Wounded Knee Part Two ~ Meniscus Tear

I think the second part – Meniscus Tear – of my true injury story fits very well with the Wicked Wednesday prompt perseverance and the Food for Thought one of Initiative.

The first part of wounded knee ended on this…

I will never forget that night. The pain was excruciating and something told me my life was going to be on hold for quite a little while. That my independence would no longer be possible. I would literally and metaphorically need to lean on my man.

And you know what? – I was not wrong.

Assessing the damage

After very little sleep we woke to the crashing waves and sun streaming into the room. I needed help getting to the bathroom and back. My right knee was the size of a rugby ball and the skin around it had tightened and was beginning to turn purple and blue.

We were due to get our flight home in four days. It was clear I would not be able to travel. One of the main problems was I couldn’t bend my leg in the slightest.

Luckily the guy who owned the apartment agreed we could stay longer although we would need to move rooms. I spoke to the airline and they let us change the date of the flight and said they would also make provisions for me to travel with my injury.

Naturally we had our computers with us so checked out what we thought had happened to my knee. It all pointed to cartilage damage of some sort. As we were staying in a remote part of Crete a doctor’s opinion, at this point, was not an option.

So the good news was that we had an extended holiday. The bad I couldn’t go anywhere.

I was also exhausted. Needing to sleep a lot. Probably the pain and also the body going on shut down to save needed resources for healing.

My man got the bus into the major town and spoke to the pharmacist. They recommended some very strong painkillers, anti-inflammatory tablets and continued ice treatment.

Help available

The Cretans are a lovely race. Known as strong and able to over come obstacles. Their history is very intriguing. Anyhow, once the locals realised what had happened a few from the taverna we often frequented organized a car to take us to and from the restaurant and a special table so I could have my leg stretched out. I have never forgotten their generosity. And would have quite happily stayed living amongst them for the rest of my days.

We flew home with little disruption as I had a wheelchair and was taken on to the plane last and off first. Plus fast tracked through security.

Straight away we drove to the out local welsh hospital and was seen immediately. Hospitals in Wales are very efficient. Upon examination the doctor was sure I was suffering from a tear in my meniscus cartilage which had then become trapped and was preventing my knee from bending at all or straightening completely.

The consultant wanted me to stay in the hospital and I would receive an emergency MRI scan and be fast tracked into surgery to have my knee operated upon. And the recovery would be several months.

I was petrified. I didn’t want an operation. Would my man want me to stay and have one? I was going to be reliant on him, in this condition, for months – but I had known people who had knee surgery and never quite recovered their mobility. My intuition said “No.”

Thankfully my man said No too.

MRI scan ~ Meniscus tear

We asked what the other options were. Out-patients. They would send me an appointment over the next few weeks for a MRI scan and then take it from there. We left with some crutches and a knee brace with instructions to keep using ice and not walk at all.

The MRI scan day came thorough a couple of months later and the results showed the consultant was correct. My knee was perfectly healthy apart from a torn piece of meniscus cartilage that had become trapped and was stopping joint movement in either direction. It was explained what would happen in the operation and I was told I’d receive a date in due course. Apparently, with my kind of injury, time was not an issue. An operation today or in six months would have the same prognosis.

I was still not sure what I wanted to do but this gave me some breathing space to assess the situation. I began to research two things. First, about the medical side of my complaint and second, exercises I could do to help heal my leg.

Doing such homework helped me mentally as I had always been fiercely independent and now I even needed assistance to get dressed. By becoming informed I felt I was able to take back some of the control I’d lost.

Taking control

I learned that apparently people who do not have the operation only make a good recovery two out of ten times. The doctor had confirmed this statistic too. I pondered could I be one of the minority and heal myself?

I thought a good place to start would be physiotherapy so rang the clinic. They said none was available for my kind of knee problem. How strange – I  began to search on line.

It is always important to remember the internet is like a vast library – and similar to newspapers – not all sites are telling the truth. Once I settled on  a few therapists from you-tube I contacted an old friend who is in the health profession. She assured me the exercises I had found would certainly not make anything worse. At first I chose only the ones I could do laying down. Every day, three times a day, I persevered with this new routine. Once more this was something that gave me a form of control over my circumstance.

After about a month I had started to be able to move around more with my crutches but as the offending leg could not be used as a prop this was difficult physical labour. But the swelling began to go down and then I used the tip of my toes when maneuvering. Somewhere along the line I almost fell over. To save myself I accidentally placed a crutch with all my weight on a little toe. Which promptly broke!

Meniscus heal thyself

The appointment for the operation came through. It was in five months. At this point three months had passed since that fateful day. And even though I didn’t seem to have made much progress with the flexibility of my leg I was managing to get around more. I spoke to the local swimming pool and they said there were days I could use the pool when there would be someone to assist me getting in and out. So I started swimming twice a week. This helped me in a number of ways. The exercise supported my leg and gave me a chance to work on my upper body. Also the endorphins helped my mental health.

I was still getting very weary. When a body has an extra load to deal with – and is trying to heal – tiredness is natural. Often I would have a nap in the afternoon. This became my routine – swimming twice a week, laying down exercises, adding a few standing up, plus a nap.

By the time the operation date neared I had improved greatly. My leg was not repaired and mostly I used one crutch but I would often simply limp along. Particular in my wellies over uneven terrain. As I walked across muddy fields my knee got stronger.

I spoke to the hospital and told them I wouldn’t need the operation. The receptionist was very understanding and said she would book me in again for six months time and if I didn’t get back to her she would cancel.

I never got back to her.

Thoughts

In my opinion one should think very seriously before having an operation, particularly if your complaint is not life threatening. Mine was slowly improving with each day. I was patient. After two years I had only a very slight limp. Today, it is nearly four years since that fateful day, and I believe the knee is 95% what it used to be. Which to me is a miracle. The consultant could not give me a guarantee it would repair as well even after an operation and as I said so many people take many months to recover from the surgery itself.

Possibly, the reason the statistics states only two out of ten make a recovery without the operation is because hardly anybody has the perseverance, or time, to wait and see if the meniscus does heal.

They are all rushed into theatre within a couple of months of the accident so the statistics don’t give a true picture. I was also lucky there was no other damage to my knee. It had not worn in anyway over the years.

The surgery would have involved cutting the piece of meniscus to stop the blockage. However, by consistently doing the exercises and walking I appear to have worn the little bit of cartilage down so I have nearly complete flexibility at the joint once again.

I am not recommending everyone who is cursed with a knee injury use their own initiative and try to see if it heals first. But I am recommended you take a rational look at the problem and make an informed decision.


The header shot was taken fifteen months after my accident and the left calf is far more prominent, having done so much more work than the right.

Initiative ~ Meniscus heal thyself #141
#407 Perseverance ~ Meniscus heal thyself

 

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12 thoughts on “Wounded Knee Part Two ~ Meniscus Tear”

  1. Oh goodness May … what a horrid thing to have happen on holiday. I know just what you mean about steep steps down to the beaches … our location sounds very similar. I will make a mental note to “try” to be more sensible, and careful when we are next there. (Particularly on the sometimes very late, and very, wobbly evening returns).
    Your recovery also sounds painful and difficult. Well done for your bravery and resolve … and patience.
    So glad you are almost back to normal.
    Xxx – K

  2. Wow! The whole thing must have been awful. It’s great that you were able to self heal as it were. Sometimes NHS waiting times are a blessing, though it might not feel like it at the time.

  3. I’ve had three knee surgeries. All dealing with meniscus tears. As an athlete those surgeries allowed me back into the court in months. My recovery in each case was perfect! It’s good to seek information and make informed decisions but knee surgery for these types of injuries work very well for almost everyone. I’m very glad your injury has recovered to the extent it has. I’m glad you met so many nice people on that journey. Stay well.

    1. I do think they work very well for athletes too – and those that are fit – because I expect you need to work hard during recovery. My op would have been slightly different as the cartilage was trapped. But the main reason I could do what i did is because I had time on my-side. Mostly people can not afford that.
      You stay well too Michael and your Queen 😉

  4. As always May you;re so strong and determined, and it’s interesting to see that you always make up your own mind, even when an expert says ‘go’. So glad you’ve healed effectively. x

  5. You’re very lucky you recovered so well, but I think your determination is what helped you. Not a lot of people would’ve gone the same route with those odds

  6. It’s brave to not take a doctors advice and make up your own opinion. I remember I had something on my wrist and they wanted to operate right from the start. I was in pain but I also checked everything myself and decided on physical therapy and replacing my computer mouse and 6 months later the pain was gone. I know from my job that we are nowadays pretty quick with medical procedures. Maybe it’s a lack of patience and perseverance?

    1. Well done you too. I think that more people would just take than moment to think and allow their own judgement to come into play…

  7. I think you are so brave for having your knee healed the way you did. An operation indeed is not always the best way to go, but most people would go for that instead of persevere the way you did. Great that you have healed this way!

    Rebel xox

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