Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ouch, My Knee!

It was a scary day for me when I rolled out of bed one day in 2005 like I usually do...and realized that I was finding it a lot harder to walk than usual. I know that I've had days where I've been limping slightly, but I could still walk. But this time...this time was different.

In order to walk, I literally had to drag my left leg behind me. I called my rheumatologist and asked him if he could refer me to the arthritis society. I thought that this was my body reacting to Lupus.

When the lady from the arthritis lady knocked on my door, I was home alone. I was sitting on the couch in my living room, which is about 12 or so steps away from the door. I braced myself, got off of the couch, and slowly limped my way to the door. On the other side of the door was a smiling and cheerful lady, who came in and helped me back to my couch.

I was happy to see her. I knew that she was going to help me with some exercises that would help my knee. She asked me several questions about my health that I was more than happy to answer. I knew that she'd be able to come up with a custom fit exercise/physio plan for me.

I was a bit shocked and disappointed when she pulled out a few sheets of paper from her bag that showed pictures of an illustrated man doing some leg exercises.

"Do these once or twice a day". She told me.

This is exactly what I DIDN'T want. I've been to many a physiotherapy office in my life, and haven't been too impressed with the majority of them. When it comes to the physio offices that I've visted and had to pay for, much of what they wanted me to do was stuff that I could do by myself with the help of internet research in my own home. I wasn't paying hundreds of dollars a week to go to some office to be told to do what's on this paper and go home. I wasn't impressed with that in the least. I wanted someone who was physically going to help me and guide me through things, not someone who was going to tell me what to do and then leave!

Eventually, I couldn't walk. At all. My left knee was very swollen and very warm too. I went to see my rheumatologist. He tapped my knee with a big scary needle. He removed about 40ml of fluid from my knee. It was a pinkish/cloudy colour. He sent it off to be tested. Immediately after that, I was able to walk. While I was still limping, I was happy to be able to walk.

The next day, my knee blew up again and I couldn't walk anymore. I went to dialysis that day and decided to tell the doctor.

"Why didn't you go to emergency?? Why didn't you tell me before??" he explaimed, not angrily, but more in a concerned tone. He ordered me to go to emergency right after dialysis.

So, after dialysis, I was shifted to a stretcher and was taken to emergency. I was wrapped up in several warm blankets and yet I shook and shivered. My father came to see me before his shift was over, but then left so he could go to the station, change, and come back. The emergency department was so full that I was lying on a stretcher that was in a hallway...beside an automatic door that led outside in the middle of winter. Everytime anyone came into the building or left the building, a gust of cold air swept over me. Eventually, a paramedic came in and saw me shivering. He moved me away from the door and wrapped me in another warm blanket.

Eventually it was my turn. An IV was put into my hand as I continued to wait in a room. I was wrapped in a cocoon of blankets as sweat dripped down my face. I was still cold. Intense throbbing pain swept though every one of my joints. Remember on the Flintstones when Fred would hit his finger or toe, and it would turn red and it would throb? That's how it felt. I felt it in every part of my body. First my ears, then my neck, my shoulders, elbows, every single finger, my hip, my knees, my ankles, my toes....everywhere. The pain swept through my body one joint at a time, from head to toe. A nurse came in and pushed morphine directly into the IV that was now in my arm. A feeling of comfort, relaxation, and ultimately pain relief came over me.

After much testing, I found out that I had an infection in my knee, which probably got there from the dialysis line I had in my chest. I know exactly how I got the infection too. I had recently got a line put into my chest for dialysis. These lines are extremely itchy. When I was at dialysis, a nurse was about to change the dressing on my line. Before cleaning it, she asked me if it was itchy and I told her it was. She told me to go ahead and scratch away before she cleaned it, which I did. What I didn't consider was how dirty my hands probably were, and also the fact that there was no way that a simple once over swab of the area couldn't possibly rid me of all the bacteria I just put there. But I wasn't thinking. I don't think that nurse was thinking either.

I was put on a course of antibiotics, but would also need surgery on my knee. It took a few days to get booked for the surgery. Until then, doctors came to my room every single day to stick a huge needle in my knee to draw out the collecting fluid. It was irritating, because there was this student doctor who couldn't seem to do it. He would always come in by himself and try, only subjecting me to undue pain. Eventually he'd always have to call the senior doctor to come in and show him how to position the needle properly. It was awful.

Eventually, on a Wednesday evening at 6pm, a group of paramedics came into my room and told me that they were going to transport me to another hospital for my surgery, and then they were going to bring me back here.

The paramedics lifted me gently off of my hospital bed and onto their stretcher. I was taken downstairs and put into the back of an ambulance. When I got to the other hospital, I was put in a 4 bed room for a few hours until I was ready for surgery.

The surgery involved 3 small incisions where instruments and a camera were inserted. The infection was washed out of my knee, and tubes with a pump at the end were inserted into the incision holes to drain out any additional fluid. My knee was wrappped up.

I woke up in the recovery room. I was then transported back into the 4 bed hospital room. I stayed there for a short while, when 2 different paramedics came back to take me back to my original hospital room.

A few days later, the doctor came in and simply pulled the tubes out of my knee. It didn't hurt, but it did feel funny. I was told to start walking around. I was scared to do so, simply because of all the pain I had experienced before the surgery, and also due to the fact that I was afraid that the surgery I just had would make my knee hurt as well.

I was more than relived when I finally stood on my own two feet. I knew that I should still take it easy, but I felt like I could run a marathon. I was glad. I was more than glad.

So now, the only physical memory I have of this event are 3 scars on my left knee from the incisions. I was very lucky that the infection didn't damage the cartilage in my knee, because that was a major concern for the orthopedic surgeons. Luckily when they got me into the emergency room, that wasn't the case.

Hmm...considering the outcome of many of my life's episodes, I'm a pretty lucky girl.

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