This snippet in the life of Neese started in February, 2016. Walking on a beautiful, dry, winter afternoon when suddenly I got a searing pain behind my left knee. A golf ball sized lump appeared. Doctor visits, misdiagnosis, physical therapy, steroids, and cortisone shot helped but it’s never been the same. Can’t pivot at all either way and at times it feels like my leg won’t support me. (Hubs often feels the same way about supporting me). Sounds like a bowl of Rice Krispies when I stand up and walk. Still, it’s 75% better than it was 18 months ago.
|Just look at all my perfect bones. Neese, 1954…|
Couple months ago, a routine day, worked from 6-1, then ran several errands. Several being too many. By the time I got home my RIGHT leg was on fire. Starting on the inside of my lower thigh, heading under my knee to the back of my calf. Swollen, tender, I used ice gel packs and anti-inflammatory OTC. But after 10 days it wasn’t any better. Sigh. I called for an appointment with my primary care guy. Dr. Arntz poked around said he didn’t like where the swelling was, and suggested an orthopedic guy in his building. Made an appointment but it was a month away because it had to be my day off, a Friday or late afternoon. The discomfort was pretty bad, so I called back asking if there was anytime sooner I could come in? The best she could do was put me on the cancellation list, probably only a day or few hours notice, but my name was added. Never got the call though, he must be a busy guy.
A week before my appointment (Friday, my day off) and my to-do list is extensive. You know weird stuff happens when you have something wrong with one of your big limbs. You unconsciously adjust your gait to try and make it hurt less. I felt like I had shin splints. A couple of toes had blisters from walking awkwardly. The pain was down a titch, but not much.
|From the back, Pam, Shirley, Neese with the great knees and Char, 1968…|
First on my list that day was meeting my friend Diane for breakfast at Cracker Barrel. As I was leaving home, I got into the Jeep and felt a sharp twinge in my lower back. Tingled all the way down my left leg for a few seconds (not the good kind of tingle). When I got to the restaurant I gingerly got out and felt another bad back twinge. Oh hells bells. After catching up with each other’s lives for 90 minutes, it was all I could do to get up off that straight chair without crying. OK, my to-do list just shrunk to 0. No way could I stop half dozen times and get in and out of the Jeep. Plus walking around. I came straight home. The upside of this? My back now hurt worse than my leg. Yay.
I still had most of Friday through Sunday to heal before work on Monday. Ha! Ironic. Working at FCC has been a trip. I was literally sick for the first 8 months. Caught everything the babies threw my way except hand, foot and mouth. I worked through bronchitis, pneumonia, sore throats, cold after cold, my sore leg (which took over a year to feel somewhat better), until I built up some immunities to those little buggers (the babies and their good natured way of literally sharing everything with me). Only to have my back go out. By Sunday night the thought of bending over to pick up anything about made me cry. Standing or laying down wasn’t too bad, sitting however was almost impossible because I couldn’t get into an upright position for at least a minute. After finally managing to hoist myself up, I was still hunched over, legs shaking and my back unable to straighten. But within a minute or 2, I was standing somewhat normally and could walk pretty good.
|Char, gal from Canton I can’t remember & Neese’s brown knees, 1962…|
So I hobbled into work Monday morning, knowing I couldn’t stay once the babies (who am I kidding, over half of them weigh between 20 and 30 pounds now, they’re practically teenagers) arrived. But I did get our room set up and ready for the day. When Liz showed up, I explained my sad state of affairs and crippled my way back home. Did the same thing on Tuesday. By Tuesday afternoon though, most of my back spasms had stopped. Whew. They were wicked. Piercing, sharp pains that sucks the breath right out of you. Feels like you’ve latched onto an electric fence. Zap. Happened sometimes just moving a couple inches, but most often whenever I tried to bend over. An inch or a foot, didn’t matter.
Wednesday I tried to work. Big mistake. It is impossible to work in our room and not pick up crying babies, bend over, or move fast to try and prevent a disaster. One kid can now get our door open so you gotta jet if he pulls the door handle down. Someone else spits up on the floor and the rest of the gang find that puddle fascinating and want to investigate. The high chairs need to be washed, (they’re low to the ground) floors need to be swept again and again. That day was my longest ever. (And I love our babies and work) My reprieve was a 30 minute lunch break, but sitting down hurt worse. I lost 3 days of healing by working those 7 hours. The spasms were back twice as bad. Didn’t think Friday and my doctors appointment would ever get here.
|1953, with perfect limbs…|
After filling out 5 pages of new patient info, a nurse leads me to X-ray. Well this was different. She did not want me to lie down, but instead climb 3 crudely made wooden steps which were covered in red out door carpeting. The railing resembled part of a walker where you place your hands as you shuffle forward. No need to remove my slacks, socks or shoes. She snapped front and sideways of both knees which I thought was odd. Back to the waiting room for a couple minutes before my name was called.
Small exam room, painted gray. One wall was filled with framed MSU & U of M and the Lions football pictures. Not an avid fan of any, I only recognized one. Desmond Howard in his now famous Heisman pose. Although one of the Lions pics could have been Barry Sanders, but I don’t remember his number. My X-rays were snapped on a lit up frame of bright white. Dang, those knees look pretty darn good. My legs look rather slim. Sweet. Shades of light and dark grays, some stark white spots. (Why I didn’t snap a couple of pictures while I waited I’ll never know. Old school and I don’t think that way).
|These are not the joints that are gonna give me grief. Really???|
Doctor Kenyon (pretty close to my age I think) waltzed in, shook my hand asked how I was doing? What’s wrong? Told him about my 6 weeks of pain in my right leg, then proceeded to my aching back. “I don’t do backs. Here’s a guy, practices in Ann Arbor and Chelsea. He’ll fix your back.” Hands me a card.
We were 2 feet apart, Kenyon was facing me, and other than glancing at my X-rays a couple of times, he talked right to me, so I don’t think I missed much of what he said (though soon I was in a state of shock and denial). “Both your knees are in horrible shape. It would be fraudulent of me to order an MRI or do arthroscopic surgery. Total knee replacement is your only option. You’re missing cartilage, it’s bone on bone in spots, see this big white spot here?” I nodded numbly. “That’s a huge bone spur. You’re growing extra bone which is trying to replace what you’ve lost. You’ve been walking so badly, your tibia is starting to turn the wrong way.” WAIT. WAIT. JUST. ONE. MINUTE.
“Um, do you actually mean my leg bone is turning the wrong direction,” I asked incredulously? “Yes, that’s what I mean, but not just your right leg. Both of your tibias are turning.”
Tibia, tibia turn around,
Tibia, tibia touch the ground.
Tibia, tibia go up the stairs,
Tibia, tibia say your prayers…
Yet, through it all she maintains her warped sense of humor. What a trooper!
Now I knew shock was setting in. I don’t remember laughing hysterically, and he didn’t get out the straight jacket, so I think I kept my near surface meltdown at bay. For the moment.
“I’m gonna give you a cortisone shot. Should help for a few months, but I wouldn’t wait too long. Call me when you’re sick of the pain. Whichever knee hurts the worse, we’ll replace first,” he concluded. Stuck a needle under my kneecap, and pushed hard. Yikes. Done. And walked out.
|I admit I haven’t been able to sit on my haunches like this for a decade. Me with neighbor baby Cindy, 1957…|
But. But, my aching back. Knew I was gonna have another miserable weekend if I didn’t get something to help with the back spasms. Crippled out to my car, called the office I had just walked out of and asked if there was any way someone from my primary care team could see me today. Yup, my doc’s assistant could squeeze me in at 2:30. Drove home, ate lunch with an ice pack on my back. Lezlie listened to my symptoms, felt around the hurting spot (C-4 she surmised), took me off work for a week, wrote a script for a muscle relaxer and suggested X-rays. I love her. She’s the gal who treated me during my 6 weeks of bronchitis/ pneumonia bout 2 years ago. While she had strongly suggested I spend a few days in the hospital, she was fine with me coming back and forth to the office a half dozen times to check, change prescriptions and order breathing treatments, but not be hospitalized.
I waited for my prescriptions, stopped at the Professional building to get the X-rays taken, and limped home. Talked it over with Hubs, who was as surprised as me with Kenyon’s assessment of my joints. John has hip issues and our son-in-law Tracey’s had total knee replacement. Tracey recommended his orthopedic doc, who’s supposed to be one of the best, so I will be getting a second opinion as soon as I can get an appointment. The back spasms have stopped, my knee feels the same-pain wise, plus very stiff.
|The bees knees. Me, Larry and Spitzy, 1954…|
Something occurred to me after Kenyon said I was walking strange, causing my bones to curve. At work as I leave the lunchroom, I walk down a hallway which faces a 30 foot long glass frame hanging on opposite wall, at the t-intersection where I turn left to go back to the baby room. Right now that humongous frame is full of candid black and white shots of kids from all of our class rooms. But I can see part of my reflection in the glass as I walk. Often I think, why do my legs look so weird? Almost bow legged. I walk like I have a cob up my butt. Holy moly. I’ve really been blessed, fortunate with relatively great health. But this surprising diagnosis has knocked the wind out of my sails for a minute. Paging Dr. Carpenter…