Dave’s ACL Diary: Doing it Solo [Part 10]

Wednesday, February 16, 2000 – Frustration, measured in degrees…

Well, as recovery approaches in some ways, it recedes rapidly in others.

I’ve made some strides toward independence this week. I’ve been shopping on my own, managed to get a couple showers, have been at work every day this week (though shorter days than I’d like – usually due to the time it takes me to get in in the morning. I am bettering this a day at a time). I’ve managed to lug the trash to the outside can, and to drag a 2-1/2 gallon container of distilled water (don’t ask…) back to the master bathroom in my backpack without further aggravating my back.

Shopping was kind of an adventure – I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to approach it. I had the general sense that the Krogers in town had something like Rascals with shopping baskets attached. I approached the new Kroger near my office, parked in the Handicapped space (had my permit handy), crutched in and got set up with an electric shopping cart. This Kroger was laid out quite differently from the rest of the Krogers in the area – perhaps an experiment. Still, the aisles were wide, and the cart negotiated the store with ease.

I was amazed at what a difference the cart made to my mobility. It must be a godsend to folks with problems bigger than mine. I was able to drive right out to the car, and the helpful Kroger bagger accompanied me out to the car and loaded up the trunk for me.

When I got home, I made use of my daypack and unloaded the car myself in a number of trips. Figuring I was on a roll, I put in a load of clothes, loaded and ran the dishwasher, and hustled all the trash out to the can (getting the full can to the curb is going to be an adventure…).

It made a huge difference in my outlook to go and do these things fairly independently (admittedly I had a lot of help from the infrastructure). Though friends have been quite helpful in so many ways, I’ve really needed to do some things for myself – and doing them has made me look more positively on the situation.

So I was in a pretty good mood when I went in for my next follow-up appointment this afternoon. But the mood was not to last.

The Doc looked me over, instructed his intern to remove my stitches (which he did without incident). He appeared to think I was progressing well. But when I asked about increasing the range-of-motion on my brace, he told me I could have it open to only 60 degrees, and that after another week! And not to go to 90 degrees for another week after that! AND that I’m still 2 weeks away from partial-weight-bearing!

This doc is not good, or at least hasn’t had CME on knees. Or messed up the operation and thinks he can recover it. Or something. I thought this was fishy at the time, and over the years, have come to the conclusion that I should not have gone to this guy for my operation, and could’ve gotten an identical outcome with less pain and expense by just getting fitted for a sports brace. Consider this option if you’re not certain you need surgery.

To say I was disappointed would be to put it mildly. Since I blame my continuing back pain on my compensation for the lack of mobility and lack of weight-bearing on my left leg, this was essentially a sentence to at least two more weeks of pointless back pain.

I also was unprepared for the duration of my time on crutches. Most of the diaries I’d read had patients on crutches for only a week or two. Further, it seemed from reading others’ diaries that early flexion was considered one key to a good recovery. I’m further frustrated that because my knee is limited by the brace to 30 degrees of flexion, I can’t even reach my left foot, and can’t sit anything like normally anywhere.

So another week before relief of any kind appears. I went into PT frustrated, angry. If anything good came out of today’s appointment, it was clearance to take a normal shower (though since I can’t reach the bottom closure of the brace to remove and replace it, it’s unclear that I will be able to shower any time soon).

The doc gave me a script for more of the back meds with which I’ve been fooling already (without complete success). PT went pretty well – the electrical stim was combined with straight-leg lifts for a decent workout on my quads. I’ve read that working to failure (that is, lifting ’till you can’t any more) was important when trying to build muscle mass. None of the exercises I’ve been given bring me anywhere close to failure.

The face of need in America?

I stopped at the local Eckerd to get the script filled. On the way in, a woman (with a shopping cart and two kids in tow) approached me.

“Excuse me, sir – my daughters and I are going to the supermarket and we’re a little short; I wondered if you could help us out?”

I didn’t immediately comprehend that I was being asked for money, and I begged her pardon. She reiterated the request.

Now I’m usually a pretty soft touch, but quite apart from the current need to conserve all my cash (every time I turn around I’ve got a co-pay or a prescription or something to get), quite apart from my chagrin that the woman would baldly beg at me in front of her kids on the sidewalk like it was no big deal, something just didn’t feel right. Maybe it was her manner, maybe that she was too well made-up, but something just didn’t jibe. I said “I’m sorry” and went on into the Eckerd, feeling a little guilty.

Well, my guilt evaporated completely when several minutes later, crutching around in the Eckerd while waiting for my script to be filled, I saw the woman at the photo counter asking how much it would take to get her prints out. As I walked out, I saw her leave with a guy in an SUV.

What the hell just happened?

Boy, there are a lot of people who could use a job, a hand, people who can’t work for whatever reason and could use some money, but I don’t see where this woman fit in. We’ve got record low unemployment – swing a dead cat and you’ll hit an open position in Atlanta.

Y’know, thinking back about it now, if she’d said “Hey, I’m a couple bucks short to get my photos out”, I might’ve even have come up with the difference. Just a bizarre experience all around.

I don’t even know what to say to sum it up. People are scary and dangerous – avoid them whenever you can…