Last November my knee “blew out.” I felt what seemed like a couple of gunshots. I’m sure it wasn’t really that loud- but it seemed like it to me! I maintained my balance, but was suddenly unable to straighten my right leg.
This set into motion my first experience with surgery, and another foray into the confusing land of medical care in America.
Everyone wants to know how it happened, but I have no exciting story to tell. I wasn’t playing football or racing or roofing the house. I was walking through the kitchen- the most strenuous activity preceding “the event” was kneeling down to pick up a box.
I contacted our doctor and she gave me a prescription for miloxicam and referred me to Tulsa Bone & Joint. By now I could straighten my leg, but standing or sitting was tedious. Certain positions would randomly send a sharp pain through my leg. Wearing a knee brace helped with walking, but seemed to cause more problems when sitting.
When I finally got to see the doctor I was managing to get around pretty good. After shooting some X-rays I waited for the doctor to look them over. When he walked into the exam room his first words were, “Is this the first time this has bothered you?”
I didn’t like the sound of that.
In any other business.
The X-ray showed a “sinkhole” in my femur. A sliver of bone fragment was also visible between the femur and the knee cap. That was the cause of my random pain, and occasional locked knee. He recommended an MRI to show more detail.
The MRI showed the sinkhole in greater detail. He explained that a chunk of my femur had been busted loose many years ago. They could tell this by the new growth around the edges of the sinkhole. It appeared that the chunk had broken but stayed in place for quite some time. When I kneeled down on that fateful day in November it was kicked out of place and became debris floating around inside my knee.
At this point I was referred to Dr. John Balbas, MD. His specialty is this type of thing and he offered me a few options. The bare minimum was to go in and clean out the debris. On the other end of the scale we had joint replacement or bone graft from a cadaver. In between was the option to fill in the sinkhole with some of my tissue scraped off of another area or take a sample of my cartilage for reproducing at a lab.
He recommended we clean it out and use some of my tissue to fill in the void. This would require 4-6 weeks recovery, the first few days off my feet completely and the first week or two on crutches. From here it got weird.
As the day for surgery got closer I was ordered to come in for a blood test and EKG, given various instructions for the night and morning before and asked a one by one if I was allergic to anything in the known universe. With all the information before me the only two questions nobody could answer seemed like the most obvious:
How much will it cost?
It turns out you don’t find out the time for your surgery until the day before. Everyone acted like this was common knowledge and seemed to be bothered when I asked. The cost is still unknown.
The most confusing part of this whole mess has been the conflicting information.
One party told me beforehand it was okay to shave my knee the day before surgery- the nurse in the operating room was shocked to discover I had shaved my knee.
One phone call advised to eat nothing after midnight, but coffee or water was okay if I didn’t use any creamer- the morning of my surgery the nurse told me I shouldn’t have put anything in my mouth. Not even chew gum!
After the procedure the doctor spoke with my wife. He stressed that crutches would be needed for at least six weeks. Quite a change from his original week or two. Then to top it off he said I shouldn’t even drive a car for six weeks!
So far it’s been 24 hours. The crutches have done a number on my armpits. My knee is sore and swollen, but the pain is tolerable. Hopefully things are looking up.