I was only 9 when the pain in my right knee started. My mom said it was growing pains, and they would eventually disappear. At age 11, the pain was only getting worse, so finally an appointment was made. My PCP referred me to an orthopedic surgeon. From there, it was x-rays, examinations, anti-inflammatories, and braces, way too much for an 11 year old girl who had already been a dancer for 8 years. I ended up in a hip-to-ankle immobilizer for 6 weeks, only taking it off for showers. Yes, I was instructed to sleep in it as well. Finally, after nothing helped, I got a diagnosis of Chondromalacia Patella, or worn cartilege. Since I was still very much growing, surgery wasn't an option at that time. I just had to wait it out. My left knee soon followed.
Through my teenage years, it seemed nothing helped. At age 14, I had already tried 3 different kinds of prescription pain meds(which is NOT what I should've taken at that age), Naproxen, and had been through dozens of different knee braces and supports. Somehow, I was still able to dance through it, despite the feeling of my knees exploding.
At age 19, I met a wonderful man whos sister also had knee problems. He referred me to her doctor. I made the appt. and he drove me there where there were more exams and x-rays. I was told I needed surgery for tilted kneecaps. The tilt was from my leg muscles not growing with me, and slowly pulling the patallae outward. The very next day, I lost my health insurance therefore losing the possibility of my long awaited surgery.
Finally, in Sept. of 2000, my dream came true, and my knees were being fixed. I had arthroscopic release done on both knees at the same time. It was an outpatient procedure, and I was able to wobble out on crutches several hours later. I was instructed back to my Dr. at 1 and 2 weeks post op, where both visits went exceptionally well. At my 2 week, I walked into his office with no supports or braces and it felt GREAT to walk without pain. Little did I know that he took pics of my cartilege and they were very healthy and intact. My original diagnosis was completely wrong. Tilted kneecaps are evident at age 9, provided the right x-rays are done, which they were not. Anyway, I would soon find out that TWO Drs. had done me wrong.
After my surgery, my Dr. never suggested physical therapy, and the surgery backfired. Not only did the cut muscles fuse back together, they fused back tighter than ever. Ha, the doc retired the month after my surgery. I was left in the dark.
In 2003, once again, I get a referal from a friend to another doctor, so another appt. was made. The proper x-rays were done and the new doctor just froze in disbelief. He even called his collegue into the exam room to view my films. He asked me "How the ***l did you even walk in here?" Like I told him, I'd like to know myself. My patellae were so far tilted, they had already worn away that healthy cartilege I'd had only 3 years prior. My doc also commented"When we do the bone scan, I can tell it'll light up like a Christmas tree". I asked if that was good or bad and he told me ANY light was bad. I was headed for an Osteotomy, which is the last step before complete joint replacement. Deja vu, I lost my health insurance the very next day, and couldn't get the scan or the surgery.
Here it is, 2008, 19 years after all this mess started and I'm in more pain than ever. I was on crutches from March 04 to August 06. Finally, I got on a program through my local hospital and was able to get physical therapy. I basically had to learn to walk on my own again, I just never anticipated it would be such hard work. I've been off the crutches, but still use my cane when needed. I'm only 28, and walk with the same cane I've had for 10 years. A teenager with a cane, what a sight. Now, I have no insurance and can't get back on that program again. I desperately need my surgery to get my life back. And all of this could've been avoided, if only I got the right diagnosis to begin with.