Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Meniscectomy

 Jennifer and I made the drive to the Roper Hospital Ambulatory Surgery & Pain Management on James Island on Tuesday, February 7 for my outpatient arthroscopic meniscectomy ("knee scope") surgery. This is one surgery that was never on my radar in the past. Even though I played sports in my youth, I never had a knee injury. Well...that's not quite true, I wrecked my cousin's 50cc Honda and that required stitches in my right knee, but there was no structural damage as far as I know.

I had no anxiety for this procedure. None. This is not to say I was not aware that things can and do go wrong in the OR, many if not most times through no one's fault. The human body is an anatomical miracle and no two are alike. It is an endless variation on a lyrical masterpiece beyond belief, astounding in every aspect. It troubles me some believe it can enter the surgical arena without risk.

Having had two major surgeries on my lower right leg at Roper St. Francis, I did know the level of care I would receive: none better. There many fine healthcare facilities across the nation, and we are fortunate to such a highly rated one here. In any large organization, sometimes there is a loss of identity with not only the client but the employees. With Roper, from top to bottom, I have a sense of humanity, harmony, purpose, and of something missing in far too many: integrity.

This does not come by accident.


I signed in and Jennifer was given a tracking number that would allow her to see my progress monitor in the very comfortable and appealing reception/waiting area. Turns out the operation was so short she hardly needed to check my status.

Homeward bound
I was taken to pre-op where the nurses prepared me for surgery. IV in the back of the hand, shaved my left knee, and generally making me feel at ease with friendly conversation. Dr. Graham came in and discussed the procedure, then the anesthesiologist explained his role and started the process to ease me into unconsciousness. I recall going into the OR, I think I was able to carry on a coherent conversation until I was put under.

I awoke in the same pre-op room and was quickly alert. No pain in the knee; I had an elastic bandage from mid-thigh down and around my ankle. Very impressive, especially with my prosthesis on the other side. We were given instructions for home care and then I was wheeled out to the Pilot and Jennifer hauled me home. Far less discomfort than grocery shopping. :)


I took the next day off from work, mainly to make sure I could keep my knee elevated and ice to reduce swelling. My pain level was very low, I only felt a little more discomfort from the incision areas when I moved certain ways. If I had no meds I would have been fine, and by the following evening I stopped taking them altogether.

Getting ready for first dressing change
For the two days following surgery I used crutches and went back to work on Thursday. In a perfect world I would have taken three days off, not that I was in pain, but I think it would help me heal faster. Being in IT with several important projects in the works, I felt I needed to be there and was able to ice nearly as often as I could at home.

By Friday I was down to one crutch, then transitioned to none over the course of the day. I worked some Saturday morning, and while walking I tried to concentrate on a shorter but more natural gait, trying not to limp but not forcing the issue either. I was surprise how well I could walk and knew once the swelling went down it would get better yet. On Saturday evening my kneecap has emerged from the swollen depths and is starting to look like its old self.

Now Sunday, swelling is only noticeable above and below the kneecap and looks nearly normal. With my first few steps I could tell a definite improvement and I hope the recovery will continue at this pace.

Jennifer is taking great care of me (again!) and will have to drive me to work until I gain a little more flexibility in the knee. I hope I can relieve her of this chore later next week. Thanks #1.


I've read all sorts of messages on the internet from runners who have had this surgery. Several things will go into the success of this operation. I must mention meniscus tears are far more prevalent than I knew; many people have them through either injury or aging. If you are not active you may be asymptomatic to the injury, or it may hurt and go away after a few days.
The two incisions and swollen knee
My tear had folded on itself, so that was removed. Dr. Graham gave me a sheet of photos of the procedure, but I am not able to tell for certain what I am seeing. At my follow-up I will get the details as to where and how much was removed. I believe it was a small area that was shaved out, but after my surgery, even though I was alert, my memory of the conversation is spotty.

Crazy legs at work on Saturday in Charleston Marathon shoes
Anyhow, given I had an excellent surgeon, my tear
was small, and I was in good shape prior to the injury, my outlook is good. One younger man was able to return to running two weeks after his surgery; others took months. Some ran as much as they did before the injury, others had difficulty and some gave it up. I imagine many could have been helped with offloading bracing; there really are some excellent orthoses like Ossur's for the knee or Allard's for the foot/ankle. The later would be so wonderful for people with ankle sprains, a widely misunderstood injury by athletes, coaches, and some professionals. A great article on this subject is here.


So where does this leave me on the road to Boston? My recovery is going well, as good or better than I expected. If I can start running by next weekend without worrying about hurting myself, then I would definitely make it. Another week would put me in the maybe gray area. A month off...I would be looking at only surviving the distance. March 16 is the drop-dead date to cancel our Boston hotel reservation.

For now...more couch sitting, icing, and dreaming.


In the spirit of the "Little Miracles" post, I made my followup call for my surgery, and while on hold I realized I had worn my Field of Dreams shirt (bought at the farm where it was filmed) to surgery...I had changed it because the 1997 Chicago marathon shirt I was wearing had holes in it.

My surgeon's name was Graham.

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