April 5th, 2004

duke-balloon

If you don't laugh, you'll cry

When my sister and I went to the medical supply store on Thursday, the first thing we did was play a little. They had all kinds of interesting toys and things to look at: scooters, crutches, bandages, braces, chairs, and whatnot. "Oh look at all the cool knee braces you could have gotten," she pointed out. "You should have come here when you first hurt it!"

"I know, I know. I looked for a store like this, but couldn't find it until my PTpeople told me where to go." I got distracted by the big hats, the kind meant to be worn by people suffering from medical hair loss. "Oh look, want to try on bonnets?"

We sat on the chairs, discussed riding the scooters, and generally goofed off a bit. Finally we spoke to a salesperson, who started filling out insurance paperwork for my new crutches. We settled down and waited more quietly.

It was then that I noticed another pair of people doing much the same thing we had been doing. "Look honey," the woman said, pointing to something I couldn't see, "you can use this.... Well, maybe after your next double-bypass!" And she giggled.

They were a small elderly couple, both white-haired. He was balding, she walked with a cane. I'd guess they were around their late seventies? The mutual gleam in their eyes seemed to say they'd spent their lives being silly together; they were laughing and cheery. They also checked out the big hats, and she handed him a red and black plaid one. He put it on saying, "Yes, this looks nice and sporty, just my type."

It gradually became clear that they were looking for a better cane for her -- hers was too long. He teased her about her height, and she responded feistily, "Some people are just small. There's nothing wrong with that. Now shut up, or I'll beat you with my new cane."

She saw me watching, and she grinned mischievously. "You have to laugh about these things," she told me. "Otherwise you'll just start bawling." I smiled back at her, nodding in agreement.

At one point he was holding a nice new cane with purple and colored speckles on it, like tiny mosaic. It looked like it was made for her personality, but it was still too long and it wasn't adjustable. They decided what they needed was an adjustable cane, so it could fit her properly. The saleslady helping them offered, "I could just cut your current cane down, so it's the right size. It wouldn't even cost anything."

The woman paused at this, practicality starting to sway her. Her cane was a simple varnished wooden one in a "candy cane" shape with a rubber end. Then she decided, "No, I want a new one. Something that stands out. This one is too common."

Ultimately they settled on a very sleek-looking green cane with an ergonomic black handle. They adjusted it to the proper height, then she asked a little awkwardly if the saleslady could also cut her old cane down to the same size.

While this was being done, she used her new cane to walk over to where I was sitting with my leg propped up, and she asked what had happened to me. I told her about my knee surgery, and she responded very sympathetically. She said that she had also had knee surgery.

"I never expected a partial knee replacement," she told me with a shrug. "I didn't want to grow old, but what can you do? It's better than the alternative." We both laughed. We talked a bit more, and she told me again, "You have to laugh at life. If you don't, you'll cry."

After she left I sat there, staring at my leg propped in front of me, the little white pieces of tape scattered around the swollen area where the kneecap belonged. And I thought about growing old. And falling apart. And I thought about laughter....and I smiled.
duke-juggle

Knee Picture!

In case anybody is interested in gory details, I had some fun last night editing a photo of my knee. This was taken 48 hours after surgery. Right after I removed the bandages for the first time, but before I pulled out the pain pump.

I photoshopped in labels for the incisions, the pump, etc. I realize now that it doesn't really look like a knee: it's too swollen for the kneecap to show, and there are no other body parts for perspective. You're just going to have to trust me though. It's my right leg/knee.
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duke-flip

In Which She Walks

It started last night. I was walking around the house, using just one crutch. I noticed that, if I thought very carefully about what I was doing, I could put very little weight on that crutch. In fact, practically no weight.

So I picked up the crutch and tried walking without it. I could do it! It wasn't graceful, but it was definitely weight-bearing. I set the crutch down and walked away from it.

Since my little epiphany last night, I've spent the last 24 hours walking around my house unaided. Well, limping. Okay, hobbling. But that's not the point. The point is: look ma, no hands!

It doesn't feel great, of course. The joint is very very stiff. It feels like I'm wearing an immobilizer of some sort, even though I'm not wearing anything on the knee. I have to concentrate to get myself to move and bend the knee as I walk, and even then it doesn't go through a "proper" gait yet.

And yeah, it hurts. But as long as I'm careful, it feels somewhat okay -- not comfortable, but not excruciating pain either. In fact if I leave the joint in its "comfort zone", it doesn't hurt hardly at all. It's only when I try to use it, bend it, straighten it, treat it like an actual knee, that it hurts me.

That brings us to this evening. I was hobbling about the house, wishing my knee would act less like a bone, more like a joint. I'd done my PT-prescribed exercises for today, but it occurred to me: the only way for this knee to start bending more is to start using it more.

So I went for a walk around the block. Seriously! I used my crutches (I'm not totally insane), but I put at least a little weight on my leg for each step the whole way around. I also tried to focus on getting it to bend and straighten in a normal walking-motion (with only minimal success, but it's a beginning).

Now I'm tired, and still very stiff and sore, but I'm proud of myself. I am definitely on the path to recovery. Go me!



Now for a few more pictures. Here is me, napping with my cat, about 24 hours post-surgery. For the first several days, I lived the life of a cat - I did almost nothing but sleep, with a few breaks to eat.


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