March 20, 2008
You say meniscus...I say, "Ouch!"
Meniscus /me·nis·cus/ (me-nis´kus) pl. menis´ci [L.] something of crescent shape, as the concave or convex surface of a column of liquid in a pipet or buret, or a crescent-shaped cartilage in the knee joint.
A few weeks ago I didn't know the exact meaning of meniscus. I didn't know you can tear them, and I didn't know there were such things as meniscectomies. Suddenly, I'm becoming all too familiar with everything meniscus.
Another word I'm becoming too familiar with lately is degenerative. Unfortunately, I've reached a stage in life where many aspects of my physical being seem to be degenerating. The medical world tries to reassure women of a certain age that menopause is an exciting new phase of life, but as I stand on the cusp of the new phase, it seems to be pretty much about degeneration. My eyes started to degenerate (the ophthamologist's term, not mine) shortly after my 40th birthday, my memory has been degenerating for years (ask anyone), and now it's my knees.
It turns out that my great Carmel walking weekend came with a price. By the time I got home from that adventure my right knee was stiff, swollen and painful. A few days of living with that forced me to visit my doctor, which in turn led to an MRI , which in turn led to an orthopedist. My conversation with Dr. Hurvitz, complete with a pointer and assorted MRI images of my degenerating knee and torn miniscus, led to the decision to have arthroscopic knee surgery in a few weeks.
I have to admit to feeling anxious about the operation. I've never had surgery before and although I had many childhood fantasies about walking on crutches, the prospect isn't appealing to me anymore. To reassure myself that this was a good plan, I immediately turned to the Internet and launched a new research project: Operation Margaret.
In just a few minutes I discovered that the surgery will involve three little incisions, an arthroscope and teeny, tiny surgical tools. Depending on the type of anesthesia the doctor chooses I may even be able to watch the surgery on the monitor. Although I'm sure it would be fascinating, I don't think I'll choose that option. Watching someone else's operation might be educational, but watching the real-time version of my own surgery might be more than I can handle.
The Internet gave me a good idea about the rehabilitation process (3-4 weeks) and Operation Margaret also unearthed a lot of information about my doctor. It's odd to meet someone for just twenty minutes and then agree to have him or her operate on you. I needed to know more than my own impression that he was a nice guy. I learned that Dr. Hurvitz is a Fellow in the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and he's also on the collegiate medical teams for both UCSB and Westmont College athletes. His professional accomplishments, both national and local, comforted me, but I still feel like this is going to require a huge leap of faith. Trouble is, I'm not doing much leaping these days.
I just reread this post. I am honestly not as depressed about the inevitable consequences of aging as it might seem, but making the necessary adjustments--both mental and medicinal--is challenging. Paul and I used to keep a small plastic jar of aspirin tucked in the corner of one of the kitchen cabinets. That space has now expanded to half a shelf filled with our combined prescriptions, iron pills, vitamins, calcium, antacids, allergy medications and Motrin. I guess the good news is that I haven't yet reached the stage of the daily pill dispensers. No, the real good news is that the medicines make me feel better and the knee surgery will too. It's just a big pill to swallow.