When it comes to traveling, there are a lot of fears that can take place. The most common fears are losing your ID, get robbed, lose your plane/bus tickets, strand without luggage, … But there is one more fear where we rarely talk about and it happened to me. But what is this fear? In short it’s when something happens to your walking capabilities. E.g. when you break your foot, leg or have knee surgery, hip surgery, … This takes away your ability to explore and it’s a nightmare!
Some of you might already know through my Instagram Stories, I had knee surgery. So what happened? Well in June, 2016 I went on a backpacking trip to Norway. This was a 10-day long trip, but on one of the final days it happened. Actually this story is part of the series I’m blogging about. I still need to write about this part, so this is a spoiler-alert.
Anyway, let me continue my story. On that day, we came back from a cabin called “Stavali”. This cabin is on an altitude of 1024 meters. So while going back, we had to go down a steep and slippery mountainside. Well it’s not that slippery when it’s dry. The weather was perfect, we were lucky. We managed to get to the steep part in no-time. But the weather in the mountains is unpredictable and unforgiving. Suddenly it started to rain. We knew what time it was, since we already went up this part the day before in bad weather. It’s heavy, steep and slippery.
It’s one thing to go up a slippery mountain, but going down is even worse. I started slipping quite a few times. We were about 80% down the slippery part when I slipped and fell one last time. And it was bad! I already had pain in my legs from walking and climbing. But my knee hurt really bad. I also lost my hat at that point. I stood up and I tried to continue downhill. I was able to walk, but it hurt. I had to be careful when stepping down the bigger rocks. I even had to sit down on the rock and then put my good leg first.
This is were it happened (picture below) at Nykkjesøyfossen, Norway.
Anyway, we still made it down and even managed to catch the bus 8 km’s away. I won’t go in detail any further, since this is part of the story I’m still writing about. But the next day, we wanted to climb to a glacier. I didn’t manage to get there, I had to stop and go back because of the pain in my knee.
After the trip
So at this point, you know something is wrong with my knee. But I didn’t think anything bad about it. After the trip, I went home and rested. The pain started to go away, I was able to walk and do everything I could do before. I even went to Germany one month later and did a lot of hikes and citytrips. I had pain in my knee on that trip, but nothing major. I could walk and do what I needed to do.
After that trip I rested a bit more and continued with my normal day activities at home. The pain went away in no-time. My knee was healed, everything was fin. I also graduated and did a citytrip in Belgium. I started working, did some couchsurfing meetups. Like nothing ever happened to my knee.
But one day I started to have pain again. This was after a day of walking in Ghent, Belgium. I went to the city-center, grabbed some Starbucks and also walked to the barber. I walked about 15 km’s that day. But the day after, the pain returned. I went to work that day, but it was painful. “I’m going to the doctor after work”, I said to myself.
So I went to the doctor. He looked at my knee and it was a bit swollen. He knew there must be something wrong, but nothing major. Maybe a Baker’s cyst? He also took a blood sample and told me to get some scans of my knee. The next day results came in from the blood test. I had too much white blood-cells, which is a result from the infection in my knee. The day after that I took my scans.
The results of my scans were clear. A rupture in my medial meniscus! I have a rupture in my meniscus for the past 6 months! I knew what time it was. I looked some stuff up on the internet, asked a colleague and it was certain I’m going to need surgery.
So I called the hospital to make an appointment for orthopedics. And went to see the specialist 2 days later. I walked into her office and told her what happened and about the results of the scans. I also had them with me together with my blood-test. So I needed to take my pants off and lay on the bed so she could take a look at my knee.
While I’m preparing she looked at the scans. I heard her saying “ouch, I understand why you have pain in your knee. The rupture is at an very uncomfortable spot”. She came up to me and did some tests to my leg, to see how severe it was. On this day I didn’t have much pain anymore. She twisted my leg, flexed it, pushed it and whatever other things orthopedics do to test your knee. I didn’t even give a kick! She was amazed. “Wow, it’s already amazing you can walk and here you are taking these tests with a breeze. Most patients have a less severe rupture and you can’t even look at their leg before they jump through the roof out of pain.”
“Normally I would suggest to wait it out, but you already tried that and it’s of no-use.” I also told her about my plans for my next trip, which will be 20 km/day for 14 days in the mountains. “You better not wait, if you want to be able to do that this summer”.
At this point I need surgery if I want to be able to go out and explore again. Else I will never be able to pull off what I did in Norway. So I had no choice. Surgery it is! My surgery is set one week later (past Friday upon writing this). The surgery is called Arthroscopy. They will drill 2 holes in my knee. In the first hole, they will enter with a camera. The second hole they will use to cut away the ruptured part of my meniscus.
I came in that morning, all relaxed like I always am. First they took me to the preparation room. This is where I get the surgery clothes. They shaved my leg and washed it with disinfectant soap. After that they took me to the waiting room. This is where they put me on the drip-feed while I wait to get surgery.
After that they took me to the surgery room. I was all relaxed up to this point. The surgery room was scary! They rolled my into place with this big disc of lights above me. The atmosphere was a whole lot different than before. Why did I do this? They asked me to confirm it’s my right knee. “We are going to give you a painkiller, do you feel it?”, they asked. “Yes, I can feel it” I responded. I could feel the warmth going up my arm. Everything started to get fuzzy.
“How are you, sir?”, asked a female voice. “Good. What? is it over?”, I responded. “Yes it is over.” hmm, what did I miss here? Last thing I knew they were going to give me a painkiller. The bastards put me to sleep without telling me! Now I’m here not knowing what happened. They could’ve told me! Now I’m brain fucked!
I did remember waking up earlier than that. I heard some voices around me, but I couldn’t relate to anything they were saying. I needed to cough really bad, but this oxygen mask was in my way! WTF is this? So I put it off and start coughing. Before I realized, they put it back on my face. My eyes were still shut, I didn’t see anything. The air from the mask was cold. It was hard to breath. I needed to cogch again, so I pulled the mask away again to cough. But I was smarter this time. I put it back on before they could do anything! I had to cough 2 more times after that and went back to sleep after that.
Waking up was the worst part. It was worse than a hangover. I was so tired and I would constantly fall asleep for 5 minutes. Only to wake up again hoping they would bring me to my room. Or waking up, hoping the doctor would come to tell me about the surgery. Then fall asleep again. The first time I really woke up (not the fuzzy parts I talked about before) was a nightmare. My leg hurt! I couldn’t move it at all. I was like, “What is this? Last thing I knew I had a functioning leg, now I’m in pain and can’t move!”
A nurse come to me and asks me “How is the pain?”. “I can handle it, I’m at a level 4 right now.” I responded. So she added a pain-killer to my drip-feed. A real one this time. Not the stuff that knocks you out, like the other bastard did!
After being in the waking-room for what feels like an eternity. They brought me to my room. I had to pee real bad. So I told the nurse, that brought me to my room, that I needed to pee. Once I was in my room she gave me the option, go to the bathroom or receive a bottle. “How do you feel? Do you feel strong enough to go to the bathroom?”. I responded, “I don’t know, I feel a bit weak right now.” “I’m going to grab you a bottle.” I said “Well, that’s a first.”
So she came back with the pee-bottle. I was like, “Oh, hell no!”. I stood up and went to the bathroom. As heroic as that sounds, it wasn’t. I could barely move. I managed to get out the bed and put my weight on my good leg. I move my bad leg for 20 cm and slide my good leg closer. It was a nightmare. Now in the bathroom was even worse. I didn’t want to pee while standing. Also these surgery clothes were in my way. I couldn’t take them off because of the drip-feed. But the clothes are all connected with these ‘push-in’ buttons. So I loosen every single one of them and manage to get them off.
After the toilet visit I wanted to put it back on. But I couldn’t figure out how it worked! After 5 mins of trying, I gave up. There I was in my underwear. So I had to return to my bed almost completely naked. Luckily my clothes are there, I can put a shirt on. WRONG! I couldn’t get my shirt on because of the drip-feed connected to my arm. Luckily there are blankets on my bed.
My dad came in a bit later. I explained him about the surgery. He forgot his parking ticket in the car, so he went to grab it. Just after he left, the nurse comes in. She takes a look at my knee and sees the band-aid is barely hanging on. She grabs a new one and put it on my knee. She also has the paper work from the doctor. She gives me some water and some yoghurt. “The doctor will come in 20 minutes, after that you can go home.” She said. She also disconnected the drip-feed. Finally, I could get some clothes on.
My dad is also back by this point. A bit later the doctor comes in and explains about my knee and how I need to treat the wound. The rupture was at an uncomfortable spot, other than that I have a perfect knee. It’s a shame she had to take away a piece of it. I also have minuscule crack in my cartilage, but it’s negligible.
Finally I can go home! I’m so happy I can leave this place. I slept a lot that day.