The Worst Patient

So, I’ve always heard that doctors make the worst patients. You decide. Back in early August, our family took our longest vacation ever. We flew to Vegas, rented a motor home, and spent two weeks traveling in the National Parks. It was absolutely awesome. The family tolerated the motorhome for me. I assure you that would not have been Joe’s choice! But, traveling in a camper was quite nostalgic for me (a legacy from my parents), and it was a cool way to explore the Great Out West. We had an adventurous vacation with activities including mountaineering, hiking, climbing, and even four-wheeling through a National Forest. Totally fabulous family time! However, one of the days we were quite active, I remember coming back to the campsite thinking my knee was sore. In fact, I was having a hard time bending it. But, I’m 48 years old. Not a day goes by that something doesn’t hurt. So, I ignored it.

We returned from vacation, and I jumped back into my typical exercise routine doing CrossFit a few days a week and running a few days a week. Every time I worked out, the knee would feel stiff. But, 10 to 15 minutes into the work out, I’d work through the pain, and I was able to complete whatever the workout of the day would bring. I continued to run as well, but I certainly was not breaking any speed records. The first week in October, I was still pushing myself to get in five full days of exercise. On Friday night the 5th, I hosted a huge party at my house and had to run the last guest out the door at midnight. Still, I got up early the morning of the 6th to run the Race for the Cure. This was the 18th year I have participated in the Komen Race for the Cure here in Charlotte. I run it every year in honor and memory of my patients who have fought against breast cancer. Most years, I’m running it with several family members. This time, I was all alone. My two teenage girls were at a church retreat, and my sons were on the ballfield playing. About a mile into the short 5K, I could hear my knee yelling at me. Nonetheless, I knew I had to finish the race. One way or another, my car was at the finish line. I made it across the finish line and snapped a few photos to prove I had done it. I went home, showered, and met the rest of the family for a late breakfast. Over the next several hours, I watched as my knee ballooned to twice its normal size. Something was definitely wrong this time.

I started scarfing down Advil, 800mg every eight hours, round the clock. Usually, that fixes anything. Not this time. By Sunday morning, I could barely walk. I did message a sports medicine friend who is a fellow runner. He reminded me that if there was an infusion, swelling on the knee, it was likely something anatomically wrong. Like any good doctor, I ignored that counsel and continued to take the Advil. By Friday of that week, I had a bellyache from the Advil, and the knee was not much better. Every time I got up and down off of my stool, patients saw me wincing in pain and kept asking me what was wrong. My clinic staff were making fun of my gimping through the office. So, I decided it was time to have it checked out. I made an appointment for the following Monday, hoping that a quick steroid injection would do the trick. Instead, I was told an MRI was an order, and within three days was diagnosed with right medial meniscal tear. Now, in this profession, I order a lot of MRI’s. You know it’s bad when the radiologist uses the words “complex” and “severe” in the actual report! I just met with the surgeon today and had confirmation that surgery is in order. Can I just say this blows? I feel like I’ve had my wings clipped. I have not run in two weeks. I feel like a toad. And, I’m not managing my stress well. It’s amazing how dependent I am on exercise to modulate my emotional health! I found myself begging to get on the surgery schedule as soon as possible. Apparently, there’s a cancellation tomorrow, but I cannot get my own patients rescheduled that quickly. I’m stuck with waiting. I determined this morning that I was going to have to find a way to exercise. I got up at 4:40 and made my way to the YMCA. The lousy part is that even swimming in the pool hurts this stupid knee. Ten months ago, I fractured an ankle (on the other side) rolling down my front steps. I was forced to take some time off from exercising then as well. This time, it’s just making me more irritated as I can’t pinpoint what happened. last time, I had a trauma. I fell. I had a reason. This time, it just feels like I’m getting old! So, are doctors bad patients? This one is. I’m grumpy and frustrated. The surgeon actually looked at me and asked me if I was going to be a good patient. When I said yes, he laughed. He said doctors make the worst patients. I promised I would stay off of it, do the therapy, take the medicine, etc. He looked at me and chuckled: “No, you won’t!” Surgery scheduled for Friday morning. I’m going to try to be compliant with medical advice. If you see me, hold me accountable! Being a good patient is really hard . . .

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