The Story of Abe’s Left Knee

January 18th, 2011

Two weeks ago, I had an MRI on my left knee. I went to the hospital outside Tiberius where the waiting room and administrative desk were in a converted container/trailer. The machine itself was in a truck that seems to be just large enough to fit the machine and not much else. I wonder how Michael Knight could have fit a car and all that equipment into such a narrow space. (Mythbusters proved that the car could go up and down the ramp at speed with no problem) It’s actually not the first time I’ve had an MRI in the back of a truck, but most of the other things you get off the back of a truck are sketchy to say the least.

In any case, the results were not at all unexpected. They agreed completely with the results of my arthroscopic surgery from September. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in my left knee is “un-identifiable.” You can tell that from the following images, not that I know how to read any of this…

With this confirmation of my previous diagnosis, I returned to the knee specialist. I expected him to start talking about ACL replacement surgery, but instead, he recommended just more physical therapy. He seems to think that my knee is stable enough to withstand the impact of sports without an ACL. Thus ends a saga that has lasted over a year.

I first hurt my knee in November of 2009 playing Ultimate Frisbee. It gave out on me while I was defending in the cup in a zone setup.  Lateral changing of direction, and down I went in a lot of pain. At first they thought it was just a one time occurrence, nothing to worry about.  I went to physical therapy and got back to playing, with a flexible brace, three months later.  First day back on the field, and my knee gave out again.  So frustrating.  This time, I was running, not cutting.  We had a fast break.  Jackie caught the disc just outside the end-zone, I was trailing her ahead of my defender and came around in front crossing through the end-zone.  It was, if I do say so myself, quite a nice play.  She put the disc right in front of me, and with my defender behind me all I had to do was reach out and grab it.  But before I could, I found myself once again on the ground holding my knee in agony.

Back to the orthopedists, back to physical therapy.  This time, they took me a little more seriously, and thought maybe it was cartilage damage.  They did a bone scan. (I think that’s what it’s called in English) The results seemed to me to be inconclusive, but the doctors all said it pointed to a torn meniscus. And that led to arthroscopic surgery, which led to a brand new diagnosis: Torn ACL. The doctor recommended more physical therapy to see what happens, and when I said to him that I had already done a lot of that, he gave me a referral for ACL replacement surgery more to shut me up then any medical reason.

That led to me looking for a second opinion. There is no way I’m going to let a doctor who doesn’t care enough to talk to me cut me open. The second opinion wasn’t much better. He didn’t think the diagnosis from the arthroscopic surgery matched his clinical tests of my knee, so he sent me for an MRI. Surprisingly, the MRI confirmed the arthroscopic diagnosis.

Which returns us to today. I have no ACL in my left knee, and all the doctors and physical therapists I’ve talked to seem to think that with hard work and exercise I should be able to go back to playing. I have less confidence in my leg than they do. Part of returning from any trauma is the mental aspects of it.

While that may seem like a long and twisted story, it is really only half of it.  Without going into details to spare me hours of anger and depression: At each step along the way there was at least one instance of my appointment being canceled, moved, changed without any warning, explanation, or apology. I showed up to tests only to be told that they don’t do that test there. (It turned out they do, just not then. I had to come back the next week.) I was told, a month after the appointment was made, that that hospital couldn’t do what I needed, and I had to go to a different one.  I can’t count the number of different doctors and administrators who have little to no communication skills. I left far too many meetings with doctors near tears, or ready to give up. Not to mention all the Ultimate I missed over the past year.

So much for not going into details. It will all be worth it when I get back on the field and play again. Wish me luck!

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