Saturday, July 11, 2009

Taken Down a Notch

There's nothing like a 4-year old birthday swim party to remind you of your mortality.

First, I can't I'm posting a blog entry at 1am on Saturday night, but I'm still wide awake after watching UFC 100. Brock Lesnar is a very large dude. Real good times tonight.

Ok, back to the swim party. One of my daughter's fellow princesses celebrated her bday party at the community swimming pool. I dropped by after work. It was the usual scene -- tons of little kids splashing around the shallow end in the arms of moms and dads, while the older siblings cannonballed into deeper waters.

I relaxed in the shallow end with my daughter. Naturally, she wanted to practice swimming to me. Well, she really doesn't "practice," or at least it wouldn't look that way to folks without kids. But if you've got kids or have spent time at a pool with little ones, you've seen the scene. The munchkin hangs onto the edge of the pool, demands that you stand about 5 feet away, and then she launches herself into your arms. Now, if the parent remains where the child insisted they stand, there isn't enough distance to take a single swim stroke, let alone actually swim.

But crafty parents slowly drift away from the edge after their baby launches into the water, forcing them to take a few strokes before mom/dad rescue them from drowning. I don't think Parenting Magazine would approve. However, just like everybody knows about Code Reds even though they aren't written in the field manual, same goes for these swim tactics. I can see other parents nodding approvingly.

Once the child reaches you, they're either celebrating their swimming abilities, or they're coughing up 3 gallons of water. But they've definitely got the death grip on the parent.

After a few seconds, it's time to return to the pool's edge. And, for me, this is when the pain happened.

Olivia immediately shifted around in my arms until she was standing on my lap and facing the wall ready for the return trip. Basically, she planned to use my lap to springboard back to the side of the pool. I used appropriate caution to protect my knee as she positioned herself. What I didn't anticipate, however, were her legs flailing around. As she attempted to gain traction on my quads, her legs often slipped below my lap. Now they were in the danger zone. She didn't catch me in the nuts. But it was worse. Oh, much worse.

The backs of her heels cracked sharply into my shin, EXACTLY where the 2 screws hold together my tibia. Holy mother of God; that f*ckin' hurt, even worse than watching Bartman snatch that foul ball from Moises Alou.

Eventually Olivia planted herself on my lap and finished her return trek to the wall. Sadly, I didn't get a moment to grieve. As the tears trickled down my cheek, my daughter's much larger friend landed in my lap. This girl delivered a solid 4 or 5 mule kicks to my shin before I could heave her to the edge. Actually, my initial reaction was to club the girl and let the lifeguard deal with her carcass. But I'm pretty sure the moms would've given me the business if I clotheslined this girl. Don't be so surprised. These are the type of parents who get pissed when baby seals get clubbed. No sense of humor. So I gritted my teeth and screamed out for my wife to replace me in the water.

Ok. I don't support clubbing baby seals. That was just a joke. Harpooning them, yes.

Anyway, these little girls are ferocious. I have no doubt my daughter will kick the crap out of the first boy dumb enough to pull her hair.

In the meantime, add "swimming with little kids" to the list of things I absolutely cannot do at 6 months.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

6-Month MRI Results

Relief. Well, partial relief anyway. (More on that in a second.) My visit with Dr. T was punctuated by several high-fives, each as awkward as the ones between Tiger Woods and his caddie after a heroic birdie putt. Even though I didn’t hoist the Claret Jug during this appointment, I nonetheless received some good news.

The 6-month MRI showed that my graft is healing “beautifully,” to use Dr. T’s choice of words. The graft is completely filled in. First high-five. No overgrowth, fissures, cracks, or other deformities. Second high-five. Most importantly, the cloned cartilage appears to be bonding smoothly with the existing cartilage. Final high-five.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have an MRI report to review, so I’m hesitant to suggest that everything inside my bionic knee is “beautiful.” The MRI technician thought he was supposed to examine a potential “ACL” surgery, not ACI. He said my ACL looked great. Um, thanks? Since I’ve never torn my ACL, I guess that’s a good thing for the technician’s career prospects. I told Dr. T he should take credit for making my ACL look as good as new. Anyway, I’m supposed to get the correct report sometime this week. Hopefully Dr. T didn’t miss anything during his independent review of the films.

Dr. T was downright giddy, perhaps even happier than I was. He even called me his “poster child” for the ACI surgery. While I’m pretty stoked to learn that my knee’s healing as well as can be expected, I still worry whether my knee will ever become “normal” again. Plus, I’m hesitant to rejoice until I see the complete report. Now, I don’t want to be a wet blanket, ruining the good news like Gretchen Mol in Rounders. But the MRI doesn’t explain the random aches or clicking in my knee, nor does it answer why I’m still having difficulty bending/squatting on 1-leg. Hopefully, those issues are just part of the natural healing progression, as Dr. T seemed to think. In fact, after the final high-five Dr. T tempered his own enthusiasm, noting that ACI recovery isn’t a 10-K race, but a marathon. Well, if that’s true, hopefully I just passed the 13-mile marker ahead of a bunch of Kenyans, fully hydrated and without any cramps.

(Ok. If this was a newspaper column or magazine piece, this blog posting would’ve ended with that previous sentence’s beautiful wrap-up. Fitting and humorous. But screw my editor’s advice; I’ve still got a few more things to share).

6 months is probably a good time to mark my progress. Here’s what I can do:

• Walk for miles (and chew bubble-gum at the same time). On the treadmill, I’m now up to
3.5mph and can handle an incline of 6-8 with no problem. I can also shuffle sideways and walk backwards without tripping over my feet.

• Stationary bike at fairly high resistance. I’m getting a “real” bike sometime this month. I haven’t owned a bike since the early 1980s when I traded in my 300lb NY Giants dirt bike with the banana seat for a discounted, blue Sears 10-speed (my dad used to work at Sears).

• Moonwalk across the kitchen floor in my parachute pants

• Elliptical machine for 25-30 minutes at a fairly tame pace and incline

• Gently kick a soccer ball with my kids

Here’s what still gives me problems:

• 1-legged squats/bends beyond 45-60 degrees; 2 legged squats and wall sits are ok because I “cheat” a bit by placing more pressure on my good wheel

• Kneeling; crawling; kneeing evil-doers in the head with any amount of force

Here’s what I can’t do/haven’t even tried:

• Running

• Jumping

• Eat 68 Nathan’s hot dogs in 10 minutes (or even in 10 months)

6 months down; 6-12 more to go, I guess. I now embark on that vague recovery stage. I really don’t have any more major milestones or markers to pass, though 8 months (32 weeks) might be considered one. Everything’s now incremental advancements based on subjective feeling. I’ll continue to slowly increase the amount of weight or reps on various quad-building exercises. Once I gain sufficient strength – though I’m not sure what’s considered, “sufficient” – I’ll progress to rollerblading -- one of the pitstops between walking and running. I’ll probably piss in my pants the first time I do. Actually, Christina will probably be more nervous; maybe she’ll pee enough for both of us. After that, it’s just a matter of time (and Dr. T’s blessing) before I try more aggressive activities, like light jogging. That’s still at least 6 months away, but then again, I can’t believe it’s been six months since the surgery.