I am trying to make the most of the lazy days of summer, as my dearth of posts indicates. I have been dutifully rehabbing my knee- or rather, the substrate of atrophied muscles and connectors that should be supporting the new knee. The good news: I have been able to walk without pain- even making an outlet mall trip where I bought crazy holographic shoes for 19 bucks to celebrate. The bad news: the knee is not at all integrated into my left leg, thanks to a lifetime of incorrect walking. How can a human being walk incorrectly her whole life?
The knee top today- pretty, eh?
It starts with the fact that I was extremely pigeon toed. My left leg was so twisted that my kneecap was pointed toward the other leg. My parents had 6 kids in 9 years – no money, no time- and so I first saw an orthopedic guy when I was 8. “Orthopedic shoes” was the prescription, and thus I was consigned to a life of Buster Brown clunkers. I also wore my shoes on the wrong feet to force the leg to move outward. My Mom did manipulations and I had ortho homework- walking for hours on a straight line while making my feet look like duck feet. All of this energy produced some good progress- my left foot no longer tangled with my right, and I was knock kneed rather than deformed. On the negative side, when I took the fourth grade IQ tests featuring feet- where you identify which is the right foot among 4 oddly positioned feet- I was crushed by the nun’s refusal to allow me to take my socks off to check out where my big toes were. I was completely addled, and my scores could have placed me in special ed, had there been special ed in the Catholic school system.
At any rate, both my gait and my academic standing improved as I grew older. (Thank God testing became based upon reading rather than graphics. Maybe that is why I ended up an English teacher- gratitude for being rescued from the “mentally deficient” designation) Underneath my jaunty stride, I presume that cartilage was being tormented. Perhaps I took a few tumbles that I cannot recall- but in the end, I was bone on bone at the knee. Trust me, doctors do not care about the “why”- they are fixers, not historians. Dr. Collins took care of the bone structure’s rehab on April 26. I have been declared structurally sound.
BUT- every other component in my leg is rebelling. My quadricep muscles are mush from 6 years of peg leg walking (to avoid bone on bone flexion). My ACL and IT bands are knotted and ineffective. My new knee is rebelling, clattering around and clicking madly. Rehab is the answer. Now I understand that Cheshire Cat smile that knee patients have. They know. They just do not tell you until you are post surgery.
I thought rehab would be like rejoining a gym. No. My physical therapy takes place in a fluorescent hell called Hinsdale Physical Therapy and Rehab. My main therapist is a stalwart specialist named Gus Flick. He works at the hospital, and so I had the opportunity to work with him when I was barely ambulatory. All the nurses remarked that I was fortunate to have him overseeing me. He taught me the survival skills that let me fly the coop. Now he is trying to get me to organize my muscle groups, and it is an uphill battle.
Our sessions are closer to sadomasochism than exercise. I lie on my stomach, put my left foot in a stretch out strap
and try to force my knee to bend so my foot touches my butt. My knee is strapped down to a table for enlarging time periods to stretch the leg into full extension. The muscles scream. I trampoline, bike, march, stretch, balance, leg press, stair-step, bike- and that is the good part. The part I need the most, and hate the most, starts when the elbows and rolling pins
come out, and are applied to the twisted, knotted muscles in my leg. Sometimes I can feel the muscles snap as they give way to the pressure. When I leave, I feel like my leg has hope. Then the muscles rebel and tighten. And I start over.
Last week Gus was at continuing education and I had a session with a woman who was 7 months pregnant.
I was sure that this would be more manageable than my time with Gus or Susan- after all, Susan taught me a quad stretch involving a styrofoam tube
that produced my first self-inflicted bruising. My little mother-to-be had the best pointed elbows- she hit every knot, every tight muscle. She stretched me and massaged me in new places and with new vigor. She warned that I would bruise. It was a great session, because I left with all parts doing their proper job. I was determined to stay loose. My newly arranged tendons and muscles would stay put. But they didn’t want to. They wanted to rest, swell and bruise. Which they did.
This is 4 days after my pummeling- is this too explicit?
In the end, the work is all up to me. I have my own little house of horrors at home- I own the straps, styrofoam tube, leg weights, elastic bands and my exercycle. Going to therapy reminds me that the only way to be 100% is to commit to the pain. The words”no pain, no gain” are discouraged, but there is no greater truth. I get hysterical because I am still challenged to do many everyday things- getting up from a sitting position requires an orchestration, for example. I think it will take some time to undo what my legs have learned since my shoes were on the wrong feet. But I am going to do it. In the meantime, I am fine with having legs that look like a leopard. Physical therapy tattoos, Gus calls them.
I am in Michigan; I dragged Steve from the home front to enjoy a change of view. I will be therapy free for a few days. My instinct to plop must be tempered by the realization that Gus’ house of horrors awaits. He will know if I have been a slacker. I brought my strap, and a noodle for water aerobics. The dogs will get good walks, with healthy doses of steps. I am not going backwards.