On Monday last week I was getting ready for work when my right knee "locked" in the bent position, more or less at a 90 degree angle. No matter how hard I tried, it would not straighten, and the pain was excruciating. I called my husband for help. I was in our bedroom upstairs and could hear him in the kitchen below, cheerfully clattering coffee cups and cereal bowls as he prepared our breakfast. But he apparently couldn't hear my plaintive cries over the breakfast din.
By using furniture, the doorways, and the banister rail to pull myself along, I managed to make my one-legged way downstairs and into the dining room. My husband saw me hop past the kitchen door. "What are you doing?" he asked.
I explained to him the trouble I was having with my knee.
"Does it hurt?" he asked, his face wrinkled with concern. When I responded with a hearty, "Oh, yes!" he queried, "More than having a baby?"
More than having 20 babies, actually. Off to the doctor I went, for X-rays, an MRI, a surgical consult. I had "loose bodies," either calcium deposits or bits of cartilage, floating in the joint space, large enough that they had started to inconveniently wedge themselves into the joint mechanism. I needed to have surgery to remove them but arthroscopically: two little holes, some steri-strips, an ace wrap and crutches for a couple of days. I was home only hours after the surgery and scheduled to head back to work after the long weekend. Amazing.
I say amazing because 36 years ago, when I was 18 and a senior in high school, I had surgery done on the same knee, for basically the same reason. I didn't have the problem with it "locking"back then, but I remember the doctor telling me about the "loose bodies" and "flushing them out." But 36 years ago, that surgery entailed making a five inch incision along the outside of my kneecap. I was in the hospital for three days afterward, then sent to my hoarded home in a cast that extended from a few inches above my knee down to my ankle. With crutches.
"I know your first surgery on that knee was a long time ago, but do you think you remember how to use crutches?" the nursing assistant/rehab aide asked me, as I munched toast in the
recovery room. "It's kind of like riding a bike; it's something you never really forget."
Well, she was right about that. I will never forget that first experience with crutches in the hoard as I tried to wrestle my three-legged way through piles and paths simply to get to the bathroom. The feet of my crutches would either slide on newspaper or get caught in some kind of debris. The upper part of the crutch often couldn't fit through the available space. And the stairs! They were the worst! Even finding a clear spot to put the end of my crutch was a challenge. Of course I fell; my crutch coming down on a surface I thought was solid but wasn't.... just part of a pile. Down I went, crutches flying, cracking my cast in half.
"Oh, well," my father and mother said. "You'll be out of that cast in a couple of weeks anyway. It
probably doesn't matter much now."
In my own home, 36 years later, I climbed the stairs with my crutches with ease: no clutter, a secure railing, a loving husband keeping a watchful eye.
"Hey, honey," he said, "You're doing great."
"Thanks," I said, "But this is nothing."