Time-Out for Knee Surgery

Another reminder of my age: last Thursday, August 26th, I had arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus, which is apparently part and parcel of being a baby boomer. I’m the sixth person I know in the boomer demographic who had this surgery. Everyone says that it’s no big deal, ’cause it’s arthroscopic, you’ll wake up with three little holes artfully arranged around your kneecap. They don’t tell you that you will awaken to the sensation of having had a concrete block repeatedly dropped on your knee, or that the next weeks will be spent wondering who is sneaking into your bedroom at night and slamming the back side of a hatchet into your kneecap. And while I seem to remember spending the majority of my life with a right leg that bends at the knee upon request, this same leg now swears that no such motion has ever been initiated or successfully completed.

I started physical therapy on Monday. Harp work on turn arounds, cross-overs and cross-unders is currently replaced with leg work: quad sets and heel slides and leg lifts. I seem to be the only knee in the 9 am Monday/Wednesday/Friday time slot. There’s no competition for the stationary bike – I get to complete my assigned minutes uninterrupted. The shoulder rehab people remind me that PT could be worse. I can get through my 90 minute sessions without crying or threatening the therapist with the exercise equipment.   After a week of PT I can walk slowly for short distances, I can climb stairs with alternating feet, but I still must descend one leg at a time. Getting up from a chair requires more arm strength than leg strength. At home I remain tethered to a wonderful icing machine that pumps cold water through a pad wrapped around my knee, and that allows me to forget that I am supposed to be a bipedal being for however long I can stand for my knee to be frozen.

Today I just feel like whining about all of it. I’ve lost my grip on any semblance of a positive attitude, on any sense of perspective about this just not being that big a deal. Combing the newspaper for stories of people enduring far worse has not engendered any sense of gratitude for the current state of my knee being a temporary condition that will be resolved in a few weeks. The physical therapist’s encouragement about how well I am doing has not eased my frustration over not walking, not gardening, not driving, not playing my harp.  I like to think that I am a better, healthier, mature and more evolved human being than the current whining and despondent person I ‘m being. Nothing like pain with a side of immobility to bring out the truth. Inside me lurks a tantruming two-year old who pops out screaming when faced with moderate discomfort and inconvenience.

Alas, I am old enough and experienced enough and perhaps, when my knee is frozen and numb, wise enough to know that there is nothing to be done but get through each day, and hope for grace enough to keep me from making life any more miserable for the people around me.  Today, I’d best sign up for an extra helping of grace.

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