Saturday, November 03, 2007

Pinning it down...

I'm in my final stages of preparation to go into hospital this week for an operation. Just mulling over what’s in store for me over the next few weeks based on previous experience. S'not a biggie this time though - just keyhole surgery in my knee joint to (and these are not technical terms as far as I know) wash 'debris' out of the joint, and somehow, with radio waves if I remember correctly, debride (or smooth) the internal surfaces of the joint. Oh, and I'm having a pin removed from my shin too. Well, I say pin...

This I didn't know for the past 8 years or so. I'd had some mega-constructive surgery 9 years ago and part of this surgery involved taking a bone graft from the front of my tibia and pinning it at the top to make a more stable knee joint. According to my hospital bill at the time (courtesy of Mr F's company I was able to go private) the guy also remodelled my femur - although according to the latest surgeon, the femur still looked suspiciously odd. I dunno if maybe it just grew back into it's freaky-shaped self over time, but whatever, the latest set of x-rays showed it distinctly unmodelled - and I know I've rambled a bit here, but I was coming back to it, honest - the other things the x-rays showed was the pin.

Now I'd been told this was a teeny-weeny ickle pin holding an itsy bitsy bit of bone on top of the tibia - but it wasn't. It was actually a dirty great fuckin' nail. Yes, a nail! With a rounded head. If you do any DIY at all, you'll know that round headed items tend not to fit smoothly on to flat surfaces, which explains why I haven't been able to do any kneeling poses in yoga for the past few years.

I'm kinda in that position many crips despair of, when you submit yourself to more surgery and more 'opinion' from someone who doesn't live with your body on a day-to-day basis. But I gotta give this guy some credit, he knows the practical implications of my bone structure and can explain back to me exactly what trouble I have with the way my joints move. So if he can look at an x-ray and explain my experiences from walking to age 37 (one of his little sound bites - 'your tibia and femur are like two ice cubes sitting on top of one another and your patella has drifted miles away' - cute, eh?) then I'm happy to give it a chance. Also, music to my ears, he doesn't want to go in and chop everything up again and be a big experimental hero and 'fix' me once and for all.

(Beware, if any doctor starts saying those kinds of things to you, wheel or run or hop like hell away to somebody else and get a second opinion before submitting to a 'fixer'. He hasn't given me any of that 'cure' bullshit. Just that he'll take look and have a think and nothing else until we've talked about it, because he wants to be 'conservative' about things).

That leaves me free to worry about mundane stuff that is incredibly important for my peace of mind over the next few weeks. Like, do I have any decent big 'hospital supersize' knickers? Should I buy more mature looking pyjamas that don't have pictures of Eyore or Little Miss Naughty on them? Should I shave my legs (less pain but short term result) or epilate them? (more pain but smoother for longer). Don't wanna be stubbly in physiotherapy. Does my swimming costume still fit? How am I gonna spend my time during recovery? I'm sick of playing Tetris on my old Gameboy colour and I finished Pokemon years ago. Reading? Are there any books in the house I haven't read? Is there enough comfort food in the house? How do I get all the dog fur off my dressing gown?

It's all-important stuff. And you may laugh but after a fair few operations, my way of not feeling like total shite is to plan to have something nice (i.e., sans Disney characters) to wear, to not be stuck in bed looking at a pair of hairy legs for weeks, to have something to do to pass the time, and maybe manage to look like I haven't just lost my lunch when people come to see me. And ban all cameras. Seriously.

This last bit is pure vanity, but the requirement for visitors to check their cameras at the bedroom door comes from a family ritual I was regularly subjected to in childhood. Hospital became a regular feature in my life from the age of 12 onwards. Maybe to cheer me up, with the best of intentions, Dad insisted on documenting the whole thing each time. Maybe he was trying to make me feel 'special' in the nicest sense of the word, but the trouble with being in hospital is you're usually looking far from your best. The last thing you want even, if you're a tomboy-ish sort of child, is a picture of yourself looking up in misery from the sick bowl. On one occasion I'm sure a photograph of me on the ward was circulated in the family Christmas letter. Oh yes. My Dad loved photography - and there's boxes full of incriminating scrapbooks of my nerdy crippy childhood to prove it in the loft.

Another fetching shot shows what to expect if you've been in plaster for a long period of time. Not even a supermodel could make this look photogenic - the muscles of your plastered limb waste away, while comically in contrast the other limbs stay the right size. In summer if you've tanned, chances are they'll be a very different colour as well. At the time I was just old enough to need to start shaving my legs. I looked on in disbelief as the plaster cast came off to show a horror of a white, wasted leg looking like it belonged to an underfed werewolf, covered in long dark hairs. 'Blimey, look at that' said Dad, in his element, snapping away - managing to capture both my mother and the doctors smirking in the background at the horrified look on my face...

So. Dignity, dignity, dignity all the way. No photos.

(Except for the part where - with some persuasion from Mr F 'cos I'm not sure what to do with it - I've decided to ask the surgeon to save the pin he's removing from my shin. It's big. It's ugly. And I'm determined to get some good photos of it before leaving it in the past where it belongs!)

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