Warning: this story contains graphic content, not suitable for all readers. I'm having a hard time writing it.
First off, let me say that I like to be active. (One has to be, when she's a stay-at-home mom with small children.) We go on bike rides, play on playgrounds, and other typical activities. We also like to do sports, but volleyball is the sport we are most involved in. That's how my husband Brian and I met. We both play in a variety of tournaments and leagues and have both coached. I've been playing competitively since I was twelve. I've had my share of ankle sprains and have even broken a bone, but nothing too serious. After all, I've been told, volleyball is a very easy sport, why even bother being in shape? If you ever see me, please do not repeat that. I've heard it way too many times, and if you believe that, then you must be one who's never played it seriously, only in the backyard for family picnics.
Anyway, I was recently playing in a tournament in Akron, Ohio on my new USAV women's Level A team. I was having a great day. We were in first place and playing our last match in pool play. Things were going well. We were well on our way to another victory when it happened. The setter set me the ball and I jumped up to hit it. In the process of landing, I somehow landed squarely on my left foot, twisting my knee in an awkward manner. I felt it and heard it. Twist! Pop! Pop! On the way to the ground, I saw my knee bend to the left (those of you anatomy buffs out there know that the knee was designed to only bend back and forth, not sideways). Upon hitting the floor, I foolishly looked at my knee, a sight I fear I will never forget. Big mistake. I saw my knee with a large dent where the knee cap is supposed to be and a strange looking boney lump poking awkwardly up. My husband, who thankfully was there watching us play, was at my side in seconds, telling me that I was going to be fine. I knew better. I'd seen it already. People from all over the two-court gym came rushing over, only to even more quickly run the other direction in horror, covering their mouths. I was grotesque.
Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
Upon request, Warren County Christian School volleyball coach, and still a talented recreational player herself, Casey Ferry penned a column about her tale of a dislocated kneecap while relegated to anywhere but a volleyball court.
An ambulance was called (do they always take that long to get there?). When the paramedics finally arrived, I was still in the fetal position in the middle of court 2. They took my vitals, braced it as best they could without moving it too much, ignored my repeated request for narcotics, and hoisted me onto a gurney (not the most pleasant two foot journey I've made). As I rode my way out of the gym, I heard something. I was a celebrity. Just like when a pro football player gets carted off the field, I got a round of applause while the world watched, not saying anything. Wow, I thought, enjoy this moment because it's not going to be a fun evening.
My first trip in an ambulance. What can I say? I couldn't tell you what it looked like on the inside. I was too busy gripping the handle of my gurney trying to brace myself for the pot hole-filled roads and sharp bends, all of which I felt intensely.
Before even reaching the hospital door, I was greeted with a familiar pat on the shoulder from Brian, my rock through all of this. He was there through it all, even when I'm sure he'd rather not have been.
"It felt to me as if he had been stabbing me with a blade of fire."
I waited in the emergency "room" (AKA curtained-off area) for what seemed like forever. (On a side note, I'd like to thank whoever that was who bumped into my bed while walking by on the other side of my curtain. It felt great.) I kept repeating to my husband "the plan"- they can knock me out and do whatever they have to do to fix it. Whatever it was, I did not want to witness it. "Tell them, Brian. Tell them it's a good idea!" They took a couple x-rays. Finally, the doctor came. (Do they know what "emergency" rooms are for? I mean, it's not like I could relax comfortably, while reading the latest People.) The diagnosis was quickly made - patellar dislocation, or dislocated knee cap.
My knee cap had moved to the outside of my leg, instead of the front where it belongs.
I think anyone in the gym could have made that diagnosis by looking at it. He touched it a few times and then, as I was told later, tried to straighten out my leg to pop it back into place. It felt to me as if he had been stabbing me with a blade of fire. I yelled, but he must not have heard me because he continued trying to rip my leg off, or so it felt. He did eventually stop and sigh.
In his 30 years, he said, they almost always just go back in. It was one of the worst he'd seen. (Thanks, just what you want to hear.)
He then did one of the best things anyone did that day- ordered me some dilaudid , a strong painkiller. (Why didn't they listen to me before? I'd asked for it long ago.) They put in an IV and injected it. Soon I was happily dizzy and only in moderate pain. Unfortunately, it did not erase the picture I had etched in my brain of what my knee looked like and what they were going to do to it.
Then it happened fairly quickly. The doctor took a hold of my foot and pulled. I bit a washcloth and yelled. Pop! What a joyous yet utterly disgusting noise! It was then that the nurse realized that poor Brian was still there, watching the entire gory procedure. She apologized, saying that he shouldn't have had to see that. Of course, even if he had left my not-so-private curtained off area, he certainly would have heard it. A police officer wandered over, and said with a grimace, "I heard that from over there." But I didn't care. My leg looked human again and I was happily in a drug-induced stupor.
They gave me an immobilizing brace, a pair of crutches, a prescription, and an excuse to get out of work. (The latter of which does me no good. My kids can't read that well yet, and I doubt they'd accept it if they could.)
After all that, thank you, teammates, spectators, paramedics, nurses, doctors, and Brian. You were all there for me when I needed you. Even if things didn't all go according to "the plan," I know you did what you thought was best.
I'm still awaiting word on if there is any more damage. So if you see me gritting my teeth and hobbling my way through town, with two kids in tow, remember volleyball can be dangerous, but it's also the most fun of any sport. (When can I take this thing off my leg and play again?)