Be Your Own Health Advocate

Once I was back in LA, I went straight to Beach Cities Orthopedics to see the physician assistant and get this process started for an MRI, and general plan of action. I brought my CT and x-ray scans with me to try and expedite the process, which it did. Once I saw the PA, she ordered my MRI and drained my ridiculously inflated knee. Now, I have a pretty high pain tolerance and have been through this once before, but this was not like I remembered. I couldn't believe how painful it was, so much so that I had tears running down my cheeks. To be fair, those tears were part physical and part emotional pain, but still. After this intense, but quick appointment, I was on my way home to rest. My MRI wasn't scheduled until Saturday, which I wasn't happy about since it was only Tuesday, but it was the best that they could do. I knew that I would try to get in before then anyway, something was very wrong with my knee and I needed answers. 

Once I was back home, the outpouring of support started. I had let my close networks know what was going on and many of them had started reaching out to offer their help. I was grateful for this, as their kindness and visits helped distract me from how I was really feeling. I am generally a happy person, but there was a deep sadness and anger setting in. I knew that sitting here stagnant would destroy my psyche, so I decided to be proactive. My surgeon was about to be on vacation the following week, so the clock was ticking and I didn't feel that I could wait 2 1/2 weeks before having any answers. While the ER staff in Truckee was absolutely wonderful, I knew I needed a specialist to look at the damage I had done. I started the phone calls the following morning. I called the MRI department twice on Wednesday, just to make sure they couldn't get me in. I did the same thing on Thursday, and on my second phone call, they got me in. I am sure they were annoyed with some woman calling incessantly looking for cancellations, but I didn't care. One of my friends came over immediately to take me to my appointment. 

After my MRI, which was in the same building as my surgeon's office, I stopped at the desk to push for an earlier follow up appointment. I needed to get a refill on my pain killers and didn't have enough to get me through the next three days, let alone over a week while I waited for results. I told the front desk that I really needed to see Dr. T, my surgeon, but she said he was booked solid because of his upcoming vacation. Defeated, I took the appointment with the PA that afternoon so I could at least get a refill on my medication. The unknown is a difficult position to be in, and I was feeling very desperate for answers. 

My girlfriend and I went to get lunch and came back about an hour later for my appointment. I hopped myself back into the exam room, and passed Dr. T in the process. Oh, please let me see him today, I thought to myself. My persistence had paid off, Dr. T walked into my exam room. "Hi!" I exclaimed, "Thank you so much for squeezing me in!" He politely replied, "My pleasure, I'm happy to." I wasn't buying it, but appreciated the kindness. My instinct was telling me to push for this appointment, to push to get answers, so I did and it worked. My MRI results went a little something like this: In addition to the lateral fractured tibial plateau, I had completely ruptured my ACL, torn my MCL, popliteal tendon, and lateral meniscus. (Pause for the eyebrow raise, I know I did.) This, my friends, is what a blown knee looks like. He told me that I needed to have surgery and he suggested that I go with a cadaver ACL replacement, to which I concurred. There was a fun little catch to all of this: I had to wait to have surgery. He said that it was best to give my MCL a few weeks to heal on its' own and that it wasn't completely shredded like my ACL was. I was all for trying to let my body heal itself and avoiding as much surgical intervention as possible. He drained my knee again (which was much less painful) and I scheduled my follow up appointment two weeks out. 

The days following this appointment were long and trying, I couldn't do much. I stayed home and iced, rested, read, had visitors, and tried to make sense of everything that had just happened. Aside from the physical setbacks, the mental challenge of sitting and waiting for something to heal was tough. It was very easy to get lost in my thoughts, over analyze, and to feel generally down about the situation. It was still the beginning of the healing process, so I did my best to keep a positive perspective, try to take it one day at a time, and remind myself that all things in life are temporary, including this. I had my follow up appointment exactly two weeks after seeing him and he determined that my MCL wasn't as stable as he would like it to be, so ordered a cadaver replacement for that, as well. Great, I thought, I need to have TWO ligaments replaced. He told me that he wouldn't know if he had to replace it until he was in surgery, but was hoping that it would heal some more in the coming days. I was hoping for the same thing. 

I scheduled my surgery for February 14th, Happy Valentine's Day to me! After we took care of a stack of paperwork, back home I went to wait another 12 days for my surgery.  I felt very confident going into this repair surgery and that I was in the best of hands. Dr. T had done another knee surgery for me in December of 2012, which was a smooth recovery, as well. 

The takeaway from this process? Trust yourself. Trust your gut. We rely on medical professionals to tell us what to do, when to do it, and how, but you must listen to yourself. I knew that I went to a great surgeon, and overall great practice, but I'm also proud of myself for listening to my intuition and pushing for an earlier appointment. Had I not been persistent with my appointment scheduling, calling, and ultimately just showing up, my healing process would have been delayed another week or two. In the grand scheme of life, not that long, but it can feel like an eternity when you're the person in the middle of it all. We are all beautifully flawed humans doing the best that we can, doctors and medical professionals included. You owe it to yourself to trust your intuition and listen to your body. 

Be your own best advocate.