Our plan for February (I, taking care of the ranch, and Richard, taking care of calving season at the farm) had to be seriously revised this week, thanks to an unexpected knee injury. My knee trouble started about seven months ago, during the first week of July. Each year on July 1, we have our day-long cattle drive to push the cows from the ranch into the Shoshone National Forest, where they spend the rest of the summer grazing (and hopefully avoiding predators!). The majority of the 200 cows and 150 calves that we push into the forest are black Angus, while a few are Scottish Highlands, a breed with shaggy coats and long horns. It is always an exciting week at the ranch, and we have a group of loyal, dedicated and seriously fun guests who come each year to help us get the job done. The initial knee injury had nothing to do with riding, or moving cattle or anything remotely related to the smooth functioning of the ranch. Instead, I took part in some competitive after-dinner party games, and the next day I woke up with a sore knee. Like all other injuries I had experienced, I figured if I ignored it, it would go away. The pain was not terrible, just bothersome, and it never hurt when I rode, so life went on with a sore knee. Here is one of the Highland cows, Rosalind, and her calf, both of whom we moved into the forest for summer grazing this past July:
Back to the knee story….so, fast-forward to Monday, January 31, the day my knee troubles got a whole lot worse. At this point, I have been living with knee pain for seven months, and I have gotten fairly good at managing it. So good at managing it, in fact, that when Traci, who works at Equitours, invited me to join the Dubois Recreational Volleyball League, I jumped at the chance…what a great way to meet people in town and play a sport that I love! I had a few lurking reservations about sore knees and jumping around during a volleyball game, but they were overshadowed by lofty visions of me wowing my fellow townspeople with outstanding maneuvers on the court. I was certain that my high-school-era volleyball talent, now dormant for ten years, would effortlessly rise to the surface come game time at 7:00 pm. How wrong I was…
I had a few shocks when I arrived at the Dubois Elementary School gymnasium on Monday night. First of all, there were almost 30 people there of all shapes, sizes and ages, a larger crowd than I anticipated, and 90% of them were legitimately good at volleyball. How did this tiny community of less than 1,000 people produce such fine volleyball players? This is a mystery of which I have not yet gotten to the bottom. Within seconds of watching people warm up, I abandoned all hopes of being hailed as the new, hot volleyball sensation in town. I had now realigned my goals: “please, please, please, do NOT let me be the worst person on my team” was my urgent prayer throughout warm-ups.
Game 1: The first five minutes went well, meaning I was helping to keep the ball alive, I had not hurt my team’s progress– my confidence was growing. Then, with a desperate lunge, I saved a ball, and simultaneously, I heard applause from my teammates (heart soaring) and a loud pop in my knee (heart sinking very fast). The pop was followed by a pulsating pain screaming from my knee cap. I kept looking at my knee, surprised that the people around me could not hear what I thought was clearly audible throbbing. Oddly, at this point, I was feeling more embarrassed than anything else. Think about it– I had been playing volleyball for literally five minutes– who drives forty minutes to a game and does their knee in in the first five minutes? Humiliating! So, what did I do? I suppose what any proper Southern girl does when she does not want to cause a scene. I smiled and kept playing…all through Game 1 and before I could explain I wanted to take a break, I found myself on the court for Game 2. So, I played Game 2 as well. (There were no extra people on our team, so if I had stopped playing, the game would have ended.) My performance headed downhill after the pop, I must say. I just could not dive for the ball with the same gusto afterward. At the end of Game 2, I announced my knee was sore and gathered my things to depart. It was only 8:00 pm, and it was clear the volleyball party was just beginning, but with the way the pain was escalating, I knew I needed to get home.
I kept trying to convince myself on the drive home that with a little ice and some elevation, I would be right as rain by the morning. I kept walking down the path of positivity (Hadley, you will be fine! You will be GREAT!) until I woke up at 4:00 am experiencing shock waves of pain and unable to put any weight on my left leg. Terrified, I called Richard (lucky guy!) and told him he had to drive up to the ranch first thing in the morning because there was no way I could feed the animals. I was unable to walk. I called Teton Orthopedics Tuesday morning and made an appointment with the wonderful and dreamy Dr. Khoury for Tuesday afternoon.
The drive to and from Jackson for the appointment was out of a horror film. It was -15 degrees during the DAY, and Bayard’s Rav-4 had a broken heater. On top of this, I had to wear socks and flip flops because I could not lean over to put on proper shoes. This led to a stiff, cold and miserable drive over Togwoteee pass to Jackson and an even stiffer, colder and more miserable drive coming home. I had to go alone (thank goodness it was my left knee!) because Richard had to tend to the livestock on the ranch. The MRI and X-rays showed that I had torn my meniscus in a fairly serious way. Dr. Khoury and I agreed that a small tear happened back in July during the party games and the tear worsened considerably during volleyball. Party games and volleyball…a direct road to surgery! I was lucky that Dr. Khoury had time to perform the surgery on Thursday, so I only had to wait two days to receive my partial meniscectomy. I am also lucky that he could remove the torn part of the meniscus, rather than repair it, as repairs require a 5 month recovery, while removals typically require only a few weeks for recovery. My crutches were the only aspect of the whole situation that made me smile…my crutches are wild, Wyoming, winter crutches with little crampons on the bottom for me to crunch my way through ice and snow (I am fairly confident I could kill an assailant with them as well…dual purpose!):