…Continued from Part I
About 18 months ago, my right knee swelled up to the size of a large cantelope. Absolutely no injury occurred. I didn’t even dislocate my kneecap. The doctor at my job (yes we had a nurse’s office – just like grade school!) told me I should go see a orthopedist. I got an MRI, X-rays, the works. He would drain 22 ccs of yellow fluid from my knee every other day. It was incredibly painful. They thought I might have gout but all the tests were negative. No crystals in the knee fluid.
I was on really extreme anti-inflammatory meds. You are only supposed to take them after breakfast. The day after Halloween I took the pill and then went down to check my mail quickly before making oatmeal. As I was hobbled back up the one flight stairs to my apartment I got all sweaty and my vision went black. I sat down on the stairs. I was still conscious but I thought I was dying. My vision slowly started to come back. It was terrifying because I had left my cell phone in my apartment and couldn’t call anyone for help. I didn’t know anyone in my apartment building either so I didn’t try screaming. Finally I could see well enough to drag myself up the stairs with my arms. I got into my apartment and lying on the ground I called my mom begging her to come to NYC to take care of me. She obliged.
Leo had lost his phone the night before but luckily he texted me on his work phone to see how I was doing since I’d skipped his Halloween party on account of my knee. I begged him to call me or to come downtown because I was terrified. He came as fast as he could. He fed me and then carried me to a cab to Lenox Hill Hospital. Such a debacle. They drained my knee again and ran blood tests and sent me home after six hours. They didn’t seem to be very concerned with my near-death experience.
Every time they drained my knee the fluid kept building up. The freakshow doctor then decided we should do exploratory surgery to find out what was wrong. What? Surgery without a diagnosis?? My sister’s mother-in-law is a nurse practitioner here in the city and told me to say no to the surgery and say goodbye to the freakshow doctor forever. I agreed. Then my Mom came to the rescue for a week!
At that point I could barely walk. When your knee swells up like a balloon it inhibits your quadracep from working. I couldn’t even take any narcotics for the pain because I’m an addict and I know bad things would happen. Everyone at Maiden Voyage was so supportive, especially when I was on crutches!
My sister’s mother-in-law got me an appointment with her friend who is a stellar Rheumatologist. She asked me a bunch of questions and then looked at me curiously, “Have you had conjunctivitis recently?”
“Um, yeah, about six weeks ago I had an eye infection of some kind. Felt like there were rocks in my eyes. My eye doc gave me some drops and it cleared up,” I said.
“Interesting…I think you might have reactive arthritis.”
The doctor explained that reactive arthritis is an auto immune disorder very similar to rheumatoid arthritis. Basically when I get sick my body will overreact and fight itself instead of fighting the virus or infection. She ran a bunch of tests and sure enough, I had autoimmune. She put me on crutches and prescribed me a bunch of anti-inflammatory meds to get the swelling down. Once my insurance cleared, prescribed Enbrel which is a medication that shuts down my immune system so my body would stop overreacting. Within a month of taking the Enbrel shots once a week, my knee was back to its normal size. Incredible. I saw a physical therapist for a bit since my knee was very weak from not walking for a few months. I still go in for check ups but she’s decreased my dosage of Enbrel and hopefully I will be off it completely soon. Stabbing myself in the stomach with a needle twice a month is not fun. Plus I have to be extra careful about getting sick because my body won’t be able to properly fight it. Another reason I am concerned with my headaches.
So I’m better, but I am still afraid of messing with my knee. For exercise, I walk and I bike (stationary bike, not a real bike, that’s another story). I’m sure if I really wanted to run, I could see a physical therapist and find the right brace and get cleared. Just for today, I am happy to be walking.
Thanks for listening to my two day novel-like story. I thought maybe someday someone else have this issue and want to know what’s wrong with their knee. This was one of the many mysteries WebMD couldn’t help me solve!
In other SATC news: I signed a 2-year lease renewal on my apartment this week! Hooray for staying in one place for more than a year.
Who else wants to complain about their health issues today? Feel free!