Monday, March 7, 2011

Knee Surgery

As I write this post it is actually March 27th but I wanted to give a full account
of my search for doctors, surgery and recovery in one post. On January 9th at SkiBowl I decided to push my luck on a 25 foot drop. The snow conditions were ok but definitely now the fluffy powder that would have spared my knee. I came to the top of a cliff underneath the upper bowl chairlift and started to scope it out. At first I wanted to drop into a narrow chute and ski down through it but upon looking down at it I realized the chute was too narrow so I would have to drop the whole thing while also clearing the rocks near the base. I’ve always been good at landing where I want so with the encouragement of skiers on the lift above me I jumped..... I felt myself land in a deep drift of powder which felt amazing but as I went to turn to avoid the trees ahead the snow became hardpack and choppy. With the speed I had after the drop I had to turn or find myself impaled on trees. As I turned hard I heard and felt my knee blow out. I slowly slid behind some trees to be out of sight and then made my way down to the lift. I told Chris and Emily my season was over and headed to the warming hut for a beer and some ice. It was key that I iced my knee as soon as I did because it kept the swelling down and I actually forced myself to believe I hadn’t actually blown my ACL... but in the back of my head ... I knew.

A week later I saw my first Orthopedic doctor, Doctor Evans at the Corvallis Clinic. He ordered an MRI and X-Rays and told me we would go ahead and use a cadaver to replace my ACL which he believed was blown. On January 27th I had my MRI that confirmed I had blown my ACL. In the mean time I had started researching what my best option for surgery was. I also obtained my 2004 operative reports from my right knee surgery which I thought had also used a cadaver. To my amazement after 7 years of thinking I had a dead persons ligament in my body I found out that the doctor had taken a huge chunk out of my own patella tendon to form my new ACL. When I say huge I mean it. I did some research and found that most people have a 25-30mm wide patella tendon while mine was nearly 40mm. Therefore Dr. Siliski at Harvard Med took a huge 12mm wide strip out of my patella to form my new acl (the usual graph is only 8mm). Therefore I had a huge acl replacement in 2004 at Mass General. My right knee has been incredibly strong and I read that the patella tendon graph (even at 8mm) is stronger than the original ACL - and I had a 12mm one! I talked to Dr. Evans about this and several other doctors in the town who all said they specialized in using hamstrings to replace the ACL which has become the popular norm because of the quick recovery and less pain but when I looked this up online I found that many athletes re-tore hamstring acls or stretched them out... thus started my search. For the next month I saw 3 different doctors. Dr. Black at Oregon Orthopedics, Dr. Newman at REBOUND and Dr. Lance at SLOCUM in Eugene. All three doctors specialized in patella graphs and Dr. Newman and Dr. Lance really impressed me but because Dr. Lance was closer and easier for me to get to for appointments and with SLOCUM’s great reputation I chose him in Eugene for the surgery on March 7th. He was very thorough when he first saw me and told me he’d give me a big patella graph like my prior surgery.

On March 4th I went for my anesthesiology appointment at the brand
new Sacred Heart Riverbend Hospital in Springfield. The hospital blew my mind. With screens throughout the building listing patient status in surgery I knew Emily would be able to keep a tab on me during my operation. I met with a bunch of really nice nurses and the anesthesiologist who told me he would be giving me a nerve block in my thigh that would numb my entire leg for about 48 hours. I had not experienced this in my other surgery and it was the only thing I was nervous about because there was a very small chance it could cut and damage my nerve to my leg!
I got a call from SLOCUM saying they needed me to come over there and get an x-ray because they had lost the x-ray/mri disc I gave them. I didn’t think this was a good sign but at least they
didn’t charge me.
On March 7th I had my surgery. Emily drove me to the hospital early in the morning for my 9am appointment. I got a call at home at 8am asking how soon I could get there. Apparently the surgery before me got cancelled and someone was supposed to have called me the night before to get me there earlier... Nope, no one did. Therefore, when I got to surgery they pretty much took me right in without a wait which was nice. There seemed to be a lot of confusion as to where the guy was to give me my nerve block and I heard that Dr. Lance was scrubbed in and getting impatient. None of this made me feel very confident as I didn’t want anyone to rush through this important surgery. The last thing I said before losing consciousness due to the local anesthesia in my IV was to say “Please tell Dr. Lance my knees are the most important thing in my body and I need a large acl to continue my skiing love and to take his time!” I then woke up. I say that because that is what anesthesia feels like.
You fall asleep for 2 seconds and wake up hours later with a stitched up knee.

After a bunch of confused nurses (but nice) figured out my medications and got me hooked up with a brace and an ice circulator Emily took me home. They gave me Oxycodine and some other meds. The first 24 hours was tough while I stayed on the couch with my really numb knee. The ice circulator was crap as I had to hand pump it so 3 days into my recovery I finally asked Kelly across the street to borrow her electric one that circulates the cool water automatically. That made a dramatic difference and I wish I had it from the beginning but Dr. Lance told me later that often health insurance companies won’t cover the nice one. Within 3 days I was walking on my leg with the help of a single crutch. Within a week I was walking completely without crutches.

My recovery has been fast and I was able to go back to work on Friday after my Monday surgery. Yesterday, March 26th, I went on my first hike with Emily to Silver Falls for a 2 mile walk with about 500 feet of vertical. I carried my brace with me in case my leg got too tired but was able to make it. I was tired after but glad I did it as it helped me to walk normal without limping too much. I’ve had 3 sessions of Physical Therapy now and with each one I’m getting stronger. I’m really looking forward to getting back to my weekend adventures again. I had my follow up appointment with Dr. Lance and he said everything went well and my knee looks great. He said that he indeed used a 12mm graph for my new left knee as well. I’m very happy I did the research and I’m happy with the doctor I chose!

1 comment:

Jonathan Ellinger said...

Mom:
WOW! You hadn't shared the glitches with me. As your Mom, it probably is best that I didn't know. so very glad you are healing as you should. Good genes!
Friday, April 1, 2011 - 09:29 AM