Digital Pop Art by me. Art Instagram: @anuarrt

I wrote this when I was still barely bending my knee. I wasn’t in a very good place mentally during this time. I hope my story of getting my knee manipulated will help someone out there who feels like they have to hide their emotions during their recovery, which can be very frustrating and draining. Enjoy the read!

When I woke up from my procedure, the first thing I felt was a sharp pain in my knee. I remember groaning and seeing I was still in the operating room. I was confused and wondered if I woke up too early. The anesthesiologist said “I don’t know why she’s in pain. The only thing he did was bend her knee, I saw it.” Then they rolled me out of the OR and into the recovery room. I was wide awake at this point, and I still felt a pulling pain in my knee. I figured that was normal after a knee manipulation. My hand hurt as well, but not as much. 

The surgeon came in to speak with me like he did after every surgery. He told me he bent my knee all the way and that I was able to do it, I just had to push through the pain. He asked if I wanted to see. I said “Yes” OF COURSE I WANT TO SEE MY KNEE BEND! He picked my leg up and started to bend it, but at about 30 degrees I was already yelping. 

“It’s just sore right now, but you can bend it,” he showed me a picture of my knee bent all the way while I was under anesthesia. His face looked annoyed. I mean, he’s a surgeon. He should know there’s a lot I can do when I’m passed out, that I can’t do fully conscious. For example, getting my hand cut open, but what do I know?

After getting my knee manipulated, I still can’t bend it past 90 degrees on my own. I have been getting knee manipulations constantly in PT and at home. I imagine tearing something in your knee feels the same as getting a knee manipulation. I wouldn’t be off by much since the goal of knee manipulation is to tear up the scar tissue in your knee. Sometimes you can even hear something ripping when I’m getting it done. I can handle the pain up to about 95-100 degrees, but once it goes past that, the pain is unbearable. 

It’s always the same. I lay down on my stomach, I grab the examination table or bed with one hand, and I try to cover my mouth with the other. Keep in mind, my right hand is also healing. I do my breaths like my Physical Therapists have taught me; A deep breath in through my nose and a slow breath out through my mouth. 

I feel the pain around 90 degrees, but it’s not much of a pain. It feels like I banged my knee on the bed when trying to go around it. She pushes more and now it feels like I banged my knee on the corner of a wall while running to the bathroom. Then, before I know it, It feels like a gorilla yanked me by my leg and is trying to bend my knee in impossible ways. Or something like that, you know?

I muffle my screams with my hand, I don’t feel the dull pain from making a fist (until later). When I can’t take it anymore, my body gets defensive and fights with the “enemy”. My legs flail and my hands push me up from the table, my torso twists and bends like a snake.

When they let go, I weep into the pillow under me, trying to cry as quietly as I can, even though everybody just heard me scream. My doctor rubs my back and says “We got a little bit more today. We got up to 110 degrees,” but I remember that last time I got up to 115 degrees, and it hurt just as much. Now I’m weeping because I feel like I failed. Sometimes I weep because I’m embarrassed. Mostly I weep because it freakin’ hurts. 

It’s funny. My brain forgets the physical pain that I felt, but my body remembers. When the person who manipulated my knee approaches, my body tenses up, I start to sweat and sometimes I shake. My brain remembers something else, though. Sometimes when I’m trying to fall asleep or when I’m not fully occupied during the day, I hear myself screaming. Tears stream down my face and bring me back to reality. My heart beats fast and I take my breaths. In through my nose and out through my mouth.

I saw my surgeon and told him I’m concerned. I don’t know anything about what’s happening to my knee, but I can’t imagine this is normal. My surgeon tells me “Sometimes people cry wolf.” He quickly says he doesn’t think I am, but why would he say that if he didn’t want me to hear it. He says I may be less tolerable of pain. When me or my mom mention that this is a complication after surgery, he gets defensive and angry. He is quick to compose himself right after. He ignores my mom’s concerns, he answers only to me. His kind and caring “personality” was just a facade. 

My anxiety creeps back in and the trust I had in my surgeon who has done so many surgeries on me, fades. He doesn’t believe me anymore. He thinks he did nothing wrong, but my pain is real. He refuses the idea that it’s a surgery complication, but I was able to bend my knee in November. 

All I want is to be able to bend my knee again.

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