Monday, February 28, 2011

While I still have one good leg to stand on....

A few weeks ago I was riding with Ruth, getting compliments on my leg placement and seat but when she approached me to to suggest a different placement for my foot (toe in) and moved my foot into position a pain shot through my knee and made a sound that gave us both a fright. This is the pain that I ride with, the one that sadly limits the time I am in the saddle and the one that really prevents me from progressing.

"How do you ride with your knee like that?", she asked. "With my foot like this (pointed more straight ahead) because it hurts any other way" I replied. In her stern voice she flat out told me that I needed to make a commitment and that if I intended to continue to ride I would get that knee fixed. On my ride home I thought about it and decided that Ruth was right. I could continue to ride like this, through the pain, and I might be able to make it another two years but then I'd be DONE! Or I could get it fixed and I might get another 10 years of riding. That night I told my husband that I was going to make the appointment I'd been start the process of getting a knee replacement. He wasn't exactly happy with my reasoning (he would have preferred that it be because I wanted do something really important, like "walk") but he did agree that it was time...perhaps even well past time. I called the next day and made an appointment & their first available was 2/22.

Twelve years ago I was on a ski trip to Big Bear with my family. I KNEW skiing was not for me so the dog and I hung out while my Mom (yes, my MOM!), my son, my brother and his friend were all up on the hill. I was walking from the lodge to the observation deck across a gravel path that had iced over and I slipped, fell and twisted the heck out of my knee. We were just a couple of months away from moving to Washington state so while I did get it looked at 2 days later in Los Angeles, I decided to wait until I got to Washington to start the physical therapy that the doctor suggested. I got to Washington and no longer had insurance so I decided it could wait a little while longer. I babied it...a lot!

About 3 years later we bought a two-story house and within a month of using stairs every day the knee was toast. I had also fallen two more times and finally went to the doctor (because now I had insurance!). The menicus was not only torn (almost shredded) it was now dislodged and had fallen back behind my knee. I had surgery to trim up the tears and put it back into place but who knows how long I'd been walking on it with bone on bone action and there was already signs of damage. To top it off, I'd come to rely so much on my *good knee* that I'd damaged that one too (sounds like lameness issues, eh?). I was told that I needed TWO knee replacements but at my age (then turning 40 the next day) that they'd like to see me go as long as possible because the knee replacement at that time would only last 8-10 years and they could only replace it twice. So I toughed it out.

I started riding again (because that seems like a great idea for someone with a severe knee injury right?) at the age of 45. When I got serious and hired Chrissy as my trainer I noted that I was good for about 30 minutes before the pain started to slow me down. As I worked up to 40 minutes and then a full hour, I really felt my riding was improving. I started doing schooling shows and rode for a few hours, but not continuously. Then came some trail riding and did a couple of 2-3 hour trail rides where I thought I was going to blow out the knee ON THE TRAIL and hoped Coconut would be able to get me back. Most of you probably know that going down steep hills is hard on the knees but once you're up there, you have to get back down and what was I going to do, get off and walk back? So yes...I suppose it was time to get serious about this and enter the program to get the knee fixed.

Over the last year I did start to address the problem by consulting an Orthopedic surgeon who started me on Synvisc injections. Synvisc is basically (as I understand it) purified chicken fat that, when injected into the knee, creates lubrication and less friction between the bones. Those are supposed to last up to 6 months and the first round seemed to have some good results. The second round was not as successful. I got injected days before I left for the World Equestrian Games were I walked extensively every day. I knew a week into it that I wasn't getting much relief from it, but I pushed on.

I tend to sit pseudo-yoga style at my desk and about 4 days after my conversation with Ruth, I was working at the computer and went to unwind my legs but discovered that I could fully extend my knee and could barely put any weight on it. I had no choice but to break out the crutches and was on them for the next 36 hours.  The next morning I called Dr. Hunter's office and told them that even though I had an appointment in a week, I really felt like I was having an unexpected urgent issue and they were able to fit me in early the next morning. Of course when I woke up for that appointment, the problem seemed resolved but I didn't know what could trigger it next so I kept the appointment anyway.

They took a series of x-rays and Dr. Hunter came in within a few minutes and said, "I don't know how you even walked in here today" ... the knee is completely blown. He said if he didn't know me, he'd say it was the knee of a 78 year old (about 30 years off!!!) and shook his head saying there was nothing he could do but replace it. Apparently it's covered in bone spurs and too damaged to try to treat. He asked if I could clear the next 6-8 weeks and since I happen to be in a position to do that, he put me at the top of his list and I got a call later that day that they scheduled me for Monday the 28th, just 10 days away at that point. No time to go through the seminar, prep classes or any of that...get in and do it, pretty much, NOW!

When I told him I wanted to ride at least another 10 years, he said, "Why not 15-20?" and I smiled BIG and said "OK!" There will, however, be no running in my future (oh darn...bwahaha) but riding pleasure, trails and some dressage would be ok. No Jumping though! Hey...I'm starting to sound like Bucky B Lucky! I knew we were kindred spirits. In fact I went to visit him on Friday and he kept sniffing my knee. How weird is that? Do you think he knew? Maybe when we're both all better, we can team up for a ride. That would be amazing!

A little Lucky Love before I go off to fix my leg. You next handsome!

So projects that I'd been looking at doing over the next few months either had to go on hold or get done in a hurry! The last week has been a whirlwind of stuff that I felt pressured to do. Now it's hours away from when I need to leave for the hospital and I'm looking around thinking that I guess some of it will just have to wait until I can get to it. I did what I's time to get better!

I'm not too worried about the procedure. I have a highly recommended surgeon and my own personal recovery nurse. It turns out that my friend Becka, who's mare Autumn was my first lesson horse at Chrissy's & is now Coconut's neighbor on the other side at the barn, is a recovery room nurse and she has a plan for me! I will be in good hands all the way through this so nothing to fear...and every thing to gain, I think! I'm starting to consider how much more relaxed I can be in the saddle once I am out of pain. I know there is a LOT of work I will have to do to get rehabbed from the surgery and get used to the new knee but I have every reason to believe that if I can power through the pain to ride and do the things I love, then I should have no problem applying myself to, what some call, a difficult recovery. I'm pretty tenacious... but I also know that I could be writing "omg, this is the hardest thing I've ever done" posts later. I hope someone will cut and paste this back to me if I do turn into a screaming/crying mess. Maybe Ruth can come over and remind me how committed I need to know...if I am serious about this riding thing.

Tonight I'm hopeful. Tomorrow I'll sleep it off & then it's on to a new adventure!

1 comment:

  1. Keep up the therapy.. knee that is. I know you keep up with sanity therapy with the horses.