Just What I Kneeded

What happens after a life-altering knee injury?

The waiting


There’s a lot of waiting on this journey, I’ve decided. And it’s tough, the waiting. Waiting first for the surgery. Then waiting to see if it works. Constantly waiting for the next milestone in PT that will then give you the indication that you’re ready to move on to the next phase. Then there’s waiting to see what went wrong. Waiting to see if rest is going to be the key to recovery. Waiting on a second opinion. Waiting on bone scans. It seems like I’ve been waiting on something for the better part of the last 12 months.

I haven’t exactly been sitting around, twiddling my thumbs while I wait, but there’s always a sense that I’m waiting on the next thing.

Right now, I’m waiting to see my primary OS again. I had a follow-up appointment a couple of weeks ago with the second opinion surgeon that I’m not yet ready to detail here, but in essence, he’s recommending another extensive surgery. Due to insurance, I have to see if my primary OS or another surgeon in the network can perform the surgery. If not, then I can petition my insurance to cover the second opinion OS as if he were in the system. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I heard the diagnosis and suggested course of treatment, and I can’t say that I was surprised to hear that surgery was on the table again. I’m not happy about it, but I’m not surprised by it either. While I’ve been waiting for the next appointment, I’ve been thinking about whether it’s even an idea I’ll entertain at this point. I mean, I’m not even 9 months into a year-long recovery for the last surgery, and now we’re talking about the next one. I know I have to do something, and I don’t know that I have too many other options.

I had someone (a fellow knee geek) ask me the other day about whether I have realistic expectations about what I’ll be able to do with my knee. I am admittedly pretty optimistic about it, and I have grand plans that involve horses and bikes. But there’s a side of me that’s beginning to wonder if any of that is realistic. How about we focus on the getting up and down stairs without pain? Or getting in and out of bed without pain? I’ve been able to shut out that nasty little voice in my head until recently. Now, that nagging voice is getting louder (and sounds a bit like Gollum), and I’m wondering what another surgery will really accomplish.

Neither of the surgeons have said anything that leads me to believe that I can’t return to previous activities (albeit maybe not at the same level), but then the last surgery didn’t provide the expected results, so I’m left wondering. And waiting.

At least I’m in good company. “The waiting is the hardest part. Every day you see one more card. You take it on faith; you take it to the heart. The waiting is the hardest part.” True story, Tom Petty. True story.


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.

6 thoughts on “The waiting

  1. Oh Laura, I’m sorry they don’t have a quicker fix!

    I went through a couple of surgeries before the DeNovo, and I just lost it when I found out I had to go through another, especially AFTER spending years doing rehab. Literally, years…I never graduated from PT, because the pain and mobility limitations and weakness never went away, which in retrospect is because the untreated cartilage hole was keeping me from using muscles through their full range. My strength just had no chance of coming back till I had more surgery to fix that central problem.

    You don’t like that this is turning up only 9 months into recovery, and I totally get that, BUT it’s actually kind of GOOD news that you’re less than a year into rehab. Any series of surgeries I’ve been aware of, including my own earlier surgeries, the surgeon has wanted to do them as close together as possible, so you don’t spend years rehabbing just to get knocked back down to zero by the next operation. Sorry to be so obnoxiously optimistic, but I AM glad that your doctors are taking care of you well enough to get on top of this problem before the year is even up, instead of dismissing it or dragging out the waiting game.

    If I remember correctly, you’ve researched your docs well to be sure they’re at the top of the cartilage game…if you’re confident they’re also on top of the new diagnosis, and if you don’t have “why did they miss this at the time of the surgery?” concerns, try looking at it this way: you’ve done surgery/rehab once, you know what the worst parts are and have some idea how to at least partly prepare this time around, you know how far to push yourself safely, and you know what kind of support network you have. You can do this!

    Plus, I’m still creeping back to full speed SO SLOWLY after my winter DeNovo that if you have surgery anytime before the end of the year, we can rehab-race. You’d have a good chance of winning…I’m that slow. :)

    • Thank you for your “obnoxious optimism.” It’s just what I need and buoys my spirits! I’m waffling back and forth between wanting to just get on with it or to wait for the next surgery. I have trouble making decisions anyway, but it’s worse when I don’t think either option is appealing. :)

      I do have confidence in my surgeons. I don’t think anything was missed or went wrong with the first surgery. Some lucky people, myself apparently included, just get a bad break. The worst of the current problems didn’t exist when I went into surgery, but that’s part of what has me waffling… How did I manage to get a full-thickness cartilage defect on my tibial plateau while in therapy to help the one behind my kneecap? Doesn’t make much sense to me.

      You do have a good point–I don’t want to be stuck in rehab forever! I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been through so much with your knee. I hope the DeNovo is working out for you. I bet it’s obnoxious when I say, “Slow and steady wins the race!” But it’s true. I have to keep reminding myself that’s it’s a marathon, not a sprint. How are you doing lately? Making positive progress?

      I’ll let you know when I’m ready to rehab-race. :)

      • I’ve got another bright side for you…based on what I’ve read (everything that’s been published so far on DeNovo, and a lot of publications on OATS, ACI, the related grafts), the best results come from operations on the long bones rather than the patella…so if you made it through a successful DeNovo on your patella, where some docs won’t even bother to try because of the lower success rates, you can expect a DeNovo on your tibia to work for sure.

        It’s troubling that they can’t explain how your cartilage wore down so thin, so fast, if there wasn’t trouble there before. My biggest fear is having just one long series of surgeries from now till forever, so I’d want a very good explanation of how that new hole might have happened, and what to do to prevent a repeat, before moving ahead.

        I’m starting to stump around the house without my cane now…the good knee’s starting to give me sass, so it’s good to have a little more strength in the bad knee to rely on. Thanks for asking!

        • I’m glad to hear that you’re ditching the cane! Stumping is ok. That has to feel good. I hope your good knee holds up! Are you in therapy now?

          I share the same fear as you! I don’t want to continue to have one surgery after another. The new defect on the lateral tibial plateau doesn’t surprise me that much. I’d known there were fissures there for more than two years now; my doc pointed them out during the arthroscopy (he showed me a video at a follow-up visit). They hadn’t bothered me much or changed in the scans that I had between the two surgeries, so I don’t know exactly what led them to now become a full-fledged defect. My surgeons don’t seem to have a good answer, either.

          The DeNovo under my patella is becoming worrisome to me. I was told that, on the medial side, I have only about a 25% fill and it’s flat (not contoured like normal patellar cartilage would be). It’s not necessarily a failure. The part in the middle that was repaired shows good growth. And there is some cartilage there on the medial side, so it’s not bone-on-bone. But it still causes me pain, and the scans show bony edema meaning that the bone is overloaded. None of the surgeons have exactly said that it’s a failure, but they’ve started talking about revising it, along with the new DeNovo on the tibial plateau. I do know that the patella is a tricky thing to fix, so I can understand some of the differing opinions about what to do with what’s there.

          Ah, well. I’ve started a new course of Euflexxa injections to buy myself some time to think about what I should do next. Thanks again for your encouragement! It means a lot to me.

  2. If and when Gollum gets a little too loud, let me know and I’ll knee him in the face with my ACL scar. And, from my perspective, your plans with horses and biking aren’t “too high”. Horses and biking with your knee condition are a gold and silver medal. Does everyone get one? No. But, do the best of the best? Yes. The medal podium awaits you, friend.

    • Ah, LG. I so appreciate you and your threats of physical violence. :) I like your perspective! I don’t want to think that those things are unattainable; I like being optimistic about this mess. So thank you for the encouragement!

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