a runner’s nightmare

So it’s been a while to say the least! I think it’s time for an update. : )

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Back in March while I was home in Philadelphia for work, I fell (literally on my kneecap) and landed really hard. I knew right away I did some serious damage and the following day I hobbled to the E.R. after our last training session. I walked in, and told the guy at the front desk, “I’m pretty sure I broke my kneecap.” His response? “Sweetheart, if you broke your kneecap, you wouldn’t be walking.” Two things: 1) Bro, don’t call me sweetheart. And 2) He obviously doesn’t know me but I have the HIGHEST pain tolerance. So much so that it drives my mom crazyyy. I won’t go to the doctor until I’m on my death bead, or in this case, I’m in so much pain I know something is up. Anyways, I spoke with an E.R. doctor and got a few X-rays. After reviewing the X-rays, the doctor then tells me that it’s a bad bone bruise and that I should rest up for a few weeks. She also said that once I got back to Chicago, I should see a sports medicine doctor to make sure there was no ligament damage.

I got back to Chicago and of course waited a few weeks before seeing a sports medicine doctor because I’m (admittedly) stubborn. The pain persisted and I finally made an appointment to get it checked out. Doctor #2 told me that I needed to get an MRI to make sure there was no ligament damage. Done. When the results came in, I went back for a follow-up appointment. Doc 2 reviewed my MRI, and told me that it looked like I have a rare bone disorder called “Bipartite Patella.” It’s so rare that even SHE was Googling it… in front of me. This rubbed me the wrong way for obvious reasons but I figured if it was really that rare, then maybe she’d never seen a patient with that condition before.

Side note: Bipartite Patella is a rare condition that about 1% of the population has. It occurs when the patella (kneecap) never fully fuses together during childhood. The bone remains separated and is connected with a fibrous tissue called a ‘synchondrosis.’ Most people with Bipartite Patella could go their entire lives without any problems. In fact, most people don’t even know they have it until they have to get an X-ray or an MRI for another reason. The problem arises when there is direct trauma (such as a fall) to the kneecap. The fibrous tissue then becomes swollen and disrupted. There are various surgical options to treat this, but the initial treatment is usually rest and physical therapy.

Side Note #2: No, I’m not in med school. And no, I didn’t just copy and paste the last paragraph from webmd.com. When I left the Sports Medicine doctor that day, I stalked the internet so hard and I’m pretty sure I read every single article online concerning athletes with an injured bipartite patella.

I obviously asked the sports medicine doctor what the next steps were as my main concern was being able to run again. She told me to rest (which I was thrilled about) and to come back in a few weeks. I spent the next few weeks hobbling around Chicago – not even kidding – in constant pain. I decided that I needed to find a specialist in Bipartite Patella who had worked with injured athletes before. I called around to all of the major hospitals in the area and got a call back from Northwestern saying that they had a doctor who specialized in the Bipartite Patella and that I should come and see him “as soon as possible.” I made an appointment at Northwestern Orthopedics for the following Tuesday morning.

That Sunday just happened to be the first beauuuutiful day in Chicago, so obviously I had to attempt a run on Lake Shore Drive. Actually, I probably didn’t have to. I just really, really wanted to. I was going a little cray not being able to run for weeks and the sunshine was calling my name. I stepped outside and made it approximately 2.3 miles. How??? I have no freaking idea. It was the most painful run of my life. I finally stopped, did an abs workout and hopped on a divvy bike. The crazy part is, as painful as those 2 miles were, it absolutely made my day. I was so happy I got at least 2 miles in, even if it hurt like hell.

I showed up to my appointment at Northwestern the following Tuesday morning and for the first time in WEEKS, I finally felt like I was in good hands. My doctor was great. I could immediately tell how experienced and educated he was; that alone instantly made me feel relieved. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I didn’t have my initial X-rays with me, so he asked if he could take another set of X-rays. I said yes, and upon looking at the films (shown above and below), he turned around and said, “so, it looks like you’ve been walking around on a fractured patella for a month and a half.” He also reviewed my MRI and told me that I had torn my meniscus. Part of me was angry because not one but two doctors missed the fracture. How is that even possible? If it had been detected initially and treated correctly, I could have been running in a few weeks. The other part of me was so happy I finally found a doctor who knew exactly what he was talking about and was able to properly diagnose my injury. Looking back, I have to laugh a little bit because at one point he said, “it’s going to be a while before you’re running again” and I started crying – like actually crying. Poor guy didn’t know what to do. He clearly didn’t realize how much running means to me; how could he? As I wiped away my tears, he said, “I promise, we’ll get you back out there running again.” Best news I’d heard in months.

He told me there were 2 options: Option #1: I could wait a few more weeks and try to rehab my knee back to health as he monitored the bone’s healing progress. Option #2: I could get surgery. He would remove the piece of fractured patella bone and repair the torn meniscus. I chose option 2 for several reasons. I was so sick of being in constant pain and not being able to run. I just wanted it to get better, and if my pain was at a 10 when I initially fractured it, it was still at a persistent 8.5/9 weeks later. I am also incredibly impatient and I couldn’t imagine waiting around a few more weeks hoping that it would heal, likely prolonging the inevitable surgery.

I went with option 2 and ended up scheduling the surgery for May 12 at Northwestern Orthopedics. As much as I tried not to think about it, I was slightly terrified going into it. It was my first time getting surgery and I was in Chicago without my family. I’d be lying if I said the post-surgery recovery was easy. I had no idea how much pain I was going to be in and how overall helpless I would be the first week. I’m a very independent person and I hate feeling like I ‘need’ someone or that I have to be taken care of. It was a very humbling experience and I wouldn’t have gotten through the first week after surgery without some amazing friends in Chicago – one in particular – who I am forever grateful for.

More to come on my recovery, but I am finally running again and it feels amazing! I almost forgot how happy running makes me. I feel like myself again. I’m trying my best to ease back into it one mile at a time, but I’m a runner, so you can guess how that’s going ; )

I sincerely apologize for the novel but I guess that’s what happens when you take a 4-month blogging hiatus. If you actually read this entire post, thank you; I just blew you a kiss from Chicago.

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