Enter the Plica Syndrome
Ah yes, back again in the Korean hospital. This time I underwent knee surgery. About three years ago I was just walking a long when something happened and I couldn't move my knee that well. I'd like to be more specific but I can't. Doctors would ask me, "Okay, so what were you doing?"
"Walking," I'd reply.
"And what happened?"
"I could walk any more."
I wish it was something more than that. At least when I broke my arm 2 years ago I was snowboarding in the half pipe (never mind I was sucking and that's why I broke my arm). Here I was just strolling along and something went out of place and jammed up the whole knee. Given a few days, the knee would return to normal, only to go out of place again a few weeks later. I'd crouch down to talk to a student, feel a painful twinge in the side of my knee, and I'd be out for the count.
I had an MRI done on the sucker, talked to numerous doctors (one who said I needed extensive work done to the tune of $6,000 and two months on crutches). I ultimately went with the doctor who said, "I have no idea what it is, but we can do exploratory surgery." He seemed honest.
So when I checked into the hospital the first thing I saw was a nurse running down the hall with an almost overflowing bag of blood, which she threw into the bio hazard container and then sprinted down the hall again. I tried to look on the bright side, "At least they're quick around here." The administering nurse looked at me and shrugged with that "What you going to do" sort of look.
I got my pajamas/ gown, did some tests, and waited. The doc informed me that I was going to be awake for the surgery. Because it was exploratory, they wanted to poke around, see what they could find, report back me, and then do what they could to fix me. I agreed but did not realize how terrifying this would actually be.
In Korea they are big on spinal anesthesia. That means they administer anesthetic--to the spine-- with a needle. I was wheeled into the OR and given the spinal. It was painful, but then the pain was slowly replaced by numbness, a numbness that started at the toes and then slowly crept up to mid torso.
The surgical staff had a radio playing American oldies. Dust in the Wind was the song playing while all this was happening. First there was the bag of blood and then a song about the insignificance of the individual. Omens were not good, plus I couldn't feel the lower half of my body. Luckily, that was the lowest point that things looked up from there.
My doc made two incisions, stuck a camera in one, stuck an all purpose, Swiss army, micro tool in the other and then showed me the results. He turned the monitor to me so I could actually see the inside of my knee and said, "You have a fat pad."
A phat pad? I wondered when he had ever seen my place (bad pun). What he meant is I have Plica Syndrome. Here's what I understand about plica syndrome. We all have a layer of fatty tissue that surrounds our knees. Sometimes unexpected trauma, a fall or a twist, can cause that lining to swell up, impinging the motion of the knee. My fat pad was occasionally getting caught in my knee causing pain and other symptoms. BTW--Plica syndrome, usually undetectable to MRIs. They cut away that part of the fatty tissue and that was that.
They they taped me up (I didn't even require stitches) and deposited me back in my room. I tried to keep from shaking but I couldn't stop. At first I thought I was just scared but being numb is really cold. Funny how cold brings on numbness and numbness brings on cold.
Anyway, Kat took this picture of me post-op. I was a wee bit touchy after my ordeal, as it shows. I tend to get a bit defensive when I can't feel my legs. Luckily they hooked me up to the nifty painkiller machine with the self regulating dispatch button. The grumpy face soon gave way.
For all the bitching and moaning I've done, I'm very thankful for all that was done. I'm thankful for my doctor, who seemed quite skilled. I'm thankful I didn't go with the other doc, who had no idea what he was talking about. I'm thankful for the Korean health care system, who made this affordable. I'm thankful for Kat who has taken me through two surgeries and one broken arm (she's thankful this surgery wasn't as bad as the ankle one last year). I'm also thankful that I live in time where doctors don't have to make a 5 inch incision to check out my knee. Hell, I'm thankful that I don't live in time of leech therapy and blood letting. I thank god for all that is given, but I especially thank him/her/it for medical science.