The Cost of Injuring Your Knee

Hint: it’s more than just the medical bills.

yes, we’re using this meme

A few weeks ago, I took a bad fall. I didn’t realize how bad it was until twenty minutes later, when I was pantsless in my friend’s bathtub, pouring hydrogen peroxide on my knee, trying to convince myself “I’m fine” over and over again.

We had just finished eating at a diner. On the walk back to her apartment, I tripped on the sidewalk in an industrial part of town. I fell forward on jagged and uneven concrete, but propped myself right back up. My friend didn’t even notice I took a tumble, but you know, neither did I. I felt fine.

Five minutes later, my left knee felt cold. It was dark, so I brushed my palm over it. It was soaked, exposed. The impact had ripped a hole through my jeans. I thought I fell in a puddle, but I held my hand close enough to my face to see blood.

The next day, I went to the emergency room. I’d normally take public transportation, but this time I paid extra for a cab. Once I arrived and walked through those hospital doors, I was so, so glad I had health insurance. I was reminded of the anxious evenings I’d spent in the ER without coverage, knowing something was medically wrong but not knowing how much it would cost me. Had I fallen just three weeks earlier, I would’ve been uninsured and out of luck.

I was in the ER for hours. The doctors took X-rays, gave me shots of novocaine around my knee, prescribed me antibiotics to fight off any possible infections, and as you’d expect, sewed in stitches.

My roommate was there with me, pep-talking my way through my first mildly serious injury. I’d sprained an ankle before, but never broken a bone nor ever needed stitches.

During my stay, I’ve learned there’s a certain inconvenience of getting stitches in your knee compared to your palm or arm or even scalp. You can’t bend your knee with stitches in it, and you don’t realize how often you bend your knee until you can’t do it anymore.

Soon enough, I was gifted an knee immobilizer to help keep my leg straight. Whenever I wore it, my knee dragged as I walked—so, before I knew it, I had a crutch under each arm too. A nurse told me not to lean on my crutches because it might cause nerve damage. On my first attempt, I shuffled and nearly fell. I sighed, but wobbled my way to the exit, worried my crutches would cause another fall.

I don’t use a car, so I rely on my city’s public transit. However, riding a trolley involved a few stairs I could no longer handle. The cost of getting home from the hospital bumped from $1.80 on public transit to $9.80 when I called a cab on my phone. Forget about sharing rides, because with the immobilizer, I slid into the backseat horizontally, taking up space for three people just with my legs.

Twenty minutes later, I was in bed again. I was also hungry and out of groceries. My roommate offered to grab dinner, so we ate cheap take-out, her treat.

She left the following afternoon for an out-of-town trip that would last over a week. I’ve only lived in this city for two months, so my network is small—I didn’t have anyone I could call to help me carry groceries. So, when my stomach rumbled again, I ordered delivery online. With online services like Postmates and Caviar, you’re paying for the food and the delivery person as well as the site’s added fees. Suddenly, a $15 pizza became a $30 one.

The plus side is that I already work from home, so I don’t need to commute to work every day—or even get out of bed. But I’m also self-employed, so there’s no sick leave. If I don’t work through this, I don’t get paid.

Fast forward to a week and a half later, where I’m waiting for my cab at 1 o’clock on a Monday afternoon. Amazon delivery won’t suffice this time, so I pick up some groceries to prepare for a blizzard the following day, as well as some take-out. It cost $10 for a three-quarters-of-a-mile ride back to my apartment. I’m frustrated, but I get that it’s the cost of not being able to walk too far—and not yet knowing anyone whom I could ask for a ride.

My online network, however, is plentiful. After tweeting my link, a few followers contributed. When people you only know from the internet send you money, it’s a great feeling—but it’s not sustainable by any means. I’m not a YouTube personality with hundreds of thousands of subscribers — and even then…

The stitches are still in and I haven’t left my apartment for the past two weeks, with the exception of waddling to the pharmacy across the street and, of course, Monday’s journey. I feel a little isolated, knowing I can’t fully do things on my own, but I’m looking forward to regaining my money-saving mobility soon.

Update 04/06/17: The stitches have been out for almost three weeks, my wound is healing great, and I’ve just accepted a new job!

Danielle Corcione is a freelance writer with bylines in Esquire, Teen Vogue, Vice, etc. To learn more about their work, visit their website and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.