Sunday, January 31, 2010

Is That An Exclamation Point In Your Pocket?

Preface: Upon our departure from Waterloo last Fall, I left my trusty MacBook in the capable hands of my best friend's husband, Gregoire. Since the recent series of unfortunate events dictated that we would no longer be roaming the wilds of South America for the next three months and would instead be safely ensconced in some apartment or other in Buenos Aires, I decided I would be able to use my computer after all, and asked my mom to bring it with her to Argentina. I emailed Gregoire to tell him the news, and the following is his response.

To: Gillian
From: Gregoire
Subject: Confession

Gillian, how are you? How are things? Good. Good. Say, I've got something for you to consider. Take a moment and ask yourself, honestly, how attached are you to the numbers 1 and 2 (and while considering this, throw in the ! and @ signs also for consideration)?

When you take the time to really think about it, aren't these some of the most overrated numerals and symbols at our disposal. Wouldn't you agree that we'd be better off without them. That difficult choices would be made easy, that life would be simpler if you no longer had to rely on these alpha-numeric crutches? Why start way back at 1 or 2 when there's the option of starting at 3. 1 and 2 are static and slow. With 3 you're warmed up and already on your way. Is there ever a need for the exclamation point? Must we raise our voices, be it in anger or joy? Are we not adults? Can we not discuss things calmly and rationally? Can we not celebrate with a certain amount of restraint? (And let's be honest, doesn't the @ symbol remind you of an asshole?)

Great. Then you'll be happy to hear that I spilt beer on your laptop and the bastardly 1 and 2 keys no longer work! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. :-(, :-(, :-(. (I've resorted to emoticons--I'm seriously sorry.)

I had planned on replacing the keyboard before your return (the rest of it is working fine) but now that your Mom is taking the computer with her there won't be time. (I called the shop here, but they don't stock replacement parts and have to order them in.) If you want to order a new keyboard from Apple, I'll send you my card #. If your macbook is like my ibook, they're easy to replace. Again, I'm sorry.

In other unrelated news, I saw the doc on Friday and everything is going to plan. I can walk (although with minimal flexion in my knee -- imagine Frankenstein had a baby with a zombie) and I've already started physiotherapy. I swear on my mother's birthday (which is Tuesday) that my next post will not be related to my orthopaedic challenges.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Like Riding A Bike

Everyone's fine. My family and friends are all, to the best of my knowledge, safe and healthy. I wake up every morning beside the most gentle and kind human being I've ever met. My mom flew all the way to Buenos Aires (Richie!) to help me wash my hair and get dressed and ultimately help me preserve a tiny bit of dignity in front of the aforementioned gentle and kind human being (to whom I would still like to appear even remotely attractive). We're staying in a beautiful apartment that belongs to another kind and generous human being, and for the most part, I'm comfortable and pain-free and grateful that this is a known, temporary setback and in six months, give or take, everything will be back to normal.

And still, over the past two weeks, I have felt an overwhelming sense of loss.

At first it was just the loss of the rest of our planned travels. We were on our way to Brazil, to sit on the beach and work on a farm and travel down the Amazon River and, of course, taste myriad new and exotic fruits. But let's face it: After the experiences we've had in the past 10 months, it's hard to feel deprived of these things for very long.

There is, however, a more personal loss. Six years ago I went into surgery with a partially-torn ACL and a bucket-handle tear in the meniscus. I came out of surgery with a reconstructed ACL and a repaired meniscus, which meant that eventually, after a lot of blood, sweat, and yes, tears, in rehab, my knee was even better than it had been before the operation. Apparently so was my ambition, as within a year of surgery I completed an Olympic-distance triathlon and have since run three marathons.

Last week I went into the OR with a ruptured ACL and a bucket-handle tear in the meniscus. I was wheeled out with a reconstructed ACL, but this time the meniscus couldn't be repaired, and part of it was removed. I'm not sure how much, exactly - a third? A half? And really, people walk around all the time with no meniscus at all, so why the fuss?

I'll never run another marathon. In fact, I probably won't do much running at all. There are all sorts of medical reasons why it isn't a great idea to run, especially on pavement, after a partial meniscectomy, and I'm kind of hoping these knees will be around for a while. So there's short-term loss, like right now I can't walk or even get out of bed by myself, which sucks. But then there's the running thing, an activity with which I fell in love just a few years ago, after hating on sports for 30 years. For me, that's the real loss. As I look at the pictures taken during the 2007 NYC Marathon, one of my most favourite days of all time, I am filled with gratitude to have had that amazing experience, and at the same time, so very sad to have lost that potential.

I start physiotherapy on Friday, the exciting and sometimes gruelling rehabilitation period during which I will relearn to walk, run (slowly, and on a treadmill), balance, and climb stairs. Before I know it I'll be riding a bike (as a friend of mine says, cycling is like running with even tighter clothes and cooler gear), and of course I'm already planning my first century ride in 2011, because you know, that's how I roll.

In the meantime I'm reminding myself, as one of my best friends reminded me just the other day, that just as she had to after her ACL reconstruction, I need to "let myself grieve for the things I lost (including the potential things I lost in the future)." And OK, I'm also daydreaming about the shapeliness of my future cycling legs.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Surgery Recap

Final Score

New ACL: 1
Meniscus: -1/3*


Dr. Metallica Bourdain has great beside manner. He also smells good, which is probably more than can be said for either James Hetfield or Mr. Bourdain.

There was no dulce de leche to be had! What a travesty.

All that kissing that goes on here in Argentina? Even happens in the OR! Like, all the assistants and the anaesthesiologist greeted me with a kiss before they knocked me out.

Epidurals are where it's at.

I had surgery in a hospital run by monks! Yesterday before the operation a very adorable (and small) priest came into my room and said a little prayer. Today we saw many small and adorable nuns roaming the halls, wearing all-white habits with a big red cross on the front. Of course I was not-so-secretly hoping that they would break into song (I've only seen "The Sound of Music" about 200 times). It didn't happen, so I thought I'd get them started with a few lyrics.

Knee Surgery Songs for the Sisters of Clínica San Camila in Buenos Aires

How Do Fix a Tear in the Meniscus?
(to the tune of "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?")

How do you fix a tear in the meniscus?
How do you reconstruct an ACL?
How do you get a girl who's very active
to relax for a while
so that she can heal
and walk?

(to the tune of "Edelweiss")

You were torn so we fixed you

Made anew
With a screw
And a graft from patella

New ligament won't you stabilize

You were torn so we fixed you

* I am actually in possession of the removed meniscus. I know, gross! But the good doctor seemed excited to give it to us, in its little vial of fluid (grosser!). Do you think I could sell it on etsy? I mean, technically I made it, right?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Oh, Hello, Doctor

I admit it: On the weekend I was having a hard time seeing anything resembling a bright side. I sort of intellectually knew one was there, but after a week and a half of not walking, not to mention the dignity one loses every time she utters the words, "Can you please help me put on my underwear?" - well, you get the idea. Anyway, on Saturday night I pulled myself together enough to go to one of the two bars in Buenos Aires showing NFL football, hoisted my leg up on an extra chair, and drank a few half-pints of beer (pacing!). At some point I started talking to an American guy sitting at the table next to us. I learned that his Argentine friend, also at the table, had had ACL reconstruction six months before, and had a surgeon he really liked. Score!

The next day I Googled said surgeon and found an email address for him. I wrote him a note explaining my situation and asking how I could best schedule an appointment with him. Amazingly, he replied that evening to tell me he could meet me at 5 p.m. on Monday. I wrote back to ask him if he speaks English, because while our mad Spanish skillz enable us to telephone-order pizza, we're not quite at the level of discussing soft tissue repair. Happily, he does.

We went to meet the good doctor this afternoon. He looks like Anthony Bourdain, and on Friday night he's going to see Metallica! I think I have a crush. He showed us some informative-yet-slightly-nauseating diagrams of how the surgery will go, and on Thursday he's going to fix my knee. I'll spend the night in the hospital (fingers crossed for dulce de leche-flavoured Jell-O), and on Friday my mom's coming! Hooray!

I don't think we'll make it to the Metallica show, though. Next time.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I'm Not Fluent in Spanish, But...

According to Google Translate, ruptura en asa de balde means "bucket-handle tear," which also means "bad news knee surgery times." Of course that's just from the letter that was helpfully included with the MRI images; maybe the doctor will have a different interpretation?

A girl can hope. Futilely, maybe, but still.

P.S. I just told a new Irish friend the news over chat, and she says she's going to get me "locked" tonight. I don't know what that means in regular English, but I suspect I'll be even less able to walk tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tengo dos tornillos de titanio en la rodilla derecha.

Trip updates are much more boring when they're about busted knees.

When we arrived at the hospital for the MRI on Saturday morning, we were informed that the machine was broken, and that it had been for 10 days. Clever readers will note that this means the machine was also broken two days previously, when I made the appointment in the first place.

Anyway. We went to another hospital and made another appointment and I successfully had the test on Monday morning. The results will be available Thursday evening and I hope to see a doctor or three on Friday to figure out my options. In the meantime my diet consists of things I can carry in a bag while using crutches (yogurt, apples, granola bars), and hobbies include checking Facebook status updates, learning Spanish words for knee anatomy (menisco! ligamento cruzado anterior!), and thanking Ken for bringing me the ice pack.

* "I have two titanium screws in my right knee," a potentially important Spanish phrase when you're about to be put into a giant magnetic tube.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Back to the Future

Welcome to 2010! I was initially disappointed that this year started off sans jet packs or The Chip, you know, the one implanted in our brains that will grant us instant access to the interwebs using only cerebral prowess, but then I went to see Avatar in 3D and holy-effing-crap am I ever on that bandwagon. I hope the future involves a lot more theatres full of Buddy Holly clones, because wow, 3D movie technology has come a long way since House of Wax.

And it seems that in 2010 I am fated to experience a bit of déjà vu as well. Back in 2003 I stepped on a branch - a harmless little branch! - and wretched my right knee, tearing the meniscus. Within two weeks of the injury I had surgery and started a rather gruelling regimen of physical therapy that lasted around four months. Have you figured out where this is going, yet?

On Wednesday afternoon I twisted my left knee. I'm in a brace and walking with crutches and the MRI is scheduled for Saturday. Of course this time isn't exactly the same as last time: There were no branches involved. Oh, and this time I get to do it all in Spanish.

On the bright side:

1. We're not on a mountain in Bolivia.
2. We have amazing friends here in Buenos Aires who have already been beyond helpful ("crutches" in Spanish is muletas, in case you were wondering).
3. Three words: Ice cream delivery.

I'm trying to make this not suck, but when three more months of travel, not to mention marathon #4, were on my list for 2010, let's face it: this is the pits.