“Be Kind To Your Knees…You’ll Miss Them When They’re Gone…”
Today is my first hospital appointment to get my knee sorted.
It’s sort of dogged me all through my RAF career. And it’s time it was sorted out properly.
I don’t think they’ll really be able to completely fix it, but with a bit of luck the major problem I have with it will be looked at.
And it all started back in 1988 when I torn a ligament (Posterior Cruciate if you are interested) when I was away on my “outward bounds” course as part of my training. A classic way of doing it too. Imagine the monkey enclosure at the zoo. Now imagine car tyres suspended from a rope. Imagine me moving from one tyre to the next. Me putting my foot into the tyre and then transferring my weight – and then physics getting all involved and there being vectors and moments and angles and all sorts and my legs do the splits but my knee is stuck at an odd angle inside the tyre and pop – it goes off at 45 degrees in a direction that the great designer of knees had never, ever intended.
After some rehab and physio it slowly repaired itself, but has never been the same – it aching and being, well, a pain. Back in the 1989 I actually had a minor exploratory operation in which the surgeon scraped some of the cartilage.
Over the next few years the knee settled down, but then all of a sudden, playing football one day – a similar thing happened – I went to turn, and the knee goes again. Same problem – Posterior Cruciate – and back to square one again…more physio, more rehab…indeed to assist the knee I even had steroid injections into the knee (and THAT’S not nice at all – particularly when the doctor doing it describes, to a student, in great detail just how he is doing it and what exctly is happening to the needle (the words “punch through the cartilage” will haunt me to my grave – urgh….).
Again, for a while, it settled down, and then about 2 years ago the knee “went” again – twice in almost as many months. The first one was slipping on some ice, and the second one was, well, alcohol induced, as I was a bit…wobbly…and slipped off the curb of the pavement. D’oh.
But the thing was I was sick of it constantly going and worse…much worse…I started to get knee pain when going up stairs. It hurt when going down stairs. Kneeling down was occasionally met with a sharp stabbing pain just to the right of my knee-cap. You know in that fleshy hole between the bony cap and the bony side of the knee.
Eventually I could actually press into that point and literally push the “thing” that was popping out back in. Not pleasant. It doesn’t hurt unless I am moving the knee – but it can be uncomfortable.
So I went BACK to the doctor again. And here is where it got complicated.
Yes said RAF doctor. You need to get that sorted. Probably have a Meniscus problem which has been brought on by repeated strains to the ligament – it’s basically been stretched over the years and isn’t pulling things together as tightly as they should be. Anyway – he reffered me off to the a MIAC clinic – a special military clinic where NHS doctors come in to assess military patients with a view to getting them into the system as quickly as possible – and get them THROUGH the system as quickly as possible. A good idea since military hospitals disappeared back in the 90’s.
So I had an MRI scan which confirmed that I had a Meniscal Tear and a cyst there called a “Plica” which is the thing that I can feel popping out when I kneel down.
But here was the rub. To be eligible for the “fast track” military surgery I needed to have more than 4 years left in the RAF. But at that time I only had two. And I needed to do my promotion courses to get a contract extension. But as the original RAF doctor had “downgraded” me I couldn’t go on the promotion course.
Bugger. Oh an explanation of downgrading is when you have either a temporary or permanent medical condition which will effect where and how you can work. Essentially it is to protect you from going on tour when you are injured – it is a sort of “get out of gaol free” card – stops you having to march if you have a long term leg injury – or having to stand on the gate on guard for hours of you have a bad back. Some people with less integrity use them to get out of things – but most often a downgrading can really hold you back – as in my case.
You see, the place where I was to do my promotion course were scared of people getting even more injured on their course – it doesn’t look good – so even though I was able to run and was fit and was only really downgraded in an administrative way – I was still unable to do the course.
So I was in a Catch-22 situation. I couldn’t get the surgery I needed to get rid of the downgrading because I didn’t have enough time in the RAF, and without extra time in the RAF I wouldn’t be able to get that surgery! I was buggered.
But then the MIAC had an idea – if I had intense remedial work and proved I could pass an RAF Fitness Test – then they would remove the downgrading and I’d be able to go on the course. It wouldn’t be a fix – it’d be a get around – but one that would allow me to get my extension of service and then I’d be able to come back for the sugery.
So I went into the Regional Rehabilitation Unit at RAF Halton – for three weeks intense physio and training. It was a very hard three weeks – in which we basically did phys for 6 hours a day – but it meant that I got specialised and personalised physio treatment – and could then I passed a fitness test.
I left the RRU and went off to do my promotion course and got my extension of service (I am now in the RAF until 2017!) but here was the rub. I kept up the intense exercise from the RRU and doing the exercises and my knee didn’t hurt as much. I sort of got back to normal – normal enough to actually run a half marathon last year.
But then…and there’s always a then isn’t there…it started to hurt when I was kneeling down to change Lily’s nappy. It started to ache as I walked upstairs in the mess after a trip to the gym. It was starting all over again.
So I made the decision. Time to get it properly sorted. I know what’s wrong with it. They know what’s wrong with it…and now it’s time to accept that I am going to have to go backwards with my physical condition and fitness for a short while in order to get rid of the problem, that without it, just ins’t going to go away.
So here I am today. About to get out of bed and head off to Selly Oak hospital to see the RAF’s specialist orthopaedic surgeon who, I hope, will be able to say – “yes! I can fix you and I’ll get you in in four weeks and we’ll have the operation and you’ll be all fixed.” Let’s hope it is that simple…
I’ll keep you all informed of course.