Tag Archives: knee injury

End of the long sun

There were a few things I kept concentrating on last spring in the lead-up to packing all of our belongings and cleaning out the Liar House; one of these was the opportunity to soak in a hot spring, and the other was playing in a pool with my friends’ cute and fun 2-year-old. The hot spring went exceedingly well, but the pool event, not so much.

a swimming poolOh, the kid had a blast, so no worries about that. I however was my usual klutzy self and while fetching his ball for him, managed to careen down some steps in the water, and sprain the knee I’d hurt in 2008. Because I was in said pool, the act of spraining my knee joint happened in apparent slow-motion: stepping, stepping, ooooooooooh noooooooooo, owwwwwwww.

I carefully balanced on my not-just-sprained leg and cheered him on. And I did manage to get his ball back to him.

The rest of our trip has been joyfully uneventful of injury, if not sodden in 50+ percent humidity. I grew up in a swamp, I should know how to deal with this by now. For someone who has lived 38 of 40 years in dire summer heat and damp air, I really have gained very little in terms of strategies for contending with the climate. My best trick is to duck into a place with air conditioning. So it is that I’ve only progressed to 1957 standards for heat-busting technology. Not exactly a genius on this score is me.

But our two trips to the pool were interesting for getting to see toddler politics and drama in action.

Our little friend had brought two simple toys with him: the aforementioned, knee-killing ball, and a little toy boat. Say that 10 times fast. Given that parents want even 2-year-olds to appreciate the value of sharing, there still comes a time when hey, that toy is theirs and they get to play with it, too. I watched the pulling matches and the open-mouthed shock at other kids’ rudeness from our little friend’s perspective like I were viewing the war over Helen from a front-row seat.

From my vantage seat, I discerned the following rules: If there is a toy just floating in the water, it is fair game for anyone to play with it, at least for a few minutes. If the free-use toy is handed off to another child who also isn’t the owner, that kid may have to relinquish the object at any time, and they are expected to offer no resistance. If a toy is clearly in it’s owner’s use, another child may ask to see and/or play with that toy by simply putting out a hand as a sign of greeting and interest. They should also feel free, apparently, to add a verbalization—anything from “ahhhh?” to “can I see that, please?” is acceptable, depending on their fluency with language. While it is the toy owner’s prerogative not to hand over the toy, it is very bad form to say no to a polite request. Grabbing the toy from the owner is right out, and will summon apologetic parents from wherever they’ve been lounging, with the unfortunate result that the grabber is removed from the interaction, perchance the entire pool area, and most certainly will have to hand over the object un-played-with. When the toy owner does give the toy to the requester, that temporary user may play with the toy for a while, even for an extended amount of time, like 10 minutes. The amount of time appears to be commensurate with their concentration time.

I watched and learned. Sunlight reflected off of the broken water where the children stood. The fountain pumped joyfully behind them as they learned to share. And somewhere, off in the distance, I could hear Zarathustra’s epic music from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sharing among the humans had been learned. Next, how to make fire.

But if he needed me to run after his ball again, well, that wasn’t going to happen.

Scooting my life away

motorized scooter

motorized scooter

If the local trip to the grocery store was a frustrating success, then our next venture out, this time to Costco, an hour’s drive away, was a comical catastrophe in slow motion. Susanne dropped me off at the front door and I crutched in, showed my ID, and hopped onto the scooter. This one seemed a bit more worn out even at first glance, its grip bars rubbed thin of vinyl, the green-red light that indicates battery power totally absent–as if to suggest to patrons that AT ANY MINUTE you could be stranded at the back of the store, in the produce room, where you could quickly freeze to death as you weakly called out for help from the indifferent staff.


Judging this book by its cover, I was proved correct. The hum from the battery was low and strained, and I trudged off at about 1 mile an hour. I didn’t wait for Susanne, figuring that she would quickly catch up with me by the time we rounded the electronics and jewelry counter at the front of every Costco store. Sure enough, she looked at me, leaning forward and looking for a riding crop, and giggled. I needed the store to be downhill, somehow.

You know you look ridiculous when little old ladies see you and laugh, pointing in your direction. I attempted to look serious while perusing through the fiction titles, but I don’t think I pulled it off. Adding to the silliness of it all was a 2-foot long chain of lint and dust that trailed behind the scooter like a dirty “Just Married” string of cans. I had, I guess, my own rattail for the device.

We made our way through the store, the battery hum slowly decreasing in pitch, attempting to forewarn me since the battery light was no longer with us. Susanne would collect anything I had put in the crooked metal basket and put it in her shopping cart because she didn’t want me to be weighed down by anything else. I trudged oh so slowly to the front of the store after we’d made our purchases and plugged the yellow beast into the wall. Suck the life into yourself, I told the machine. Good breath in, bad breath out.

I stood there waiting for Susanne to pull the car up, then decided what the heck, I could crutch out there just fine. A little boy saw me and asked his dad if he could get some black sticks, too. Apparently they’re the new Razor, and WAY cooler than battery-powered scooters. But this kid probably never saw the scooters at the Oddfellows House in Walla Walla. Those people’s scooters are pimped out!

In search of tomato paste

Sitting around one’s home when one is working 40 or more hours a week feels like a luxury. Sitting around one’s home as if that is a 40-a-week job, well, not so much on the luxury side of life is that. As Yoda would say, if Yoda were unemployed and hanging out after knee surgery. Wait a minute, I may be mixing metaphors here.
The point is, getting out of the house (nay, the living room, for that matter) becomes a bit of a thrill, no matter the reason for the departure. Thus it was that going to the local grocery store in search of tomato paste in a tube was akin to something like seeing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for the first time, or getting on that jet to Disney World.
I hobbled out to the car on crutches — the kind that you slip your forearms into and we motored to Albertson’s, which is the grocery that carries a strange mix of food staples and unexpected gourmet items, such as the tube of tomato paste, and imported items like PG Tips tea bags. Albertson’s has one of those battery-powered carts, so I put my crutches in the basket and began following Susanne around the store like a robot dog or Roomba. It even beeped in reverse, which for some reason Susanne did not find amusing in the slightest. I even got an “okay, now, stop that,” from her.
It was a strange contraption indeed. You had to aim perfectly for the produce bags, and then figure out, using trigonometry, how to then get to the specific produce item desired. So if the broccoli crowns were, for example, 16 inches behind you, you could:
1. back up and beep after checking your blind spots
2. attempt a tight K-turn
3. make a yaw maneuever before reentering the Earth’s atmosphere
I also discovered that the scooter had the smallest turning ratio I could have imagined, being nearly able to circle around a quarter on the floor. Not that I could reach the quarter. But I could drive around it in a strange technology-based attempt to be all territorial about it.
We weaved our way through the store, me trying not to knock things over with my crutches in the basket, Susanne gathering up the items on our list. They were out of the tomato paste, much to our frustration. Also frustrating was the realization that people weren’t seeing me, a 300-pound guy in a bright yellow scooter, and I had to stop suddenly more than a few times, lest I run over some toddler or ram into a special display of Multigrain Cheerios. It was a convenience, the scooter, but it also was like entering a new world, and as a tall person, I wasn’t used to seeing my world from this vantage point next to the quarters and the floor, and yet, there I was.
We were in the checkout line, finally, and I realized I didn’t really know when one got out of these things. Before checking out? Just after? Was there a protocol? I got up and crutched out to the parking lot, and heard, distantly, a small child call out to his mother: “hey, I found a quarter! Cool!”

A smiley face seals the deal

Well, the surgery went well, and by “well” I mean that it took an expected two hours or so and ended with a repaired knee joint. The outpatient center was in its own way, beyond imagination — with comfy chairs and a fancy mocha bar (lest we forget we are in the Pacific Northwest). Susanne wondered if she shouldn’t just show up there from time to time to get some work done. 

After getting prepped via a series of 12,783 questions, 73 percent of which were “which knee is it,” I drew my initials on the left leg and added a smile. The surgeon was grateful I hadn’t sketched a frown, but honestly, how could I have gone into the experience with such negativity? After knowing this doctor for five months, he said he was a Christian and asked if we would mind if he said a prayer before the surgery. This inspired the following thoughts, in no particular order, but which occurred to me in something like 2.3 seconds:

1. All his training, residency, education, and experience, and he doesn’t find that sufficient? Is the prayer for the last nth percent chance that something will go wrong?

2. If a surgeon wants to have a prayer before going into the operating theater, for Pete’s sake, LET HIM DO IT. 

3. The Catholics pray so differently — so often for penance and nearly always from a standard script. Perhaps the Hail Holy Queen would suffice?

4. Was there a measurable quantity of irony I could point to here that this doctor was praying for my knee? Or just conceptual irony?

We told him to go ahead and pray, and he asked for good healing on my joint so I could go and serve others. That was a little presumptive of him, but I don’t technically have anything against that, per se, anyway.

I watched the ceiling go by as I was wheeled into operating suite 3. Now then, I understand that good doctors like to have their tools of the trade laid out neatly and orderly, but there is something about seeing the odd single-piece, stainless steel hammer on the table to give one pause. Great pause. I have had a lumbar puncture before, which means I have had a 10-inch needle inserted into my spine. Scratch that — I’ve had FIVE spinal taps in this life. I’ve had seven strabismus surgeries on my lazy eyes, one of which was, believe it or not, intentionally interrupted so that I could sit up and have the surgeon pull on plastic sutures she’d attached to my eye muscles so that she could “fine tune” her work. Having the sensation of one’s eye being tugged against the eye socket while having no actual feeling of pain has definitely been one of the odder moments in my 38.5 years on the planet.

But these surreal experiences pale in comparison to the hammer. Surgery was hammer time? Why was such an instrument necessary, exactly?* Gratefully, I was soon woozy with the poison — erm, anesthesia. The anesthesiologist seemed to get a kick out of not even asking me to count back from 10. I was there one second and gone the next.

Waking up some hours later I had the now-familiar queasiness from having whatever hellacious concoction poured into me. It took me three hours to get it together enough to get out of bed and get into the house, where I have now planted my derriere for the next three weeks or so. First the Blizzard of 2008, now the Knee Mending of 2009 begins. I’m sure it’s because I made no specific resolutions for the year other than to be open to new experiences. I should know to be extremely specific and not allow any definitional latitude. But nooooo, I had to say, “be open to new experiences,” blah blah blah, so that shiny hammers and titanium screws could wander their way into my life and my body and here I have to count them as wins in my exploration of new freaking experiences.

Be that as it may, I am on the mend. I have discovered, vicariously through Susanne, that Tallman’s Pharmacy on Main Street is chock full of friendly employees, that Oxycontin does not work with the needs of my stomach, that purple Gatorade Fierce turns green after only 20 minutes in one’s stomach, and that I was wrong when I thought that Washington State allowed marijuana for medical use.

So many lovely new experiences, it’s a joy to have arrived in this new year. Seriously, however, I am looking forward to four months from now, when my knee is expected to make a full recovery. Full recovery I can get behind quite easily.

*Those reading this who may know the answer to this question, please be alerted that I am asking it rhetorically only. I do not need any comments with technical answers.

Right from wrong

We were talking the other night about hospital mishaps — which some of you political junkies will recall the NLM 1999 study showed happen at the rate of 90,000 a year — and we started conjecturing what could go wrong with my knee surgery, because all medical science has been working toward this moment of my ACL reconstruction. Hey, it’s not my ego, people, it’s just the way the world is.

Anyway, so many people who have had issues on one side of their body have had the wrong side addressed that now even the doctors tell you to write on your body and identify which limb or side needs repair, and which should be left alone. This sounds simple at first, but consider:

Writing “NO” could just as easily look like “ON.” On this side? Come ON over here, baby? Baby you can drive my car?

Writing “Not this one” could, if masked by a patterned hospital gown, look like the abbreviated and wholly misleading “this one.”

Writing “GO AWAY” just seems rude.

We also considered drawing a big “X” on the right (healthy) knee, and worried it would look like the final destination on a pirate map. Yes, pirating figures into my medical situation. Pirates are relevant, damn it, and not just the 21st century pirates of Somalia.

We’ve opted for the “THIS ONE” on the left left and “NO” with an underline on the right leg. The underline will help the health providers see which way is up on the wording, since bodies lying on a table don’t really imply north-south very well. We’re also crossing our fingers that our nursing staff are avid billiards players, and so will know how to interpret the underlining correctly, as they have seen their share of 6 and 9 balls. This is why it’s important to teach children the basics of pool, so that they can provide the highest level of care to their craziest customers at some point in the unforeseeable future. Trust me, if there’d been a way to bring bowling into this discussion I would have, but I got nothing.

Anyway, I’ll be back as soon as I can because as we all know from last December, I need to vent my prolific insights when I’m cooped up. Have a great weekend, folks.

My friend Godot

Gearing up for surgery tomorrow, I’ve just been trying to keep things tidy around the house and make sure we’re stocked with foodstuffs and the other necessities one wants when one is recuperating from such an event. It’s kind of like getting ready for a storm, I suppose, because you know you won’t be going out for a while, but it’s unlike that — simply put, when you’re the only person at Safeway buying ginger ale, potato chips, and batteries, people look at you strangely. When everyone is buying up for a storm, it’s no big deal. It wasn’t even that crazy, in the days after 9/11 to purchase yards of cellophane and duct tape, with which we could all slowly suffocate ourselves in our own homes. But ginger ale and batteries? He must be insane, the cashier thinks.

So we came back to Walla Walla a bit over a week ago, to snowy highways and a persistent fog that obscured, once again, anything on the sides of the highways so that it looked like the beginning of Heaven Can Wait  where the squirrely guys come out and try to escort you to your Next Phase of Death. Only then you find yourself in a recently murdered body and can’t understand why Dyan Cannon keeps screaming her head off every time you walk in the room. Okay, it wasn’t quite like that, it was more like this:


The long long road to Walla Walla

The long long road to Walla Walla

The fog lifted after about an hour of driving, and to give ourselves a last moment of civilization, we stopped off at Costco, about 50 miles outside of W2. First though, we went to P.F. Chang’s for lunch where we had a rather uninspired meal that culminated in me receiving just about the most annoying fortune cookie ever, or at least for these last five months.


Fortune cookie from the land of the obvious and ironic

Fortune cookie from the land of the obvious and ironic

That was good for a laugh, at least. I’ll be sure to let the management of P.F. Chang’s know when I’ve encountered the exotic, because you know, I’m sure they’re on pins and needles waiting for such an epistle.

In the meantime, I wait for the surgery. And then I’ll do my best to follow instructions and wait through the recovery. And then, happily, I shall bowl.

Karma brownies

Back in July, I got married to a wonderful woman who makes me smile just by thinking about her. We made a ceremony together, finding readings, music, writing up our own words and also vows, and we included time for our community to speak if they wanted to. The flowers were colorful and vibrant, the participants excited, the guests supportive, and the church light-filled, if not a bit warmer than we’d have liked. It was July in DC, after all. But everything went well, on time, and we enjoyed our 15 minutes of photo opp after the event, casually walking down to the reception a block away in the heart of the embassy district in the city.

We walked into the reception venue and were cheered by our loved ones, and I thought my heart was bursting a little, so stunned was I by their affection. We made our way around the room like celebrities, which made it difficult to remember to actually take care of ourselves. But the evening was fun, until…


Dance, dance, pop

Dance, dance, pop



It’s all Michael Jackson’s fault. No sooner than the intro of Billie Jean came on was I doing a dance move I’d executed successfully since 1989. No sooner was I doing my little leg twist than I heard a short “pop” and the physical sensation of my left leg buckling under me. I was hopping on my right foot, trying to figure out why the left one had just given me its pink slip. My brand spanking new wife looked at me and saw the panic in my eyes. Our guests, some of whom were well lubricated at this point in the evening, did not notice the calamity at first. And then they saw me hopping like an overweight kangaroo and everyone stopped moving. Somehow, in the recesses of my brain, I stopped having my moment of shock and ow enough to wave at them, smile, and tell them to “keep dancing! I’m fine! Ha ha!”

Holy crap, I needed a chair, I told Susanne. One was quickly provided and I spent the next 90 minutes icing the knee, compressing the knee with an ace bandage someone had brought to me, and nursing a glass of ice water (with a twist, of course). Four ibuprofen later I looked at the clock and realized we had to get people home — the venue needed to close soon. But with all my will I still couldn’t stand. A friend who works for the National Security Agency had found me some crutches. I joked that there’s probably a van that drives around DC in case any NSA calls them, and he replied that he could neither confirm nor deny that. Dry wit, those NSA employees.

We rolled into the ER in our formal wear, still smiling and a bit incredulous that such a lovely day was closing this way. The X-rays showed that all of my bones were in place, but yup, I sure couldn’t stand on the leg. It was 5 days later when I could put any weight on it at all. The ER doctor who clearly hated that this was where his career had ended up, guessed that I’d dislocated the knee cap.

By our drive cross-country I was walking again, albeit slowly and not for very long. It wasn’t until late September that I’d found an orthopaedic doctor who ran an MRI, and we found out I’d torn my ACL and meniscus. And here we are in January, me still somewhat hobbled and homesick for some quality time in a 10-pin bowling alley.

Finally, I have a surgery date — next Friday. I’ve been waiting for donor material to be available, which is awful to think about but necessary to get me back and working. I promised the nursing staff I’d bring them caramel brownies, because you know, it’s a good thing to have the people cutting you open really like you as a person. Can’t hurt, right?

So, I’ll cross my fingers, draw a big arrow on my left leg and a red “NOT THIS ONE” on my right, and get ready for a lot of TV. Which will make it pretty much just like life as usual.

What a waste it is to lose one’s mind

My surgery has been postponed indefinitely because there isn’t currently any donor tissue to use to reconstruct my ACL. In a weird twist to my attempts to “buy local,” I seem to be subject to an inaccessibility of allograft material, which is a localized issue. Apparently if we were still living in DC I would have had the surgery by now.

But not having the surgery just yet provides some unexpected benefits, like I’ve trimmed our Christmas tree, we can go ahead with a cookie exchange party, which will help us meet some new people, and I got to go to the annual holiday farmer’s market (the regular weekly market closed at the end of October and won’t reopen until April).

Still, it’s strange to think that I’m waiting, basically, for someone to pass away not so I can have their heart, but so I can go bowling again. It’s strangely offensive, or trite, or . . . something distasteful. That said, it is the best surgical option for me. And as I myself am an organ donor, I suppose I may pass something on, too. I just don’t have a response for people who try to make jokes about all of this (except maybe for the “buy local” one). Organ donation just isn’t funny. I mean, it’s kind of ridiculously unfunny.

So in the meantime, I bake. Baking, as we all know, sure can be funny. For Thanksgiving, I produced an apple pie, about two and a half dozen sweet potato biscuits, and a pumpkin swirl cheesecake. Thanks to my Mom, James Turner, and Junior’s bakery in Brooklyn, respectively, for the recipes.


Pumpkin swirl cheesecake

Pumpkin swirl cheesecake

The cheesecake, it should be noted, was not made without some trauma to me and the people in the room whilst it was being prepared. I was making the cake with my almost 12-year-old niece, Beth, when I was showing her my trick for cracking eggs. She asked, rightly so, if I wanted her to break the egg into the bowl or into something else, then putting that into the bowl. Because my egg-cracking tip minimizes the chance that broken shell will get into the recipe, I said it was fine to break it into the bowl.

Bad idea, Everett. Bad, bad idea. For while my 38 years of experience with store-bought eggs has so far produced wonderful incredible edibleness, this was about to go off the rails for me. She cracked and cracked the egg, and said, “it won’t open.” I took the egg from her, and in the nanosecond before I released the yolk, I saw the problem.

Humans, however, need something more than a nanosecond for their reflexes to kick in. I could only manage a slow-motion, “noooooooooo,” as I dropped it into $8 worth of cream cheese, vanilla, and whipping cream.

It was blood red. Worse, it had a half-inch large dead baby chick in it. And the redness of it against the pure white cream cheese mix made it only look more incredibly disgusting.

Suddenly there were people all crowding around the bowl trying to get a glimpse of the grotesque concoction. Kind of like when someone tastes something spoiled and screams and then begs you to taste it, too. Or like eating lunch in the Social Security Administration cafeteria. Kind of like that.

Susanne’s older brother, true to older brother form, suggested we just dump out the egg and continue on with the cake making. We did not of course, listen to him. This was made easier because of precedent–we are in the habit of not listening to his crazy man ideas. Instead I took a drive 12 miles to the grocery store and got more cream cheese, which was conveniently on sale. Then I wondered if the grocery store had some conspiracy to screw up people’s cheesecakes with fertilized chicken eggs so we would have to double our purchases of the cream cheese. Now that the Republicans are out of the White House, what will we do for conspiracy theories? Egg producers may take a lot of heat. 

This brings me to the mind-losing portion of this post. I was planning on the knee surgery on December 3, but lo and behold, as it is postponed indefinitely, I now have no calendar for anything — not rehab, not getting a job, not bowling — and so my sanity has begun to trickle away. Dear readers, hopefully it will not adversely affect this poor little blog too badly.

In the meantime, I snapped this apple pie picture shortly before the pie was no more. Enjoy.


Almost gone apple pie

Almost gone apple pie



Next up: Santa comes to Walla Walla.

Image(ining) the possibilities

Well, so I met with the orthopedic on Tuesday to discuss the results of my MRI. The emergency room doctor had said that the probable issue was a dislocated kneecap with accompanying effusion (swelling), and the physician’s assistant out here in W2 said it was a likely meniscus tear. Turns out . . . drumroll, please, that I . . .


ACL tear on MRI scan

ACL tear on MRI scan

tore my ACL and my meniscus! So thoughtful of me to really go all the way and injure myself multiply in one fell swoop. Further, the fact that I’ve injured myself in two areas of the knee as seen on the MRI scan concerns the doc that there’s even more damage not evident until they see inside the knee during surgery. In any case, they can fix it. Because I tore clean through the ACL, it balled up in two places where it was attached to the bone, which is why it was immediately unstable — it was like trying to stand on two rubber balls stacked on top of each other. A totally torn ACL, however, tends to shrivel and dissolve inside the knee joint, leaving no remnant of itself, which explains why it’s actually been easier to walk, but sometimes feels unstable. The good news is I’m not in a lot of pain; the bad news is that now I’m asking more of all the remaining ligaments, tendons, muscles, and bones on that side, and I’m slowly wearing out my healthy knee on the other side.

We decided that I would work out in the pool at the local YMCA and on a stationary bicycle, dropping 10-20 pounds before having surgery in late November. And then I should be on the road to getting back to my old self! Except I’ll watch the crazy dance moves from my early 20s.

And now that I think of it, it’s really annoying that in all these years of avoiding skiing in order to protect my knees (seriously, does anyone give me more than 10 minutes before I go crashing down the side of a mountain), I still broke my knee! Sheesh!

The option we’re going to take is to use conditioned cadaver ligament for the replacement, since my other alternatives are to take ligaments from other parts of my body, which would limit me where we’ve taken it for this reconstruction. One of my friends worries that I’ll get ligament from a formerly “evil” person, and I have tried to tell her that I don’t think Cheney is officially dead yet. Let’s leave the Buffy subplots to the terrain of Joss Whedon’s mind, shall we?

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