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Meeting The Surgeon

Today at 10:00, I left for the UW Sports Medicine Clinic (not to be confused with Hall Health Sports Medicine, where I initially went after my injury). There, I filled out some paperwork and then met Dr. Chris Wahl, whom Dr. Jonathan Drezner at Hall Health Sports Medicine referred me to. After another short exam and looking at MRIs, Dr. Wahl shared his conclusion that I have a ruptured (nearly to completely torn) ACL and a sprained LCL. The LCL he thinks has a good chance of healing on its own because it is outside of the middle of the knee. The ACL, on the other hand, has no chance of healing on its own, and will need ligament reconstructive surgery to restore stability to my knee.

My parents were kind enough to attend with me, and we each asked a number of questions about the surgery, the recovery period, timing, and so forth. The end result is that I am headed in for surgery on the 9th of November. I think of it as a sort of early birthday present from Dr. Wahl. The surgery will involve harvesting two of the five hamstring tendons from my right leg and using these to replace the ruptured ACL. Also at the time of the surgery, the state of my LCL will be reassessed, and if it is determined to not be healing tightly enough, I will receive an allograft (cadaver tissue) reinforcement to the outside of the right knee.

The hamstring autograft procedure ends up being stronger than the original ACL, and out of hundreds of reconstruction procedures that Dr. Wahl has performed, no one has ever had any problems with their hamstrings afterwards. If the LCL reinforcement is necessary, I will end up with a much bigger scar on the outside of my right knee. This is because of a nerve that runs near where the surgery must take place; they must move this nerve during the surgery to avoid cutting it, which would prevent me from feeling or controlling the muscles at the top of my foot. The ACL procedure, on the other hand, involves only three small holes around the right knee.

My confidence in Dr. Wahl is high; it was further supported by the following exchange between myself and a UW EE professor:

Me: I wanted to write you to thank you for showing us the cleanroom and lab areas during Albert’s Neural Engineering class. I’m also the student who hurt his knee, and you had mentioned a knee specialist that I might want to talk to. If you can easily find his name, that would be great, but even if not, don’t worry; I think I’m in good hands already.

EE Prof: The name of the doctor is Christopher Wahl, he is probably still and assistant professor in UW Medicine.

Me: Amazing! Dr. Wahl is the surgeon who I met with today and am going to have reconstruct my ACL in about three weeks. When I said I thought I was in good hands, I guess I was right!

EE Prof: That’s great! My friend had a very good experience with him, and he was recommended to her from others who said very good things of him.



Axial view of knee

Saggital view of knee

The Culprit

I saw a Sports Medicine doctor at the UW Hall Health Center today. Both he and a resident he is training came to the same conclusion: my knee is hampered by an injured lateral collateral ligament, or LCL (see picture).

Lateral Collateral Ligament
The good news is that the LCL is not the ACL. The bad news is that it still might be a tear; I won’t know until I get an MRI sometime in the next week. I have been advised to not bike (a bummer!) but I am allowed to put weight on the leg, which makes getting around campus in a timely manner much more doable. I have a huge knee brace with metal (!) hinges on right now, and I can walk without the assistance of crutches, although I have those too just in case. I also get to pop 9 ibuprofen a day. Woohoo druggie Ryan!

Busted Up

This morning, just after the game of ultimate Frisbee started, I went up to try to intercept a throw into the end zone, and came down on my right leg all wrong. The leg hyper extended and my knee “popped” and I crumpled to the ground in excruciating pain. It sucked.

On the bright side, my friends are the best people in the world. They helped me off the field as soon as the pain had subsided enough for me to move, and then they provided ibuprofen, a knee brace, transportation home, ice packs, transportation to and from the Husky game, and a shoulder to lean on all the way.

So, my knee is in really bad shape. I’ll need to see a doctor on Monday to see how bad the damage is. I’m most concerned about making it to school and after that, work. I should be able to drive, but biking may be out of the question, depending on the extent of the damage and the speed of recovery.

Well, I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. Thankfully, my friends rock.

Bike Back

Today while some laundry was running, I headed down to Recycled Cycles to pick up my bike which had been repaired there while I was in Toronto. The repairs came in a few dollars under the estimate, at $263. For a machine I use and trust my life to every day, that seems like a bargain to me. I got my old rear wheel and tire back, so the ride back home wasn’t as great as I imagined it might be, so when I got back after a wonderful dinner with my parents, I went out for a ride around Greenlake. Seems like I will have to raise the seat a bit, but the brakes work great, the rear derailleur has never worked better, and the rear tire has traction again. All good things, even though stopping with the rear wheel for the first time nearly sent me tumbling since the deceleration was so muich higher than what I was used to with the threadbare tire I had on before. I guess this makes me almost ready to go back to school. All I need to get fixed now is my brain!

Lightning Biking in Toronto

After our one and only movie today, followed by a late lunch, Scott and I returned to the hotel for a bike ride. Dan remained in Toronto for some shopping and to catch another movie. Scott and I actually headed back towards Toronto this time (a few days ago we went North, deep into Mississauga). Our target was a peninsula that we thought would give us a unique view of downtown Toronto, without actually going all the way to the Islands (which we considered doing yesterday, after finding that the CN tower was booked for the evening). At any rate, we made it where we wanted to go, but it turns out that the best vantage point was on the way there. It was also getting late, so we turned around and began hightailing it back in the fading light. Just as we started, I thought I noticed a flash of lightning off in the distance, where, of course, we were heading. Hooray, an adventure, thought I. Scott was less enthusiastic. At any rate, it was lightning, and we rode straight into a flashing, thundering rain storm. By this time all was dark, and the rain was coming down so hard with strong headwinds that we couldn’t keep our eyes open, so we took shelter under a nearby building until the rain died down a little. Soon after we took off again, we passed a huge group of about 30 bikers. At a fork two passed us; we decided to follow and ended up having to turn around after about a mile down a wrong road. Still, it wasn’t so bad, and the rain had stopped, so despite cold feet and many miles (kilometers?) to go, we retraced our steps and got onto the right road.

Like so many other places, Ontario has many good drivers and a few jerk-offs. On the four lane road we shared on about half the ride, a lot of drivers got out of our way and passed on in the left lane, an easy task as traffic was light. A few decided it would be better to honk at us and look at us with evil eyes while they (eventually) passed us in the left lane. Some of them got fingers. We made it back, wet but happy. Quite the ride; quite the adventure. This town is pretty nice.

Stuck In First

Last Saturday, after Frisbee, a few of the gang hopped into my car to head to Jamba Juice, a nearly weekly tradition. While the 1996 Saturn SL1 sedan I drive had been working fine on the way to frisbee, when leaving I quickly noticed that it was not shifting into second gear, a gear I use very frequently. It felt like something the shifter connected to had come loose — somewhat like the connection between a sink drain plug and the knob used to set it, had fallen off. The problem quickly grew worse — after Jamba Juice, the car would no longer shift into any of the gears that involved pulling the shifter down — namely second, fourth, and reverse. Needless to say, getting out of the UVilliage parking lot was difficult — thankfully, Ananth and Boby were both there to push. Nevertheless, I managed to persevere for the first half of the next week — I park on an upward incline and can therefore back out without reverse. At work and around town, I parked in a way that allowed me to exit by pulling forward. Nevertheless, things were still worsening. On Wednesday, I was beginning to have trouble shifting out of gears. Wednesday after work, I found that I could no longer shift out of first gear at all. So, it was definitely time to visit the shop. The drive to Saturn of Bellevue was a bit painful — I couldn’t shift out of first so the trip involved a lot of slow, high-rpm travel. On flat areas of the road, I would bring the engine up to about 5,000 rpm, which would bring the car up to about 35 miles per hour, then I would coast down to about 15 and repeat. Up hills, I just let the engine run at about 3,000 rpm and took the hit in speed. I finally made it — and even managed to park the car backwards into a stall by using gravity and a little bit of fancy footwork. My Dad picked me up and I ate dinner with the parents before heading into Seattle to pack for the trip to Toronto that I am currently on. On my way out of Cleveland to Toronto, I talked to my Dad and recieved the happy news that the repair cost only $65 — $60 for labor and $5 for the piece that had broken.

Meanwhile, to coincide with my trip, I took my mountain bike, a Giant DS2 ETX into Recycled Cycles for some more planned maintenance. The estimate came to a cool $265 for a new cassette (rear gears), a new middle gear on the front (the old one was bent), a new chain (the old one was stretched and worn), a new rear wheel and tire (both practically falling apart), and a new cable and cover for the rear derailleur (the old one had become frayed and kinked). The repairs will actually total more than I paid for the bike originally, just about a year ago. With the use its seen since then, I think this maintenance is well worth the price.