Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Cutting Room

This past Wednesday I finally had surgery on my utterly-destroyed left kneecap in the form of knee arthroscopy. I can't say it was incredibly fun, but it was interesting to say the least.

The pre-op processing went extremely quickly, as I was in the pre-op room being interviewed by a nurse and an anesthesiologist just ten minutes after my scheduled arrival time. They seemed surprised by my low heart rate (it hovered around 45-50 bpm on the various vital signs monitors I was hooked to throughout the day) and by my request to remain conscious during the surgery. Apparently, most people are all-too willing to be knocked out, and they weren't used to someone saying "I wanna watch!".

It took a while to finally get in the OR, but once I did, things moved very quickly. Another anesthesiologist, a deadpan Asian doc with a great sense of humor, gave me the spinal injection that reduced my legs to lifeless stumps and my surgeon went straight to work. The insertion of the scopes into my knee was a little disconcerting, because I felt the pressure if not any pain. A few times he moved my kneecap around and brushed my femur with the scope and I got a little queasy. Other than that, it was smooth sailing.

I was able to watch the whole procedure on a TV screen next to me, and got to see all of my ligaments, tendons and leg bones in high definition. My surgeon explained everything he was doing and specifically pointed out what we were looking at on the screen. It was all very fascinating.

He pulled out a huge chunk of cartilage from my kneecap that had broken loose when I initially dislocated my joint, and granted my apparently strange request to take it home with me. I now have a chunk of cartilage in a little cup. I'm so proud!

I spent the rest of the afternoon in various recovery rooms trying to regain the feeling in my legs and trying not to piss myself, since I was dead below the waist and helplessly subject to nature's various whims. Eventually, five hours after the operation, I was cleared to go home.

Now, several days later, my knee is still a bit swollen and my stitches (three entry points, three small cuts) are a little gross-looking. I'm regaining mobility each day and I'm off the Percocet. I couldn't wait to get off of it. It didn't make me feel euphoric or happy or at ease---it just made me feel dizzy and disoriented, and totally uninterested in getting out of bed.

I guess I'll never be a drug addict.

My surgeon will remove the stitches a couple of days from now during my follow-up appointment and we'll begin outlining a rehab program. I've already lost a month to this injury and I'm ready to start walking, riding and working out, just like the old days. If I never see these crutches again, it will be too soon.