Back in September, I tore my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) which sounds like a very sexy sports injury but I wasn’t cutting across a backfield at the time. I was walking down my stairs backwards and slipped. I sat on the landing and cursed a little and then limped the rest of the day. At that point my ACL was probably just a little torn. The next morning I twisted my upper torso and heard a much louder TWANG and I was then in excruciating pain. I won’t tell what I was doing, but it happened in the restroom of a Starbucks. Pretty humiliating.
Rather that do the emergency room route, I decided to go straight to an orthopedist. I had one on file from when I broke my ankle last January. I called to get an appointment and since it was Monday and all the surgeons cut on Tuesdays, they couldn’t see me until Wednesday. I also had to get an X-ray or they wouldn’t let me in the door. So I had to call my primary care physician to get a radiology referral. Referrals at my doctor normally take three to five days and there is no way to talk to live person through their voicemail hell. After leaving three messages at the referral office, I decided to just drive down there and camp-out.
Once I had my referral in hand, I had to go to the X-ray clinic and wait there. By three o’clock I had an x-ray that proved to everybody what I already knew, that I hadn’t broken anything. The orthopedist explained that it is just the procedure that needs to be done before he can write a prescription for what I really needed, an MRI.
The MRI was really cool. Big white tunnel. Really loud magnet. Having to stay real still. Finally I was getting my insurance money’s worth. The MRI showed my ACL completely torn and dangling uselessly. It seems the ACL doesn’t do much except keep your knee from bending backwards like an ostrich and there is no urgency into replacing it unless you need to be in shape for the pre-season. So for the past three months I have been walking on eggshells avoiding anything that could cause my clumsy self to slip and completely rip apart my knee.
The doctor went through all the options for ACL replacement, saving his favorite for last, donor tendon tissue. Which is the polite way of saying the tendons of someone no longer using theirs. Mostly because they’re dead and their tendons are frozen in the UMMS meat locker waiting for a recipient or for the cafeteria to run out of beef stock. The other “selling” point of the donor tissue is that eventually new tissue will grow around it, making it as real as me. Somehow that doesn’t comfort me.
The one stipulation I made was that I had to be able to walk my dog the next morning since my working wife doesn’t do 5 am. In his used-car-salesman smile, the doc said, no problem you will be as fully mobile as a person in a leg brace can be. Which turns out to be not much. I’ve got the Frankenstein lurch down pretty well, but it’s going to be months before I am running care-free though the fields.
The doc also neglected to tell me about the IceMan. For seventy-two hours, I have to be attached to this six-pack sized cooler full of ice water. It has a little pump that circulates cold water around my knee so I don’t get any swelling. Look at the cool pictures. Retail price $198 and it’s all mine as a parting gift from the hospital.
So now I am recovering at home with a knee tendon donated by the kindness of strangers, hooked up to this humming cooling contraption, and feeling very Borg-like all because I am clumsy and have brittle tendons.
It’s a bitch getting old. I recommend against it.