Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Not what was planned


Monday 7.30am I checked into the new Day Surgery unit at Stobhill for keyhole surgery to my left knee. I had a tear in my cartilage that needed to be repaired and at my initial meeting with the Consultant he said it would be a straightforward procedure lasting about 30 minutes. He also said that I would not need crutches and would be walking right away and back jogging in about 3 weeks.

However at 9 am on Monday, as I was waiting to go into theatre, he appeared to discuss the day and informed me that he was concerned about some thinning of the cartilage and he might need to clean up that area. I would still have the same recovery period and walk out of the hospital. Then he proceeded to say that there was a possibility he might have to do some more serious repair work and the recovery would be 6 weeks in full crutches and 3 months recovery.

Well, I was a bit taken aback at this and told myself that wouldn't happen and I was wheeled into theatre just before 12.00pm and the clock in front of me showed exactly noon as I went to sleep. I was wakened leaving the theatre at 1.30 pm a full 1 hour longer than I was booked in for. So I knew right away things had not gone to plan and I was told back in the recovery area that I was not allowed to get up as I needed to see the physiotherapist and get measured for crutches.

The Consultant came to see me later and gave me the news that it was a lot worse than he expected. The initial tear was no problem and was repaired but part of my cartilage was worn and had an indentation (he called it a divot) and was showing bone. He cleaned this area out and drilled small micro holes into the bone and into the marrow allowing cells in the marrow to make new cartilage over the damaged area. It is not as strong as natural cartilage but gives a coating over the previously bare area. He said due to my age he couldn't leave it as it was and this will hopefully strengthen and reshape the area but it will be 3 months recovery. The most important thing is that because of all the holes I now have a weakness there until the formation is complete and I am not allowed to put weight onto my left leg.

This is not what I expected and I left the hospital at 5.00 pm on full crutches. The first night wasn't too bad and I managed about 5 hours sleep but when I went downstairs to make a cup of tea, I realised that I couldn't carry anything as both hands were on the crutches. The reality of 6 weeks not being able to do anything for myself was now starting to sink in.

Yesterday evening I took off all the dressings as instructed and the above photos shows the 3 holes in my knee area and it is very swollen compared to my right one. I didn't sleep as well and this morning it was very tight and stiff but once I got up and moving it wasn't too bad.

I have 4 types of exercises to do and yesterday I could only do 2 of them as the 3rd was too painful, but today I managed to do them. I have been using an ice gel pack on and off today and Alison drove me to the library to get a few books and some fresh air.

I think if the Consultant had told me 2 weeks ago at my meeting with him that there was a possibility of this being the outcome, I would have asked him to postpone surgery until the beginning of January and get the holidays and Christmas out of the way. Still it is done now and I have to get on with it and the main problem for me is the minimum of 6 weeks on crutches and I now have to rely on help for everything at the moment.

I also have to attend physio twice a week starting on Monday and the stitches should be out next week also.

The doctor said it was maybe time to consider a non impact sport once I am fully recovered. He said it was my call and to continue running if I wanted, then deal with the consequences whenever the areas deteriorate to a state where there will be more work required. He said it could be years away but there was significant damage for someone my age. If I hadn't got the tear then I would have not been any the wiser until it would have been even further damaged. I have ran now for some 35 years and I would be very reluctant to just stop.

I will get back on my feet, complete my recovery and I will continue to run as the enjoyment and health benefits for the rest of my body far outweigh the possibility of a knee replacement. We will see.


  1. Hi Robert,

    I have just found your blog. I run with you brother Alex and John Bell. I hope you recover and get back to running again soon.
    Fingers crossed and hope to see you on the trails at some time next year.


  2. Thanks for your good wishes.I will see how things progress over the next few months and will hopefully get back running in February sometime.
    I enjoyed your roller escapade no doubt it will soon be on You Tube.


  3. OMG. That sounds and looks bad. I wish you lots of patience on your road to recovery. Hope it all ends well with you back on the trails in your running shoes. Silke