A Tale of Two Summers

One of my last ambulatory days of 2011
One of my last ambulatory days of 2011

I’ve been enjoying myself quite a lot lately. Other than the breathless busy-ness that is the inevitable outcome of trying to DO ALL THE THINGS, we’ve been having a lot of fun. This past weekend we spent at the beach, my children increasingly fearlessly ducking through waves. We’ve been hiking and camping and beaching and farmer’s marketing. I walked through London.

I was thinking, the other day, how much more pleasant this summer seemed than last. Of course there’s a lot that goes into that. I’m in a different job, which plays a role. My sons are 6 and 3 instead of 5 and 2, which also plays a role. But one of the most critical factors to my family’s happiness has to be the condition of my left knee.

As you all well remember, last May I epically blew it out. Or rather, I prosaically finished a long slow decade of disintigration with two major tears of my meniscus, precipitated by the fact that I had no ACL to protect those secondary tissues. I spent last summer in physical therapy, in my doctor’s office and in constant pain and fear. Pain obviously, but fear that I would step wrong or it would hurt worse. Fear that was, I should say, regularly reinforced by coming true.

Camping ended up being brutal. The shifting sands and rolling rocks of a beach, plus the fear that my then two year old would attempt to swim his way to France, meant that we entirely avoided the beach the entire summer. Last summer vacation, right after the MRI revealed the massive extent of the internal damage, I spent my summer vacation processing the reality that I would need my first ever major surgery. Mt. Rainier’s shoulders went unmolested by my feet – except for the tamest trails. I did PT in the hotel room and packed a large bottle of extra strength Ibuprofen. I planned ahead for my next “vacation”, quickly exhausting my paid time off and attempting to work through the sheer exhaustion of a healing body and pain-ridden system.

It’s amazing how much more fun it is to be out of pain and relatively healthy.

That’s where this post was intended to end two weeks ago, when I first thought it up. (What can I say, I’ve been too busy having fun to actually write about it!) My knee had finally reach all better, about the time I went to London. Look ma! I can kneel!

And then something went oogly. I’m kind of so used to limited motion and pain that it took me a bit to notice my knee hurt and I was favoring it again – limping a bit. I know it’s not the ACL, but I have to wonder if there’s still a tear in the mensicus, or even a new one. I think the way I was sitting might have “caught” it.Or maybe it’s the new normal – I have very little cushioning my knee now, with the meniscal tears removed. Maybe running for a bus one day is an action I pay for over the course of the next few weeks. I realize that the right thing to do is to call my dear Orthopedist and ask to be reviewed.

The idea of initiating anything like that is appalling. So instead I’m ignoring it for now. If it is a really remote meniscal tear that only gets activated when I sit a particular way, well. I can learn not to sit that way.

My husband and I were commisserating the other day. He was going through his extensive nightly ritual of caring for his hands and feet. When not attended to with slavish devotion, the skin on both tends to crack and not heal, which is just as painful as it sounds. This accumulation of familiar aches and chronic (minor) issues is almost like a rite of passage itself. It marks – as if our increasingly gigantic and independent children did not – our transition from the flower of youth to the fruit of middle age. You notice you’re walking with a limp – after 26 sessions of PT and two hours of surgery – and you kind of wonder if you will ever spend a full year in which you do not limp, and what it might mean to be the Mom that Limps a Little. (Of course, putting it that way almost resolves me to call my orthopedist. After vacation.)

What about you? What aches and pains have you accumulated, that have become as familiar as your own face in the mirror? Or tell me about ones you have resigned yourself to, only to be unexpectedly and permanently freed from them.

Update on el Knee-o

I went to the Orthopedic Surgeon today. (Actually, I went to the very nice PA who works with Orthopedic Surgeons and had about a billion times more time to spend on me than the surgeon did.) I explained my mysterious knee-malady. She agreed that the knee looked really really swollen. She pulled it and twisted it, trying to figure out where the boo boo was. The originally injured tendon was right about where it should be at 10 weeks of healing. The stiff tendon was fine. The swelling? Was downright mysterious.

Then, she aspirated my leg. NOTE: If you have problems with needles, do us all a favor and stop reading now.

They could've at least given me a Spiderman bandaid....
They could've at least given me a Spiderman bandaid....

OMG.

For those of you not following along closely with my entire life story, I have what we like to call a “high pain tolerance”. I gave birth without drugs – without so much as tylenol – TWICE. But I’m really kind of personally struggling right now. There’s this long-going knee thing and the back thing and the two-year-old-asserting-himself thing, and the constant feeling that I’ve completely fallen down on everything I need to do. I’m having a hard time. This, I truly believe, has an impact on one’s ability to tolerate pain.

First the PA pulled out a bottle of licodaine. This is a sign you will not enjoy your next 15 minutes or so. Then she pulled out two hugely ginormous needles with veritable vats of suction capacity. My confidence in my buffosity began to wane. The licodaine burned. Then the big needle. I won’t go into exactly what she did with it. Let’s just say that the licodaine was insufficient, I screamed several times, and at the end there was 30 ccs of clear yellow fluid in the syringe.

She’s sending the fluid into the lab to check for things I hadn’t thought to worry about (infection, lyme disease, gout). I’m also to be scheduled for an MRI so we can get to the bottom of this mysterious swelling. (She seemed skeptical that sitting with my knee bent had cause it, but by gum the correlation was so unmistakable!) She says my knee should feel better now that it doesn’t have 30 ccs of extraneous fluid in it. I’m still waiting for that.

But boy, am I out of cope. I hope the boys are superlatively behaved tonight, or they may find themselves headed to bed at 6:15.