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A View From the Other Side: How Knee Surgery Changed My Professional Perspective (Part 1 of 3)

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

A View From the Other Side: How Knee Surgery Changed My Professional Perspective (Part 1 of 3) Michele Flannery, PA-C Physician Assistant, Division of Sports Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital

The last thing I remember before falling asleep in the operating room was my surgeon standing next to me asking if my job as a physician assistant (PA) includes assisting in surgery and me responding, “Yeah, and I don’t like being the one on the table right now!” As fun as it was to lay freezing in my gown on the operating table while staring up at the obnoxiously bright lights, I think I’ll stick to being the PA in the operating room instead of the patient.

Last summer, I had osteochondral allograft transplantation surgery on my knee for a condition called osteochondritis dissecans (OCD). The whole experience, from finding out I needed the surgery to finally feeling like I had a normal knee again, was somewhat surreal. I discovered that I don’t like being a patient and would much rather be working my job as a Sports Medicine PA here at Boston Children’s. That being said, I’ve learned some important lessons over the past year that have definitely helped me be a better PA and empathize with my patients.

1. Finding out you need surgery stinks I had my first surgery for OCD in high school so I knew that when my knee started hurting every day and locking up on me, another surgery was inevitable. I see so many patients with OCD and explain the surgical details to them, but that didn’t make it any easier to sit there in the exam room and listen to my surgeon say things like “large lesion,” “8 weeks on crutches,” and “full recovery is 1 year.”

2. Your post-op brace will never fit perfectly I found myself adjusting my Bledsoe brace at least 50 times a day and could never seem to get it to stay exactly where I wanted it. Now, when I see patients for their first visit after surgery, I spend extra time adjusting their brace to get it as close to perfect as possible.

3. Crutches are a pain I couldn’t put any weight on my leg for 6 weeks after surgery so I got very comfortable with my crutches. I don’t think anyone ever tells you how tired you will get crutching around everywhere…it’s exhausting. Two weeks after my surgery, I came in to visit my friends at work and had to take a nap when I got home because I was so worn out!

4. Physical therapy home exercises are VERY important I was out of work for 6 weeks after surgery so I had plenty of free time to do my exercises. Once I went back to work, I was much busier and it was harder to fit them in. I found that making my PT exercises a part of my daily routine was the only way I would actually do them. I tell patients to think about it like brushing their teeth; make it a part of your daily routine so it becomes a habit and you don’t even have to think about it.

5. You WILL get better I hit my lowest point 6 weeks after surgery when I tried to wean off of my crutches. I had sharp pain in my knee with every step. My surgeon had me go back on crutches for another week or so and the second time I weaned off of them I was completely fine. The recovery process wasn’t always smooth, but eventually the good days outnumbered the bad days. I am now a year out from my surgery, have no pain in my knee, and can’t wait to get back to skiing this winter!

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