I went to Colorado Springs riding the best I've ever ridden--personal best times in all events, but off the bike my left knee had been hurting for quite awhile. I'm pretty sure it all stemmed from the crash back in February, but at that time I was more banged up on the head/neck/elbow/hip and the knee never really came up. A couple of months later after physical therapy for the hip/back, the pain had seemed to go more to the knee, but never was too bad. It kind of bothered me after sitting a long time and then starting to walk, but it never bothered me on the bike. In fact, riding made it feel better! An MRI in the early summer showed a small tear of the lateral meniscus. This was not really the time to do anything with it, especially considering riding still made it feel a lot better and there was a lot of racing to do.
Fast forward to August and the week of Masters Nationals in Colorado Springs. Lots of pain off the bike (sitting/walking), no pain on the bike. There are stairs and a tunnel that you have to go down, through and up to get to the track infield there and a week of going up and down stairs pretty much put me over the edge. Since I can't ride 24/7 (and believe me, I've tried to figure out a way!), a trip to Dr. Van Pelt (who was actually my team doctor at Arizona State University and now at St. Francis Center for Sports Medicine) and he laid out the options: (1) more physical therapy, but that hadn't worked the first time; (2) shoot up the knee with cortisone (I have a personal bias AGAINST ever doing this); or (3) go get Dr. Lewis, consult with her and schedule arthroscopic surgery. Option 3 it was and everything done within the hour.
Last Thursday was the surgery. The plan was--to the hospital by 9:45 AM, surgery scheduled for 11:15 AM, home before 5:00 PM. I got there a bit early, go checked in, got changed and onto the gurney in the Come & Go surgery area. The nurse had me sign the papers, took vitals, asked what my pain tolerance was. "For injuries and things like that, 10. For needles, ZERO." She kind of chuckled. I told her that I wasn't kidding. It was finally time to put in the IV. The part of the day that I was ~really~ dreading. For some reason, I was under the impression that they'd numb up my hand first. Hell no! She finally got the IV in (crap that hurt!) and started the drip and it hurt more! And it hurt just to lay there! My hand and arm were frozen to my side as I was afraid to move them lest it would hurt a lot. No, I was NOT kidding about that ZERO needle pain tolerance.
After the IV went in and the nurse took my glasses, I laid there with my eyes shut since I can't see a damned thing without my glasses. Dr. Van Pelt came by to see me. The anesthesiologist came by. Dr. Lewis stopped in to write her initials on my left (surgical) knee and "NO!" on my right knee. This made me chuckle...a little. She also said that they were running behind schedule in the OR so she didn't know when we'd get going. Oh well, I had nothing better to do at this point. I told her that the knee had really been hurting a lot the past few days along the medial joint line. Finally, a really nice surgical nurse, Johnny, came to get me to take me upstairs. I told him that maybe we should stop at the bathroom first as the surgery had been delayed and I'd had an IV running through me all this time......"good idea", he said.
We finally get to the operating room and Johnny got me all situated and the anesthesiologist came in and said he was going to give me some anti-nausea meds through the IV. YOW! CRAP THAT HURT! When the meds hit the IV line and entered my hand, it felt like someone had stabbed me. He said the next one would sting a little but I'd be out soon. Well hell! Just knock me out. So he did.
I woke up in recovery wide awake and not groggy, ready to go. This surprised me a lot as other surgeries, I'd been plenty groggy. Plus, I had virtually no pain (about a 2 on a scale of 0-10.) After spending about 30-45 minutes in the recovery room and drinking some cranberry juice, they took me back to the Come & Go unit for more juice, crackers and more laying around. Even better, they had one of the nurse's assistants run across the street to the pharmacy to pick up the pain medication so they had my bag in the recovery room so I could give him the $10 for the co-pay. Which also meant that I had my Blackberry so I amuse myself! (Though I should probably go back and review the Twitter updates I did.) Finally about 4:00 PM they called Mateo to come pick me up and he and Jasmine came and got me and brought me home. Pain level still at a 2 or less.
Friday night @ the track. Photo by Steven Woo.
Thursday evening I was wired and I ended up staying awake until about 2:00 AM. I dutifully took the pain meds before I went to sleep (Dr. Lewis and Nurse Heidi and Nurse JohnS had all said to take them before sleeping) but I hate how they make you feel, so I got off them as soon as possible. Luckily, the pain has been almost non-existent and even with getting out and about, I have had very little pain. I can walk around short trips without crutches and can bend the knee to 90 degrees with little discomfort. The bandages came off over the weekend and now just the small bandage over the incision sites remain, covered with a saran-wrap type bandage so I can shower. Lots of laying around, icing, leg lifts and just resting over the weekend. OK, I did get out for some sunshine and bike racing.
Sunday @ Giro di San Francisco. Photo by Mateo Ortega
Prognosis? I do know that there was a small tear in the lateral meniscus (outside of knee). And that pain on the inside of my knee? That was a very large tear of the medial meniscus, which did not show up on the MRI for some reason. But that's all I know for now. Tomorrow I go in for the post-op appointment, so I'll know more then on what I can and can't do and the rehab plan and the long-term ramifications. I'm just ready to get going on rehab and get back on the bike.
Tuesday, five days post-op. I could just barely get my leg around the pedal stroke. Photo by Heidi Larson.