Thursday, June 11, 2009

“Knee Go Boom: Part Two”

c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is a second installment of my adventure in ‘cane therapy.’ Having to depend on such a low-tech implement to walk has been an experience colored with humility. Yet it has also provided a sort of philosophical enlightenment …

- ONE -

Injuring my knee did more than simply interrupt the day at work.

It also caused an unexpected shift in our household priorities.

Suddenly, the summer schedule that we had imagined was gone. Replacing this wish list of activities was a more realistic regimen. One governed by basic requirements associated with living. A need for sustenance. A need for shelter. A need for everyday comforts.

And above all, a need to be well.

With my employment at Thompson Thrift & Sundries on hold, I once again returned to the computer. Working on writing projects offered a measure of relief. Yet I yearned to be fully mobile, again.

With the aid of my sister’s cane, I could navigate the rooms and hallways of our home without great difficulty. But going further seemed to sap my endurance.

A restrictive knee immobilizer helped improve my stability. It increased the stamina I could muster, as well. Still, there was a limit to what therapeutic appliances could accomplish with the injured limb.

Thus, a surgical repair was recommended by our doctor.

My wife and I discussed this prospective procedure with gusto. But each of us fell into our traditional roles. She expressed confidence in scientific analysis of the problem. Meanwhile, I attempted to stall for more time.

“Liz, there is no need to be hasty,” I said to her over the dinner table. “There are many factors to consider when discussing surgery…”

She narrowed her eyes. “Rodney! You are such a procrastinator!”

I fumbled for words. “Not at all. I’d just like to make an intelligent decision here…”

Her face reddened. “You are such an actor! Give it up!”

“What if I’m on crutches and my parents have a crisis?” I asked. “What if you’ve got to take one or both of our daughters to the Cleveland Clinic?”

“What if?” she mocked. “What if? What if?”

My frown could not be hidden. “You’re not listening to me.”

“Oh, but I am,” she explained.

“Then admit it,” I said. “We can’t afford to have me on the disabled list.”

“You’re on the list already!” she said.

My protest sounded immediately. “Sure, but I can function for now.”

Liz rubbed her eyes. “Rodney, you’re hobbling around like an old man!”

“It’s not that bad,” I snorted.

She grew irritated with my defiance. “Why can’t you just get it taken care of without an argument?”

- TWO -

Later that evening, I began to do some research. My specialist had said that I suffered from tears in the meniscus. Information from the Center for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine helped me understand what this entailed:

“Medically speaking, the ‘cartilage’ (inside a human knee) is actually known as the meniscus. The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of fibrocartilage which is located at the peripheral aspect of the joint. The majority of the meniscus has no blood supply. For that reason, when damaged, the meniscus is unable to undergo the normal healing process that occurs in most of the rest of the body. In addition, with age, the meniscus begins to deteriorate, often developing degenerative tears. Typically, when the meniscus is damaged, the torn piece begins to move in an abnormal fashion inside the joint. Because the space between the bones of the joint is very small, as the abnormally mobile piece of meniscal tissue moves, it may become caught between the bones of the joint, femur and tibia. When this happens, the knee becomes painful, swollen, and difficult to move.”

The description seemed to fit my condition perfectly. I had also been diagnosed with the onset of arthritis. Both of these afflictions were conspiring to overwhelm my ability to motorvate around Geauga.

Feeling ever more curios, I scrolled through a further description of this little-known part of the human knee:

“The meniscus has several functions. (First) Stability - As secondary stabilizers, the intact meniscii interact with the stabilizing function of the ligaments and are most effective when the surrounding ligaments are intact. (Second) Lubrication and nutrition - The meniscii act as spacers between the femur and the tibia. By doing so, they prevent friction between these two bones and allow for the diffusion of the normal joint fluid and its nutrients into the tissue which covers the end of the bone. This tissue is known as articular cartilage. Maintenance of the integrity of the articular cartilage is critical to preventing the development of post-traumatic or degenerative arthritis. (Third) Shock absorption - The biconcave C-shaped pieces of tissue known as meniscii lower the stress applied to the articular cartilage, and thereby have a role in preventing the development of degenerative arthritis.”

I pondered the descriptive text in silence.

During my years in the retail industry, I had often spent long hours kneeling on concrete floors. This transpired without any padding or guards for protection. Older co-workers often cautioned me to consider how this activity might be detrimental in the long haul. Yet I ignored their warnings.

Now, a reckoning of sorts was at hand. Years of neglect were making their effects known.

Continuing to read, I considered how my doctor had arrived at his diagnosis:

“When a physician is evaluating an injured knee, a history is taken to determine the specific problems that a patient is having with the knee. Next a physical examination of the area will be performed to determine the site of the pain, the presence or absence of physical findings that are known to be associated with a torn meniscus, and x-rays are performed to identify other abnormalities that may give similar problems to those of a torn meniscus. In some instances, additional diagnostic tests such as an MRI may be ordered. If the history and physical findings indicate that a tear is present, arthroscopic surgery may be indicated for treatment.”


While waiting for my surgery, I continued to rely on two devices to aid in maintaining some kind of mobility. My borrowed cane provided support to keep me on my feet. And the multi-strapped knee immobilizer kept everything in place.

The restrictive brace looked like something from a remake of ‘Robocop.’ But it stiffened my right knee with purposeful synthetic reinforcements.

The only drawback when wearing this contraption was difficulty in sitting at my computer desk. I found it necessary to devise a sort of platform for my leg while working on future newspaper submissions.

An old portable black-and-white television had the proper height for this duty. By resting the heel of my right foot across its crown, I could achieve a reasonable level of comfort while writing.

This was the position I took, while tapping out new features on the computer keyboard. My work continued into the wee hours, after everyone else had gone to bed. Yet one question remained unanswered…

What to do about my knee?

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