My knees are shot. Partly because they’re supporting 200+ pounds of not very graceful, but mostly because I fall down a lot. There’s nothing wrong with my equilibrium––I just don’t pay attention. I’m looking here and there, look a bird! Trying to stay present, in the moment, look at my surroundings, what would make a good photograph, what can I see that no one else sees. Lots of things. I see lots of things that no one else sees, I also miss a lot of the things most people see. Like potholes:
That time I stepped into one so deep on Bleecker Street that my entire foot got stuck and the rest of my body kept going. I lay there, while people stepped over me.One woman leaned down, “You know, there’s a bench right over there you can sleep on.” I hobbled home.
That time I tripped on a tiny crack on the sidewalk went down on my knees and came up with what was obviously a broken wrist.
That time I was speeding through Central Park on rollerblades and remembered that I really hadn’t learned how to slow down or stop so I just threw myself down on the ground.
That time there was a giant flying waterbug in the house––the only living thing I’m really afraid of––and I lunged at it, landing on my knees.
I keep two bags of frozen peas in my freezer for my knees. They are scarred and bumpy and there is a little blue spot on one where a small pebble is still embedded. They are always skinned, or scabbed, or under a bag of frozen peas.
I have not been able to squat down to get something or say hi to a child or more likely to happen, to a dog, in years. Actually, I can squat, I just can’t get back up. That sent me to physical therapy years ago, the not being able to squat and talk to dogs. I talk to a lot of dogs. A lot of dogs. The physical therapy didn’t do much, so I learned to just plop my not inconsequential ass on the ground to talk to dogs, which is a pretty vulnerable position if the dog in question is: unfriendly, rambunctious, a slobberer.
A few months ago one (knee, not dog) swelled up like a cantaloupe, even though I hadn’t fallen in at least two weeks. Convinced I had kneecap cancer, I went to my osteo man to check it out. That’s how often I fall. I have an osteo man. His assistant moved my legs and knees this way and that, twisting, knocking, bending until he finally stood up and said, “Wow, you have a really shitty knees.” My big-sports-medicine radio-show osteo-man-to-the-stars came in, did the same bending, knocking, and twisting, albeit in slightly different order, sat back and said, “Well, you have really shitty knees.” The X-rays tech refrained from the descriptor “shitty” and simply commented under her breath, “Oh, wow. Those are bad.” The MRI technician insisted on taking more images than originally ordered, because, “It’s bad, and it keeps going up your thigh.”
“It” turned out to be osteonecrosis, something that occurs when the blood can’t get to the bone, and so the bone (osteo) starts to die (necrosis), and apparently it’s kinda uncommon. It can be caused by: excessive alcohol consumption – check; high doses and extended use of steroids – check; and repeated trauma to the area – double triple check.
The choices are surgery––no thank you, or the non-surgical answers are building up the muscles in my thighs so that my knees aren’t doing all the work, and reduction in weight bearing, by which we mean, why the hell am I asking my knees to lug around 200+ pounds? Wouldn’t they be happier dragging around 150 pounds? Wouldn’t the dogs be happier?