Not Writing and Healing: the mid-age knee saga

The first knee-twist-lock-F-bomb scenerio

August leaving the English Department with the Director of Humanities—my new boss, we chatted and laughed as I pushed against a massive oak door leading outside. Mid push my left knee snapped, folded and locked. Falling against the door I dropped an F-bomb that startled me into a coughing fit. What could be worse than dropping the bomb in front of your boss? The pain that ensued.

Long story short, the same thing happened again in November and then April. Both those times I was coming into the laundry room from the garage and collapsed against the counter top in the laundry room. When people asked how I’d injured myself, I snarked about doing too much laundry.  But the original injury was from a college intramural soccer game twenty-some years ago. A long time to live with the loss of the ACL.

“At your age…”IMG_0867 2 IMG_0907 2

The months of irritation in the knee I just chalked up to “getting older, ” or the A-word: Arthritis, which I later would find I actually had minimal of for “someone of your age.” WTF? In Doc shopping and prepping for surgery, I would grow used to hearing, yet still loathe that phrase “at your age.” I guess I am finally at the age to hear “at your age.” I don’t recall tantrums at age two, but hearing that phrase “at your age…” makes me want to throw one.

When the last knee-twist-lock-F-bomb-drop scenerio happened, it was late at night. Mr. Hubby was out of town. My girls were home. After I caught my breath and realized my left knee was twisted and locked way too much to the left, I looked my youngest daughter in the eye and made a request. If you have kids, you know which one/s will do just about anything you ask. That’s my baby.

Damaged for life

“Sweetie, I want you to grab and pull that leg toward you and twist.”

She looked at me like I was crazy.

“I know. This hurts a lot and if we can unlock it, it won’t hurt so much.  No matter how much I scream or cry just keep pulling and twisting.”

Ya, I know what you must be thinking: she’d lost it.

I must have been out of my mind with pain. Mostly I knew I’d come to the point after twenty years of falling on my face or continually having to rehab the weak leg—that I had to do something—and the twist and pull was the least of that something.

As a friend so adroitly put it, “You probably damaged that child for life.”

“No worries. She’s my kid, I probably have anyway.”

The good kid that she is, she did listen when I reneged on the “keep pulling no matter what” part.

The reason the pulling didn’t work was because the knee was locked internally by a C-shaped slice of meniscus that had flipped completely into the center of the joint in the perfect example of what the surgeon called a bucket handle tear.  Yikes you say. That’s not what I said!


So, at the end of April, the surgeon sewed up the tear and installed an allograft to repair the ACL, which had been cleaned out previously. The allograft repair uses the kindly donated tendon from a deceased person or cadaver. My condolences and heartfelt thank you to individuals and families who make organ donations.  Somewhere someone can see because my grandmother’s cornea’s are still taking in this world.  And soon, I will be able to do the Grand Canyon without wondering if I’ll be hauled out on a donkey or in a helicopter. Hopefully.

Adventure and age, they’re mindsetsunpacked at REI

As part of my recovery, when I wasn’t chewing on Percocet or a washcloth, I was able to read a few good books: Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Andrew X. Pham’s Catfish and Mandala, and most recently the Best American Travel Writing 2008, edited by Anthony Bordain, which reprinted James Campbell’s “Chasing Ghosts” from Outside.  Campbell opens his story about recreating the trek of World War Two soldiers across Papua New Guinea on the Kapa Kapa Trail. Campbell, we soon learn is lying in a hut contemplating that on day one he’s seriously injured his ACL and is about to take on one of the most grueling jungle treks ever. With a fist full of anti-inflammatories and painkillers he rejoins his team to make the trek. Half of them, including Campbell were north of fifty.

I’m still south. Of fifty. Fifty, another F-word.

(As a side note, I realized I’d long ago read Wisconsinite James Campbells’ The Final Frontiersman about wilderness survivalist and Alaskan Heimo Korth in preparation for my own book about my coming of age in Alaska.)

Even with all the adventure travel we do, the Canyon’s the one trek that’s daunted me the most. Soon, I’ll be running out of excuses. Unless of course, someone tries to pull the age card.

Let ‘em. I got a new knee and a word or two for ‘em.

11 thoughts on “Not Writing and Healing: the mid-age knee saga

    • Hope to write more about it… but the pain really knocked me for a loop, plus being bed bound just knocked the juju and verve outta me… but I’m back up ready for just about anything. Good to see you… I think of your lovely weather as I read your posts!


  1. Renee, it was so good to see you in person and now on your blog (yay!). I’m so glad you’re up and at em again. I feel for you in this. It sucks to go through this sort of pain and the doing nothing is awful, too. xo


    • Luanne,

      So awesome to see you too! Yes, the indisputable fact that I was inspired to do nothing but watch my knee go up and down in a machine for a month, indeed, sucked! I may write about that too… I am enjoying the creative flow again… loving it in fact! As I loved meeting with you and the rest of the amazing WWWWB Ladies yesterday! Can’t wait to see your daughter in RENT!!!!


  2. Great to see you writing again Renee! What a long and grueling process.
    As another “at your age” friend, I think you are doing great! Welcome back!


  3. A doctor filling in for my too-busy primary care doc responded to my physical complaints (including a long-painful and weak knee) with “you’re getting old” — which is a bit more insensitive than “at your age.” My silent response to him was a big F-you.
    He’s done the same thing to me once before; he doesn’t act on the complaint, just dismisses it as age-related. I’m just north of the numerical f-word and pretty damn healthy. He seems lazy and bitter in his job. So I sent a letter of complaint to the hospital — and am going to find a primary care doc who doesn’t use temp help!
    Hope you’re feeling better soon!


    • I saw the bandage on your knee in the one photo of M’s visit! I can’t wait to read more about the insights you both gained on that visit. I esp liked the analogy to unraveling and understanding him to a Chinese maze rather than an onion. The onion idea has so often been used… and don’t forget we have our own cultural filters so there are two mazes of varying degrees in effect here… you are both looking through your own kaliescopes of sorts at each other and each others culture, as well as your place in the world right now. As for the knee and docs… I did get into a go round much like you, but I couldn’t argue much with a surgeon who stood before me with the same brace on his leg as he was about to put on mine… when he showed me his flabby leg and chalked it up to age… and spoke about what happens over time when our bodies lose collegian. But, yes, I have been suddenly realizing how close I am to 50 without having achieved my life’s dreams… don’t get me wrong, I have a very blessed life… but the things that make me tick inside like writing and photography have not yet achieved their place in the greater market…and I’ve begun thinking too passively about that… which is a mistake… my mistake is not yet having placed myself in the market and worked tenaciously like I did in the years when everything was on the line for it… time to get back to that younger mindset!!! Love your posts and work with M! Cheering for you here! – Renee


  4. Dear Renee,

    Clearly you have gone through a lot and now, to put pen on paper, (figuratively speaking!) and writing about it shows the extent of your acceptance of the situation.As a writer, you have shown the ability to unpack and lighten yourself of the burden.

    Anyways welcome back and wish you renewed great times in this blog-land of ours.



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