Knees, knees, how do I love thee?

“Nope, I can’t do that because of my knees.” That’s what I used to say. I used to hate my knees. I rarely use the word hate because it’s a really strong word but boy did I hate my knees. I wasn’t very happy with my ankles either.

When I was a toddler, I was knock-kneed and pigeon-toed. You would look at pictures of me and think, “Damn. That kid has some messed up legs.” My parents, bless their hearts, decided to fix my knees and feet. The medical solution back in the early 70’s was to put a kid in a contraption that consisted of two really hard shoes held together in the middle by a bar. I slept in that brace. I’m so thankful that I don’t have any memories of my really early childhood. I wore corrective shoes until I was 12. Corrective shoes from back then had to have been the ugliest, most uncomfortable shoes ever. They came in one color: brown. Gag. I got my first pair of real tennis shoes when I was in the sixth grade. I remember it like it was yesterday. I decided I wanted to run cross country track and there was no way I was running in those brown shoes. My mom took me to the shoe store and I picked out a pair of dark blue Nikes with a white swish. I was in love. I’m convinced that having to wear those brown shoes for the first part of my life is the reason now why I love shoes so much. I’m making up for lost time.

I ran track for awhile but stopped because I kept twisting my ankles and my knees hurt. Throughout my life, I have tried to run but have been curbed by crazy knee pain and shin splints. I tried every type of knee brace out there, custom orthotics for my shoes and physical therapy. I thought I had a bad case of patellar tendonitis. Nothing was helping me long term.

After three months of CrossFit, I couldn’t squat anymore. I was never able to hit a below parallel squat and now I could barely even do a half-way squat. The pain shooting through my knees was unbelievable. I went to my awesome orthopedic doc to get it checked out because there was no way I was going to quit CrossFit. I had an MRI done on both knees and it came back that I had a bunch crap floating around in there and that my knee caps were really pulled to the outside of my knees. The solution was to do a bilateral patella release and clean up any stuff floating around in there. A bilateral release is where they go under the knee cap and start cutting through layers of tissue to release the tension on the knee cap. There are four layers and we were hoping that it would only take one slice. My doctor gave me the option to do both knees at the same time and I went for it. My thought was that if the first surgery really sucked, it would be hard for me to do the second one. My scheduled downtime was going to be 6-8 weeks. I could handle that. 6-8 weeks for pain free knees? Where do I sign? The surgery went great and I walked very slowly out of the surgery center. As it turns out, my knees were REALLY JACKED UP. My doc told me that in his 25 years of doing this, he had never seen cartilage shredded like mine. My knee caps had been rubbing on the outside of my knees for my entire life so the cartilage underneath was completely shredded. So much so that he removed pretty much all that was left of it. The release worked and so the waiting began to see if it was going to help with the pain. I started physical therapy two days after surgery and continued twice a week for three months. I eventually went to once a week and then every two weeks. I finished my therapy at the end of November. Six long months.

I started back at CrossFit right at 6 weeks after the surgery and slowly worked back at it. My coach was so awesome. She scaled everything for me so that I could still do the workouts. I did a TON of rowing. I would show up 10 minutes before class to row so I could get my knees warmed up. Now I can hit a squat like never before. I’m pretty sure my butt has hit the ground a few times. My doc said to give it nine months to see if it really worked and basically how much pain can I tolerate. If I do end up doing any additional surgery, it’s major so I’m confident that this one will work just fine. I’m still working up to squatting big weights because I’m still just a little bit nervous. I still have to warm up a little bit longer than most people but I love my knees!

The pictures below are from my surgery. They are of the inside of my knee! When they did the surgery, they filled my knees up with water so it easier to see around in there and do the surgery. They don’t stitch up the incisions because they want that fluid to drain out. Needless to say, I had leaky knees for the next two weeks. Yuck.

This is what your knee cap should look like all over. Nice and smooth. This is the good side of my knee cap.

Bad knee. Very bad knee. “Crab meat” is what my doc said. Both knees were like this.

Just a little swollen. My ankles look tiny.

About a week and a half after surgery. It took about a month for the swelling to go down.


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