I had my follow-up visit yesterday with Dr. Young. Here are the key dates on the timetable. My injury was Tuesday, Jan. 27. I had my first visit with Dr. Young on Wednesday, Jan. 28, and I got my MRI later that same day. I got my Townsend brace from Don Green the following Tuesday, Feb. 3. I immediately began physical therapy with Traci Smith, and I have kept that up on a weekly basis, missing only one or two sessions during the roughly two months since the injury.
I began walking with Amanda again very soon after the injury, wearing the brace. The first few days, I stopped at 1/2 mile, then a mile, then two miles, and soon three miles. Soon after that I started walking without the brace on flat surfaces and reserved the brace for working on the farm and for walking in crowds. Now I use it only for working at the farm.
A few nights ago we had some friends over. I was standing in front of the house trying to take a group photo (with everybody more or less ready) when I realized I needed a different lens that I had left upstairs in the bedroom (about two flights up from where I was). I didn’t want to keep everybody waiting, so without thinking about it, and without the brace, I ran up the stairs two at a time. Only when I got to the top did I realized what I had just done. Whoa! That caused me to reflect on how much healing has occurred during these two months.
When I met with Dr. Young yesterday, he felt the right (injured) knee in comparison with the left one, and he told me that the knee is as firm as he could make it in any surgery he could perform. He said “if I operated on a knee and it felt like this afterward, I would feel proud of my work and call the surgery a success.” Therefore, he doesn’t see the justification to do any kind of surgery. None at all, not even arthroscopic. Whoo hoo! Now that’s what I call great news.
There’s still some fluid on the knee, most likely the remaining result of the irritation of tearing three ligaments. I can discontinue my physical therapy whenever I wish, because most of the healing has already happened. I should be fine in normal walking around at church, in social settings, and around town, but I should continue to wear the brace for heavy work around the farm and elsewhere, at least for the next 4-6 months. After then, I should use my judgment about how the knee is feeling and how vulnerable it seems.
If I have the chance to go skiing again, I should feel free to do it, just making sure that I wear the brace when I do. We don’t see any time during my remaining lifetime when I would want to snow ski without wearing the brace, no matter how I feel.
If at any point my knee begins to bother me or the pain increases, I can go in at that time for arthroscopic surgery. Until then, however, Dr. Young believes the tiny benefit I would get from it wouldn’t be enough to merit the (small) risks of the arthroscopic invasion.
I am at a slightly greater risk of arthritis in my knee. Even that risk is small, however, because the muscles around my knee have regained their strength so well and so quickly. Dr. Young says that most of the risk of arthritis comes from “sloppy” movements in knee joints. Because the bracing and therapy have kept those movements to a minimum, the risk of arthritis, while present, is minor.
I will probably always feel the weather in my knee the way I do now. When the weather is wet, the knee talks to me more. I choose to view it as a benefit, though, knowing as I do that I’m going to need some way to forecast the weather.
Clearly, my experience serves to validate Dr. Young’s conservative approach of waiting to let the MCL heal before doing surgery of any kind. With three torn ligaments, it would have been easy enough for him to justify going in and doing full knee surgery on me back in early February. I shall always be grateful that he decided to let me try some physical therapy first to see what would heal naturally.
This is also a validation of the gentle guidance I have received from Traci Smith, my physical therapist. I kidded her occasionally about how rough she was on me and how mean she was, but she actually never pushed me, not even once. She seems to have figured out early on that I was doing just fine pushing myself and that all she needed to do was to let me know what options were available. She knew I was well motivated to build up the strength in my knee and would keep making the most of whatever she offered.
I am blessed. Blessed indeed.