Just What I Kneeded

What happens after a life-altering knee injury?

Attitude adjustment


The first PT session after my urgent appointment with my surgeon was the worst. The pain had been so bad, I hadn’t done any of my prescribed exercises for five days, and I limped in like a beat up old boxer who had fought one too many fights. I may have been a bit mopey.

I explained to my PT what had transpired in the 10 days since my last appointment, and he agreed that we would take it easy and work to strengthen my hips and glutes to take some of the pressure off my knee. But he still told me to warm up on the elliptical. I hate showing weakness, so I hopped on and started my warm-up. Less than a minute in, I knew something was going horribly wrong. I was determined to get through it; I mean, we were only talking seven minutes on a relatively low setting. But it was everything I could do to hold back the cursing.

Always wanting to look on the bright side, I have to say that I am impressed with how much and how well I can compensate with my good leg for my bad. I’m pretty amazing at it. And it doesn’t even require me to think; my body just does it. I have to really think to make my body stop compensating and focus on using my right leg.

I was done with the elliptical, and I went to sit down on one of the tables while I waited for T-Bone to finish up with another patient and bring the Graston tools. Since I was already sitting on the edge of the table, he asked me to do a couple active extensions (bringing my leg from 90 degrees to hold it straight out in front of me) so he could see what my surgeon had talked about. I couldn’t do it. The pain was so intense, it felt like there was something physically in my knee that was preventing me from straightening it. And then what happened? Did I give my poor leg a little help with my good leg? Nope. I put my head down, covered my face with my hands and started crying.

Oh, the embarrassment! Crying is not my natural reaction to… anything, really. I cried at Forrest Gump, and I’ve twice cried through Where the Red Fern Grows. But I don’t cry too often at real life. Ok, I did cry once a few weeks back when I was overwhelmingly frustrated with my recovery, but it was in my car, and there was no one around, so that only half counts. I’m much more likely to curse at pain. For example, when I broke my knee nearly three years ago now, I didn’t shed one tear. Instead, I yelled “Sh*t!” quite loudly in front of people I had never cursed in front of before. Shocking and eye-opening for them. I also continued to stand and walk on my leg for about 30 minutes after I broke it. I’m kind of bad ass like that.

Look, the point is that I don’t cry, and yet there I was, in the middle of the therapy room with at least seven other therapists and their patients, crying. I started apologizing to my therapist who was all, “Hey, don’t worry. I’m sure it’s frustrating.” Yes, but more so painful. And to make things worse, I was really upset with myself for breaking down in the first place, which just compounded the tears.

“Can I please get a tissue?”

Who just sits there and watches someone cry without offering them a tissue? Ok, fine. I likely caught him off guard because I usually spend my PT sessions with him talking jive about how I’m the valedictorian of knee surgery, and I’m going rock climbing in three weeks.

Once the crying spell was over, I informed him that I’m going to begin self-medicating with vodka. I’d seen another patient come in with a water bottle, and I pointed out how well that would work to carry in my “potato water.” He said, “I don’t care as long as I can’t smell it. I hate the smell of vodka. I’m strictly a beer man.”

“That’s cool. I’ll get some mixer, and we’ll pretend it’s lemonade. By the way, beer is disgusting; it smells like rotten apples.”

Don’t worry, Mom. I’m only kidding about the vodka (kind of).

So we’re working on my hips and glutes, and I’m looking all around for a better attitude. It’s been slipping for a few weeks now, but I completely hit a wall last week. I’ve been packing around a bad attitude since my appointment with the surgeon. I’m working on it, though, because I’m tired of hanging out with my own grumpy self. I keep reminding myself that my next goal (when I see the surgeon again) is only six weeks away–only six weeks. That’s nothing. I got this.

“You’re never a loser until you quite trying.” – Mike Ditka

“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears.” – Laird Hamilton

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” – John Wooden

“Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way.” – Satchel Paige

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” – Lance Armstrong

“Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement.” – Matt Biondi

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” – Michael Jordan


Author: Laura

I have a fern I named Frankenstein. I like leprechauns, practicing kung fu moves on my dining room furniture, and pretending that one day I will move to Fiji. I dislike my neighbors' kids, anything that is chartreuse, and Ben Roethlisberger.

11 thoughts on “Attitude adjustment

  1. Laura, im sorry to hear how your doing! I understand your frustration 100%. Your not alone. I’m only 8 weeks out and having problems as well, my knee has been popping. It’s been really hard will my friends making plans for races, my husband is doing crossfit and I’m doing my geriatric exercises and they hurt! I know it’s hard to hear that it will get better, but it will, it has to! I have to believe there is a reason that we are going through this.I hope that things get better for you!

    • Hi Jesika. Thanks so much for your note! I don’t wish this on anyone, but it is nice to hear from others who are going through similar experiences. It helps. And you’re right; it will get better! I just sometimes have trouble remembering that in the heat of the moment, or as you mention, when everyone around me is making plans to do fun things.

      I love that you call the exercises your “geriatric exercises”… because that’s what they ARE. I’m with you there. I hope that they’re getting easier for you. Other than the popping, how is your recovery going? Are you walking without the crutches now?

  2. Recovery is going well, I’m on one crutch now. My right leg is really weak, I can walk a little on it but it’s really sad to watch! It still hurts to do any movement were I have to pull my knee cap up, I’ve only been doing PT for a week now. I’m hoping for the end of the week to be walking on my own! Fingers crossed I can start driving again too!

  3. I’m glad to hear it seems to be going well so far! I’ll cross my fingers for you, too, that you can ditch the crutches and start driving again. Driving was a HUGE milestone for me. It will feel good once you can get back behind the wheel!

  4. Laura – I too feel your pain and love your quotes. I have had Elmslie-Trillat on both knees and have run into crunching and pain under the patella on the first. I am still in physical therapy for both and am writing about it on my blog. It is so nice to read about others going through this and to know we all experience ups and downs, emotionally as well as physically. Encouraging yourself is great. Keep at it.

    • Hi. Thanks for dropping by! I hope your overall recovery is going ok. I can’t imagine having the Elmslie on both knees, so I’m cheering for you, too. Did you doc say why you’ve had the crunching and pain? Sometimes, I think it’s hard to understand all the mechanics and how everything is literally connected to everything else. Good luck in therapy!

      • Thanks for cheering me on. Unfortunately, the crunching and pain is believed to be deterioration of the articular cartilege under the patella and will need to be cleaned up, which means yet another surgery on the horizon. However, my left knee is not as strong as I would like it to bear most of weight yet. So, no date has been set yet. Hang in there. I’m on my way to PT now.

  5. Hi Laura, I am really enjoying reading your blog. I am getting ready to go through the same surgery on my left knee that you had tomorrow Feb. 4 and am super nervous about it, but ready for it. I’m tired of walking around like an old lady , hurting and popping all the time. How long after your surgery were you able to loose the crutches? How long after were you allowed to drive? How long did you have to have someone taking care of you? I know it’s different for everyone, but I’m just trying to get an idea. My husband is going to deploy at the end of April so I want to make sure that I will be okay or as close to be okay without him by then.

    • Hi Yansi. Thanks for stopping in! Good luck with your surgery tomorrow! I’m sure it will go great, and you’ll be back on your feet in no time (even though it’s probably going to feel like an eternity some days). I was immediately weight bearing as tolerated after surgery, so I was able to move down to one crutch and then lost the crutches completely just before 3 weeks post-op. That was early though; my OS had told me it would be about 4-6 weeks before I was crutch free when we discussed it pre-surgery. I just healed pretty well in that initial stage, and I never had any trouble with the osteotomy.

      I was given the ok to drive once I was able to push hard on the brake without pain; it took about 8-9 weeks before I was driving, and I stuck to short distances at first. I think I would have been driving sooner, if it had not been my dominant right leg that I needed to drive.

      I had someone with me 24/7 for the first 10 days. I was under strict orders to not engage my quads, so I needed someone to help me in/out of the CPM and to help me get in/out of bed. I was also under strict orders to use the CPM unless I was in the bathroom or doing my PT exercises, so I needed help getting food/drink, etc. Once I had my first post-op appointment at 10 days, I was able to get up more and engage my quads, so I didn’t need help 24/7. Plus, around that time, the pain had started to become much more manageable without the pain medicine, and that definitely helped feeling better all around.

      I highly recommend a shower chair, if you don’t already have one. I could not have taken a shower for the first four weeks or so without one.

      Please thank your husband for his service! My brother is a Marine, so I understand how difficult deployments can sometimes be. I think you’ll be ok and on your own two feet by the end of April. Again, good luck!

  6. @Chronic yellow – I’m sorry to hear that the crunching is from deterioration of the articular cartilage and that you have to undergo another surgery in the future. Damage to my articular cartilage is what led me to the DeNovo NT graft, so I can understand the pain/frustration that it can cause. I hope PT is going well!

  7. Pingback: Three years a mile | Just What I Kneeded

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