Keith vs. The Knees1 vote
Four more years of knee pain go by.
The trivialization of how this knee pain was going to affect my life by medical professionals felt like malpractice. Though I could walk without a limp or awkward gait, the pain was sweeping and constant. It radiated from my knees to my upper thighs and into my calves with every step. Long before I had already quit reading dosage recommendations on the Aleve bottle. Ice and elevation now only provided minimal relief. I was desperate to find new ways to sleep because knee pain was turning me into an insomniac. I quit bike-riding, lifting weights, and exercising altogether. My weight ballooned. The stress on my knees was unreal.
Then my ACL tore.
While dancing at a Halloween party, the same evil knee decided it was done with me and my shenanigans . I hit the dance floor a hot-mess but was too drunk for embarrassment or to realize what was happening. I tried to stand, but the knee gave way again. I crawled myself to a seat. We stayed another two hours. We drank more, and I’d forget and try to walk and wind up on the floor. People laughed at my drunkenness. My friends dragged me to their apartment and helped me up the stairs.
You’ll. Be. Fine.
I didn’t take much for me to be convinced that another trip to the surgeon was in order. The following day when I awoke – at home, which isn’t where I fell asleep – my leg was huge and the knee pain was overwhelming. There was no definition in leg that showed where my upper leg stopped and my lower leg began. Every movement was excruciating. I had a lot of experience with pain up to that point, but that was nothing. This was the first time I remember pain bringing me to tears. I am not fine!
At 26 years old my right knee ACL was reconstructed using cadaver tissue. That’s right, I have part of some dead dude riding along inside me. Yes, sometimes that freaks me out, but it’s the kind of thing you’re supposed to be thankful for, so – thanks dead dude! It still freaks me out.
That was 16 years ago. The time since then has been rocky to say the least. Both knees are shot. The left knee simply grew tired of taking up the slack for the right. In 2015, to complete the circle, I slipped and fell on our home stairs. Fortunately, I was able to catch myself before falling the length of the staircase. It was a good time, however, to tear the MCL in that already damaged left knee. Why the hell not?
This trip to the doctor was very different. They examined both knees together and he looked at my ankles and hips. The X-rays were telling. There’s no cartilage in my right knee and the left has worn uneven. My ankles, broken down like those of a professional athlete after three decades of training and competition, have given up. Oddly, this is the same thing that happens to obese people who walk into fast-food restaurants a lot – weird. My hips, which never seem to get seated comfortably, feel as if they need to be “popped” like a teenager would a knuckle. They are awkwardly worn from the way I walk and the excess weight.
This doctor proved to be one of the best I visited. But he gave me the worst news. At this point in my life I need to take a lot more pain medication. Weight loss is mandatory. And worst of all, wait until I’m 50 for knee replacements.
That was two years ago. Eight years left on my prison sentence. I keep telling myself that I’m going to win this battle and lose the weight. As it turns out, fat loss is hard to do when your physical activity is limited and the only thing that makes you feel better is chasing a McRib with a Whopper.
Maybe at 42, I should have adjusted to all this by now. But there are other factors at work here; work stress, family drama, and most invasive of all – depression. But that discussion is for another time, methinks.
This makes us current. I am playing the waiting game on turning 50. I am also learning to change my mindset so that I don’t die of a heart attack before then. The good news is, I’ve had some success. I’ve also had some set-backs. I’m writing a blog about it because I know there are others on the same boat – young people specifically. Knee pain sufferers under the age of 30 are facing a lifetime of pain and immobility if they don’t take care of themselves now.
Thank you for reading part two of my knee pain flashback! The next update will cover a few things I ignored early on and how they are impacting me 20 years later. I’ll also include a few things that worked and didn’t work to manage the discomfort and pain.
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