Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Day It All Started

This is not an x-ray of my right knee, but it could be.   All that cloudy white space?   Um, not good.   Arthritis.  Loads of.

I laugh whenever friends of mine are posting on Facebook that they are running marathons.   You might be healthy now, but I've seen your future from years of pounding those joints repeatedly on a hard surface.   This knee, which looks like mine, will also be yours.

But my problems with now two bum wheels didn't come as a result of running, although, in high school, I used to regularly jog from my Mount Vernon, New York home on South 15th Avenue to Mount St. Michael High School in the Bronx and back.  Nope, my right knee changed forever on one single moment.   And, to this very day, I think about how my life was altered in an instant.  

The very first gym class of senior year in high school.  A warm September morning.   There we were.  In our white t-shirts and maroon shorts.  Lined up on the athletic field like lambs for slaughter.  Our gym teacher was a neanderthal named Mr. Lee.  No, he was not Asian.   He was this big Black guy who was as dumb as a post.  He fancied himself as a football coach, even though he probably couldn't figure out mathematically how many yards you needed for a first down.

Well, on this opening day, Mr. Lee decided to run us through a series of workouts that would have made the New York Jets ache during training camp. Who the hell did this idiot think he was training?

It was the very first exercise.   Extremely deep knee bends.  I did the first one. Okay.   The second one?   A lot less so.

The sound was disgusting and I remember it to this day.   I'm betting so did the rest of the class.



I completely fell forward.  Who had taken a knife and thrust it into my knee joint?

Mr. Lee, much less than a genius, had a good response.

"Get up."

Er, I can't, thank you very much.

But he goaded me to do so and continue the workout.   Within twenty minutes, I was crawling on the ground for mercy.

"Use a heating pad when you get home."

And that's how stupid Mr. Lee was.   Any halfway intelligent person knows that ice is the remedy for what was ailing me at the time.

In those days, my father was picking me up from school and he was shocked to find his barely walking son taking forty five minutes to climb into his Buick LeSabre.   

"You better get home and ice it."

Okay, it was now official.   My father was smarter than Mr. Lee.  But, then again, most humans were.

By 4PM, my right knee had swollen to the size of Butte, Montana.  And the adults in my household started to survey my situation.

Grandma tried to solve it all by suggesting I soak the knee in epsom salts and Witch Hazel, which she thought were the cures for everything. My parental units were a little bit more aggressive for a change. They realized I needed to see a real doctor. This is noteworthy because they rarely went to one themselves. Because, as most of that generation, my folks viewed all physicians as villains. They're only there to take your money.

At least, this time, they realized I needed to see one of those thieves.

Unfortunately, the doctor they brought me to was the worst possible choice. 

And he remained the worst possible choice even if the other selections were Dr. Jack Kevorkian or Dr. Jekyll.  They took me to the Bronx version of Marcus Welby, MD. One Dr. Herman Weisberg.

This dope had his office in the basement of an apartment building on White Plains Road several blocks away. At least, he was convenient. And, after judging all of Weisberg's credentials, his major accomplishment was that he was, well, convenient.

For some reason, my family loved this guy. I thought he was a complete idiot, who took the easy way out with every diagnosis. This is a man who would have looked at JFK's Dallas head wound and sprayed Bactine on it. No medical problem was too complicated for Dr. Weisberg that he wouldn't try to cure it with two Bayer aspirin.

I dreaded his first appearance as I sat with a swollen knee in his examining room.

"What now, Len?"

Oh, I'm sorry, Doctor. Am I pulling you away from something more important while I ask you to do your fucking job and look at my knee?

These days, a parent would take their immobile child to the best ortho surgeon in town. Maybe even the state. Me? I got...

"This is a mild sprain. Put some ice on it and take some..."

Bayer Aspirin? It was so easy to finish all of Dr. Weisberg's sentences.

I did get the deluxe treatment because he did wrap my knee with a gauze bandage. This must have cost extra.

X-rays, Doctor?

"Why? It's not broken."

Indeed, as time would have it, a fracture would have been easier to fix. But, this early non-treatment of a pretty screwed-up joint was a life-changing mistake. My knee was never the same. For a while, it felt like there was some fluid there. I would say something to either my mom or dad. And always get the same response.

"But Dr. Weisberg said it was only a sprain..."

Hello? Do you see me crawling around in front of you?

In retrospect, I should have had this solved definitively at the time.   But they didn't.   Now the left knee has no meniscus left either.   And the right knee, as recently as last Halloween, suffered a fracture on the kneecap in three different places.  The emergency room doctor gave me a shot of morphine to kill the pain.   Already, he was light years ahead of Dr. Weisberg and his Bayer Aspirin. Somehow, I manage this all through the hard work of my personal trainer Christina, who keeps me mobile.  If only she had born years earlier...

Oh, as for Mr. Lee, once my dad got the whole story about how he kept me exercising after injuring my knee, he paid a visit to the lummox.   I'm not sure what happened in that conversation.   All I got was...

"Mr. Lee won't be bothering you any more."

Hmmm, I wonder where his body is buried.

Dinner last night:  Honey walnut shrimp.

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