October 26, 2015

A Tear Like No Other: Dancer's Knee Surgery Journey P4

MRI of the Knee
I've been shot!

And though it finally happened, though they finally stuck a massive needle into my right knee for an injection, it was not their idea this time: it was mine. And after the last journal entry, you might think you know exactly what an injection meant for me... but you'd be wrong.

Everything has changed. Again.

It turns out that all seven medical professionals who viewed my knee MRI, from the radiologist who took the images to the top rated orthopedic surgeon I wrote about last week... it turns out that they all read my MRI incorrectly. 

Big time.

Are you terrified by that? I certainly am. But I've learned some major lessons now, ones that will save both you and me from this in the future. I look forward to sharing them with you. The information will save more than the health of your knees - it will easily save lives. You bet I'm sharing it.

But for now, let's just go over what actually happened last Thursday. That's the day I went into the Cartilage Repair Unit for my first consult. If you'll remember, I was expecting to learn the answer to the question: 10 years of injections? Or not?

As in, was my knee so horrifically gone that a full knee replacement was my only option? Because if the answer was yes, that meant a few terrible things: first, that nothing was really going to improve when it came to my knee. Injections take the swelling down, but something mechanical was wrong within my knee, making it lock up, give out and crack loudly as it threw me across the room.

I've had injections before - in my feet. I danced so hard back in the day, they had to inject every joint between my toes. Injections help inflammation and swelling, but nothing mechanical. Having my cartilage repaired meant movement for me. I wanted movement again. I wanted to be able to walk again, without a cane. I wanted to be able to dance again, even if it was just slow dancing. 

I felt like so much was on the line for me in that office, but I was oddly aware that my fate was already written. It was as it was. I just needed the specialist to deliver the blow.

So there I was on Thursday, sitting in the room, waiting. It was the same office as my last appointment, and I can't lie - there was a bit of trauma from the last appointment still lingering. I would've given anything to be at a different office, but we called around and the only other place was on the other coast. Dang.

So I was shaking pretty hard. I was scared to death. At one point, I almost decided against asking to see the x-ray and MRI images because I thought I might have nightmares about them. But Nick was there and talked me off the ledge, and thank goodness for that! (For those of you who follow me on Twitter, thank you so much for being there with me and praying for me! It helped so much, hand to God. Thank you, thank you, thank you!)

I say 'thank goodness' because, drumroll please! Things were bad, but not that bad. Well, that depends on how you look at it. Let's dive in, shall we? Here we go!

A Tear Like No Other

When you visit a doctor these days, you don't see the doctor first - you see their Physician's Assistant (PA), or the nurse or somebody else in general to take your vitals, to find out what you're there for, etc. At this office, you see a nurse first, then see your doctor's PA and then the doctor.

When this doctor's PA asked what I was there to be seen for, I was a bit frustrated. Doesn't anyone talk to each other? Do I really need to inform them of all it? Describe my situation, the ouches and all?

So I tried my best to summarize what the last doctor had said - when I suddenly remembered my big goal from last week: to see these scans of my knee myself!

So I did it. I launched into a speech: "You know what? Everyone keeps telling me things about my knee assuming I know what's going on in there. No one has shown me a single scan. No one has shown me my MRI's, my x-rays, nothing. I have no clue what's going on in my knee... no clue what anyone's talking about. Will you just show me? Can someone just outline it for me?"

As I went off, the PA calmly turned to the computer and its massive screen, clicked on something and boom, there was an image. And, God bless her, she not only explained it, but let me take pictures of it! Look forward to seeing those next time - mind blowing!

Why? I told you before that there was a tear in my meniscus. Well, it's not just any tear. Let me tell ya. 

The meniscus is just a big pad of cartilage that sits flat between your leg bone and your shin bone. When we dance with a lot of syncopations, like shag dancers, we can tear that pad up pretty badly.

Just like a scrub pad wears down and tears off in bits and pieces around the edges when doing the dishes or working in the kitchen, so does the meniscal pad get tears and rips on the edges. Orthoscopic surgery is just a small tool that goes in and smoothes those tears down and sucks up the pieces to get them out of the knee.

So when I was told by the radiologist, my primary physician, the last doctor, etc. etc, that I had a tear in my meniscus, I assumed exactly that: I had a piece of cartilage hanging around somewhere that was locking up my knee and making things crunch, etc. etc. I had believed that all along. I went to the doctor, remember? - I started this series even, believing and expecting I needed a scope to clean up that meniscus pad.

And then the last doctor suddenly said I "wasn't a good candidate for scope"!? "Counterintuitive," remember? Well, I finally learned why. I have no clue why the others said I was good for scope. They were crazy.

That's because my meniscus didn't have any external tears. Oh no. My meniscus had nice clean smooth edges all around. Yup. The pad looked fine. Except... except for the inside.

The inside? The inside. I had managed to create a huge tear - more like a network of tears - within the meniscus itself. And when I saw it, I finally understood why scope was not a good option for me: to repair the tear was to remove the entire meniscus itself. E-gad!

I took a ton of photos to show you, and that's what Part 5 will be about. But I have to warn you - even the PA was wrong, like I said before. When the doctor finally walked in, he revealed such a big sonic boom, that it made this little meniscus tear seem like candy. 

I do indeed need surgery, but I need it now, not 10 years from now, and it isn't a full knee replacement - but something that requires a metal rod. Sounds fun, right? Right. But I was lead down the path to understanding it all in a very straight line, and I feel lucky enough to be able to do the same for you as a result.

But to do so, I have to work the graphics pretty hard, so I will take the next step with you in Part 5. Until then, I love you all - and I look forward to catching you again soon!