About Me

A slightly over-educated sailor sharing the wet and dry sides of his life.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Knee Surgery

About a week or so after I came home from 90 days on the containership S.S. Maui, I made my appointment with my general practitioner at Group Health Co-operative. My right knee had been nagging me something fierce since the first night I sailed on the Maui. Actually, it was more like a three or four year old nagging in the knee got substantially worse. That was back in August.

He then referred me to get an X-ray and, eventually, an MRI. Sure enough, I had a lateral tear in my right meniscus and my ACL was barely hanging on by a few threads. I was wondering why my knee made popping sounds on occasion. The discovery then put me on track to Orthopedics and the certainty of surgery.

It is now mid-December. My surgery was on the first. Oxycodone is now my friend. Why do I say that? Well, my first night back after going under the knife was brutal with pain. We're talking the teeth-chattering kind. The crummy part of waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and finding yourself in that much pain was finally realizing that the hinge of my knee brace wasn't properly aligned with my knee. In other words, the brace was trying to make my knee bend where it wasn't supposed to. I'd say that the pressure point was located approximately where my ACL graft was anchored inside my shin bone. I ended up taking an extra pill, though I was already taking two every four hours. Not good at all. Eventually, I did figure out what the real problem was and adjusted the brace a little further up my thigh. Quite the rite of passage.

This isn't the first time I've had that kind of surgery. The first time was back in the winter of 1997/98, when I first tore my ACL and meniscus in the same knee. Back then, the surgeon took a graft from my hamstring to repair the ACL and sutured the deepest of the three tears in the meniscus. The difference between the two grafts is that the first one was not as robust of a piece of tissue. I suppose that might have something to do with the recent failure. This time around, my surgeon went to the Tissue Bank for something as robust as a normal ACL.

On the side of recovery, I feel lucky this time around, because my surgery happened before my ACL completely failed. Had it completely ruptured, I would not have been walking on the days leading up to the surgery and maintaining leg strength. Back in 1998, I had been on crutches for the month leading up to the surgery. Yes, I had been in physical therapy prior, but it's not the same as actually walking around. I feel lucky this time around.

And the drugs? Umm... For the first time in my medical history of having to use pain killers, I have to say that I actually have come to wonder about the effect the opiates have upon my "thinking." I know that sounds strange, but I've been having these moments when my imagination kind of squirrels to one side, and I end up saying some odd things. What do I mean by that? Well, imagine yourself suddenly coming up with something kind of witty or funny. However, the bug is that, yes, what you end up saying is kind of funny and witty--except that there's this weird edge to what you say. It's kind of like saying something creepy without actually being creepy. Maybe "fringy-weird-funny" might be more accurate. If I were a comedian, I would expect nervous giggling coming from the audience as the appropriate response.

I can't say that I've felt this kind of weirdness before. Or, at least, noticed it before. I just hope it doesn't get out of hand. Margaret gives me these odd glances every now and then. I've already shared all this with her, so she at least has some context to better understand what's happening when I say off-kilter stuff. Oh well.


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