(K)need some help?
Please don't kill me for that punny title.
At the beginning of this year I went for lovely walk with boyfriend and the dogs. It was incredibly snowy and beautiful. We walked up a hill, and that’s when my old knee injury decided to flare up again.
I didn’t think it was anything really, since it I had experienced intermittent pain over the last ten years. But this time, I didn’t go away. In fact, it got worse and worse. By spring time, I was using a walking stick to get around. Standing was painful, walking was painful. Forget any type of exercise (yes, even swimming). Working in a lab? Pretty much impossible – the pain was excruciating. Outings to museums or the zoo? Need a wheelchair. Taking dogs to the park for more than ten minutes? Nope – forget it. That’s pretty much when I started my wild goose chase to be seen by an appropriate doctor and have the problem fixed.
After several months of trying with the NHS, I finally resorted to my privilege; I went for a private consultancy and private surgery (it broke a little part of the socialist in me). The surgery happened three weeks ago, and now I am anxiously waiting for the day I will be able to walk, run, swim and WORK again.
Sitting here, bored out my mind, I can’t stop thinking about all the things I want to do when I am healthy again.
1. Take the dogs for long walks
2. Process the brain tissue in the laboratory freezer and try to finally get some results to back up the behavioural data I managed to collect*
3. Get back to the gym/ pool/ dance classes/ ANYTHING
And of course, all the normal things, like cooking a nice dinner for me and boyfriend, getting the flat in order, taking dogs for normal every day walks, going on date nights, going out dancing…
*I realise that I pretty damn lucky that my first experiment actually worked, and I managed to obtain some interesting results. If I hadn’t, I don’t know what I would have done, given my severely restricted mobility and the pressure to produce a first-year report that decides whether you are allowed to continue your studies.
The injury itself is called osteochondritis dissecans. My symptoms first started appearing when I was twelve years old and I had my first operation on the knee when I was fifteen.
My disorder was one of idiopathic, or unknown, origin. What happens is damage to cartilage due poor blood supply to the area. Over time, it wears down and starts damaging the underlying bone. This causes fragments of bone and cartilage to become loose, and cause more pain, inflammation and swelling. It is commonly found in children and adolescents, which makes sense, given I was diagnosed with it when I was twelve.
When I was fifteen, the surgeon tried the first line of surgical treatment – microfracture surgery. Essentially, this procedure creates small pores in the bone in the hope that stem cells that live in the bone marrow will repair the damaged areas. This seemed to help for a few years, but within five years of this initial operation, the pain would return intermittently.
This time, ten years later, I had a procedure called mosaicplasty, during which sections of bone and cartilage were removed from non-weight bearing areas of my knee and plugged into the damaged sites. Being the nerd that I am, I asked the surgeon for the pictures he took of the inside of my knee, which you can see below.
The prognosis for this is good and I am hoping that this will be end of the knee saga.