Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Big Digital Prepares for a Comeback

So, I think I've mentioned recently that I was experiencing some issues with my left knee, that brought an end to my goal to run a complete 5K last year. Back in October I went to see a Sports Medicine doctor and he took an ultrasound and found evidence of some scar tissue in my patellar tendon.  I've been going to physical therapy for a while and doing some exercises with the the hope of breaking up that scar tissue and replacing it with healthy tissue, but after a couple months of that and not seeing any real improvement in my pain, the doctor recommended that we take more drastic action.

The more drastic action he recommended was something called Platelet-Rich Plasma therapy (PRP).  Its a technique that I've heard the last few years in reference to NBA players, so I at least had heard of it.  Basically what it consists of is taking some of the patient's blood, centrifuging it to increase the percentage of platelets and then injecting that platelet-rich plasma into the patient's damaged tissue.  The expected benefits of the injections are two-fold. First, the hope is that the injections will break up the scar tissue, and secondly the platelets in the plasma are expected to aid in the growth of new healthy cells.

In addition to extolling the benefits, my doctor also made it clear that it's not exactly a mild treatment.  He told me the pain can be pretty intense.  Having had it done twice himself, I appreciated his first-hand testimony.  After some discussion, I decided to take his advice and see if this new-fangled treatment could help me get back to running and jumping like I used to (not that I was ever an olympic athlete by any stretch of the imagination).

My sweet mother was kind enough to come and get me and take me up to Bountiful where I was having the procedure done.  The first step was drawing the blood, thankfully something that I've never had much problems with. The gal drawing my blood asked how my veins are and I told her that I've never had any problems getting blood drawn, so if she had any problems it must be her fault, no pressure. ;)  For some reason she felt compelled to show me the larger than normal tube she needed to fill up, maybe six or eight inches long and the diameter of a quarter.  So definitely more than I usually get drawn for my semi-annual lab tests.  Regardless, there wasn't really any problem getting my blood and then I went back out to the waiting room to hang out with my mom while they got it processed and ready to put back in me.

About 20 minutes later, they called me back in.  They had me lay down on the table, and the doctor gave me a small injection to numb the skin over my tendon where they'd be injecting the PRP.  A few seconds later he inserted the needle and asked if I felt anything. I didn't and said as much, wondering if the pain he'd talked about was  just bluster.  He said, oh, well I'm just into the skin, now I'm going to inject the blood into your tendon.  And then he did. And wow, it was definitely an intense sensation. I don't think that tendons are generally made to have things injected into them.  So much pressure. I asked him if my leg was going to explode.  He chuckled and said no, but that that was a typical description of the feeling.

After just a few minutes his work was done. He slapped a band-aid over the injection site and told me I could take as long as I wanted to lay on the table until I felt like getting up and going. While the pain didn't get any worse, it didn't really improve for quite a while.  I hobbled around the office to ask a couple questions from the staff and then headed out to the lobby, so my mom could drive me home.

I had originally planned on meeting some friends for dinner later that night, but at that point I was wondering if I'd be able to leave the house at all.  The pain was pretty constant, in a way that made it hard to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes at a time.  I quickly discovered that there were better and worse ways to go up and down the stairs. :)  I gathered up some reading materials and set up a home base in our living room so I wouldn't have to keep wandering around to get things.  The doctor had stressed that I shouldn't just sit still all night and that I should make sure to move around a bit every ten minutes, despite the pain, as it would be helpful to keep it moving.  So I forced myself to get up every ten minutes or so and at least walk around the room and flex my leg back and forth a little.

Unfortunately, it also became apparent that somewhere in the house there was a smoke detector with a dead battery.  I had to wander around the house for a while before finally locating the one that needed a replacement. Thankfully it was one I could reach just with a chair and wouldn't need a ladder to replace.  I was a little nervous about climbing up on a chair, but it turned out to not be as big of a deal as I feared.

After a few hours of taking it easy (but remembering to move around a bit) I actually decided that I could probably handle driving myself to dinner, and I did. Wasn't 100% comfortable, but I was glad I was able to go.

My biggest fear was about the night, both that I'd have a hard time getting comfortable to sleep, and that after a night of not moving that I'd be pretty sore in the morning. Thankfully neither of those were really a problem. I found a couple different positions that were comfortable for sleeping, and this morning I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was at least no sorer than the night before. Been taking it easy today for the most part, once again setting up my home base in the living room, complete with my old school monster of a laptop, on which I'm cranking out this blog while watching the 49ers-Saints playoff game.

In the end, or at least at whatever point I'm currently at, it wasn't a horrible procedure to have done. I'm hopeful that it will make a real difference in my knee and that I won't have to have it done again any time soon. :)

1 comment:

Liz said...

Glad you are doing as well as you are and hope it makes a big difference.