A New Dog And An Old Knee


I wish I could say I did it dancing an Irish jig in a fine pub with a handsome Irishman after putting back a pint of Guinness. But alas, there was no dancing, no fine pub, and no pint. (But there was a handsome Irishman *grin*)

I spent a good portion of Sunday afternoon in the ER learning what I might have done to my already horrific right knee on Saturday night. I’d felt it twist a bit when I stood up from my office chair and turned slightly to put my computer to sleep. (My computer being a rebuilt ProBook laptop, sent to me via my accidental damage warranty, to replace the ProBook that couldn’t handle its liquor. One glass of wine and it was toast. See “Armed and Less Dangerous”) It was nothing too noticeable, nothing painful, until I tried to walk and my knee buckled like an asphalt driveway on a 100-degree day. My kneecap moved all over the place, like a silver ball in a plastic-domed cardboard puzzle. I could NOT get that sucker back in place.
When I awoke the next morning, my knee had swollen to the size of a small cantaloupe. To get downstairs, I had to sit and slide. My toes were numb and my foot was cold. It was time to hit the ER.
The doctor said I most likely sprained it and tore some ligaments, but without an MRI, he couldn’t know exactly what was wrong. One look at my knee on a good day and you know it’s toast. It’s been living on borrowed time since I was 18 and I’ll be 50 in five months. It’s accrued a lot of interest in 32 years. But like an old car you can’t afford to replace, I just keep changing the oil, hoping she’ll give me a few more miles.
We nixed the MRI idea because it would be a waste of time and money. I assumed the doctor would suggest draining the fluid, as I’ve had done many times before, but he said the arthritis and the bone spurs would make draining more difficult and he didn’t want to risk aggravating my knee any further or cause infection. He said I needed to wear a knee stabilizer and follow the RICE principal – rest, ice, compression, elevation.
I waited until he left my room to shed a few tears. This knee dealio couldn’t have come at a worse time. I just adopted a beautiful 18-month-old coon hound/lab mix on Friday. Her original name was Whitney, but she doesn’t look like or act like a Whitney. I thought about Sid, but g-baby Claire said she already has too many Sidney’s in her life (Sidney her best friend and Sidney Crosby, her favorite hockey player). So I named her Alice because I like “White Rabbit” and because her back legs reminded me a little of my great-grandmother Alice’s legs: skinny and slightly bowed.
Except for the three hours I spent out with the Irishman Saturday night, I’ve been with Alice constantly since Friday morning. We’re attached like flies on stink (and she does sometimes stink as her body adjusts to new food…yikes!). Underweight, my job is to help Alice gain 8 pounds, which I’d happily give her if liposuction transfer was possible. Alice’s job is to get me out of the house and be more active. That’s going to be a challenge with a bum knee.
A nurse came in with the brace and she saw me wiping my eyes.
“I want to tell you something…” she began, and I thought, ‘Here we go. Another well-intentioned person who has a friend who has a friend who had her knee replaced when she was 79 and she wondered why she didn’t do it sooner.’ I hear that story all the time.
“I’m 56 and have been an ER nurse for 30 years,” she said. “I’m on my feet for long hours at a time. Several years ago, my right knee started hurting. It kept getting worse until two years ago, I decided to see an orthopedic surgeon. He told me, ‘How in the hell do you expect me to fix something like that when you’re so damn fat?’”
I gasped.
“Yup, that’s what he said. But he replaced my knee and it was the best thing I’d ever done for myself,” she said.  
“Wait,” I said, still reeling from her doctor’s comment. “He spoke to you like that and you let him operate?”
She laughed. “He wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know. I know I’m fat. I have been all my life. I’ve never been thin like you.”
As she wrapped my knee in the brace, I thought about all the assumptions floating around the room – hers and mine – and about how much easier it is to assume than it is to remain curious and open-minded. 

The older I get, the more I think I know, when the truth is – to quote Smash Mouth – my brain gets smart but my head gets dumb. This is particularly true when it comes to things I fear, like knee replacement. I recycle old, unexamined thoughts or turn a blind eye to the truth.

Isn’t she a beaut? I might be able to get a few more miles out of her (Is there anything a hot bath won’t cure?), but I will give knee replacement a little less resistance and a little more thought, especially now that Alice will be needing my knees to keep up with her for the next 13 years or so.
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21 thoughts on “A New Dog And An Old Knee

  1. Ow…
    Alice and I both think you should go for the replacement. Easy for me to say, since I'm not facing something like that, but I'd love to see you not having any pain. Me and Alice…
    *grin*

  2. I've been following your blog for a short time as I try, again and again, to gather myself to work on weight reduction. Your blog is so inspirational and I enjoy every post. I can relate to your knee problems as I have them myself AND I work on a contract basis for a local orthopedic surgeon. I'm waiting until my birthday in September (65 and Medicare) for anything more detailed but losing weight would certainly help. And the comment from the nurse about HER experience with being told she was 'fat' I have heard my client doctor tell people the same thing. Harsh – yes indeed. I can't say I would have been as gracious as she was about the comment. Hope the knee immobilizer helps you get relief and allows you to get out with your new 'doggie friend'. And congratulations on a great weight victory over the years and a fantastic blog. Maybe I will come up with one for myself.

  3. Awww. I'm close to tears on several levels. Alice. She is a DEAR!!!!!! I'm so happy for her and for you.

    And the knee thing. I don't think mine is quite as bad as you (no battle scars yet.) But I am thinking a LOT about 'is it the best thing to wait 6 more years to get this done?'

    One woman I know casually at the gym just had her knee done. I was so impressed with how soon she was back at the gym. And she said “I spent a whole year getting ready for this.” Meaning, all that working out she had been doing at the gym was in preparation for the knee replacement. It just impressed me.

  4. Facing facts is tough business, but it looks like you've got it resolved. And if you get it unresolved, you have that precious Alice, who's counting on you, to get you back on track.

    I can't believe a doctor would say something so cruel. Honesty and frankness, yes! Cruelty, no. I'm fairly certain my response would have been profane. 🙂

  5. Don't wait too long for that knee replacement. My husband had one replaced about 4-1/2 years ago and wondered why he waited so long. Not only does it affect your knee, but your hip on the opposite side, because you're walking incorrectly and putting more pressure on your hip. His doctor was a sweetheart.

  6. Congrats on the new exercise buddy!
    So sorry about the knee, it looks so painful:(
    My hubby has bad knees and is just 49 too. It hurts to watch him run, I can see how painful it is. I'm sure knee replacements are in his future too.

  7. Alice has hound eyes. She's adorable!

    Ouch on the knee…I don't know, much as I dislike surgery, the TKR might be the way to go – after all, you're not even 50 yet and have a lot of kicking up your heels in your future!

  8. Alice is adorable!!
    I have arteriosclerosis and needed a couple of stents and the Doctor was very blunt. Even if it hurts you must walk at least 20 minutes and if I wasn't able to follow his direction there was nothing he would do.
    Well I did and he did 🙂
    I'm so sorry about your knee I have a co-worker who's had both knees done and is a lot better since they've been done. She said it was hard but worth it.

  9. Sorry to hear about your knee especially since Alice joined your family. I can totally understand that all you want to do is walk her as much as you can.

    She's adorable and will wait patiently till you are healed and able to walk her.

  10. You might know this, but typing it just in case you decided on surgery.

    There are a lot of different types of physical therapists. Some of the physical therapist working with knee replacements are used to working with the elderly. The goals those types of therapist have in mind are working with people to get on and off the toilet, in and out of car, up and down stairs. The physical therapist who work in rehab units attached to nursing homes can (very much) have that mind set for example.

    There are physical therapist who are used to working with athletes. They teach the patient how to do much more. In fact if you see this type of PT and their patient working, you are likely not to be able to tell what body part they are rehabbing, because they will be working the whole body.

    It takes effort to find the right (athletic based) PT. It is very helpful if they are an athlete themselves.

    My first PT (lower back) was a female, runner, working with local sports team. She taught me to do everything you can think of with my lower back. Seeing us work, people had no idea what my problem area was, people were alarmed at how hard she worked me (other patients who only wanted to be able to get on and off the toilet).

    My second PT (recent) has extensive Pilates background. I went to her as a preventive measure because I noticed range of motion in one arm was different from the other and I didn't want to have a shoulder problem.

    I also think there is a time deadline in working with knee replacements (like if you don't get it straight in X days, it is not ever going to be straight). So finding the right PT from the get go is super important.

  11. Lynn, I'm sorry to hear about this. Ouch!

    Here's what I know from relatives in the knee surgery biz, if you have to go down that route.

    1. Knee surgery has gotten and gets better each 5-10 years.

    2. Choose a surgeon that does many surgeries.

    Very interesting about what the nurse said to you. And what the doc said to the nurse. I'm a medical professional (Med Tech- work in the lab) and the interactions are very interesting to me.

    You take care. Do you have someone who can help you cook, grocery shop, and walk the dog? Stay OP with your food. Tough stuff. You are one tough lady!

  12. Thank you for adopting that sweet, gorgeous, loving dog and giving her a forever home. I love it when people save lives by going to shelters rather than breeders or pet stores. I hope you bring each other much joy and that she gains that weight ASAP. And even if she temporarily doesn't get much exercise due to your knee, just remember that she's still infinitely happier than she was while homeless or living in a kennel at a shelter.

  13. You are one tough cookie and I hope you will be able to find knee relief in the near future. Thank you for your candor and the strength you muster up to fight another day. Thinking of you.

  14. Cheryl, I highly recommend blogging 🙂 If you do, let me know! I will stalk!

    donnamacd…thanks for getting into Alice's head 🙂 When I see her running full speed at me, all I can think is, 'Wow…she's gonna make it so that I have no choice but get my knee replaced!' LOL

    SpunkySuzi, good for you for getting serious about your doc's orders. i hope you're feeling a million times better!

  15. Beautiful dog! Knee replacement surgery is difficult to go through, however it has been very successful for many with your same scenario. I wish you the best.

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