Cut Loose

This is a continuation of Fall, which is a Memoir.

It has been, at this point, close to four months since my injury and I am tired. Tired of using my cane, and wearing the brace to hobble my way through this socioeconomic blight of a neighborhood, down to the convenience store that is five blocks away, bright and early, and fully hung, over three mornings a week to catch the bus out to my physical therapy and then to hurry across several lanes of traffic to make it to the bus back when I am done. I am sorely tired of leaning on my daughter’s stroller as I limp a mile and a half each way, several times a week to the grocery store to pick up what limited provisions I can carry on my back. I am tired of being the one waiting up for my significant other to get home from work; even the slight hint of irony to our role reversals just pisses me off more.

Therapy for my knee has become more aggravating. One recent pool session involved playing race the clock as the water slowly drained out so they could fix the aquatic treadmill; the device that is supposed to be an integral part of my treatment and yet has been out of service since the day before my first appointment. Upon my arrival for what has turned out to my final encounter with Jude and the pool the treadmill was working but, it turns out to be almost unnecessary due to how far along I am in my recovery anyway. What is perhaps even more annoying, my last land appointment my therapist was absent and so I was left in the care of someone who actually listened to my concerns and made an attempt to involve himself as I did my exercises, all while handling two other patients and never once fidgeting with his fancy new smart phone nor going and hanging out at the desk in the middle of the gym. This only reinforces my opinion that my regular guy is an irreparable douche with a bush broom attached to his upper lip. All of this while my anxiety is growing over the tiny little fact that my limited insurance is about to top out on how many of these oh so extremely therapeutic appointments are going to be paid for.

With all of these things in mind I go to my evaluation at the orthopedic clinic that is handling my case. The same as always Physicians Assistant scowls at me because I am still using my cane which I was presented with the last time I saw him. On that previous visit he tried to ream me because I could barely flex my knee at all despite having been to therapy a grand total of once, and now I have to show how far I have come since. Standing with my back to the wall and holding on to the back of a chair for balance I slowly raise my emaciated leg, I force my foot farther and farther back towards the wall despite the stiffness and pain. My weeks in the vice like contraptions in the physical therapy room have paid off as I manage to eek out the ninety degrees that is required for the PA’s satisfaction. He tells me I can sit down and he scampers off with my latest set of x-rays to go see his master, the actual doctor in charge of my case.

It seems it is another busy day for the clinic and my attendant doesn’t return for half an hour. When he returns I am told the good news, the thing I have wanted the most since I started coming to this building. I am getting out of the brace. I can hardly believe it at all. I find myself excitedly asking about how much longer before I can stop using the cane and get back to my job at the restaurant.

He says, “Right away, you can take that brace and cane home and burn them, Dr. Vlasic says to cut you loose.”

And just like that I am ticked off all over again. “Cut me loose.” This phrase should have been a great relief to me. Instead, I what I hear is that some jackhole of a doctor whose name sounds like a brand of pickles and hasn’t talked to me or even looked at me once since the second or third day after I woke up in the hospital, who may have a piece of paper in his files that lists my occupation as a cook is letting his testy little minion tell me that I have been dismissed from their collective presence and I am free to figure out on my own how I am supposed to return to work with what limited mobility I have. I am not their problem anymore, that is what is really be explained here in not so many words. I am a poor person, with the type of insurance that poor people have and that is not going to last very much longer so I am being “cut loose” before they are stuck trying to squeeze money from my limited personal finances instead.

At the end of the day I am left with a certifying that I am fit to return to my job that hastily scrawled by someone who’s probably closest experience to what I do for a living is that the have at one point eaten in a restaurant, and the kind of deep seeded anger and depression that could almost be mistaken like optimism from the outside. I manage to shove the accursed and by this time foul-smelling brace into my back pack and then, out of habit, lean on my cane as I make my way past the reception desk to the elevators. I have a bus to catch and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a one way ride this time.

Awkward Steps

This is a continuation of Fall.

The buzzing of the saw sends cruel, teasing vibrations up and down my whole body. The cutters banter back and forth about who operates the saw the fastest. I am not sure of their consensus but who ever it is must have the day off, this is taking forever. This marks the second time I have been in the cutting room since my surgery and I hope it to be my last.

With a soft cracking sound, and a blast of cool air, I can see it now. The white, atrophied thing with the clumsy scar running through the middle, taking up most of my vision. It is my leg or what my leg has rotted into over the past months.After this long I feel a highly disassociated from it, I’ve come to know it more as a useless turd, wrapped in a dark blue fiberglass shell that I was forced to drag around whenever I need to be somewhere. If I was poetically inclined I might think of this in terms of cocoons and moths and other shit like that but, I’m not.

My emaciated limb now rests in the back half of the cast supported by a stirrup. The front half lays next to me propped in the corner with the crutches. Those fucking things again, they’ve long since stopped hurting when I use them, but just looking at the exhausts me. Unconsciously, I flex my ankle and accomplish no movement but, manage to experience excruciating pain as I attempt to use long immobilized tendons. The absence of the upper portion of the cast makes me very aware of the air conditioning. The Physicians Assistant walks into the cutting room.

He’s friendly enough in that rushed professional sort of way that lets you know that he has dozens of cases to see to in the next hour and if he could just get you taken care of he’ll be more than happy to tick off the box next to your name and you can get on with whatever it is that you do when his presence is not required. He asks me how I’ve been? How’s my pain level? How I’m doing on my meds.

I am very specific when I explain; I have been in a cast that makes most activity uncomfortable and sitting on the toilet an acrobatic stunt, I’ve been in a lot of pain obviously, but I am managing it well, and that I’m fine on my painkillers that I have been using  as little as possible because; they fuck with my mood, make me unable to concentrate, and they keep me from being able to shit, which is no good for anyone’s mood. I believe using in total honesty when it comes to dealing with these medical types.

He just nods and scribbles something on his clipboard and tells me he is going to go ahead prescribe me more pain medicine anyway. Just Lortabs this time, a bit of a step down from the usual seemingly endless supply of Oxycodone. Also he wants me to switch from ibuprofen to acetaminophen for inflammation for some bullshit reason that I gather has something to do with my liver.

Great, more pills I don’t want to take, good thing I’m an honest man I know a lot of people who would shit solid gold bricks if they knew the mountain of pharmaceuticals I am sitting on. It’s a tempting idea, given my lack of income at the moment, but doing time for a felony of that magnitude is not the way I want this to go. My leg is strapped to the newly sawn-in-half cast with an ACE bandage and I am instructed to crutch my way through the labyrinthine halls of the orthopedic clinic to the X-ray room.

It strikes me as odd, how a place that treats people who can’t walk isn’t designed with them in mind. Several films are taken while the elderly radiologist babbles on about how she is just getting over a cold and her daughters school/wedding/funeral or whatever the hell she’s saying. I don’t think she realizes that I can’t hear her when she is behind the glass window where the controls to the camera are. I don’t care enough to follow along at any rate but, I nod and smile at her any way. When we are through she helps me off the table and I am sent hobbling on my way to wait outside the cutting room until the PA catches up with his workload. When he finally scurries by he gets someone lower down on the ladder to get me moved into a small consultation room. Here I wait some more.

Eventually he figures out what room I am in, and shows me one of the films they took of my knee. A couple of wires and a screw. That’s it, that’s what all of this is about.

 I fracture my patella in three places and that’s what I’ve got for a memento. A couple of wires and a screw. Well two screws actually, He lets me know that I can’t see the other one in this film. Good news though, I’m staying out of the cast this time.

They order me fitted for a brace, and write me up for some physical therapy appointments. They take a few notes on how much mobility I have in my joint, it turns out to be basically none. They strap the brace on me and bring me my shoes and discharge papers. The PA walks out with a definite air of one who has fulfilled his obligations and shuts the door with a gentle click. I am left alone.

Sometime later the door opens and, much to the surprise of one of the clinic workers, I am still in there, crying. I can’t bend my knee far enough to get my shoe on, and trying to do it is causing me unbearable pain. She brings me some tissues, puts my shoe on for me. As she helps me stand up, I get a gentle reminder to try and walk heel to toe, it’ll take some time to remember how to do it. I get myself under control and head to the reception desk for checkout. I never did manage to thank her for helping me.

A brief elevator ride later I am out the front doors.  I am running late so I’ll have to set up my therapy appointments over the phone after I get home. Using only one of the accursed crutches for support  I use short, awkward steps to  cross the street in time to catch the last bus home. It’s not much but I am walking under my own power again and it makes me feel better than I have in months.