Day 5 brought my first trip to physical therapy. Physical therapy is known to be a little painful, so that didn’t surprise me. Since my first attempt to fix my knee pain was through physical therapy, I had an idea of what was in store. In the first couple of days post-op, I did a good job of getting my muscles going again. I was looking forward to getting on the road to physical recovery.
The emotional roller coaster that has been my knee finally was slowing down. Finding out I needed surgery was a little crushing (ok, I cried multiple times). Learning that I was looking at 6 months of recovery with 6-8 weeks on crutches was very hard for me to handle. Now, 5 days after surgery I was in the lobby of Tassinary Physical Therapy. For me, this marked one of the big milestones on my road to recovery. I was through the surgery, off of the pain medications and I could do some of the basic exercises. I did still have a little pain.
So the session with Rusty was pretty basic. We had spoken about the procedure before I did it, and Rusty had helped me try to treat my knee before without the surgery. At some point, I asked him about some pain in my leg.
Rusty put his finger on the back of my calf near my ankle and slid it up toward my knee. He found where I had the pain. It was a little like a bruise and a cramp. It had been hurting me a lot in the morning, but not too much that day. He poked at it a couple of times.
“Does this hurt?”
“Not too bad, but that is where I feel it. The last two days, it had hurt there a lot.”
“How much did it hurt?”
“A lot, but not too bad now.”
“I’m going to call your doctor just to let them know.” Rusty then called and left a message.
He clearly wasn’t telling me something, but I didn’t know what. In his message he told the doctor that he gave me some test (I don’t remember the name now) and that I hadn’t failed it, but I hadn’t passed either. The doctor’s office called back about five minutes later and they chatted for a while. I told them about the big pains I had before. They told me to call back if it got worse at all.
I asked Rusty what it was all about. He told me that my pain was in an area that is a key indicator of a blood clot. He also said that it was strange since I didn’t have too much pain with it. That didn’t sound good to me, but I am a little ignorant on what it meant. I a nice way, Rusty explained to me that if it moved, the consequences could be serious. Then I realized what was going on; if it moved to my heart or brain it could be fatal. Ok, I’m back on the emotional roller coaster.
Rusty did say that it wasn’t a clear positive. He also said it wasn’t a negative; I needed to pay a lot of attention to it. He told me that he had only had one other patient with a clot before. When he did the test and hit the spot, she let out a scream with a lot of pain. Well, it didn’t hurt me too much, so there was a good chance I was just feeling a muscle bruise. After all, the pain was way down from what it had been.
So we finished up and he told me to keep a close eye on it. Zoe picked me up and I told her. She instantly knew what it meant. Her sister is a PHD, MD and she is very aware of multiple medical conditions. She talked to the doctors office again, and they said to keep a close eye on it.
Ok, I am a little freaked out now. She had massaged my leg the morning before, and it was nice. This morning we were too busy. Being too busy turned out to be a good thing. Massaing clots, if I had one, would be bad.
After the girls fell asleep, Zoe looked at my foot. I had just crutched my way to the bedroom and back. To me, my foot was a little dark and I could see my veins. She said it was purple and the veins were very puffy. She called to doctor’s answering service. Luckily, Dr. Behr was on call. He directed us to the ER.
The ER was a rather scary experience that warrants a topic for another time. My plan was to go, get a basic doppler test, see I was fine and go home for a good nights sleep. We were at the hospital by 10:00pm.
2 of the 3 major venous systems in my calf had clots. One appeared to be “moving”.
The emotional roller coaster was going full speed on the scariest part.
Denial wasn’t much of an option any more. I now had a “condition” with a fatality rate. For the surgery, I had plenty of time to research my options and choose what I thought was best. I was very unprepared for this and there was a clear sense of urgency. Not a panic, but action was clearly underway.
There were no windows that I remember, and I couldn’t see the clock. I do know that it was past midnight that the Emergency Department (ED) doctor talked to Dr. Behr. The ED Dr. told me that I was going to get blood thinners. My first question was how it would affect the surgery. He didn’t mince words; the clots could be fatal. He delivered it in a good manner, but I think he saw the fear on my face. He did a good job to comfort me and to tell me that I caught it in plenty of time. I was going to be fine.
There we some more scared tears in the hospital bed that night. I wondered why it would “happen to me.” I tried t0 remember if I told everyone that I loved them just in case. I wrote down key passwords for my wife.
My wife is very strong, and not just from being able to carry both of our kids around all day. She told me attitude is important. She told me not to get down. She told me to be positive. We were in the right place and doing the right things. She was right, but I felt so weak and helpless.
We made it home around 4:30am. I am now on blood thinners. I don’t know if “cure” is the right term for the clots, but they thinners will prevent it from getting worse. Over time my body will take care of itself. The reality is that the risk with the below-the-knee clots is fairly low. Since one looked to be a little mobile, they weren’t taking any chances. The clots are very common with knee surgery.
In the morning we talked to Dr. Behr. His message was very good and comforting. The surgery was not going to be affected and my risks were low. He explained in detail exactly what was going on. I didn’t feel so in the dark any more. I was feeling much better. Dr. Behr has been fantastic with his bedside manner and ability to explain all of the situations to me. He came highly recommended by prominent members of the medical community.
You cannot judge a surgeon on their technical abilities unless you yourself are a skilled surgeon with opportunity to observe them. As patient, you can judge them on their character and bedside manner. Dr. Behr has been excellent.
I owe a huge amount of gratitude to Rusty Tassinari. If he hadn’t done the check, I would have ignored it until my scheduled appointment a few days later. Who knows what the moving clot could have done.
Now I am getting acclimated on the new medication which is a combination of shots and pills for now. Once the pill dose stabilizes, I will be off of the shots. A small price to pay for piece of mind.
The clots won’t set me back much at all if any. It is something I need to take care of, but I’ve stepped off of the roller coaster and onto the recovery road.