DC Trawler

Here’s the latest on my broken knee, if you’re interested

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And even if you’re not!

It's not as bad as it looks. It's worse.

If it’s your very first visit to this blog, here’s the short version: Seven months ago I was crossing the street legally here in DC, and I got hit by a State Department SUV. It shattered my tibial plateau, which is on the outside of the knee. I had surgery to put it back together, and now there’s a metal rod in there. It’s taken me all this time to walk again on my own — from wheelchair to walker to crutches to one crutch to limping along — and I’m still not 100%.

A month ago, just when I thought I was almost out of the woods, I found out that the broken bone they put back together is gradually collapsing. My knee is starting to go valgus, which means it’s bending toward my right side as I walk. It’s starting to hurt more again, and I can just feel that something’s not right inside the knee. I need more surgery to fix it now, or else I’ll probably need a knee replacement sooner than later.

This week I met with a new surgeon to talk about the procedure, which is called an osteochondral allograft. Basically, he’ll take cartilage and bone from a donor and replace the damaged section. He’ll also take out the metal rod I’ve got in there now. If everything goes well and it heals properly, he says it’ll be a home run. He said he’s seen patients who’ve had this, and a year later you wouldn’t even know they ever got hurt. I’m trying not to get my hopes up that much, but at this point I’ll settle for having less pain and more mobility.

He thinks he can find a donor match by the end of September. It has to be an exact size match, and it needs to be screened for diseases. Once we get a match, the tissue will be viable for just a few weeks. And yes, it’ll be donor tissue from someone who has died. I’m trying not to think about that part too much, except to be very grateful to whoever ends up helping me. (Are you a tissue donor? If not, why not?)

Now I wait. After the surgery, the recovery will take 6-10 weeks, and it won’t be nearly as bad as last time because I won’t have all the swelling and stuff. And of course, I won’t have just been hit by an SUV, so I won’t keep waking up from dreams of headlights in my face.

I’ve been really nervous and depressed ever since I found out my knee isn’t healing properly, but now I’m feeling more hopeful about it. Sounds like this can really work.

Also, I finally went off the blood thinners this week, which I’d been taking ever since I got a pulmonary embolism from the last surgery. So maybe things are looking up?

P.S. From theprofessor in the comments: “My colleague said to tell you to request a donor from outside the DC area or the recipient leg will always think it’s better than the other one.”

P.P.S. Another bright side: this time I won’t have the atrophy from not putting weight on the leg for months on end. I’ll be back on crutches, but I’ll be able to put light toe-touch weight on it. Building the muscles back up was painful and exhausting, so that’s somewhat of a comfort.

Jim Treacher