Archive for the 'photo' Category

03
Jun
13

Back on the mountain bike again and it feels great

Ian back on the bikeIt felt so good to be on the bike again – my real bike, not my daughter’s and definitely not the one that replaced the one that split in two as I was crossing the road last year – that I rode 45km along the Elbe just because.

Tuesday it will be three months since my ski injury, and only three weeks ago the physiotherapist at rehab said to me in a gentle, roundabout kind of way that my goal of getting back on the mountain bike would have to wait.

“I think we all knew that riding again by the end of your time here wasn’t going to be,” she said, “but I think by the end of the year you’ll be ready.”

The end of the year?  Another seven months of taking the bus?  I went home feeling despondent.  I was making progress on getting the knee to bend more and more, so why such a long, drawn-out recovery?  Maybe she was just trying to make sure I wouldn’t get my hopes up too high for a quick return to full range of motion.

By some scheduling quirk they assigned me a different physiotherapist the next week.  She’s no better than the first one, but somehow she stretched me out one day so much, it made all the difference.

That same afternoon – the Friday of week three – I got up on the exercise bike, the real one, the one with the real crank and not the one you adjust shorter for those with limited flexibility – and gave it a turn.  And another.  And another.  I could not believe it.  It felt tight at the top of the circle, but I could do it just fine.  I was so happy, I wanted to scream with joy.  It was like climbing to the top of a ridge when you’re heading for the summit and taking in an incredible view knowing that you’re finally over the first big push.  I clenched my fists, bowed my head,  wanted to scream but couldn’t, so it just happened – a gush of tears.  I could not hold them back.  I was so happy, so incredibly overjoyed at once again proving to myself my leg was going to get better enough to allow me to do this simple task once again.  I tried to hide it by swiping my towel, taking in deep breaths, but it didn’t work.  It was like a release from weeks of frustration and doubt.

I looked over to my right to the desk at the corner of the gym and there she was, the physio who only two hours before had had both my legs stretched out on the table saying, “Gee, you’re really doing this well.”

I wiped off my face and walked over to where she was sitting, leaned over and said as sincerely as I could, “thank you! Thank you!  Thank you!”  She didn’t know what I meant, but I pointed over to the bike and said, “over there, the bike – I can do it!”

I led her over and got back on and showed her, thanked her again, and kept on it for another 20 minutes.

Yesterday, after practising in the  meantime on my daughter’s bike, and the dreaded split-in-two bike, I took out my bike – the one I watched them build from scratch – and took it for a spin.  The right thigh might still resemble a sausage with a slice down one end, but it bends and is getting stronger.  It feels great.

11
May
13

A little bit more every day

Things are coming along.  To compare:

Four weeks post-op:

Quadriceps tendon ripped bending knee

Seven weeks post-op:

Knee injury quadriceps tendon rupture

Today, just shy of 10 weeks post-op

Knee flex post-op 10 weeks

Of all the things I’ve had to do to get this knee to flex again, this has to be the most difficult:

Knee flex rope pull

It’s part of about 90 minutes in what the physios at rehab call the torture chamber.  When you arrive you’re given a set of exercises that target your problem.  I’ve got about 10 different things to do in order to build up my quadriceps muscles and flex the knee, and could go into detail about each one, but that photo is all you need.  It’s the worst.

The rope is appropriate, because it’s like self-flagellation.  I flex it as far as the muscles will take it, then start pulling slowly on the rope until it hurts.  Then I pull just a little bit more and hold it for 30 seconds.  After about 15 seconds, you start to go a little numb in the head, but wake up again when it’s time to release it.  Then the pain comes back double as you slowly let the foot down to the floor.  Repeat six times, once a day.

Good news!  I get to keep doing this.  My rehab is going to be extended one week, after which I will have the opportunity to drop by the centre for a workout as often as I like.  Physio should also continue twice a week after rehab finishes May 21st.

30
Apr
13

Vaginal cream chocolate bar. Yum.

For readers with small children in the area, this post contains words and pictures which acknowledge the existence of sexual organs, so you might want to make the print really, really small.

The red-haired girl has a job for a few months now.  Up to three times a week you can find her at a local pharmacy picking up prescriptions for delivery to customers in the broader neighbourhood.   She gets eight bucks an hour plus tips, which sometimes can be substantial.  I call her our drug-runner.

Yesterday she came home with a package I’m still puzzling over.  Take a look at this:

Vaginetten Myko Kombi chocolate bar Vaginalzäpfchen suppositories

What do you first think of when you see a chocoate bar named Vaginetten?  I know what I think.  Ewwwwww……

Especially when the translation of that fine print at lower left sinks in:

White Chocolate, tenderly melting like Vagisan’s Cremolum Myko Kombi.

Vagisan Myko Kombi white chocolate yumUh, now I get it.  The creamy-white anti-yeast-infection cream suppositories Vagisan vaginal suppositoriesthey’re pushing melt in your hoo-ha just as smoothly as this creamy white chocolate melts in your mouth.

Only people who graduated in the bottom half of their marketing class could have come up with this.    Seriously, what were they thinking?

“I know!  We’ll package up white chocolate bars to give away at pharmacies.  People will pick them up and wonder who could be dumb enough to market vaginal cream with white chocolate, they’ll take it home, take a photo and throw it up on social media.  Voilà!  Free advertising!”

They’re not so stupid after all.

09
Apr
13

how to bake bread on one leg

Hobbling around on crutches means you can’t do much of what you usually do, but as long as you have a bit of balance and are organised, you can still pivot on one leg in the kitchen.

The other day I made what around here will forever be known as one-legged bread.  

To make one-legged bread, you first have to rip your quadriceps tendon, get it sown back to your kneecap around three permanently installed screws, spend nearly a week in hospital, and still be a week or so away Ian knee post-op front x-rayfrom being able to walk without crutches or ankle-to-hip leg brace.

If that step sounds like too much hassle, I fully understand.

But since making bread of any kind means going slow, being patient and taking long pauses, your mindset is already there if you’re approaching it on one leg.

And because your muscles are wasting away immobile while the tendon heals, you should be eating a lot of protein – like steak!  That is a tip from my old friend Vreni in Vancouver at Wellness Works.  And I’ve recently discovered an ancient whole grain called Kamut that is not only very tasty, it has more than twice the protein of run-of-the-mill whole grain wheat.  So in this recipe, that’s what I use.  It grinds up well in a grain mill if you have one.  Thanks again, Vreni – for that and your advice on how to best recover from my injury.

The first step is to make a thick, awful-looking batter called a sponge that will serve as the basis of the bread dough. In this recipe you use white flour, kamut flour, dried yeast, honey and lukewarm water.  Ingredient list and details at bottom.

Mix that up with a whisk until it has the consistency of thick pancake batter.

Then mix well together some more white flour, yeast and salt, and pour all that over the sponge.  Cover and let sit on your counter for an hour, then put it in the fridge overnight or up to 24 hours.  Or if winter is still lingering, stick it out on the balcony if it’s not too far below freezing.

When you get up the next morning, the yeast will have bubbled up into the flour mixture and look like this:

one-legged bread sponge mixtureYou can see how the sponge has bubbled up from below to mix on its own with the flour mixture on top.  This is perfectly OK.

Now get a good wooden spoon and mix it all together, then knead the dough for about 5 minutes.

Then go give your leg – and the bread – a rest!   Stick a bowl over the dough and let it sit for 20 minutes.  That allows the dough to expand a bit, making the rest of the kneading easier.

ian in hamburg one-legged bread rising

While you’re letting the bread rest or during one of the risings, maybe you can do an exercise you learned in physio: lie flat on your back, and try to raise the injured knee off the ground by sliding your heel along the floor toward your butt.  I get about this far until it hurts like a bugger and I can raise it no more:

Quadriceps tendon ripped bending knee

Back to the bread:

Knead it for about 10 minutes more after it rests, then put back in your bowl, cover and set in a warm place to rise.

It should rise about double after about 90 minutes.

Punch it down, fold it over a couple of times – but don’t knead it – then put it back into your bowl to rise a second time.  It won’t take as long this time to rise.

After it’s risen a second time, punch it down again and shape to an elongated form and place in your bread pan.

bread dough in pans before final rising baking

Leave it uncovered somewhere warm to rise to about an inch or so above the loaf pan rim, then stick in the oven at 240 degrees C or 475 F for 10 minutes, lowering the temperature to 215 C or 425 F and baking for another 25 minutes or so.

Take it out, let it cool on a rack a bit, slice off an end, put on a bit of butter, enjoy!  Then hop off to rest while it all cools.

Ingredients and method:  I have two huge loaf pans, so I multiply by FOUR the recipe listed below.   Splitting the huge mass of dough into two, each loaf should weigh about 1600 grams before you bake it.   I usually cut the loaves in half and freeze what we don’t eat right away.

Putting the sponge mixture overnight in the fridge is not really necessary.  You can mix it up into dough after a couple of hours if you like, but leaving it overnight makes for a more full-flavoured bread.  Just make sure you let it warm up again for an hour or so after taking it out of the cold.

For the sponge:

All-purpose white flour (in Germany 405): 1 cup / 155 grams

Kamut or whole wheat flour: 1/4 c / 36 g

Honey: 1 1/4 tsp

Dry instant yeast: 3/8 tsp  / 1.25 g

water 1 1/3 cups:  / 320g

DO NOT ADD SALT TO THE ABOVE MIXTURE.

Flour mix:

White flour: 1 3/4 cups  / 290g

Dry instant yeast: 1/2 tsp

Salt:  1 1/2 tsp

Enjoy:

ian in hamburg one-legged bread kamut

This recipe I’ve adapted from The Bread Bible, eliminating all the fancy stuff like throwing in ice cubes into the oven before baking to provide moisture.  She also recommends pre-heating the oven to 475 F ONE HOUR BEFORE BAKING!  I suppose in a universe of infinitely free electricity this might not be such a bad idea, but around here our light bills just jumped another 10 percent, so lady, forget it!

22
Mar
13

Showering neighbour discovers concept of curtain, doesn’t bother to use it

This is an update of my pissy little pre-ski-holiday-cum-hospital-stay rant about a neighbour directly across from us who seems to enjoy showering for an audience.

Germany Hamburg window with curtainThanks to all those who took the trouble to comment and who gave great advice.  This morning, I am going to take that advice, hobble over there and slip a message under his door.  It probably won’t end up on passive-aggressive notes dot cawm because it won’t be anonymous.  I am going to leave my mobile phone number so he can contact me if he’s got any questions.  It’ll be written in flawed German, but I don’t care.

You see, I was all set this morning to write a light-hearted little story about how our soap-on-a-rope guy now has a curtain covering his bathroom window.  Great!  Someone obviously told him something.

I hadn’t noticed a curtain there before.  Upon discovery, one of the first things I thought was that he put it there because – as we also recently discovered – he has a girlfriend!  Or is it his wife?  In any case, while standing behind my seated wife over this past weekend – weight all on the left leg, of course – giving her a neck massage, a figure with shower nozzle in hand displaying all the attributes of a female appeared in the window.  Those attributes swayed.  They brushed the window.  They were, in fact, not bad to look at.  I was going to dash over to the other room to get my camera for posterity – or perhaps anteriority – but knew that in my present condition she’d be dry by the time I retrieved the camera and got in position to get a decent shot away.

In any event, just as I was in the middle of writing that post  I realised I had to start all over, because as I raised my head to look outside – there he was.

Curtain brushed aside.  Same lather, different day.

If he has a curtain, why doesn’t he use it?

Now to translate that into German.

19
Mar
13

jumping through hoops to get rehab

You never really learn how things really operate until you have to deal with them yourself.

All I want is some decent rehab programme, something to make sure I can walk again without a limp after ripping the body’s largest tendon and rendering my right leg useless for the time being.

Ian half-way home to HamburgMy regular doctor was telling me enthusiastically last week about a clinic where I could get a full morning programme of daily physio once the 6-week no-touch rule is over and I can finally take off this dead-weight brace it’s been so fun to drag around.

But when I went Monday to the specialist surgeon to whom he’d referred me to have the stitches removed and we later talked about physio, all he was able to offer me was a referral for two half-hour sessions a week.  The absolute bare-bones minimum available.  In Germany’s two-class healthcare system, if you’re a private patient you get silver service, no questions asked.  If you’re on statutory cover – in German gesetzlich – well, take a number, eh?  Nothing new there.

So this morning I went back to my regular doctor and told him of the enormous gap between what he was talking about and what the specialist gave me.

“Hmmmm…. let me do some quick phoning around and I’ll call you back in later,” he said.

Twenty minutes later he tells me the deal: in order to get rehab, I have to go first apply for it through the bureau that deals with pension issues.   Pension?  That’s the rapidly dwindling sum I’ll get when I retire, isn’t it?  I thought this was medical.

“It is,” he explained, “but your healthcare provider is responsible for your time off work.  They pay for that.  Your rehab is paid for by the pension people.”

The things you learn.

So he gives me a referral for a rehab clinic, reminding that I’ll first have to call the Hamburg pension administration bureau, who will set the ball in motion.

Knowing that sounded just a little to easy for words, I ask for and receive a direct number to call, some tips on what to say, and a merry send-off home.

The number they gave me was not in service.

Digging the right number out of the Internet, I wait on hold for the usual 10 minutes before speaking with a woman who informs me that my pension is administered not in Hamburg, but by the federal office in Berlin.  When I ask for the number in Berlin, thinking this is probably a routine thing,  I get an answer as cold as this late winter and probably as much as I should have expected: you can go find it yourself.

So I dig out the number soon enough and call the Federal Pensions Office and jump through the usual number-choice hoops before speaking with a woman who guides me through pages and sub-pages to the right forms to download and fill out.

There are seven separate forms totalling 17 pages.   Many repeat the same questions in a different way.  Some don’t apply to me, but I have to check a box anyway.  One ominous one involved giving my bank account details to permit them to extract any fees I might have.  No mention of what these fees might be for, or how much they are.

I don’t know why it has to be this complicated, but I suspect they do it this way to turn off those people who are intimidated by officialdom.  There must be a percentage out there who give up before even trying.

After filling all the forms that pertain to me, I have to take the bundle to my doctor to fill out stuff that pertains to them, then take that bundle to my healthcare provider who will fill out more little boxes, then I get to go to the post office and send the bundle off to Berlin.

Right now I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes so long to get approval, I’ll have long since passed the point at which rehab will do any good.

16
Mar
13

A cross-border ski-doo trip to hospital

Skiing Ischgl Samnaun Ian with patrollerIt took a good half-hour for the ski patrol to arrive by ski-doo after we first sent word we’d need them.   As we were waiting we heard the unmistakable sound of a helicopter approaching, and I groaned – no, please, not a helicopter ride!

The patrollers hopped off the machine and got to work pumping up an inflatable brace after assessing my situation.  By tapping on the bottom of my foot and seeing I wasn’t writhing in agony, they were sure there was no bone breakage, but were very careful nevertheless in sliding me in, because every little movement of the leg hurt.

Many people had stopped while we were waiting to ask if they should send word, and we thanked them all kindly, but now that help had arrived, everyone just whizzed past.  Unfortunately, the patrollers still needed help to hoist me into the sled once they got me on the inflatable stretcher, but they couldn’t get anyone to stop.  So the little  red-haired girl got a grip on one end as the two of them took up the other, and in one lunge I was plunked down and then strapped in for the ride to the clinic.

This was all happening one sunny afternoon at 2,700 metres in Ischgl, Austria, but we were staying over the border in Samnaun, Switzerland.  Ischgl and Samnaun were two separate areas until an expansion joined them up in 1987, so now you can get a lift ticket that covers both.

Ischgl Samnaun map

The ride to the Ischgl clinic was a bit of fun, actually.  I now know what it feels like to have everyone stop, stare, and tell themselves: thank hell it’s not me.

At the clinic they had me walk around a bit, which I actually managed with the brace, but they told me I’d be in a hospital for a few days, offering to fly me by helicopter down the valley in Austria.

“Uhhhh… that might be a bit too much trouble,” I stammered out, not only unsure whether my insurance would cover a helicopter air ambulance at two bucks per blade rotation – low estimate! – but what about the red-haired girl?  How would she make her way back to where we were staying in Switzerland?  They might be joined at the mountaintop, but to reach Samnaun village from Ischgl village you first have to head down to the junction of two valleys and then go up the other.  It’s a long way, and it was late in the day.

“OK,” they said, “what we can do is tell the Samnaun patrol we have a victim to pass over to them.  You’ll both be taken by ski-doo up to the border and from there the Swiss will take you down to the clinic in Samnaun.”

This time I was the one in the rear passenger seat of the ski-doo and the red-haired girl riding shotgun as we revved our way back up to the pass to the Samnaun side.

A patroller was waiting on his ski-doo at the border, and before we knew it we were on our way down the other side to the top of the aerial tramway, where a man was waiting with a wheelchair.  The patroller parked the machine and helped us squeeze in with all our gear among the other passengers for the tram-ride down, where at the bottom an ambulance was waiting for the short ride to the clinic in Samnaun.  At every link in the chain there was someone waiting to take over.

In the Samnaun clinic they definitely diagnosed the ripped quadriceps tendon, and set me up for an ambulance ride down the valley a little less than an hour away in Scuol, Switzerland.

Cash or credit card, sir?  I do hope to get some of it back….

===========

Marty Ian Scuol hospital Switzerland balconyIf my first-ever serious ski injury had to happen somewhere, I was pretty lucky to land up in hospital in Scuol.   From the moment of injury to the operating table barely more than six hours had elapsed, a crucial point as I’ve since learned.  The earlier this injury is worked on, the better the chances of a full recovery.

I’m going to write the hospital staff a card today to thank them for everything they did.  Perhaps they figure they were just doing their jobs, but I was so impressed.  From the first wheel through the door to good-bye six days later, the care was excellent.  The doctors were clearly professional and at the same time approachable and friendly, I was given my choice of anaesthesia by the director of the hospital himself, the morphine as I emerged from the epidural was offered and gladly taken, the nurses were often asking how I was, what they could do for me, and somehow also knew when it was time to leave me to just rest.

And to help me get through my last full day, a good friend who’d read of my plight on Facebook and who was planning a trip to Nice from Munich via Switzerland offered to drop by for a visit.  He arrived on the morning of the best weather we’d had since the day of the injury, brilliant warm sunshine bearing down on the balcony.   We had a chat and got some sun, and when the physiotherapist came along to give me another introductory course in competitive stair-climbing with crutches, he bade farewell.

Marty, you are the greatest.




The banner photograph shows the town of Britannia Beach, BC, Canada, where I grew up. It's home. But I don't live there anymore.

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