Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cranky Goes to the ER

Baby, I was not born to run.

I honestly don't know why I bother. When I first started running three years ago, I was sidelined by 6 weeks of physical therapy for Achilles tendonitis that started soon after my very first 5K. The therapist told me then that the tendons and muscles in my left leg are unusually tight and inflexible and could cause me further problems if I kept running. Did I listen? No. I'm stubborn like that.

So it's no surprise that by ignoring the nagging stiffness and tightness I've been having behind my left knee for months now I have been slowly but surely securing my spot in an emergency room.

Tuesday evening was made for running: clear, crisp, and with just a hint of autumn coolness in the hour between dinner and dusk. I laced up my shoes, stretched, and ran my usual 4-mile route with no pain other than the usual ache I get in my arthritic big toe. It was a good run that left me feeling refreshed and stress-free.

Until roughly midnight.

I remember trying to curl up on my side in the middle of the night and feeling a sharp pain in the back of my knee. It woke me up, but I didn't feel like getting out of bed and taking anything for it. I figured that, like most aches and pains, a little rest would take care of it.

Except that that it didn't.

And did I mention I'm stubborn?

I got up and got ready for work, determined not to let a little knee pain stop me. But by the time Ainsley finished her cereal, the mild pain had progressed into something more akin with being stabbed in the back of the knee with every step and a red, hot goose egg began to form above my kneecap.

I made it into work and was resigned to just take Alleve and ice it until I had to climb out of my little compact car. When I bent my knee back to get myself out, the pain was so sharp and sudden that I had to bite down on my knuckle to keep from screaming. By the time I made it downstairs to the library, I had tears in my eyes and my left kneecap was sticking out about an inch further than the right one.

These are not really good signs.

With the swine flu beginning to hit our area pretty hard, there were no appointments to be had at my doctor's office yesterday. The nurse felt I should be seen by someone, so she advised me to go to the ER (also known as "the portal to hell"), where I have not been for myself since I was 14 and left most of the skin from the left side of my face on the concrete outside the school gym after crashing my bike.

It wasn't too bad in there, really. I got in and out in a little over an hour, which may be some kind of family record. I was not overly impressed by the ER doc (who spent a total of 30 seconds in my room) but the diagnosis made sense: a sprain caused from tendonitis in the back of my knee and bursitis in the front of the knee. I was told to stay off my feet the rest of the day and to knock back super-doses of prescription ibuprofen.

It's nice, really, being told to go home and do nothing.

The pain was pretty staggering even at rest yesterday, but something seems to have worked and I am back at work today with only a slight limp and a little swelling giving me away. Of course, ER docs in our area don't do much besides make a tentative diagnosis based on x-rays and throw painkillers at you, so I have to go get a "real" diagnosis today from my regular doctor. I've heard a cortisone shot into the knee may be in my future, so there's that bit of horror to look forward to.

One of these days, I'll learn that we're either born athletic or not. And no matter how hard I may try, I just don't have that symmetrical, naturally strong body that adapts well to pounding the pavement, even at the glacial speeds I run. I have a body that's more suited to non-stressful fitness activities like shallow-water aerobics classes with the grannies, or a recumbent bike (just like a La-Z-Boy recliner, but with pedals!), or maybe a Zumba class. But a runner...that, apparently, I'm not.


Robert K. said...

I keep telling people that exercise is bad for you. That's why it hurts. I don't take any chances, and try to make sure my butt is firmly planted into a chair as much as possible. ;)

Karen said...

Running gives me shin splints. And let's face it, I'm a little too top heavy for much running. It hurts! How about some bike riding? Not such a hard impact. :)

DRoss said...

I've been casting a curious eye at the shallow-water aerobics classes with the grannies. Seriously. They're remarkably spy and always in a good humor at 8:30 in the morning. I told one of them once that I'd enjoyed seeing them - and this would probably come out all wrong, but - they made getting older not seem so frightening. She hugged me and said I should come and join them.