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Saturday, July 6, 2019

My Unexpected summer trip

Stairs are not my friend 

I took an unexpected trip this summer.  It’s the longest trip I’ve ever taken -12 weeks!  It wasn’t a trip that was on my bucket list.  Actually, if I had to rate this particular trip, I’d put it somewhere below North Korea, Iran, or Hamilton.

The trip started suddenly – without warning.  I was carrying a bag of seat pillows down a ramp from our summer cottage.   Rather than take two trips to carry all the pillows, I figured I could save 30 seconds by doing it all in one.  So I piled them up over my head and headed out of the cabin.  There are two ways down from the cabin – one is a steep set of stairs -the other is a gentler ramp.  Now, I’m not totally stupid – I stopped and thought a moment.

“Boy, it sure would be dangerous to try and walk down a set of stairs when I can’t see where I’m going,” I thought to myself.  “The safe sane choice would be to take the ramp.” 
Which is what I did.  I marched down the ramp, my head buried in pillows, stepped off the ramp and…
Actually, I hadn’t proceeded all the way down the ramp…  so I stepped off into….    air.

The next thing I know I was lying on my back on top of a stack of pillows – which is a good thing.  Unfortunately, my ankle was the first thing that hit the ground, and all I knew is it hurt like hell.
“Can you move it?” my wife asks.
I can move it a bit.
“Then it’s not broken,” she states. “probably just sprained.”

So for the next week I limp around the cottage, mow the grass, weeder-whack the path to the well, and take copious amounts of pain killers and beer.
A week later we arrive back home, and the ankle doesn’t seem any better, so off I go to see my family doctor.  She takes one quick look at it.
“What are you doing here?” she askes.  “You need to get to the hospital.  I think you’ve ruptured your Achilles tendon.

The next several days are spent in the emergency ward – generally sitting and waiting.  The staff has arranged a game to keep you occupied.  It’s called the triage game – it’s where you have to wait your turn then tell the clerk what happened while he clacks away at the computer – sort of like checking in at the airport.  Lots of waiting in line, much clacking of the computer, and not much happening.

From there it’s sit down and wait and until the next clerk calls you up and repeats the process.  Then you move to the next area and wait some more.  Finally, after four hours you actually get to see the emergency room doctor.
“So what happened, Mr. Groberman?” he asks looking at my ankle that’s the size of a watermelon.
“What?” I ask him.  “You don’t know?  You must be the only guy in the hospital who doesn’t know.”  It’s been written up so many times it’s going to be made into a movie.”
“Would you like to go outside and wait some more?” he asks.  Evidently, he’s not big on sarcasm.

After a five-minute examination he looks up at me and says, “I think you’ve ruptured your Achilles tendon.  We better take some x-rays to see if you’ve broken any bones as well.”

Another two hour wait to get x-rays, have them read and see the doctor again.
“Nope,” he announces.  “No broken bones.  I guess we’d better take an MRI to see how bad a rip it is.  90% of the time they don’t need surgery.”

Unfortunately, the MRI machine is booked up and I’m told it might be a couple of days before they call me.  If I don’t hear from them in two days, I should call.   I’m then told to wait for the cast guy to come and fit me for a boot.
“I have a real wide foot,” I tell him.  “Short and wide.”  They used to call me the duck at school.  He comes back with a spiffy looking grey boot that resembles a ski boot.  I can’t get into it.  It’s too narrow. 
“I’ll have to put you into a bigger size,” he announces. 
And off he goes to rummage around the back.   He arrives with a much larger size.  Although it’s wide enough it’s obvious I won’t be seeing my toes for some time.
I’m fitted out with a pair of aluminum crutches and sent on my way.

Two days later I haven’t heard from the MRI people so I call the hospital.
“We see you had a stent put it in, but we don’t what kind. We’ve been trying to get hold of your doctor to find out.”
I point out to them they had given me an MRI about five years earlier after my fight with a lawnmower – and I didn’t explode.  Don’t they have a record of that?

“Just a minute, sir.  I’ll check with the technician.”  A few minutes later she returns to the phone. “Can you come in an hour?”

Getting the MRI was a piece of cake – particularly since I didn’t have to be rolled inside the big toilet paper roll.

Then I’m told to go back to the emergency ward and wait and wait and wait.

Finally after about four hours, I’m ushered into the see the ER doctor – a different one this time.

 “So, what happened, Mr. Groberman?” he asks.  I resist the urge to hit him with one of my crutches.

“Why don’t we look at the MRI?” I suggest.  I’ve learned through experience doctors like you to be involved in your illnesses.  It’s as if you attended medical school with them.

He retreats for a few minutes and returns with the MRI.  “It appears you’ve ruptured your Achilles tendon, Mr. Groberman.”
“I think that’s the consensus of opinion,” I reply sagely.  I somehow feel undressed not having a stethoscope jauntily hanging off my shoulder.
“You know,” the doctor continues, “in most cases they don’t operate on these things.”
“90% of the time,” I add sagely.
“Exactly,” he agrees, “But in your case it may be the exception.  You’ve got 30mm tear – a bigee.”
“Is that a medical term?” I ask.
“I think I’d like an orthopedic surgeon to look at it.  I have one on call he’ll be by in an hour or so.”

So it’s back in the hall for another hour.  Finally, I see what looks like a first-year medical student approaching me.

“Hello, Mr. Groberman, I’m Dr. Smith, your orthopedic surgeon.
And once again I have to go through the whole rigmarole which I’ve done so many times, that I recite it in a dull monotone voice while he studies the MRI.

Once again I’m asked to consult on the best treatment.  My tear is on the borderline of needing surgery.  He suggests that we see if my heel will heal without surgery, although there is a higher risk or re-injuring it.
“That’s what I’d do,” he tells me.
“I’ll remind you of that when you wreck your ankle,” I tell him.

So the long and short of it is I’m going to be in the soft-cast for 12 weeks, then will need a few more months of rehab to get back to where I was before the accident.

Getting around is a bit of a problem. I can move around flat ground pretty well on the crutches, but your hands are taken up with the crutches so you can’t carry anything.
“Why don’t you get one of those scooter things?” my friend Larry asks when he and Tom came to visit.
The scooter thingee
“When my daughter broke her ankle, she rented one. It’s sort of like a kid’s scooter.  You put your knee on it and scoot around.
“That’s why they call it a scooter,” Tom offers.
“It has a basket on it to put things in it.  You can go anywhere in it.”

I’d never heard of such a thing, but a quick internet search showed me that I could rent one nearby.  Which is what we did.

The device works well.  It’s got really good ball bearing wheels so just a slight touch will get it going.  The problem is the brake.  It doesn’t work very well.  That’s because the tires aren’t rubber.  They’re made out of granite – think of Fred Flintstone’s car.  They brake doesn’t grab them well which is not a problem if you’re on level ground.  The problem is going downhill – as I found out the other day when I took it for a test spin outside.  Going up the gentle slope to the mailbox wasn’t difficult, but coming back was different.
“Gangway!!”  I shout at people on the sidewalk walking their dogs.  “Scooter out of control! No brakes.” 
People flung themselves left and right as I whiz by.  Luckily the ground levels out half way down the block and I am able to bring myself to a stop.  

My wife suggests I might like to go up to the clubhouse and sit on one of the lounges by the pool.  Except the walkway between the pool’s edge and the chairs is very narrow.  I barely avoided having to have my scooter fished out of the pool.

in search of my parrot
Ever in the market for something better I come across a device called the i-walk.  It sort of looks like a peg leg.  Your knee sits on a platform with a crutch underneath.  The whole apparatus straps to your thigh and you can sort of hobble swinging it out in front of you.  The videos make it look simple.  They have folks walking their St. Bernards, going up stairs, playing soccer…  
So, I had to have one.  Of course, being cheap I bought a used one on Craig’s list.  If I had bought it at a dealer they would have properly fitted it. 

There was a lot of trial and error trying to get it on, then walk with it.  It isn’t anywhere as easy as the video.  But after two weeks I sort of have the hang of it. 

Of course if I want to go anywhere I have to take all this crap with me.  It’s like traveling with a toddler.  I need my crutches, my scooter, my i-walk, my eye patch, my parrot.
When I strap it on and head into the Safeway I get a lot stares.
“Wow, that’s quite the device,” an older lady says. “It looks like it’s really fun.”
“Would you like to try it on?” I offer starting to unbuckle it.  She scoots on down the aisle.

So would I recommend this trip? Definitely not.  Here’s my travel tip.  When carrying stuff – take two trips not one – and watch where your going.


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