Snip snip

Tomorrow marks 6 weeks since I had the bilateral medial meniscectomy (double knee surgery). Basically, one of the little pads that protects the bone surface between the femur and the tibia/fibula on each of my knees had a tear in it, and that tear had a little flap that was floating around my knee causing inflammation and pain. The surgery is fairly straightforward and uninvasive (while still cutting me open…). But, lets step back a bit first.

My left knee has bothered me off and on for the last 10 years or so, possibly from a hockey injury, but I can’t remember an exact event when it started. Every now and then it would let out a loud pop and then hurt for a few days. For some reason I guess I thought this was normal and never had it looked at. Then, when bouldering in Squamish one day last June, and walking between problems, I felt like my right knee needed to pop (similar to how one would pop or crack their knuckles). A few hours later, I could hardly bend my leg at all due to the swelling and pain.

The next day I booked a physio appointment to try and find out what was up with my knee. I saw physio for a few sessions as we aimed to solve what was causing the swelling. At first they thought it had to do with the alignment of my knee caps so they had me doing some exercises trying to correct that. I guess my left knee began to compensate for the right and soon I had two very swollen and sore knees. The physio began exploring other options, one of which was a torn meniscus, that could be causing my knee to be sore. They did a simple test of pushing my heel to my bum while twisting my foot laterally and, low and behold, it hurt. This was enough for the physio to suggest I see a doctor to get referred for an MRI.

This is when the waiting game started. After getting a referral for an MRI, I had no clue how long I’d have to wait. “We will call you closer to the date” was all I was told. Then, one morning in July (2013) I received a call from VGH Radiology Department: “We are currently scheduling MRI’s for December 2014, but we have a cancellation tomorrow morning at 6AM, can you make it?” Heck yes I can make it, like anything is more important than NOT waiting 17 more months…

The MRI was pretty neat – they put me in a big tube that made retro video game noises for half an hour. One week later I received the MRI report which showed positive for a complex tear of the medial meniscus in my right knee. With this I was able to see my GP and get a referral to a surgeon. I was referred to the Rebalance MD clinic in Victoria. Rebalance has this neat concept they refer to as FAAST – First Available Appropriate Surgeon Triage. You can choose to be referred to a specific surgeon, or, like in my case, you can choose to be referred to their FAAST system. The patient is triaged to the first surgeon who is available to do the necessary work. In August, I saw Dr. Norgrove Penny who did an assessment on my knees. He concluded that, in his opinion, there was a torn meniscus in the right knee. I also asked him about the pain and swelling in my left knee and, even without the MRI, Dr. Penny was able to conclude that the left was probably torn as well. I was then referred to Dr. James Stone to do the actual surgery.

I did a lot of reading online regarding surgeons beforehand and Dr. Stone had by far the best rating out of all the surgeons I found. I have to echo these same thoughts. He took a genuine interest in my situation as well as my climbing. He seems to take a laid back, yet professional, stance in his appointments which really put me at ease about the whole situation.

Fast forward half a year to May 5, 2014 and I am laying in a hospital bed recovering after having both knees worked on. My instructions were to only move when I had to, not when I wanted to, for the first 3 days, and to slowly begin to bend my knees a bit when able. After these 3 days, I began to move around a little more, bit by bit, to get some range of motion back in my knees. Thankfully, the crutches allowed me to move under my own power and I could do most things by myself. After about a week, I was able to lose the crutches and Kim and I decided to come back to Vancouver. Walking was pretty awkward and stiff legged, but it was nice to be able to move around without the crutches. Over the next couple weeks I began to gain more and more range through my legs.

Kim as my patient nurse. She removed, cleaned and reapplied my bandages daily

Walking was pretty impossible at first…but I graduated to crutches, and then free walking after a week!

Showering was also a fairly big challenge…

I saw Dr Stone again 3 weeks after the surgery for the post-op appointment. It turns out both legs had the same tear on the medial meniscus, and the little torn piece had flipped under the meniscus in an attempt to vacate the knee. This explained why I wasn’t able to bend my leg all the way – I had a piece of meniscus blocking it! Dr Stone said that, aside from the tear, my knees were “pristine” which was really nice to hear. He still stressed no climbing or other leg intensive activities until the 6 week mark.

I am now nearly 6 weeks post surgery and the knees are feeling fantastic. I am able to ride the stationary bike without any pain, and the swelling has reduced almost entirely – I can bend my legs well past 90 degrees now. Despite not being able to climb, I have kept busy doing some core work outs and training on the hang board. It has been pretty hard the last few weeks as I keep hearing about my friends sending all their projects. I am super stoked for them and cannot wait to join them on the next projects.

Kim and I working core and upper body strength on the monkey bars at the playground by our house!

Hanging out at Paradise Valley while Cory, Kim and Marc are bouldering

Our main focus over the past couple weeks has been checking out vans. Our trip is growing closer at an alarming rate and we really need to focus more on the van situation. I have a feeling camperizing one is going to take us a lot longer than we expect, as neither of us really have any experience doing anything like it. We’re both super excited to be creative and make it livable though. We’ve test driven some really nice vehicles, and are feeling pretty close to making a decision…hopefully within the week. As I’m now allowed to start climbing (gently) again, we’d better find a van soon, as it’ll be hard to trade off one activity for the other!

-Graham

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