This is the second part of a short series that I am writing about my somewhat recent knee injury and the impact it had on my health and my life.
As I limped home, careful not to aggravate whatever had just happened in the gym, I considered who to alert about the problem. My weightlifting coach seemed like the most obvious choice. He had given so much to help me become a better weightlifter, to put me on a path that was taking me where I wanted to go, and I felt as if I had done something to betray his work. I felt guilty for getting hurt. This reaction probably also stems from my younger athletic years when being on the sidelines for any of my games, and even practices, could have qualified as inhumane torture. I’ve always viewed myself as an iron man, more like Cal Ripken than…(I tried to think of a high profile baseball player who played with Cal and didn’t take massive amounts of steroids, but nope.)
Not being one to lament about misfortune, I went home and iced, while researching the diagnoses and outlooks on different knee injuries. I consulted with my uncle, a nationally recognized athletic trainer, about the nature of the event that caused the injury and the status of my knee. His guess was a meniscus tear. He provided some oddly calming descriptions about people bouncing back from either having surgery or electing not to surgically repair it. I continued to ice and elevate as I scheduled my first doctor’s appointment to figure out what exactly happened to my knee that Friday afternoon.
Over the course of three weeks I had two doctors appointments and an MRI. Then, one day on my way back to the office after a class I checked my phone to see a voice mail had been left by a number that looked like the one I had been called to schedule the MRI. The call was from the hospital in town. The diagnosis? Torn meniscus.
Even though I kind of knew that news was coming, the cold, emotionally sterile, routine nature of the call clashed with the rather somber content to create quite a saddening effect. I wandered up to my office, taking the stairs slow. It all felt so very real.
The next week I went to meet with the surgeon. Going to the doctor’s alone is an isolating experience, especially when facing the possibility of going under the knife. The doctor came into the room. The first thing I noticed about him were his ornate cowboy boots that didn’t seem to go at all with his jacket and slacks. I feel like you generally don’t want a cowboy boot wearing doctor. I want a wingtip wearing doctor, or an oxford wearing doctor. I don’t want my doc ready to ride a bull, should the mood strike him so. His outfit was already making me uncomfortable.
After running some basic structural tests, he sat me down, showed me the MRI, and told me the options. He bypassed the “no surgery” option and began telling me about what the surgery would be like. Not knowing I have a decent understanding of human physiology, the description seemed vague. He may or may not repair the tear in the meniscus. He may or may not cut off a flap of the meniscus if it was torn in a certain way. He may or may not drill holes in my femur to stimulate blood flow and healing in the bone! That last one got me. If you’re going to drill holes in my bones, you better be damn sure about it. I don’t just let anyone get near my femur with a drill. You gotta wine and dine me first 😉
Being cautious and in shock a little, I scheduled the surgery. I figured I would talk it out with my parents, and I could always cancel it if need be. As I slowly wandered out of the hospital, I felt the life as I knew it, one with heavy weights in my hands and on my back, one with disciplined training and purposeful recovery, one with a strong (in every sense of the word) community of lifters and friends around me, slipping away. Then my phone rang. I picked it up to hear my sister on the other line. “So, mom just got fired from her job.”