Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Walking the Talk

I love how doctors have professional language that makes common things sound obscure and medically sophisticated.  The fact that English is not my first language only increases this effect.  In the post-op rehab procedure sheets that I was given by the surgeon's office, it said that I should be able to "ambulate without the splint or crutches" by the beginning of the 3rd week, which threw me for a loop.  The only word I was familiar with that had anything to do with ambulating was ambulance and I certainly didn't want to be in one with or without crutches.

Well, by and by it downed on my that ambulate means to walk, and I felt like I found a clue to a great mystery of the medical universe.  But by then I was already ambulating well enough on my own and so didn't need to have fancy words to describe padding across space.

Linguistics aside, I started walking without the splint right after Dr. Zarnett ok'd it at the follow up last Wednesday.  The nurse wanted to take the splint to throw it out, but I carried it from the appointment like a baby carries her safety blanket.  I never put it on again.  My knee felt weak, but I was overjoyed to be moving freely.  Of course at first I wasn't so much walking as limping, and not more than a few dozen meters at a time. Because all the muscles have weakened, and there was still lots of scarring and swelling from the surgery, my leg refused to behave normally resulting in a heavy limp with quite a lot of pain all over.  Muscles hurt that I never knew existed.  To keep this from happening it was very important that I start to walk normally as soon as possible.

It turns out that restoring normal gait is a lot of work. The physio and the exercises are helping bring the muscles back slowly, so things are improving, but it is taking more time than I expected.  Its been almost a week since the follow up and I'm still working on it.  After walking for a few minutes the knee becomes very stiff and achy and it is almost impossible to keep from limping.  I get tired quickly, and I'm usually exhausted by the end of the day.

A lot of the difficulty is mental - all the mechanical things needed for walking are functional.  Karla neatly illustrated this by making me walk backwards.  Because the mind doesn't think that walking backwards is a normal thing to do anyway, the gait pattern is almost unaffected.  Yet walking forwards the brain freaks out and tries to keep the weight off the hurt leg by any means possible.  It really is all in the mind, Grasshopper.  Although, I can attest to it that the pain is still in the knee.

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