Wounded Knee

It’s time.

I don’t like going to the doctor and I’m very allergic to surgery, but I may be tolerating both very soon. It may be time to finally fix my knee.

My right knee went out yesterday while I was bending down to look at furniture at IKEA. If I tried to build it, it would probably be fatal. So, I’m back to limping around and no male my age likes to hear the word “limp”.

A bit of back-story – I hyper-extended my right knee in soccer practice in high school, either 1977 or 1978. I’m pretty sure it was junior year, so 1977. It hurt like hell when it happened, but the pain diminished rather quickly over time.

It was a stupid injury. I remember it like it was 35 years ago. I was playing fullback, chasing down a ball, cut back around one of my classmates, slipped and landed full-force on my right knee. I landed so hard, I kicked myself in the butt. This is known as “hyper-extension” and it is very bad. In exotic dancers, it’s called “flexibility” and is much more popular to watch.

I spent a couple of days at home with ice or heat (who remembers?) on my knee and spent the rest of the season on the sidelines. I was on the JV anyway, so it wasn’t that much of a demotion.

My mom took me to see an orthopedic surgeon and he said it wasn’t hurt badly enough to fix. Apparently, in the 70’s, there were knee injuries and then there were real knee injuries. He invited me to come back if I ever really hurt it. So, I finally had a knee injury after six or seven years of playing soccer, which would be cool, and it wasn’t worth fixing.

So, I can still say, “Yeah, tore up a knee playing soccer”, but there’s no cool scar to show off, and if you played soccer in Texas, it meant you couldn’t make the football team.

Over the years, it would go out every now and then. I would limp for a couple of days, and then it would straighten itself out and I’d be back to normal. So, I never really saw a reason to have it checked since a) it didn’t cause pain very often and b) it wasn’t bad enough to fix anyway. The most annoying part of the recurring pain was that it was completely unpredictable and it didn’t help determine the weather, like some injuries. Maybe only bad hips can tell when it will rain.

Fast-forward to December, 2009. My knee went out again. My wife convinced me to go see her knee specialist – she has a guy for almost every part of her body, which is not as slutty as it sounds, it just means she gets injured a lot.

First question – “When did this injury occur?” “Uh. That’s a good question – either 1977 or 1978, I’m not really sure.” Dramatic pause. “Why are you coming to see me now?” A clever answer would have been “Because now I have insurance and can afford you”, but I told the truth – it only went out sporadically and I had an existing (approximately 32-year old) medical opinion that it wasn’t worth fixing, anyway.

Dramatic pause. “Somebody told you it wasn’t worth fixing??”

“Yes, I had it checked right after the injury happened.”

“Ah. 1977. Well, back then, it might not have been worth it. Now, we can fix it.”

I assumed this meant prices have risen enough to cost-justify the doctor, hospital and related costs associated with out-patient surgery. (I also wondered if it was the same doctor, since he was not exactly young.)

So, then the questions went on – had I considered rebuilding it? Would I use my own tendon or a cadaver’s? (“Wow. Literally a dead man walking.” Even the doctor smiled.) It sounded painful, but doable – just a matter of scheduling. Then he mentioned the one major problem – no travel for up to six weeks after surgery.

Remember, this was in December. I was still in Lotus. January is Lotusphere. I was presenting. So, no surgery in December or January. February I had customer visits scheduled. March was end of quarter and completely unpredictable as to travel. By April, I had forgotten my knee had gone out.

A few months later, I received a lovely card from the doctor, as did my wife. He was retiring. “Oh, shit. I was going to have him fix my knee.” So, I forgot about it.

A couple of weeks ago, my knee went out. Ouch. I hobbled a bit, and it went back. Then, my left knee popped.

An unsettling thought occurred – “Hmm. Which knee did I actually injure in high school?”

If you can’t remember which knee you hurt in high school, perhaps your time there were not your “Glory Days”, in spite of what the Boss may say.

Both knees straightened themselves out in a couple of days.

Yesterday, I knelt down to look at the back of an entertainment unit my wife wanted to purchase and when I straightened up, BOOM! My right knee (“Dammit! That’s the one I hurt!”) popped out. It hurt. A lot. It was excruciating. It was much worse than usual. At first, I could barely wobble, and even though we were in a furniture store, there weren’t any chairs around to get off of it. So, I staggered around drunkenly until I found the proper limping motion to keep the weight off my leg, and then I was able to walk. Barely.

Bravely, my wife continued shopping. It’s why I love her so.

Eventually, we loaded the five boxes of the entertainment center parts into the car. Ouch. We drove home. We unloaded the five boxes of the entertainment center parts. Ouch. Ouch. (I dropped the end of one of the boxes on my foot. Try hopping in pain on a bad knee. It’s redundant.)

We went out to dinner. We parked uphill across the street from the restaurant. Ouch.

We went home. We walked the dogs. Ouch.

Finally, I tried to just lie down and put my leg up, but I couldn’t find a comfortable position. Luckily, I had dogs pushing me in various directions, trying to help me find the right way. Ouch.

I thought, “The last time this happened, I slept it off. So, I should be better in the morning.” That was last time. This time, notsomuch. So, for the first time in years, I called in sick – although I can actually just work from home, so I’m not really out sick, I’m just not in the office. Technically, it was more calling in “can’t drive“.

I had to tell some of my team why I wasn’t in. I’m sure the word has spread on the floor, so now everyone at the office knows why hiring the elderly is a risk. Also, I weigh slightly more than I did in high school, so nobody believes the “tore up my knee playing soccer” line, anyway.

Tomorrow, I go to see the orthopedic surgeon. Not my orthopedic surgeon, of course, since he retired. His replacement. I have a feeling my knee may have a replacement, as well.

If they fix one knee and not the other, I hope I don’t walk in circles.