Congratulations, you’re a 23-year-old arthritic

Posted on July 6, 2015

It is true! I am going back to Kansas this week. I will be there from July 8 to July 17. Why would I be home for that long not during a holiday?

Well, I am evidently a 23-year-old arthritic with a bone spur and ligament tear in my left knee. This week’s knee surgery will hopefully mark the start of the final 100 meters in what has been the most involved medical year of my young life

Wednesday morning I will pack up my computer, coloring books, sewing and “Ulysses” and head for the prairie. I’ll check in with my surgeon to prove that I am healthy enough for surgery, have a nice dinner with mom and dad (Wichita dinner suggestions are welcome), and wake up the next morning for surgery.

This particular procedure will be an out-patient arthroscopic knee surgery. The official name on my surgery orders?

Left knee diagnostic arthroscopy, possible micro-fracture patella, possible medial patella-femoral ligament reconstruction with autograft.

I guess it sounds intimidating? Maybe? I have been keeping things in check by reminding myself that I live in a constant state of possibly needing sections of my intestines removed, so surgery on a joint isn’t so bad…right?

Anyhoo, let’s break down what exactly is wrong with my anatomy. Now is a good time to point out that I am convinced my parents really did not put together the most healthy of genetics for me, but by the time my brother was born had figured it out — the kid (read: 20-year-old man) doesn’t need glasses or braces, hasn’t broken a bone and doesn’t have an incurable autoimmune disease, but c’est la vie!

My doctor, Dr. Brennen Lucas, reports that I have arthritis, a bone spur and a number of tears in my patellar ligament. All three are related to my poor physiology (I have wide hips, knocked knees and flat feet) and years of jumping playing volleyball, squatting as a catcher on my softball team, climbing a mountain in Bavaria and a medication reaction during my hospitalizations earlier this year.

Your patellar ligament holds your kneecap in place. Since I have had these tears for several years, my kneecap has essentially been floating around doing whatever it feels like. That willy-nilly hippie lifestyle is not ideal for kneecaps because they end up bumping into the cartilage that covers your other bones eventually wearing it down so that the bones are rubbing against each other.

Doesn’t sound nice? You’re right, it really is not, thusly the surgery:

  • The surgery itself will be arthroscopic.
  • Three or so incisions will be made in my left knee.
  • The doctor will use a small camera to take a good look around and see if anything else needs to be repaired — I am not ruling out my meniscus needed to be trimmed up — and then get to work.
  • He will drill small holes into my bones where the bone spurs have formed. By drilling into my bones, it will signal to my body to grown more bone and more cartilage around the bone and in theory I should be closer to right as rain than I am as I type this post with ice on my knee.
  • He will take some of my own leg muscle to reconstruct my patellar ligament so my kneecap stays in place. This involves more drilling. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

IMG_0983That’s the short of it. The surgery is approximated to be an hour to two hours. My recovery will be the more strenuous part of the entire ordeal.

I will be in a full leg brace (pictured at right) for a couple of months. My leg must be straight the majority of the time to facilitate bone and cartilage growth in the right places. If my knee is bent then there will not be space for things to grow back properly and I will be worse of than before. I’ll be hobbling around the world on crutches as well until my physical therapist clears me to bear weight on my post-op leg. I’ll be seeing said physical therapist roughly three times a week for what seems like countless weeks right now, but it will really only be 8-12 weeks.

Making this entire process slightly more complicated is my Crohn’s disease. As I have written before, it puts a number of limitations on the types of medication I am allowed. I am also on an immunosuppressant drug called Humira.

A suppressed immune system is not ideal for individuals attempting to grow new bone, so I my Humira treatment is on hold for the next several weeks. That means I am back on the incredibly strict low-fiber diet. (An update in that area: The only thing that I’ve had a poor reaction to post-hospitalization is beer, but wine is just fine!)

As my decrepit body heals from surgery, I am sure to be incredibly grateful for my amazing parents who are able and ready to aid in my recovery as well as my friends in Dallas and elsewhere who are already so supportive. I’d also like to thank modern pain management medications and ice packs.


Please, send good vibes to me Wednesday as I will be following the yellow brick road, by way of Southwest Airlines, to the ICT and on to having a repaired body. Have well wishes? Suggestions of what I can do while on narcotics for a week? Want my drug-addled brain to interpret art or literature for you? Comment below, send me an email or tweet me at @hwise29.