Monday, December 20, 2010

Big Knee News!

On Friday, I saw the surgeon who specializes in wonky knees of the feminine persuasion (I thought of saying "wonky women's knees" but then there might be some confusion: is it the women who are wonky or is it their knees? You would have to decide, and possibly not in my favour!). He was fantastic.

Dr. C. spent quite a lot of time with me (and my husband, who came as an extra set of eyes and ears), explaining what was going on with my knee (and my hip and my pelvis--I'm a walking orthopedic disaster). It was quite technical, but it was refreshing to have a specialist speak to me like an intelligent human being. He also explained that he's been doing this work for many years, how he came to this specialization and then--sounding like a young and eager student--he told us how excited he was to recently meet five other surgeons at a conference in Holland who are working in the same field. Apparently, not many surgeons know how to treat these nasty knees.

He covered my left knee with all kinds of lines showing where my kneecap is, where it should be, the direction of the tibia and an X whose meaning I have forgotten. His comment upon viewing my x-rays was "interesting". Then he launched into a very technical discussion with a fellow surgeon for a minute or so before coming back to me (I heard it through the curtain).

He explained that there were two ways to deal with the problem. One was a lot more complicated, required no weight bearing for four weeks (that means no walking on the operated leg) and fortunately not suited to my particular situation. The solution for me is a total knee replacement (TKR), but done in a way that will re-align my leg, in addition to replacing the deteriorated knee joint. He explained that a regular TKR would not solve the problem because my femur and my tibia are out of alignment...something which I realized myself a long time ago, and which has made traditional exercise like stationary biking not only painful but totally useless.

The one thing he did not ask me was how much pain I have. I found this non-question refreshing too. Part of my knee joint is "bone on bone", meaning there is no cartilage, the natural cushion between bones that enables joints to move without pain. He acknowledged the state of my knee and didn't ask me to justify why I was consulting him by begging for pain relief. The knee's a mess and he knows it. End of story.

I have some papers to fill out and mail back to his office and then I wait. It will be about 11 months before the surgery. I know that my American friends might find this shocking, but I'm perfectly fine with the timeline. As long as I don't do anything crazy like try to use my exercise bike or the elliptical trainer, my pain level is mostly quite low and I can still walk fairly long distances, as long as I don't try to speed walk. So, waiting a few months is definitely not a big deal. And remember, not one cent of this surgery, which will be done by an expert in the field, is coming out of my pocket. Well, yes it is, in the form of taxes, but I don't have to cut a cheque for X thousand dollars to be treated. This is a big plus in my books.

I admit to being scared of the surgery. My hip surgery was a nightmare, though I think it was worth it in the final analysis. But this surgery will be with a different doctor, and it's altogether a different situation. I'm not a great believer in the power of positive thinking. When things go well, they go well. When things go wrong, positive affirmations do nothing to turn things around. Believe me, I am living proof of this. What's important is to have a good surgical outcome and then put in the work to make the best recovery possible. After my hip surgery was successfully re-done, I invested a huge amount of time and energy in re-learning to walk and to the untrained eye, I walk like a normal person. It's all a question of the surgeon's skill, damn luck and hard post-op work on my part.

All this being said, I certainly won't refuse all your good wishes, though. Especially on the day of my surgery!


  1. Sounds like you found yourself a good specialist!
    If the end result means you can walk with a lot less pain or be able to do other things that you can't do now, then i'm really happy for you :)
    I have friends that have had TKR and they're doing great.

  2. YAY! This is terrific news. I don't think 11 months is long to wait. If you had a lot of money you fly to the U.S. and pay to have the surgery sooner. Same here in the U.S.: if I had a lot of money I could get the surgery I need. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of money, and don't have insurance, so I can wait 'til the cows come home and I still won't get the surgery. Eleven months compared to never seems quite reasonable. When people compare the wait time for medical care (Canada vs. U.S.) why do they always compare as if everyone here has insurance? A huge percentage of us do not. And even WITH insurance, many still cannot afford the appropriate treatment because insurance companies reimburse a variety of percentages, depending on one's particular coverage.


    Sorry to distract from your beautiful news with an ugly truth. I AM happy for you. It just seems amazing to me that there are countries where people get treated, most of the time, like human beings...regardless of how much money they make. People in the U.S. who HAVE money don't seem to realize how the rest of us in the U.S. live.


  3. Cool... I always enjoy hearing about HUMAN orthopedic disasters & the plans to fix 'em ;-)

    I just wish I could talk my dad into TKR; it's painful to watch him stagger around...

  4. Rebecca-

    Don't worry, you haven't hijacked my post. Every day I am thankful to live in a country that provides universal health care and my heart goes out to decent people like you who are denied a basic human right. I wish I could help you. Really.

    Suzi and Val:
    Thanks for the good wishes. I'll keep you posted.