Behind Closed Doors: It Started With a Roundhouse Kick…


A patient’s journey to new knees: Part 1

I started studying karate as an adult, and I was what was called a “legs fighter,” meaning I mostly kicked my way through 11 years of training, complete with some intense tournament-style sparring.

I’ll never forget competing in a tournament where I solidly landed a roundhouse kick to my opponent’s midsection.

I was feeling pretty darn proud of myself … until the adrenaline wore off. My knee felt like a crew of angry jackrabbits had taken up residence there. Turns out, I tore my meniscus and subsequently had arthroscopic surgery for it.

Wear and tear

The doctor I chose — Knee Doc No. 1 — took out about 15% of my cartilage, but being the optimist I am, I chose to look at my knee as 85% full, rather than 15% empty. It seemed reasonable enough because the doc assured me I didn’t really “knee-d” that 15% anyway. They had the “gall” to say the same thing when they took out my gallbladder, which begs the question: Why do I have all this extra stuff in my body in the first place? If they just went ahead and took out all the parts I don’t need, it would be a great way to lose 10 pounds! Anyone need a kidney?

According to Knee Doc No. 1, I had plenty of cartilage left, which I would need as a shock absorber. (I guess to absorb the shock when the bill came.) Before the surgery, the doc told me he would “see what else he could find” while he was in there. I told him I had dibs on any loose change or Cheetos that he discovered. All he found was some arthritis and a set of keys from that old truck I drove in high school. I always wondered what happened to them.

Four years later, I had the same cartilage-removing surgery on the other knee—only this time around, I couldn’t blame the martial arts. This meniscus tear was just from walking around, living life. Who knew that could lead to surgery?

12 years in limbo

Life went swimmingly for a while until both knees began to act up. Knee Doc No. 1 had moved south, so I went to see his colleague, Knee Doc No. 2. He told me I was too old for any more surgeries but too young for knee replacement. Way to make a gal feel special, Knee Doc No. 2!

For the next 12 years, I got cortisone shots in both knees every four months. This worked until it didn’t, and by then I was finally old enough to talk about replacements.

By then, Knee Doc No. 2 had retired, so I went to Knee Doc No. 3. This charmer let me know that I was plenty old enough for replacement surgery (the hits just keep on coming). He explained that he uses a robot-assisted procedure. I told him that I would insist that the robot prove it’s not a human.

I felt very good about this doc and the procedure. But first we had to decide which knee got to go first. It was Sophie’s Choice, but it was decided Right Knee would be the trailblazer while Left Knee waited in the wings. I prenamed New Right Knee “Laverne,” and we set a date for surgery.

The month leading up to the surgery was chock-full of checkups, blood draws and a mind-numbingly boring joint class — all in preparation for The Main Event, which I’ll cover in detail in Part 2 of this series. See you next month! OSM

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