My left knee

More than a year ago, I posted a short aside that mentioned a damaged knee.

Well, I persevered for six months with that knee before going to the doctor, working on the naive assumption that as long as I was gentle with it, it would repair itself. When I finally went to my GP, (General Practitioner - local doctor), the locum (temporary fill-in) who actually saw me pointed out at that I had 'water on the knee' and prescribed an anti-inflamatory drug to alleviate it. After that took effect, it would be easier to investigate the cause of the discomfort.

And six months after that, I went back to the GP to finally work out why, although I could cycle and swim, I couldn't run, or tap my foot when playing the guitar, or stamp in anger at my children's folly, without suffering later.

And so I went for an MR scan. The result showed that I had a complex tear to the cartilage in my left knee. Gosh!

I dutifully attended the local hospital where a junior doctor asked for a detailed history, manipulated my left leg until it went clunk, smiled knowingly and departed. Then she returned with two students in tow and they studied the 3D MR scans on an LCD monitor on the wall (Windows PC) with their backs to me. I could have sworn that the junior doctor took a sharp intake of breath through her teeth at one point (like a plumber being shown an old rickety boiler and asked for a estimate to repair it), but when I laughed and asked what the problem was, she genuinely looked as if I'd just materialised out of nowhere.

And then the Surgeon turned up. Just like one of those episodes of 'Doctor in the House' starring James Robertson Justice and Dirk Bogarde. Except that it was filmed in 1954 (when I was born) and this is 2000 and bloody 8! The Surgeon (a Mr Shah) addressed the junior doctor and asked for a synopsis. She was terrified, and promptly bumbled her way through a text book description of the usual cause of torn cartilage with little reference to the wonderfully detailed, descriptive and entertaining story I had given her. Pearls before swine, y'know!

The Surgeon (for it was he - I've always wanted to write that) studied the scans while the students shuffled nervously in case he looked at them and then finally addressed me. I had a complex tear to the cartilage in my left knee, it transpired, and I would require keyhole surgery to trim off the torn ends which were flapping around and generally getting in the way.

And that was that.

One thing I did learn (and I'm afraid I can't remember from whom) is that the good cartilage was now thinner that it should have been, because I'd swanned around for six months with 'water on the knee' thinking it would get better by itself. So there, gentle reader, learn from me.

Anyway, I got an appointment for surgery on the 19th December (great - Christmas with my feet up) and then, on the 23rd November, a request to accept a new appointment a week earlier on the 12th under the care of a Mr Fayyaz "due to an extremely urgent case requiring surgery". Now forgive my cynicism, but having seen Doctor in the House, that sounds more like a re-scheduling of the annual competition at the golf club requiring hospital calendar adjustments. Since when did 'urgent surgery' force you to accept an earlier date rather than a later one?

Still, looks like the last laugh belongs to me. A couple of weeks ago, I took the dogs out into the back alley for a late night widdle. It was pitch black outside, so I promptly fell over a pile of rubble or shale or something, temporarily discarded by builders working next door to pave our neighbour's back yard. I cut both my jeans and my right knee, washed both the jeans and the knee, and left nature to take it's course. (Yup - you can see it coming).

At the weekend, whilst helping my sister-in-law move furniture I banged said scabby right knee (must have been a deeper cut than I thought) and was surprised at how painful the shooting erm... pain was.

This time, no messing about - on Monday I went to the pharmacist and asked for something to alleviate what appeared to be an infected wound on my right knee. Go and see the doctor, she said.

Easier said than done. This morning, I phoned the doctor at 8.29am and got the answering machine. I phoned the doctor at 8.30am and got the engaged tone. I phoned the doctor at 8.31am and the receptionist told me all the appointment slots were gone.

"But I've got what appears to be an infected wound on my right knee, should I try the new Walk-in centre?"

The relieved receptionist replied in the affirmative. So I went to the new Walk-in centre. where the receptionist there pointed out that the Walk-in Centre part of the new Walk-in Centre didn't open until 11.00am and was 'only staffed by nurses' meaning 'may not be able to prescribe'.

OK - off to Accident & Emergency at another hospital. The screen in the waiting room which told me I could advertise here also told me that people whose needs could have been met by their local GP would be ranked blue - i.e. bottom of the pile. Fair enough, but...

Anyway, after only an hour, I was seen by a lovely 'Nurse Practitioner' who could not only prescribe, but could tell me to take my trousers off. Which I did. And it turns out that I have 'Prepatellar bursitis' in my right knee and that the infected wound may have infected the burst sacs of fluid which are supposed to protect it. Strict course of anti-biotics and come straight back if the heat now creeping up my thigh gets any further. This is all very exciting until I discover that 'Prepatellar bursitis' is also known as Housemaid's Knee.

Still, I'll be phoning up tomorrow to alert my new surgeon that I'll be bringing my left knee to surgery as planned, but that unfortunately its sympathetic sibling will be bringing along an open and infected wound to the operating room too.

Ha! Now the boot's on the other foot. Ummm... not sure if that's the best metaphor?

PS: For those English residents who feel uncomfortable with the non-English names of the surgeons appointed to deal with my knee, I can only say that ten years ago I saw a consultant because my knees ached in the winter after cycling to work. He was a bluff, red-faced middle-aged man with an English public school accent, who fiddled with my knees peremptorily and then asked me what I expected at my age before dismissing me.