control, and I was very glad to have Chris and my mom with me to help.  We undressed the wound Friday, and everything looked pretty good. My leg was really bruised, and the incision was a bit more sore than it had been, as I’d began moving my leg here and there to regain some range of motion.  I had spent the first several days completely non-weight bearing, and will need to stay this way for 6 weeks.

Saturday and Sunday went by, nothing really of note, lots of sleeping. Sunday I showered, and noticed when the wound was undressed that there was some drainage. After my shower, it was still draining and leaking. We covered it up, and went onto Monday. I had therapy Monday, and because the wound was still draining (up until Sunday, it was pretty much dry), I called the doctor and made an appointment.  The surgeon said it may be a product called calcium tri-phosphate, which they used to help pack the bone where it was chiseled out. He said my body may be rejecting the calcium tri-phosphate putty, and it may be finding the easiest way out, which would be via my wound. The liquid was mostly blood, but was also chalky, but not looking like puss.  The doctor started me on antibiotics, just in case, and he took a swab to make sure it wasn’t infected.

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Monday, 07/31. 6 days post (first) surgery.

Tuesday and Wednesday, much the same, whenever I took the bandages off to clean and replace them, it was like my leg turned into a bloody, chalky mess.  I saw the doctor again on Wednesday, and he said though there wasn’t an infection, he wanted to open the wound and get all the calcium tri-phosphate out make sure there is no infection, and just clean things up.  My heart dropped. I did not want to have another surgery, but alas, it was necessary.

Thursday, 08/03, I went in for the second surgery, which took about 45 minutes, and I was completely under anesthesia.  The doctor had me stay overnight to ensure that everything went okay, especially since he placed a drain in my leg, to be absolutely sure all the calcium tri-phosphate was able to get out.  Chris was allowed to stay with me, which I was grateful for.  My incision was very painful after the second surgery, and I was in a decent amount of pain that first day, as well as being poked and prodded and awoken by nurses throughout the night.  I had more antibiotics while in the hospital, and even though there was still no chance of infection, the doctor was being extra careful.

Friday morning, we got to go home. Friday was a lot of napping and trying not to move my leg because the incision was very touchy.  Friday night into Saturday, I’m pretty sure I slept about 11 hours, and after laying around in bed for a few hours, I ate, and then promptly took a 3 hour nap. I was making up for the lack of sleep in the hospital, I guess. The pain was more under control, but most of the day was slept away.

Photo Aug 04, 10 23 58 AM

Home from my second surgery. Let’s hope this is the last one.

Yesterday, I was able to undress the wound from the second surgery. The incision is a lot more angry looking, with more severe stitches holding everything in place. So far (fingers double crossed), there hasn’t been any drainage. I will begin therapy again today, and may pay a visit to my chiropractor, as my hips and back feel all out of whack.  I should be able to return to work next week – I will see my surgeon Friday and hope to get a release.

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Sunday, August 6. 3 days post (second) surgery.

As far as I know, I’ll still be non-weight bearing for a full 6 weeks, and will have therapy to regain range of motion and strength.  I have 3 races scheduled for this fall, and will have 3 DNS’ most likely. There’s a small chance I may walk the KC 5k in mid October (I’m signed up for the 10k), but I have to forfeit that one as well. Plaza 10k is definitely off the table in early September, and so is the Detroit Marathon (or half, or 5k – small chance for the 5k, but it’s not likely).

Although I had been frustrated with the setbacks with my knee, I’m very happy with my surgeon and I’m very hopeful that the recovery will go smoothly from here, and I will be able to regain strength, range of motion, and endurance in my legs.  I’m not going to rush anything – I have the rest of my life to run.

Thank you to everyone who has visited me, sent cards, called, texted, and reached out to help. You are all amazing and I’m so glad you are in my life.

The Road to Progress

I’ve had several people ask me about my knee, and my progress with it lately.  I guess that means it’s time for a little update post!

My [left] knee (and my right glute, for that matter) have been doing so much better since January.  To recap very quickly, I went to the orthopedic doctor the first week of January, and was instructed to take 2 weeks off running, I received a cortisone shot in my knee, and was sent home with a diagnosis of a torn meniscus.  When I ran again, 2 weeks later, the pain was back.  At the beginning of February, and an MRI later, it was determined my knee was structurally sound, no tears in my meniscus, or elsewhere.  I was given 2 more cortisone shots in different parts of my knee.  I was frustrated and upset, and after several more visits to my chiropractor, he gave me a series of stretches that have diminished the pain so much that it is all but gone.

I don’t know how much the pain diminished due to the shots, and how much the chiropractic stretches and needlings and adjustments have attributed to it.  I also stopped wearing my Hokas (they were about worn out anyway) and switched to my Altra Lone Peaks.  The change in shoes, chiropractic stretches, and cortisone shots all happened within about 2 weeks, during which, my knee felt 60-80% better.

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I continue to do my knee stretches every other day or so, and I’d venture a guess that the pain is 85% gone.  I get twinges behind my knee on the lateral side every now and then, and I can tell if I’m not doing my stretches for a couple days, because it gets worse and I get back to stretching.  My glute is also doing so much better, due to stretches loosening up my lower back, taking the pressure off a disc or two that are unhappy.

Overall, I’m very happy, but also kind of waiting for the pain to come back.  I’m so hopeful that the stretches are doing the trick, and it’s not the shots that made the pain go away, because once the shots wear off, I don’t want the pain to come back!

I’ve been running 20-25 miles per week now for 4-5 weeks, mostly pain free, or at least a heck of a lot less pain than before.  I’m also cycling about 30-40 miles per week, either on the cycle bikes at the gym in class or on my own beautiful little bike around home.  I know cycling is helping strengthen my legs, which definitely helps my knee, and is also helping me run stronger.

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I feel like I’ve stumbled onto some kind of magic formula… I don’t want to change my shoes.  I don’t want to stop running or cycling.  I don’t want to stop my stretches.  I feel like I’m balancing and hanging on and don’t want to chance anything!  I’ve re-evaluated my goals, and for now, I’m going to keep on doing what I’m doing, and hopefully I will continue to be pain free, or at least mostly pain free while I’m at it!

I’m happy, and I’m working on getting healthy, and having my knee on board sure helps!  The real test will be the three half marathons I have coming up, one each in April, May, and June.  I’m confident that I’ll get through them, one step at a time, my knee, hopefully, on board with me!