Prelude to Pre-Op

28 Apr

One Sunday afternoon when I was in middle school I pulled a lazy teenager stunt and decided that the best way to put Snapple in the fridge was to sit on the floor in front of the refrigerator with my legs crossed yoga-style. Once all of the Snapple was loaded onto the bottom shelf I tried to get up. Tried was the word to note in that last sentence. I suddenly found that my right knee wouldn’t straighten, and quickly ended hanging on the refrigerator door whimpering in pain. In short, my knee was locked in the bent position.

A trip to the emergency room yielded no answers as to what might have caused the mysterious locking. It loosened on its own and after a few hours I was able to straighten my leg. Though my knee was only locked for about an hour, the pain lasted for about a week. Since your leg really isn’t supposed to act like it needs a can of WD40, you can imagine we were concerned.

The locking continued as I aged, happening two to three times per year. Unfortunately, despite having an x-ray and an MRI, the doctors I saw were still baffled as to what could be causing the issues. Unfortunately, I was never able to get to a doctor while my knee was still actively locked. This made for a case of “sorry, we can’t replicate the issue.” As time progressed I figured out how to live with the locking. I mostly just avoided any positions, such as squatting, that I knew were more likely to cause my knee to lock.

A new and excited symptom arose as time progressed. I needed to pop my knee back into place on a daily basis. Pressure would form in my knee and things would feel, for lack of a better term, off. In order to fix the issue I would have to plant my foot in place and then wiggle my leg until I heard a loud pop and things felt more aligned in my knee.

Earlier in 2012, I did my little wiggle action to pop my knee back into place, and something pinched. Every step I took made me wince, so I stayed home from work for a day, rested and iced my knee and unfortunately felt little relief. I decided that I should test the situation myself, so I went to the gym and ran on the treadmill to see if that caused any pain. Low and behold, not only did it not hurt to run, my knee felt better after running.

Not being a complete idiot (I must be at least somewhat of an idiot if I though running on an injured leg was a good call) I addressed the issue with my doctor. She fiddled with my knee and gave it a good poke and prod, and then diagnosed me with Patella Femoral Syndrome. Which is aptly known as “Runner’s Knee.” Happy with a diagnosis that sounded logical, and that meant that I wasn’t crazy; I went on my way.

Two weeks after that visit my knee locked again. So I consulted the digital doctor known as Web MD, and did some research on patella femoral syndrome. Nowhere in the description did it describe locking, so I figured it was time for a second opinion. I was also set on seeing a doctor while my knee was actively in pain, so I made an emergency appointment at my doctor’s practice. The doctor I saw didn’t touch my knee, just asked a bunch of questions and made a referral to the Sports Medicine doctor on staff. While I was displeased with her lack of assessment, it seems like the co-pay was well spent, because Dr. Kapur, the Sports Med Doc knew what was up.

 

Dr. Kapur made a guess that I had a discoid meniscus, which was catching inside my leg and causing the locking and popping. Go figure that the layman’s term for “discoid meniscus” is “Locking Popping Knee Syndrome.” It seemed to me like we were on to something. To confirm his guess I went for an MRI. Not only did the MRI show that I have a discoid meniscus, it also showed tears on both meniscuses (or in the Latin way: menisci!) in my right knee. Go, Dr. Kapur!

Since you’re probably wondering what the heck a discoid meniscus is, I will fill you in. Normally, the meniscus is a thin crescent shaped piece of cartilage that sits between your thigh bones and you calf bones. When you have a discoid meniscus, the meniscus is not thin and crescent shaped, it’s fuller and fat. What this means is that instead of sitting nicely between the bones, it only sometimes sits nicely between the bones, other times it shoots around inside the knee. This can predispose you to meniscal tears.

You menisci won’t heal on their own, which is evidenced by the fact that I had these issues for over a decade with no relief. So unluckily, the only recourse we had was surgery. I did a lot of debating on whether or not to have the surgery, as on a daily basis my pain level was quite low, and came to the conclusion after meeting with the surgeon, that if I skipped surgery now I could end up damaging the good parts of my meniscus as the tears spread. I donned the surgery a “search and rescue mission.”

Since my friends the painkillers are kicking in, I think I will stop here for now. I will follow up next time with the details of the surgery itself, and where we go from here.

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