Jackie Link's Blog

- A blog for no good reason

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Knee, Chapter One

Thirty-one years ago, after a long weekend of sailing the bay (one night tied to a buoy in Hospital Cove off Angel Island, and another in a berth somewhere further north), I held fore and aft docking lines, one in each hand, ready to leap off the boat to tie up at Pier 39, where we would wait for the tide to change before heading on south to Pete’s Harbor in Redwood City.
We’d had strong winds that day and I was wearing bulky foul weather gear.  As we turned into an open guest berth I could tell the current was moving us away from the dock; all I really had to do was leave the starboard lines I was holding and move over to the port side, jump off and hold a stanchion until Ron could rig new lines to secure the boat; but I didn’t do that.  I jumped.  I hit the dock and went into the water, came up, grabbed the dock, yelled, “I broke my ankle,” and waited for rescue.
The harbor master said later he could see I wouldn’t make it—I probably wasn’t the first dummy to try to jump against the current.  Oddly enough, I don’t think I had much, if any pain, as long as my leg wasn’t moved.  By then I’d figured out it was my knee, not my ankle that I’d injured.  An ambulance was called and I was kept warm for the long time it took them to get there.  

The EMTs removed the foulies and cut open my jeans to see my leg.  My knee looked really, really bad.  Distorted.  
My hyper-extended joint had allowed the femur to slam into the tibia, fracturing all the cartilage along with the bone.  Squished.   An internal crush injury, only seen in motorcycle accidents.

Long story, short: my tibia was rebuilt with bone grafts from my pelvis, the cartilage and meniscus smooched together to heal as best they could.  I spent most of a year getting full use back, and even longer for good range of motion.
Thirty-one years later, twenty-nine of them spent cycling all over the world, that rebuilt knee finally wore out and I will be getting a new one in a few days.  I plan to be riding a bike again soon.  Best thing for it, they say.