CRACK! The sound that reverberated throughout the gym drew the attention of my gym teachers immediately. There were no tears, no screams, just that sound and the collapse of my body. They knew there was something wrong, but I was still in shock. My best friend John was nearly beside himself with worry. It had been his book bag, thrown haphazardly, that had tripped me when we ran laps around the gym. My parents were called, and I was taken immediately to the emergency room.
It wasn’t until after I arrived at the ER that my body’s automatic response to pain ebbed away and I started feeling every twinge and burn from my knee. It was excruciating. I couldn’t stop thinking “Oh goddess…what did I do to my knee? Is everything going to be alright?” The nurses wheeled me back into one of the examination rooms and before I knew it I was being taken to X-rays. An hour later another nurse came in and started an IV and gave me pain medication. The doctor who came in was grim, but they put me in a brace from my hip to my ankle and told my mother that I needed to go to orthopedics for further action.
It took her a week before she finally called to set up an appointment. A week of me in a brace and crutches. I even took my final exams in my brace. The only good thing I saw about being confined was that I was allowed to leave my classes 10 minutes earlier than everyone else, the bad thing was at the end of the week I was so proficient with my crutches that I wound up having to wait for my next class to end so I could go in and sit down. But my favorite teacher, Ms. Baumgarner; a godsend to many a student, was the sweetest of them all towards me. Often ensuring there was a small cushion and chair for my leg to be propped up on.
Going to the orthopedics office was an experience in and of itself. I waited for my examination room, went through some more X-rays, and finally the doctor came in. My knee was cracked. The bone itself had been jammed into my thigh bone and was cracked from one end to the other. While there was evidence of the bone starting to mend, it was unlikely I would be able to bear weight on it. The decision was essentially taken from me as the doctor said I needed surgery and my mother agreed to it. Within three days I was getting ready to go under the knife.
The night before I had to take a bath with special antiseptic soap from head to toe, scrubbing the area that would be operated on especially well. They even had marked where the incision would occur so that I would know how high and low to scrub my knee. I went to bed with my leg propped up and in the brace.
The next day I went in early in the morning. They dressed me in a hospital gown, with another to use as a robe so that my backside wouldn’t be exposed, and I wore the socks that were for being in a sterile environment, and they took me into a pre-op room. They went over the procedure, they would be cutting into my skin and drawing a line through my skin and muscle to expose the bone. They showed me a sample of the type of joint they would use, a metal ball and cradle attached to my thigh and calf bones so that I would be able to bend my knee and walk and move normally.
While they talked, the distraction allowed for me not to notice when they put the IV in my arm. I was paranoid about needles and would engage in the fight aspect of my flight-or-fight response to stressful situations. They put the medication in the line and walked me towards the operating room. While going back, I’ll never forget seeing a small girl, no older than myself, with a cap over her head smiling at me encouragingly. When we got to the room the anistsiologist told me to count backwards from 10 to 1 while they laid me out on the operating table.
When I woke up, the nurse was leaning over me. My mother was no where to be found. My mother’s pastor came by though, helped me eat a few ice chips, and told me he was glad that everything had turned out perfectly. The man had known me since I was a toddler, was in the hospital when I had my tonsils removed at age 7. He has since been at the hospital every time I have given birth to my children, being the first one to hold them after I got a chance to say hello. He has never let differing religious beliefs taint his view on anyone.
I went through 6 months of physical therapy. Relearning how to bend my knee since it felt strange and sometimes the metal would feel like it was grinding against itself. The scar healed almost without a sign of the surgery having had taken place. Within a year I was just like before. So far the replacement has done beautifully, but I am taking it as easy as possible with my movements so I can prevent a recurrence of the need for additional surgery.