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A New Dog And An Old Knee

Posted Mar 18 2013 12:34pm

I wish I could say I did it dancing an Irish jig in a fine pub with a handsome Irishman after putting back a pint of Guinness. But alas, there was no dancing, no fine pub, and no pint. (But there was a handsome Irishman *grin*)

I spent a good portion of Sunday afternoon in the ER learning what I might have done to my already horrific right knee on Saturday night. I’d felt it twist a bit when I stood up from my office chair and turned slightly to put my computer to sleep. (My computer being a rebuilt ProBook laptop, sent to me via my accidental damage warranty, to replace the ProBook that couldn’t handle its liquor. One glass of wine and it was toast. See "Armed and Less Dangerous") It was nothing too noticeable, nothing painful, until I tried to walk and my knee buckled like an asphalt driveway on a 100-degree day. My kneecap moved all over the place, like a silver ball in a plastic-domed cardboard puzzle. I could NOT get that sucker back in place.

When I awoke the next morning, my knee had swollen to the size of a small cantaloupe. To get downstairs, I had to sit and slide. My toes were numb and my foot was cold. It was time to hit the ER.

The doctor said I most likely sprained it and tore some ligaments, but without an MRI, he couldn’t know exactly what was wrong. One look at my knee on a good day and you know it's toast. It’s been living on borrowed time since I was 18 and I’ll be 50 in five months. It's accrued a lot of interest in 32 years. But like an old car you can’t afford to replace, I just keep changing the oil, hoping she’ll give me a few more miles.

We nixed the MRI idea because it would be a waste of time and money. I assumed the doctor would suggest draining the fluid, as I’ve had done many times before, but he said the arthritis and the bone spurs would make draining more difficult and he didn’t want to risk aggravating my knee any further or cause infection. He said I needed to wear a knee stabilizer and follow the RICE principal – rest, ice, compression, elevation.

I waited until he left my room to shed a few tears. This knee dealio couldn’t have come at a worse time. I just adopted a beautiful 18-month-old coon hound/lab mix on Friday. Her original name was Whitney, but she doesn’t look like or act like a Whitney. I thought about Sid, but g-baby Claire said she already has too many Sidney’s in her life (Sidney her best friend and Sidney Crosby, her favorite hockey player). So I named her Alice because I like "White Rabbit" and because her back legs reminded me a little of my great-grandmother Alice’s legs: skinny and slightly bowed.

Except for the three hours I spent out with the Irishman Saturday night, I’ve been with Alice constantly since Friday morning. We’re attached like flies on stink (and she does sometimes stink as her body adjusts to new food…yikes!). Underweight, my job is to help Alice gain 8 pounds, which I’d happily give her if liposuction transfer was possible. Alice’s job is to get me out of the house and be more active. That’s going to be a challenge with a bum knee.

A nurse came in with the brace and she saw me wiping my eyes.

“I want to tell you something…” she began, and I thought, ‘Here we go. Another well-intentioned person who has a friend who has a friend who had her knee replaced when she was 79 and she wondered why she didn’t do it sooner.’ I hear that story all the time.

“I’m 56 and have been an ER nurse for 30 years,” she said. “I’m on my feet for long hours at a time. Several years ago, my right knee started hurting. It kept getting worse until two years ago, I decided to see an orthopedic surgeon. He told me, ‘How in the hell do you expect me to fix something like that when you’re so damn fat?’”

I gasped.

“Yup, that’s what he said. But he replaced my knee and it was the best thing I’d ever done for myself,” she said.  

“Wait,” I said, still reeling from her doctor’s comment. “He spoke to you like that and you let him operate?”

She laughed. “He wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know. I know I’m fat. I have been all my life. I’ve never been thin like you.”

As she wrapped my knee in the brace, I thought about all the assumptions floating around the room – hers and mine – and about how much easier it is to assume than it is to remain curious and open-minded. 

The older I get, the more I think I know, when the truth is – to quote Smash Mouth – my brain gets smart but my head gets dumb. This is particularly true when it comes to things I fear, like knee replacement. I recycle old, unexamined thoughts or turn a blind eye to the truth.

Isn't she a beaut? I might be able to get a few more miles out of her (Is there anything a hot bath won't cure?), but I will give knee replacement a little less resistance and a little more thought, especially now that Alice will be needing my knees to keep up with her for the next 13 years or so.
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