Just What I Kneeded

What happens after a life-altering knee injury?

About

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
(lyrics from “Closing Time” written by Dan Wilson)

I started this blog in 2012 to capture/track my progress through an intense surgery (a DeNovo NT tissue graft under my right patella and a tibial tubercle osteotomy) and the extended rehabilitation that came with it. Turned out it was YEARS of rehab. I’ve tracked much of the journey here, sharing the many ups and downs after a life-altering injury/surgery.

I won’t lie; I’ve struggled since initial injury in March 2010. I’m still working hard at it every day. But I’m not sorry that I had the surgery, and I still firmly believe that all the blood, sweat and tears will be worth it in the end.

This is the important part. > The thing I’ve learned just this year, and more importantly learned to appreciate, is that I would not be doing what I’m doing now if it weren’t for the unexpected turn my life took when I broke my knee. At the time, and for years after, I lamented the fact that I would never ride competitively again. My show career was over. For a very long time, I was essentially beating my head against a wall because I was convinced that I had to get back to doing everything that I was doing before the injury.

What I missed while being upset about what I’d lost is that, while part of my life was ending, a whole other world was beginning to open up. Before this, I would never have bought my first “real” bike and logged thousands of miles since. I would never have done the fun, little triathlon (twice). I wouldn’t be slogging around for hours at my favorite city park. I wouldn’t have made new friends in the gym or with the bike.

Life isn’t, as I once complained to my physical therapist, over. It’s just different. And it’s good.

A little about me

My favorite color is blue. I like llamas, barnacles, Chuck Norris, sweet and sour chicken, spying on my neighbors, and pretending I’m the next Roger Ebert.

The posts here about the knee were becoming boring and repetitive–plus, I’m way more than just my knee– so I’ve started to mix things up a bit with glimpses of my life that doesn’t revolve around my knee. Now you’ll randomly find soliloquies about cycling, riding (horses) and life in general.

If you want to contact me in real life, shoot me an email at blueboots08 at gmail dot com.

Pretty standard disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional, and this blog simply chronicles my personal experience. I do not suggest that anyone reading this take action based on my experience. Every recovery is different, and you should discuss options with your own care team.

16 thoughts on “About

  1. Thank you so much for writing about your experience! I am scheduled to have this surgery and I have not found much about it, you have provided me with insight as to what is in store (good and bad).

    • I’m glad you’ve found it useful! It’s definitely helped me to track my progress so I can see that I have, in fact, made improvements when I get mad at my PT. :)

      Good luck with your surgery and recovery!

  2. Thank you for your blog! I found your blog looking for info about DeNovo, there really is not a lot out there. Anyways I had it done on November 30th, 2012 on my right knee. I had only injured it back in September from training for a half marathon.When I injured it I know something was not right and went to see a doctor. They told me it was good that I came is cause most people don’t come in right away. Right now I’m 4 weeks out. It’s been really hard not donig anything ! I have 2 young kids that makes it even harder! There really hasn’t been a lot of pain till I got a blood clot in my leg. I know when my time comes for pt it will be hard, but reading your blog has helped me know what’s going to happen for the most part, so thank you again! I hope things will get better for you as you continue to improve!!

    • So sorry to hear that you’re on the same journey; it’s not much fun, but it’s better when you know you’re not alone. I hope your recovery is smooth and quick! Those first few weeks really are the hardest, mostly because it seems like you can’t do much and are so dependent on other people. But it gets better! Glad you found the blog helpful. I wish you all the best with your recovery!

  3. I had the DeNovo surgery in October 2013 and still recovering. I wish my doctor would have been more up front with the recovery but so far not in pain like I was before the surgery.

    • Hi Melissa,

      Recovery is definitely a bear following this surgery. I hope you’re doing well with your rehab. It’s good to hear that you don’t have as much pain as before surgery; that’s very good news!

      Cheers,
      Laura

  4. Hi Laura, I found your blog while looking for information about DeNovo NT surgery. I’m scheduled to have it next week as well as a MPFL Reconstruction (making a new tendon that holds my knee cap in place out of my hamstring).

    Please let me tell you a little bit about my situation.

    I just left my jobs, friends, and life and moved away to a new state where I didn’t know anyone to start over. A week later I injured my knee. All of this happened 3 weeks ago after twisting my knee from walking on an unseen ice patch. That’s it! My knee cap was dislocated and caused my MPFL to rupture and also knocked cartilage out from behind my knee cap and on the side of my thigh bone when it “snapped back into place”. Because my MPFL snapped apart my knee cap is currently floating over to the right and wont go back into place, and this may partially be why i can’t bend my knee all the way. This is the first and only time my knee cap has been dislocated. I can’t crouch down, much less bend my knee all the way without pain, and i cant hobble around my apartment for long before my knee starts to ache and burn in pain. its returns to normal no pain after remaining immobile and not walking on it for a while. it’s been been very aggravating.

    I’m very scared about this Denovo surgery. I keep wondering if its the right thing to do. I keep wondering if it’s a mistake. I’m terrified that it takes so long to heal. I’m worried about what if my body rejects it. I also have MS and my symptoms have increasing flared up worse ever since this injury happened. I currently live 4 and a half flights up on the top of a apartment building. I’ve left my apartment only 3 times, all for doctor appointments since the injury. Will I be able to walk up the stairs to my apartment after surgery? Will I stay in the hospital over night?

    If you have taken the time to read my comment, thank you so much. If you can answer any of my questions with your experience, or give me any insight or advice, I would love to hear your response. Thank you for this blog and I hope you have a great day.

    • Hi there. Wow, sounds like you’ve really been through the ringer, and I’m sorry you’re dealing with such a major injury. It’s natural to be scared and questioning whether surgery is the right thing or not. I was nothing short of terrified in the weeks leading up to the DeNovo transplant, so I can certainly empathize with that piece of it.

      This surgery does come with a long recovery, but the really tough part is the first few weeks. After that, you should be able to begin leading a more normal life, even as your knee continues to heal and the cartilage graft continues to grow for the next 18+ months. How long you’ll be non-weight bearing and how quickly you can progress in PT depends on your surgeon’s protocol (seems like they’re all different). I would encourage you to follow the protocol as best you can to have the best outcome. I’ve learned the hard way that the surgeon and PT do really know what’s best.

      I did stay in the hospital overnight, but that, too, is going to be up to your surgeon. I’ve talked with people who had a patellar DeNovo graft and went home the same day. Your surgeon should be able to tell you in advance whether or not you should plan on staying. Walking up the stairs was not easy for me when I got home from the hospital–partly because I was so sick from the general anesthesia and partly because of the leg being locked in full extension. I was able to get up the stairs just going one step at a time. I swear it took me five minutes to go up one flight of 18 stairs. Four flights is going to be tough. Maybe you can make your way up by sitting on the steps and scooting up with your good leg.

      I’d recommend getting a shower chair. I wasn’t able to shower without the chair for about a month; it just took too much effort to try and balance while showering. Having a strap (like a yoga strap) to help move your leg around might be useful, too. I had to use a strap to move my leg during the first couple weeks, and then I used it during my heel slides to help regain my flexion.

      If you haven’t already made plans for someone to come and help you, I’d recommend doing that as well. I was unable to do anything at all for the first 10 days because I wasn’t allowed to engage my quads. That meant I literally needed help getting in/out of bed and in/out of the CPM. I became more independent after the first two weeks, but I could not have done it on my own those first two weeks. Your post-op protocol will likely be different from mine because of the MPFL reconstruction (vs my tibial tubercle osteotomy), but I’d still recommend having someone there because it will just be easier.

      I can’t think of anything else off the top of my head, except to say Netflix was a life saver when cooped up in the house. :) But if you have any more questions, I’d be happy to try and answer them.

      Good luck with your surgery. I wish you all the best in your recovery!

  5. Hey Laura,
    Wow. I really wish I would have found your blog before having my Denovo surgery. I guess my doctor figured I could handle the recovery and pain, as he has done my past 2 surgeries, because he didn’t warn me very well about the intense recovery process. I’m almost 4 weeks out and was feeling very discouraged about the whole process until I read your blog and realized I’m not a big baby and this was a pretty intense surgery. I still can’t go a whole day without taking Dilaudid which is miserable to me and I have had to have my knee drained of blood and fluid way more then I’d like. Your blog has helped me to realize I need to be more patient and let the recovery take its course. As a PE teacher and fitness competitor this recovery has not been ideal at all. I feel like I’ve lost everything I’ve worked so hard for and by reading your blog it looks like its going to take a lot longer then I would like to get it back.
    Thanks for your posts as they have helped me feel better about my lack of progress in these past 4 weeks since surgery. I have a long road ahead of me and I’m glad to know it gets better.
    Nicole

    • I’m glad this blog could provide some encouragement. That’s exactly why I chose to share my journey with this bum knee–so fellow travelers know they’re not alone.

      It’s a hard to not get discouraged from time to time. I recall one particularly bad day when, after PT, I spent 20 minutes crying in my car in the parking lot. I couldn’t even drive away. That’s even more frustrating because I’m not someone who cries very much.

      Sounds like you’ve had an even rougher start to recovery. I didn’t have to have my knee drained, and I can’t imagine having it done more than once.

      Your saying that it feels like you’ve lost everything really struck a chord with me. I’ve had the same feelings frequently throughout the last few years. My loss happened with the initial injury though; the DeNovo surgery was the beginning of a real chance of getting my life back. It hasn’t gone exactly as planned, but I’m definitely better now than before the surgery. Good news is that, at least for me, the DeNovo worked. It’s doing its job behind my kneecap. The lingering problems I have with the knee are not related to the kneecap or the DeNovo. But now that we’ve finally identified the real problem, I’m making improvements now, even more than two years later.

      I think the best possible advice I can give (even though it’s hard for me to practice myself) is to be patient. The cartilage takes time to graft and grow, and the knee takes time to heal from the insult of the surgery. Do everything you can to regain ROM, but listen to your doc (at least as best you can–I know sometimes it’s hard).

      Take care,
      Laura

  6. Laura,

    Thank you so very much for sharing your story. With this being such an uncommon surgery, it was very hard to find personal stories! I really enjoyed reading all of your posts as I have been sitting on my couch for the past 5 weeks. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions…

    I go back to the doctor tomorrow for my “big” check up and hoping to get the green light to start putting weight on my leg and begin walking. Once you started walking…did you have to use the crutches for a while? How was the experience for you? I”m just looking for some personal insight from someone!

    I’m a teacher and have been out of work and I am dying to go back, but want to wait until I could walk. I’ve been doing my best to stay patient and it’s super hard! I”m tired of having everyone do things for me and want to start doing things for myself!

    Just hoping you could shed some like about when you starting to try walking and how it went for you!

    Thanks,
    Erin

    • Hi Erin! Maybe by now you’re walking. Hopefully!

      I lost the crutches completely by two weeks after the surgery. I walked with the brace locked in extension for 6 weeks and then weaned off of it. I was weight bearing as tolerated (WBAT) right from the beginning, and I think that helped immensely. Different surgeons have different protocols though, so no recovery is the same.

      Once I was able to lose the brace, my ROM came along quickly. It took a lot longer to gain much strength back. But I was able to walk and be on my feet by about two months after the surgery. I took ice packs with me to work so that I could ice intermittently throughout the day, and I made sure to get my leg propped up any time I could when I was at my desk or in meetings.

      I agree that being patient is SO hard! The worst part, really. But it gets better, so hang in there!

      Cheers,
      Laura

  7. Laura, I just went through the same knee surgery as you (tibial tubercle Osteotomy). Today is my 4th day after surgery. It’s a rough recovery. I wanted to ask you how you’re doing and if you have any tips. I’m already burned out by all this! Thank you so much! Silvia

    • Hey Silvia! You’re right; it is a rough recovery. But the good news is that you’re through the surgery and well on your way to mending!

      I’m doing really well at the moment. It took me a while to get here, but I had a cartilage graft at the same time as the osteotomy, so it took me a bit longer.

      Tips… Right now, it’s probably most important to follow your doc’s and PT’s orders, ice and elevate, and get lots of rest (you’ll need it for this recovery). For me, the first 10-11 days or so were the worst, and then I felt better each day. I loved icing my knee; it’s what helped me the most. Sometimes, I liked to “ice from the inside” by eating Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked fro yo. :)

      Showering was another thing that made me feel better, but was it ever hard to manage during the first couple of weeks. I’d recommend getting a shower chair, if you don’t already have one.

      I know it’s a lot, but hang in there! You got this!! Happy to answer any questions or offer support along the way!

      Cheers,
      Laura

  8. Hi Silvia,
    I read this blog when I was going through my recovery. It’s been just a year since my surgery and it was a tough one! If you want to chat with anyone let me know! I would be happy to share some stories and such from my recovery!
    All the best,
    Erin

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