Sunday, March 07, 2010

IT ONLY HURTS WHEN I LAUGH

It all started in the winter of 1983. I was invited by a group of young guys to go skiing. I had never been on skis before and always wondered why people would drive around all year with "Think Snow" bumper stickers on their cars. I mean it's a long drive to the nearest snow and it seemed like it was expensive and took quite a bit of effort to do it. Why are people so passionate about skiing?
I rented some skis, poles, and gloves. Someone loaned everything else. When we arrived and got settled the group headed for the slopes. I went to the "bunny slope" with a lot of other beginners. Everyone else headed up to the top of the mountain.
I got the "hang of it" right away. This is gonna be easy I thought. The first few runs on the easy slopes proved me right. I was Winter Olympic material! Now I know why there is all the excitement and passion about riding down a snow covered mountains on two planks. Everything was going great until my left ski caught something and I went head over heels and landed like a pretzel. My skis were still on. That was the problem. The bindings were on too tight and in my fall I tore my ACL. Well needless to say, I spent the next 3 days sitting down nurturing a very swollen knee that was very painful. Apparently the most common ACL injuries are easy to predict. First time skiers. Older males. Overweight and out of shape. Guilty as charged.
My surgeon, Doctor Gerstein figured that at my age and shape I wouldn't need an ACL so he just cut if off. I never was aware of the consequences of the procedure. Over the next 15 years my knee became more and more unstable. It came to a point where getting out of my truck was inviting a fall because my knee would buckle badly.
I decided on an ACL replacement in 1996. It went well. Not much pain and I recovered quickly. Over the next 14 years the knee joint became more and more irritated so on December 8, 2009 I opted for a full knee replacement.
Dr. Karl Christoffersen did the operation in Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz. The image is above.
I don't remember much about what went on in the hospital. I was given a whole series of painkillers and I was catatonic. I couldn't relate to anyone or anything. I had been taking painkillers for a spine and broken leg injury for a while so I was used to the medications. When I had a bad reaction to the painkillers in the hospital the doctors removed every medication I had and then expected me to be alright. It only made matters worse. I "came to" enough to convince them that I was fine and ready to go home. "Get me outa here" was all I wanted. I could have gone to a rehab place but I had been there several years ago visiting a friend and it was dreadful so I didn't want to go there either. LET ME GO HOME was all I wanted.
Well I was at home for 4 days and don't remember anything then either. So it was decided that I should go the rehab after all.
One of my greatest fears is to alone in a place like this waiting for God. I just didn't want that to happen to me. What do I see as I'm being wheeled in? An old man laying on a bed all alone in his room with his mouth open and staring at the ceiling. Bingo! This is the place I fear the most. There wasn't much I could about it right then so here I go on a great adventure and that it was. The stay there was very difficult for me from an emotional point of view. So much pain and suffering all around. Sounds of people moaning in the night and attendants that smelled like they had just taken a bath in cologne or perfume would come in regularly to wake me up to give me a pain and sleeping pill. The strapped contraptions on my leg to simulate bending. I also had to wear really tight thigh high hose to prevent clotting. I still have scars from that. The food was beyond terrible. I didn't eat most of it for 6 days. I lost 24 lbs in 2 weeks. What little food that was in me wouldn't come out because of the medication. It's just as well. The toilet wouldn't work as was leaking all over the bathroom floor. I did something there that I should do more often. I gave up control over what other people did. All I could do was stay centered and accept what came next. It was a very liberating feeling.
I was very uncomfortable most of the time. Friends came by to visit and I wasn't much company. My good friend Robert and my son Alec came by regularly and brought me sustenance from the outside.
It was a couple of days before Christmas (notice the Santa hat hanging) before I came home. It was not a very comfortable time that lasted about a month even though I began to walk unaided within 2 weeks of the operation.
I was really grateful that the surgeon kept the length of the incision to a minimum and that he used sutures instead of staples. I healed quickly.
This is my knee in x-ray. The white areas are titanium. The surgeon used a stainless steel sawzall to cut the ends of my leg bones. He then drilled holes in the top bone and bottom one. With a mallet he pounded the metal parts into place. The bone will grow around the metal and hold it strong.There is no space between the metal parts. There is a piece of hard plastic type material that is "glued" onto the bottom piece and the top piece rides in it.

It's been 14 weeks since the operation. I am still exercising every day. Walking and receiving physical therapy. I can wall pretty well. I can climb stairs and I can drive my truck so I'm mostly back to "normal". At night I still experience a lot of serious pain that I've been told can last for up to a year.
I was also told that there would be a period of time when I would be wondering if this whole thing was a good idea. Well I'm still wondering. I'll be glad when that parts over as well.
These photos were taken with my iPhone.



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About Me

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Santa Cruz, CA, United States
I am a very shy introverted photographer. My psycho-therapist says that I may be able to come out of my shell almost any time now.