Sunday, December 16, 2012

Crunchy Knees

I tore my lateral meniscus.  When I was running, I yinged when I should have yanged and did myself in.  Now I can't even walk without pain.
I went to see the Orthopedic Surgeon at Kaiser Permanente last week and he said I may never run again.  When he saw the look of shock in my eyes, he dampened it down a bit and said, "Well, not fore sure, but your knees just might be too crunchy for you to run on.  You might have to look into another sport.  I mean, surgery works for some people, but think about it.  Have you ever watched a marathon?"
I nodded my head.  I had just volunteered to help at one less than a month ago.
"Ever notice how you have a lot of 20 and 30 something year old running, but then the pack thins out once people hit their 40's and 50's?"
I nodded again.
"Well," he said, "after awhile, at some point, you are going to have to give up running."
"Yeah, but I didn't expect it to be at 40!"  I must have looked like I wanted to cry because he patted my knee and said, "I'll do what I can.  Don't worry.  We'll get an MRI and take it from there."
He turned and began to type notes into the computer.  I figured he was probably typing:
Patient has a crunchy knee and is in total denial about getting older.  I prescribe a REALITY CHECK.  STAT!
He finished his notes and began to fill me in on the stretches I could do (yeah right) and a possible Cortisone injection (a needle?!) and other options.  While he was talking, I pictured all the old people I saw running around my neighborhood.  I could see the short Middle Eastern gentleman who always ran in his "dad shorts" you know the white cotton ones with pockets that come down to just above the knees?  He had to be AT LEAST 55.  Then there was the cute balding guy that was so skinny we could run side by side on the sidewalk if we wanted to and still have room for another person. He was at least 50 too.  And I remember seeing people run by in the marathon, I know I did, that had to be old enough to have GREAT grand kids!  OK so there weren't LOTS of them and they looked like they were about to collapse at any moment, but STILL!  C'mon!  I'm only 40!  Crunchy knees?! I'm done running? Already?  I take glucosamine for goodness sake!  And fish oil!  And calcium!  Oh, and Vitamin D!  If I took any more vitamins and supplements, I'd be getting YOUNGER!  I should be CREAMY!  Not CRUNCHY!
After his pep talk and recommendations, the surgeon gave me directions on how to find the pharmacy.  Then, out of the blue he gave me a big hug.  I was taken aback.  I think he felt bad for me.  Or maybe he was hitting on me (I did have one pant leg up) and I should have filled out a form in the nurse's office, but either way, it was nice to get a hug.  I staggered down the hall with my crunchy knee and picked up my pain medication.  On the way, I passed lots and lots of people with crunchy knees, arms, feet, hands, necks and backs.  They leaned on crutches, nurses and family members.  They crunched along slowly and cautiously in lines that led to doctors, physical therapy, and medication that would make them less crunchy, or at least make them feel less crunchy.  I picked up my bottle full of 800 milligrams of magic and thought, "Maybe if I take 1 of these anti-crunch horse pills I'll be able to run through the pain?"
I tried.
You bet I did. And...
No can do.
I like to describe the pain of a meniscus tear this way.  The pain is like an angry mother that yells, no-- screams -  "STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!"  and you must obey.  It is not a nagging pain.  It doesn't shoot or burn or throb.  It is not something you can "run through" or ignore.  It is a pain that demands you to:
I remember  right after I injured myself, I was in so much pain that I could not take ONE STEP MORE. I was hunched over in the street, in tears, about a block from my house.  I tried to take a step.
I tried again with more of a drag-step.
STOP RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
At that point, tired of Mom yelling, I seriously contemplated crawling back USING MY LIPS.  Instead, I dragged my bad leg behind me like a monster in a horror movie, whimpered like a wounded dog, and humped along back to my house where I collapsed on the couch.
Sounds a bit dramatic, but then I talked to others who had torn something or the other in their knee, including their meniscus, and I didn't feel like such a wuss.  They remembered the feeling.  They didn't power through.  They gave in.  They gave me the face that said, "Yeah, that hurts.  Big time. Glad it's you this time."
So it is me this time.
And here is my challenge.  In the midst of my crunchiness, I am trying to pray all the following (and mean it):
1) God, help me to run again.  And if I can't run again, help me to be OK with it.
2) God, help me not to hate the people I see running. Especially the ones who are older than me.
3) Thank you that I am healthy overall.
4)  Thank you that even with a bad knee, I am still healthy enough to ride a bike.  (I have to combine prayer #4 with prayer #2 because riding a bike around town exposes me to so many runners that if I am not careful it can be quite a bitter ride! Cue the music from the Witch's bike ride in the Wizard of Oz.)
3) Yes, God, I believe that you can heal.
4) Thank you for health insurance.
5) Thank you for the doctors and staff at Kaiser. They are SO NICE! Seriously, it's almost scary.
6) Help me to be able to accept that I am getting old and be OK with it.

So, currently I am still walking on a very crunchy knee.  MRI scheduled for this week.  Maybe doctors will be able to get the hitch out of my gate?  Until then, I'll take my pain meds and I would appreciate your prayers.  Oh, and one more thing... I do ask that if you are a runner and over 40, please stay away from my neighborhood at least for the next month of so until my faith is stronger.  Unless you have crunchy knees and are trying to inspire me.

-  Hope A. Horner
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