Friday, July 25, 2008

Knee Surgery

When I was about 27 or so I jumped off a fence wearing a 50-pound paragliding bag. Yeah, real smart. My left knee hurt like hell for a month or so but got better, my right knee healed faster. In the last 13 years I've put more miles on my body than long distance trucker, and that knee never really felt great. I just dealt with it. Then last November I was kite skiing and ambitiously hucked a pretty good air that unfortunately greatly exceeded my ability to successfully land it... I was also on a frozen lake with less than 10cm of snow. That really hurt my knee, but I sucked it up, only pussies need knee surgery. I then tore my oblique after walking, or rather hobbling, into an ice climb. I had to "hip kip" every step to make my knee work, and the oblique was just worn out from the effort. The walk out sucked as the entire left side of my body was a mess. Anyhow, long story short, I finally got into have the meniscus sorted out.

6:00 a.m.: Arrive at the Banff Hospital without any coffee or other stimulants in my blood stream. A tremendous waste of a nice morning for sure, how does anyone live without caffeine?

6:30: Fill out all the paperwork. Get given a bed to wait on. Fall asleep.

8:30: Wake up, my room now has two other patients. They see me asleep in the bed and assume that I've already had surgery. I'm grumpy and surly due to the lack of morning java and feed them horror stories about it until I give in and admit I'm waiting too. We joke about it all but everyone is nervous. Someone is shortly going to stick huge tent stakes into our knees... I spend five minutes scrubbing my leg with a disinfectant sponge that smells like the stuff I used to put under my tape to make it stick better. I have flashbacks of climbing in Joshua Tree, all that morning coffee before we went out and cranked...

9:00 a.m. I'm on the table, and Dr. B and his team are attaching various monitors etc. The anesthesiologist asks if I want some happy juice in my IV before they stick a monster needle attached to roughly a can of Red Bull full of anesthetic into my knee. I decline, I want to watch this action and be fully with the program.

9:01 a.m. There's a med student sticking the needle in. She's looking worried. I try and get her psyched and relaxed by joking with her. She gets more nervous until I tell her I'm just joking, I won't yell if she does it wrong. The mood lightens up, and she does a great job. I want everyone in that room psyched and into working the game. I know I'll get better results if they see this all matters to me. It does.

9:15 The camera on the end of one tent stake shows the operating room, then dark redness, then it's exactly like watching one of those TV shows where the sub is thousands of meters below the surface and searching for some nightmarish creature. My femur, patella and various tree trunks of ligaments float by. It's surreal, almost like the old TV show where a bunch of people are miniaturized and dropped into someone's blood stream. Who knew there was a universe inside my knee?

9:16. Dr. B goes to work. The only thing that tells me that the image on the screen is inside my knee is that the various yanks and snaps correspond to movements I feel only as dull forces. It's dentistry meets carving a turkey in a tent at night. Dr. B. does an excellent job of telling me what he sees and is doing, and I'm glad I looked at a bunch of photos so I could follow along reasonably well

9:30 Dr. B finishes up with the medial meniscus and gives me a tour of the rest of my knee. I have to say that was one of the coolest things I've ever seen. It's also enjoyable because my ACL and the rest of the bits are in good shape considering how much I have abused them over the years. The tent stakes come out of my leg, the room relaxes, the team starts breaking down and I'm wheeled out. Very professional, very smooth, thanks.

9:45 Because I've refused the happy juice I go directly back to my earlier room and not the recovery room. I get handed the single worst turkey sandwich I've ever experienced in my life. What is it with hospital food???! I eat the first half of it anyhow 'cause I'm really hungry. The second half wins, and I back down.

10:30 I hobble out. My knee is still totally numb, but apparently this is OK. My ride shows, we head for coffee and painkillers immediately.

Monday Afternoon. My body knows something is really wrong, but can't figure out what. Amazingly, the anesthetic lasts until 2:00 a.m. Tuesday morning. I know it fully wore off at 2:18 a.m. 'cause that's when I woke up. My knee actually hurt less than it often did before the surgery, and I'm too lazy to get up and find the pain pills so I go back to sleep. I am pretty certain that I'm not going to be able to compete in the Canadian Paragliding Nationals, which start a week from today.

Tueday: Pretty much the same as Monday but now I can at least feel my knee. I didn't want to do much on Monday because I figured that I needed to be able to feel my knee to know if what I was doing was too much. I don't do much but ice and walk to the fridge for more food. Pain pills still not necessary.

Wed: Feel better. Walk slowly, get some work done, the meniscus actually doesn't hurt too much but my range of motion is pretty limited and slow to move through.

Thur: I feel pretty darn good until I walk more than 30m. The problem isn't the meniscus but all the supporting muscles firing in weird ways.

Today: I'm packing for the Canadian Nationals as I can walk more or less normally if not fast. Flying seems like the logical thing to do because I can't really walk, can't ride a bike, can't kayak (water in wound not good), can't climb, can't even go swimming. I might have to get my friends to help me get off the hill, but that will be pretty funny too. My knee didn't hurt at all last night for the first time in about four months. Amazing. I haven't taken any of the big pain pills as it simply hurts less than it often did over the last couple of months. I don't know if this means if the pain isn't too bad or that I have adapted to a lot of pain in my knee. In either case I have a nice big bottle of industrial pain kills to stick in the first aid kit.

Thanks to Dr. B and the team at the Banff hospital, I really hope the rest of this goes as well as it has for the first five days.

See ya in Chelan!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Came by here to see how you are and what you're up to.
Ah the knee deal...I feel for you even though it sounds like you're good to go. I rediscovered motorcycles in the past year-spent a lot of time on them in my younger days- Well, hit a damn dog going damn slow on my KTM dirtbike and F'ed my knee pretty badly. Smashed the tibial plateau, ripped off the ACL (fortunately, it ripped the tibial spine off and didn't break the ligament itself. So it's reattached, bone piece to bone with some kind of funky sutures)The only good thing is my meniscus is totally fine! Anyway, I can empathize with the knee situ.
On to the Tour...
You know I've been "inside" this sport for a long time. It is depressing that doping continues to be at the forefront in terms of news to the masses concerning cycling. Maybe the Tour is too hard to do on bread and water? I do think this year's Tour was one of the cleanest versions in the last 15 years (the most dynamic dude got popped and when he was gone it was truly a battle) and I can see it heading that direction. It's easy for me to get pissed at the riders for cheating (they're literally messing with my livelihood!), but as you say, high stakes and human nature, so I can understand it too. I can't imagine climbers don't cheat when it comes to competition, people cheat(diet pills are "cheating" in cycling) it's human nature. Sport is glorified war with money involved and in the end, entertainment for the masses for advertising. The people want to see Lance kill everyone at the Tour for 7 years running (that guy was good at masking!!) and the riders want to get paid and it goes on and on. The Tour still is beautiful, it's amazing to put your body through that when at anytime you can just pull over, stop and get in the car. Its easier to keep going on a mtn or when shit goes bad flying, if you don't, you die for sure!!
Anyway, I'm not sure what I'm saying up there, but I hope you and Kim are well. Tell her hello and I enjoyed her last piece in Alpinist.
Maybe it's time to go surfing....