Running on...

Copyright © 1995 Daniel V. Klein

A while ago, I had reconstructive surgery on my right knee. My shredded anterior cruciate ligament was removed and a donor ligament was inserted in its place. The more I think about it, the more amazed I am at the remarkable progress that this type of surgery has made. In the mid 1960's, my mother had surgery to correct a "trick knee" that left her with a four inch scar and in a cast for weeks. I have a barely noticable one inch scar, and walked out of the hospital on crutches a day and a half after the operation.

But back to my first sentence. I said "a while ago". I know that for such a monumental event in my life - one in which I was granted a blessed reprieve from kee pain, and started back on a path where I could run again - should have made more of an impression on me. It remains a turning point in my life, but I unless I pull out my files, I can't tell you exactly when it happened any more.

I have always been very active (and no, have never had problems with my memory). Since my operation I've hiked in the high Sierras and in the mountains of Colorado. I've ridden on horseback for almost three hours hours up a mountain and hiked another two miles up to reach Selden Pass, nearly two miles above sea level (and then hiked and rode back again). I run up stairs two and three at a time and bicycle 20 miles at clip. I dance, walk, trot - in short, it's about the same for me as before my injury.

Which brings me back to "a while ago". If pressed, I guess I could tell you that it was about five years ago. But the truth be told, last month I looked down at my legs and asked (much to my surprise and chagrin) "which leg did I have surgery on?" I checked the scar to make sure. I'm only 38, and feel like 25, so I'm not going senile, thank you. I thought that having reconstructive surgery would always leave me with some hint, some telltale inner sign, blinking with a pale neon glow in my mind's eye, pointing to my right knee, reminding me that this was the one that the surgeons did their carpentry on. But instead, I'm confronted with the surprising confirmation that I have two knees, left and right. One of them has a little scar from a surgeon's knife, the other has scars from the gravel I fell on when I was a kid. Both of them flex and extend the same amount, and I can still sit in the lotus position (but wincing, my doctor politely asked me not to). And so on I go.

And I guess that's the point. Some kind soul donated a ligament and a surgeon operated on me so I could be "me" again. Not "healed", not "almost normal" - just me.