Saturday, April 23, 2016

Step One: Cut Off Your Old Knee...

It seems like a logical starting point for a blog about New Stoney Island would be some of the details regarding our transformation from the house we purchased to the home we've created for ourselves.  You know, pictures of the flagstone patio we installed, the building of the deck to house our hot tub.  But instead, there is something more exciting than all of that - I know, sounds impossible - and that is my new knee.

I have whined for years about my knees.  I developed really bad osteoarthritis which I directly attribute to my last year in the military trying to avoid the fat-boy program.  During that year, before the Air Force thought it was a smart idea to make everybody do PT a few times a week like our brothers and sisters in the Army and other services, we were left to our own devices to stay in shape.

I could go into a long diatribe about how aggravatingly stupid the Air Force has been with regards to fitness.  I could tell you story after story of incredible people who either got out of the military or who spent the majority of their careers dodging the bullet of random weigh-ins and tapes, but I'd only make you, the reader want to write your congressperson. 

Suffice it to say, every morning before work, I ran five miles on hard road and the final result was seriously jacked-up knees.  I can't blame the Air Force for that, of course, but I do think that an organized, structured program could have prevented me from the resulting pain.

So for the last decade I have tried to keep these bad knees from preventing activities I enjoy, like yard work, walking, well, I guess that sums it up.  It usually hurts to walk and sometimes I've looked like a serious gimp, limping around not sure which knee hurt more.  At some point I realized that I needed to do more than take the occasional Tylenol.  Several years ago I got a referral to the Orthopedic clinic at Big Willy, and I got the first in a series of not very helpful shots. 

From shots every several months to the attempt at a knee lubricant I now forget the name of; to braces that provided some temporary relief but were fairly nonfunctional, I continued to whine about the pain in my knees.  At each step of the way, I recall them asking me which knee hurt more, as if it was some sort of contest, or like they would treat only the really bad one and leave the other bad one alone.

I had a doctor who I really liked offer me some narcotic style pain meds.  I immediately declined telling him that I didn't want to chance anything addictive, so as an alternative, he got me hooked on Tramadol.  Tramadol is supposed to be like an opioid, but non-narcotic.  I think it really is an opioid, but what do I know?

I'm not one of those people who complains about the military medical care system because in truth, I know how very good they have been for my family.  But the worst advice I ever got from one of my care providers was the ortho guy who told me when I was fifty years old, point blank, I needed two new knees but that I should wait until I was sixty to have the surgery.  That was horrible advice.

Late last year I got this strange urge to stop taking the Tramadol.  I just felt like it was a bad idea to take it, even if it wasn't a narcotic.  It took me all of two days to find myself going through the symptoms of withdraw.  Don't get me wrong; it wasn't like I was a junkie needing a fix, but it was a very uncomfortable experience and I actually left work - not something I'm prone to doing.

I lasted about a week, maybe, before I realized that I could not stand the constant pain from my knees grinding bone on bone.  Firmly back on Tramadol, I went to my doctor and asked for a referral to Brooke Army Medical Center, bluntly telling her that I did not want to see the Ortho folks at Wilford Hall anymore.

During my meeting with the Ortho surgeon at BAMC, I described the the various efforts I had gone through, the injections and braces, the meds.

Dr. V, an Air Force surgeon, pulled out a copy of my X-Rays and showed me my knees.  He agreed that I needed surgery and that as soon as I was ready, he would perform it. His initial thought was that he could get away with partial knee replacements, saving the good parts of the knees.
But he also warned me that if he got in there and found they were worse than expected, he would be prepared to go with the full knee replacement. I hobbled away from the consultation with a true sense of relief, the idea that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

And I'll tell you more about my exciting near death experience, when I can.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. I know someone who maintained a very unhealthy love affair with Tramadol - that safe pain med.

    My brother-in-law is a former running nut - did Lord only knows how many miles of hard pavement running, marathons - you name it. He had both knees replaced, perhaps 6 months apart. He doesn't run now...

    Stay well, Dave, and thanks for the update!


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