Friday, January 8, 2016

Needle Encounters of a Different Kind

I went to the orthopedic office today. My knees are terrible, but my left knee is REALLY awful.

When I was in high school, I injured it in the dorkiest of ways. I ran track, so that sounds really great and first.

I didn't dislocate it at track. Or while running. Or while doing anything remotely sporty.

I was at a flower nursery with my best friend and her mom, and it was April so there were just flats and flats of pansies. They looked so beautiful and almost I did a little jump for joy.

My knee dislocated on the way up and jammed my patella into the wrong spot on the way down, and I crashed to the ground and just HOWLED while my knee swelled up impressively.

So to the emergency room I went.

And then to the orthopedic doctor. Who erroneously called it a sprain and did not do imaging, which meant that he missed just how messed up the situation was. So I walked on it for a few months, grinding everything away.

(Probably a good clue that this doctor was not good was that he kept calling me "Jennifer" and telling me he'd "get me right back out on that soccer field." I didn't play soccer, wasn't Jennifer, but there was another girl whose name was very similar to mine a year ahead of me in school, and that's who he was mixing me up with. Note she was very athletic and blonde and tan all the time. So very similar to me.)

When I could no longer bend it, he did an MRI and then was like, "Hmmm. Surgery."

It was supposed to be arthroscopic, but instead of three neat little dots I have two dots and then a giant 5 inch scar where things got messy and they had to open me up and do gross things like remove my patella, tighten up my ligaments, theive some thigh muscle to rebuild what was lost, and other lovely details like that. Details I got largely from the angry physical therapist I saw post-surgery, who wanted to be sure I knew "just what had been done to me."

Needless to say I've had knee problems since.

Most recently, I've been in PT since August to try to bolster and stabilize BOTH my knees. My poor right one has been compensating for so long it also has become damaged, although not as severely as my left. I thought I should go into physical therapy to try and improve my ability to do things like go up stairs without sounding like a percussion section (or having horrible pain), get down on my hands and knees, hike up hills without feeling like dying, and generally be an active person without pain and crunchiness. Because I hear that's helpful when you have a baby and then a toddler and then a school-aged child.

It worked out great -- I got so much better with stability, my knees stopped giving out on me, I could do hills in hiking and stairs like a champ without struggling...and then in the past few weeks I started seeing a decline in my left knee.

It got painful during squats and lunges and these lean-back thingies that were pure grinding torture. They referred me to an orthopedic for the left knee.

Then, this week, I had the interesting experience of waking up and finding my knee swollen and unable to be bent all the way, without having done ANYTHING WHATSOEVER to it. No twist, no fall, no collapse...nothing but sleeping and walking. Which made me feel great.

I went to my regular doctor, because the ortho didn't have anything earlier than today's appointment, and I was scared to death that there was something more ominous going on because of the sudden swelling with no apparent cause. Luckily, there wasn't, and they gave me an ace bandage and said it was a good thing I was going to the orthopedist the next day.

Which brings me to the needle encounter...

I got there and had to put on the most attractive bloomer-like paper shorts imaginable, so that they could thoroughly examine my knee. (Note to self: plan ahead next time and wear a skirt or yoga pants.) Then they did a series of x-rays. Then I sat with the PA to discuss.

Arthritis. I have a fair amount of arthritis in both knees, yet not enough to warrant a scope-and-clean surgery, and I am too young for a bionic knee. The phrases, "Stairs must be very difficult for you," and "You got a bum rap with these kneecaps!" and "I think you may want to consider buying a ranch house next" were uttered. Which didn't sound promising at all.

What was suggested, upon examining my not-as-swollen-as-yesterday-of-course but still puffy left knee, was that he could do a fluid drain and a cortisone shot. The drain would relieve the pressure and the tightness and lack of mobility, and the cortisone shot would make things cushiony instead of grindy for a while.

"What does that entail, exactly?" I asked.

"I'm going to put a needle into your knee, extract the fluid, and then with the same needle push in the cortisone. It won't take long, you'll feel a little pinch from the needle, it's not too bad."


As I laid back, I said, "I have a long and sordid history with needles, you know. Five years and change of infertility treatments." I think he was busy setting up the Needle of Torture, because all I heard was "hmmm."

Then I asked, "Is it an 18 gauge needle?"

WHY did I ask this? WHY? Logically it would make sense, but why would I want to visualize that nonsense?

"Yes," he said, surprised, "how did you know that?" Ummm, fertility treatments.

So a straw, the PIO draw-up needle, was going in my knee. Great.

He sprayed me with numbing solution and he was right -- the needle stick was just a little pinch.


It hurt so, so, so bad. Like, almost horrific-vegetable-peel-integrin-endometrial-biopsy bad. I could feel things moving and sucking and depositing and all that horribleness the whole time. I can't say which was worse, but I could feel when the needle was moving about.

"I know it hurts, but not as much as childbirth," he said. (I didn't clarify that I would actually never know what that feels like, so thankyouverymuch for throwing some lemon juice in my papercut.)

"Aaaargh I hate needles Aaaargh at least it's not in my midsection or torturing my uterus" I said through gritted teeth.

"Wait, you did infertility treatments?" OH MY GOD, WHERE ARE THE LISTENING SKILLS?

I explained yes, and then he asked if I was successful, and I said NO louder than necessary because the needle moved, and then I said we were adopting and he asked a whole bunch of questions about that to distract me from the hell that my poor knee was being subjected to.

When all was said and done, he removed 30 ccs of arthritic fluid from my knee. Which, in the giant barrel of the sucking needle, seemed like an awful lot. But I should feel better once my knee stops being furious with me for the indignities of this invasion.

I can honestly say that no matter what they are jabbed into my body, I really, really, REALLY hate needles. Although I have to say, at least it was novel to have one in my knee, having nothing whatsoever to do with reproductive efforts.

I hope it works, I hope I get relief, I hope it's amazing enough that I can get back up on that table and do it again.


  1. Ouch that sounds super painful. I hope that the pain was worth it and it gives you some relief. Maybe if you have to do it again you can take some pain pills ahead of time so that you are at least a bit numb?

    And seriously? What horrible listening skills on that doctor.

    1. I am so much better now! The weekend sucked, but I stayed off it Sunday and so today felt much better. I love the idea of pain pills before. The numbing spray was a joke. And yeah, wasn't so impressed with the listening either! :)

  2. Oh lady! My MIL has had both knees replaced and my SIL is an orthopedic surgeon and former shot-putter who had back surgery and has a bum knee. Needless to say, you have worlds of sympathy coming from me at the moment. Shame on that initial doc. I'm surprised he hasn't been sued for his incompetence. And 30 ml is a LOT of fluid. I challenge his assertion that childbirth is worse because how the hell would he know?!?!

    Hope the coristone works it's magic and you're feeling better very soon.

    1. Thank you so much... and yeah, if I could retroactively sue that guy I would. It sure looked like a lot of fluid, and it was SO GROSS. We went for Mexican later, and I was so sad because my margarita totally looked like the same color as the knee fluid. GROSS. I got over it real quick, though. :) So far the cortisone is doing a great job!

  3. I love the spots where you put all funny even though not really.

    I'm sorry you are in so much pain. That sucks.
    I had cortisone after my Toddler boy was born due to pregnancy induced tendonitis in my left knee. I met my deductible so I figured I would go see what Ortho could do, and they suggested cortisone to help kick-start the process of reducing the swelling. I went into the office in pain but walking, and came out in more pain and limping. So yeah. I won't ever do that again, even though this time the tendonitis is now in my right knee.

    Several years ago I twisted my ankle, and it stayed swollen for the longest time. So I took an extra needle and syringe and drained the pocket of fluid myself. I did it several times over the course of a couple months until it healed for good. I am a freak like that.

    1. Ack! Ack! AAAAACCCCKKKKK! I can't believe you drained your own ankle! You have guts of steel. Of STEEL, I say! Thanks for your condolences, and I'm glad you can do the healing magic on yourself better than those other people. Ack. ACK!

  4. Oh dear, I was cringing for you all through this. Also the story about how you messed up your knee in the pansy garden is so sad and gruesomely funny. What misery you have endured for one jump of joy!

    1. Thanks for the cringes! I couldn't resist sharing just how awful it was. Oh, and I don't learn my lesson...I still do little leaps and Bryce will be like, "DON'T BREAK YOURSELF! ACK!" I blame the pansies. Almost never do I plant the knee-destroying bastards. :)

  5. Sometimes I dislike that you are such a prolific writer because I could feel that pain in my knee as I read. I hope you get relief!

    1. Heh heh, I'm sorry if I made you feel nauseous... :) I have to say that I feel SO much better now, that the cortisone and the draining really did what they were meant to. My knee is much happier now, but I fear going back for another shot is going to be harder now that I know what to expect. :(

  6. I'm so so so sorry, Jess! I hope that you get the relief that you need. Dealing with attempts at pain management for major bones/joints/etc is an albatross...

    1. All good! The gross drain and painful cortisone shot did what they needed to do to relieve the nonsense, for now.

  7. I'm sorry you have had to go through all of that with your knees. It sounds awful, on top of having difficulty with needles. Hope you find relief and healing!

  8. I am SO sorry you had to go through that - both the original surgery and the current issues. My knees are aching reading this. Ouch.
    Also, that doctor talking about childbirth after you mentioning infertility treatments - what a jerk thing for him to say. Ugh!

    Glad to see reading some of the comments here that the procedure helped out...hoping for a nice, long time that it keeps the pain/swelling at bay for you.

  9. Ugh. Orthos are the worst! I hope you'll find relief. Your house is too cute to sacrifice for a ranch.