Friday, January 25, 2013

I Doubt You Injured Your Knee...Wrong!


My knee, my knee, my knee. The nurse thinks I'm confused. She tells me that I had ankle surgery, not knee surgery. I tell her I know that, but right now I have no feeling in my ankle and my knee is killing me. She pushes pain medication into my IV and tries to make me comfortable. As the nerve block wore off on my ankle that day, so did the pain in my knee. The pain in my ankle was excruciating, therefore masking the pain I had in my knee. It was not an easy night in the hospital. As if hurting from the surgery wasn't enough, I had a bad reaction to the general anesthesia making it very hard to breathe. I developed strider. Every breath was short and raspy. My oxygen intake was low. I had on an oxygen mask and it wasn't working. The nurses had to give me a shot of epinephrine which caused my heart rate to go insanely high. It felt like my heart was going to beat right out of my chest. Luckily, the one shot of epinephrine opened up my airway, and I was able to breathe normal again. To this day, I never want another shot of epinephrine.

Before I left the hospital the next day, I told the nursing staff the top of my foot was burning. I was told the dressing was probably wrapped too tight. So before I left, the dressing was loosened. For the next week, I watched a lot of movies, worked on homework and tried to recover. The top of my foot was still burning. As my mom usually does, she takes things into her own hands when she thinks something is not right; so, she called my family doctor. He prescribed me antibiotics just in case I had an infection. Good thing! The next day when I saw the surgeon, he took the dressing off to assess my ankle and to his surprise, the top of my foot was infected. I had cellulitis; a type of bacterial infection on the skin. Luckily we caught it early, and I was only on antibiotics for 7-10 days (I have a scar from that darn infection). For the next 6 weeks, I was on crutches and in a cast.

The reality of everything I have been through the past 5 months sinking in
Come the beginning of April, I was transferred into a walking boot and was allowed to slowly get off of the crutches. I was sick of being on crutches and lugging my backpack around, so I was thrilled to hear this news. I was so happy to be heading in the right direction. Things were finally looking up for me. I was progressing in physical therapy and everyone is confident that fall is a realistic goal to set to return to soccer.  

Attempting to play soccer while on crutches
Life sure did look a lot different for me than your average 16 year old. I basically lived at physical therapy and doctors offices. I couldn't drive because the damage was on my right leg. I relied on my parents tremendously. I learned that even though I was injured and didn't feel well, life still goes on. There are still homework assignments, projects, tests, and quizzes that I am responsible for that need to be done. Being injured and needing surgery is not an excuse to disengage from life. At the end of the day, I am the one who has to be responsible and get my assignments turned in on time. Even from missing a lot of class, my grades got better because I made it my "job" since I wasn't able to hold a regular job. It was extremely hard, but I needed to feel like I had some sense of control in my life. I also needed that sense of control because things didn't look up good for long.

As physical therapy progressed, and we tried putting the crutches to the side to work on weight bearing exercises such as walking, squats, balancing on one leg etc. all of a sudden the knee pain I had when I woke up from surgery returned. I thought to myself, this couldn't possibly be happening. I've had enough of being injured; all I want is to get back to "normal". Since my right knee kept swelling by the end of every pt appointment, my physical therapist advised I go back to my orthopedic and have my knee evaluated. So off to the doctor. Again.

I saw my orthopedic a couple weeks later. My ankle was doing great. Yay! However, when I told him I was having sharp pains in my knee, my doctor didn't think it was at all possible to have injured it. He kept trying to tell me that my knee was hurting probably because of my ankle. I wasn't buying this reason. He then went on to imply, I was saying my knee hurt in order to get pain medication from him. Are you kidding me?!? Pain med seeking?? For one, I had medication leftover from my ankle and two, I feel awful on pain medication. Why in the world would I make something up to get medicine I don't feel good on? It was the farthest thing from the truth. Since I wouldn't drop the issue, and kept being persistent that there was something more going on, he told me to see his associate who specializes in knees and dismissed me from his care.

When I went with my mom to see the knee specialist, he initially didn't think there was a problem. I told him I wasn't able to walk without using at least one crutch. I would swell after any exercise, and something was in the joint causing my knee to lock. He decides to order an MRI. Well, would you imagine that. The results showed there was reason for my symptoms. This means back to the operating room for surgery. My patella (knee cap) was being pulled out to the side because the tissue was too tight so the doctor performed a lateral release. There was also an enlarged plica (swollen tissue) that was getting caught in the joint which caused my knee to lock, so that was removed. Luckily, this surgery wasn't nearly as invasive as my ankle. As one could imagine, when I ran into my ankle doctor at the office after knee surgery, I gave him an uncomfortable stare right into his eyes and he put his head down and walked into a room without even saying a word to me. I think his ego dropped a few points that day because he knows he was wrong. Anyways, I wore a knee immobilizer for 2 week but began physical therapy 3 days after surgery. Physical therapy absolutely sucked that soon after surgery. I worked really hard and was off of crutches by the end of June. Success.

I didn't know it then, but the "impossible" medical journey had begun. As I continued going to PT, I found I couldn't do all of the exercises due to sharp pain in the back of my right hip. It turns out when I landed from that jump back in September, I damaged my right ankle, right knee, and right hip all at once. Since I wasn't allowed to put any weight on my ankle for so long I never knew I injured anything else until physical therapy started. It was now only a matter of time before going to the orthopedic to figure out what was wrong with my hip. Now the real fun was to begin because the injuries that were soon to be discovered were certainly rare and bizarre.


  1. same thing happened to me, and I hear your pains and aches, except with my ankle leg break they couldn't figure out why it wasn't healing and after endless, MRI's cat scans regular xrays, they finally found that I also had a hairline fracture under the ankle bone. I was in a wheel chair for 3 months, crutches for 2 months, then had my cast taken off. Still more crutches and the boot for another 6-8 months. I broke my leg in November 2010, a week before Thanksgiving what originally was said I would have cast for no longer than 4-6 weeks ended up being a total before therapy 6-8 months. So now I research the doctors get info from other patients. My back injury doctor doesn't even remember my name or why I am there. He's been fired. looking for a new one. I'm glad you, stayed on it! Wtg and God Bless you never have to go through that again. Kathy Sobkowicz-Garcia, I'm related to Joanne Ciolek- King Good luck

    1. Hi Kathy, thanks for writing. Sounds like you went through your own "medical hell". I hope your ankle/leg break is all healed and not giving you any trouble. I see we share some similar experiences. It sure can be rough. My story is just at the beginning and gets SO complicated. Good luck with your back injury. I hope you find a good doctor soon. Keep plugging along. ~Megan

  2. Food for thought - I am a Vet. In the Army, I suffered numerous injuries, ankle, knees, lower back. I never allowed surgery because I seemed that once a person allowed one invasive procedure, it was downhill from there and more surgeries were needed. Time, antinflamatories a bit of steroids, exercise and I managed. I still got pain and I still get pain but I have never been under the knife. Maybe not everyone needs surgery. Maybe people need to stop before pushing for invasive procedures because the body can heal. I think you should have not been forced to carry that backpack in school or have to hobble around. I think there could have been accomodations made for you, so that you could use a wheelchair in school and thus get off the injury. Our bodies can heal, there will be an internal scar that will give us pain, from time to time but we can save ourselves a lot of pain and time by being careful about invasive procedures, getting off our feet and allowing the body to heal. Another thing for young people, once you have an injury, the body never really feels the same and that may be difficult to accept.

    1. I too, believe the human body can heal itself; however, I strongly think it depends on the injury sustained. I know firsthand not all injuries require surgery. When I was playing soccer and doing cross-country, I sustained injuries that required rest, immobilization, anti-inflammatory medication and various exercises to strengthen. These injuries healed without surgical intervention which is a very good thing. From my experience though, the feeling is very different between injuries that need time to heal on their own, and injuries that need surgical intervention. With all of the surgery I’ve had, I’ve never jumped directly into another surgery before trying conservative methods first. Due to the complexity of my injuries, I have to go to the super-specialists (some of which are located out of state for me). With all of the surgeries I have had, believe me, the first question that I always ask after surgery is, “Was surgery necessary?” Sometimes the answer is as simple as, “Yes. Your muscles were detached from the bone” or “Yes. It would not have healed properly making it nonfunctional.” I do not regret having any of the surgeries done because I know every one was necessary.

      As far as using the wheelchair goes, you are right. Hindsight is always better than foresight. I don’t know how many of my blogs you have read, but when I originally injured myself, I never imagined that I would have been on crutches as long as I was & damaged my shoulders. This is why I refused using a wheelchair.

      Thank you for your military service. My grandpa is a WWII vet.

  3. You couldn't get a break. The infection on the skin, the patella needing release. The reaction to the anesthesia! That sounds awful. And your parents must have been so scared so often. That is hard to imagine going through such a thing. You have a great attitude about moving forward and living.

  4. Good sharing, Knee joint pain is a common problem with many causes, from acute injuries to medical conditions. Normally people will believe surgery is the only way to relief knee pain, in fact, some may ask how to cure knee pain without surgery. Yes there are ways like using Unloading bracing technology, having ergo mattress etc. Read more: