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Bob Burrows: In the Front Row: The knee bone's connected to...what!?

Meet Arty, or what the doctors call intra articular osteochondroma.

I didn’t know whether to be flattered or disgusted when the doctor told me, “Yours is the biggest I’ve ever seen!”

I was sitting in the exam room, my right pant leg rolled up past my knee, while the doctor showed me pictures of what appeared to be a cross between a bloody soup bone and a hunk of suet.

It measured eight inches long and about three-and-a-half inches wide. Two weeks earlier the surgeon had removed it from my right knee.

Now, at my post-op exam, we were both staring at pictures of the alien monstrosity in disbelief.

“I don’t know how you walked around with that thing,” she said. “It must have been very painful.”

“Well, yeah!” I replied.

She told me that following the surgery she had sent it off to a pathologist at the Mayo Clinic, who wrote back, “What the hell is that, and where did you find it?”

She said she’d only seen something like it once before, but it wasn’t nearly as big.

“I’m thinking about doing a paper about it,” she remarked.

Well, Mother always said I was special.

I first noticed some pain in my knee about 12 years ago. I had it looked at once and was told it was probably calcium deposits.

I went through some physical therapy, lost some weight and it helped a little, though the pain persisted.

Looking back it wasn’t really that debilitating.

My knee looked funky, but other than running, which I have no desire to do at my age anyway, I was able to function fairly normally.

It bothered me most when I sat for long periods of time. Airplanes, movie theaters, staff meetings, long car rides. Got me out of a lot of trips to visit the in-laws.

A few over-the-counter pain relievers and a little ice and I’d be good to go, until one night in early November.

Fueled by the excitement of seeing the lights turned on for the very first time at the new First National Bank of River Falls Field, I was climbing up and down the yet-to-be completed grandstand and jumping over retaining walls snapping pictures when I angered it.

And boy was it angry. I could barely walk the next day.

Two days later I went to see my regular doctor. He took one look at the X-ray and said, “I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Not exactly words I wanted to hear. But then he used another word that really got my attention.


“Whatever it is, it has to come out,” he said.

Finally something we agreed on.

I had an MRI but still nobody could tell me exactly what it was, only that it had to be removed and undergo a biopsy. But my doctor assured me that it probably wasn’t cancerous.

“Judging by the size, if it was malignant it would have manifested itself a long time ago,” he said matter-of-factly.

In other words, if it was cancer I’d be dead already.

So here I was at my two-week post-op exam. I had already learned it was benign (phew!) and was now just looking forward to having the 18 staples removed from my knee.

(Seriously, whatever happened to stitches? When did Office Depot get into the medical supply business? My knee looked like it had a zipper on it.) That’s when the surgeon showed me the pictures.

I was flabbergasted. I swear it was winking at me. Then I learned it actually had a name: Intra articular osteochondroma.

I’ve just decided to call it Arty.

Near as my simple mind could tell, it was made up of mineralized fat, bone, cartilage and lots of other crap.

I thought about how long it had been growing inside me and wondered; maybe that’s where the keys to my old Ford LTD ended up?

It’s been nearly a month now since my surgery, and almost six weeks since I angered Arty at the ballpark. I’m still hobbling around, but the good news is the doctor described the rest of my knee as “pristine,” and said once I recover completely I should feel better than I have in years.

Great, I thought. But does that mean I have to start visiting my in-laws again?