In the last week of July 1987, I had corrective surgery on my right knee. Medically, Dr. Pete Anson called the procedure a ‘patellar realignment’. Because you are all smart, you understand that my kneecaps were not in proper alignment. They tended to pull out of place briefly (and painfully) and then snap back into place (also painfully). Having tried basic rehab to attempt to strengthen the muscles and ligaments around my kneecaps failed, surgery became the best option. I’ve always said that this was the end of my baseball career, but it was over long before surgery.
I remember several things from my hospital stay. I remember my ‘roommate’ for the weekend complaining about everything. He had been in a motorcycle accident and had his jaw wired shut. He had been in the hospital for three weeks and had graduated to vanilla milkshakes for food. I remember my friends bringing me Domino’s Pizza—which now seems particularly cruel if your roommate has his jaw wired shut. I remember watching TV and in one of my life’s most ironic moments, caught the flash of a knee replacement surgery.
I remember needing to remain at the hospital until Monday so physical therapy could verify that I could walk properly on crutches. I crutched through the therapy room and demonstrated how to properly maneuver stairs on crutches. Flying high on Percocet, I consider that a victory, if not miraculous.
My right leg was swaddled and immobilized. At one check up with Dr. Anson, I asked about the strange bump at the top of my tibia. He pulled out an X-ray and showed me the one-inch surgical screw holding a portion of my quadricep in place. Later that fall I discovered how painful it was to accidently knock said surgical screw against a coffee table.
Rehab began that September. After school three times a week, I would drive to the Good Shepherd Rehab Center on Cedar Crest. My young-ish, gregarious, female therapist had me stretching, bending, standing, walking. Until one day, I was met by a stocky, male therapist. He led me past my usual mat. He put me on a waist level bench and closed the door behind him. I don’t want to talk about what happened in there.
This may seem like a lot of story with no clear point. When we consulted with Dr. Anson about surgery, he used surgeon talk for how simple the surgery and recover would be. My knee was worse than he thought and there was nothing easy about it. Surgery was in July. I could not bear weight on my leg until halfway into September. I used crutches at school until sometime in November. I had therapy three times a week until the first or second week of December. I had the same surgery on my left knee at the end of January (less complications)(more Percocet driven showing off).
In my head, I thought that we would navigate COVID-19 better. We started March with a unity, a harmony of being in this together. We are still in this. We are certainly not together. Maybe we believed we would flatten the curve and trudge onward. Maybe we believed the virus an inconvenient, but ultimately fixable problem. Maybe we liked the ‘Novel’ part of the Novel COVID-19 and the sabbath it gave us from our schedules. Now restless, we long for resolution—even if it is flawed resolution.
I’m not a doctor, but I’ve been here before. I speak as one who knows the difference between a sprint and a marathon—not that I can do either. If we thought we could sprint through this pandemic, take a couple of shortcuts, and come out ahead, we were wrong. We will experience more detours, more discouragement, and, possibly, a stock, male, KGB trained physical therapist.
What I’m saying is this: we have a long way to go, friends. Pace yourselves. Breath. Conserve your energy. This marathon has just begun.