Archive Page 2

25
Apr
13

Notes after two days of rehab

There’s a theory about the news business that says they publish stories of disasters in far-off countries to help remind their audience that no matter how bad things get at home, it’s a lot worse elsewhere.

I don’t know how much truth is in that, but I was reminded of it on day two of rehab.  As much of a disruption to my life this injury has been and will continue to be for months to come, it’s a chin scrape compared to the situation of three men I’ve seen in the changing room, therapy pool, leg workout, and stretching classes.

One of them is an older fellow who looks like he’s worked outdoors his whole life.  He has a vertical scar running from way above to way below each knee, and he walks so slowly… I haven’t found out whether he’s got artificial knees, but maybe we’ll get to talking tomorrow.

Another fellow looks completely normal until he’s in the change room, where you see a long, curving scar running from his hip to his knee.  He had a rare form of bone cancer and they’ve installed an artificial femur.  Though he had to stay six months without moving in hospital – I was climbing the walls after six days – he says he’s lucky: the medical technology used to give him the new femur is so new, had he been diagnosed with the disease only three years previously, they would have had to amputate the whole leg. 

The third guy makes me weep just to think about.  He is tall and good-looking, but looks like he’s been in a serious car or motorbike accident.  He has absolutely no use of one arm, which dangles bone-thin, limp and lifeless at his side.  His hip and leg on the same side are very deeply gashed, and he walks very awkwardly.  I haven’t talked to him, am kind of waiting for the right moment to engage him in conversation, so for the moment I remain in respectful awe at his guts and determination as he works his way through the workout routines.

I am so very humbled by what I’ve seen over the past two days.  Though I see it only from a distance, I have a new-found perspective on what it means to be profoundly injured, and the strength these people have to work on overcoming it.

I’m also gaining even more respect for the people who go to work every day determined to help people in such bad shape get well enough so that they can lead a reasonably normal life again.  They see them arrive and leave again a few weeks or months later, like a carousel of pain.  There must be deep satisfaction in knowing their work is vital to the people they treat, but the energy, enthusiasm and often humour with which they approach their work must come from some profound place only they know where to draw from.  I know I wouldn’t last a week in their position.

In the weeks since I’ve been getting around the city for better or worse, I’ve also been on the receiving end of countless acts of kindness from people whose names I’ll never know.  From the man who went all the way back down a spiral staircase to hold the door open for me to make sure I left the doctor’s office in one piece, to the men and women, young and old who without fail will see me with a crutch and stand up and offer me a seat on the bus, to the random people on the street who catch my eye and with a little smile wordlessly tell me: hey, I’ve been there, too – I can only say: thank you, Hamburg.

And there is progress.  One month after the operation, I could only bend it a little:

Quadriceps tendon ripped bending knee

Three weeks later after 12 days of physio and two days of rehab, still a ways to go, but it’s coming along:

Knee injury quadriceps tendon rupture

 

17
Apr
13

Hooray-hooray, it’s not yet May, but rehab starts a week today

I’d love to do a leaping dance, but under the circumstances, maybe not.

Only a few days after receiving word that my medical rehab has been approved by the Berlin powers-that-be I get a call from the clinic saying my three-week program starts April 24.  Yipppeeee!  :)  I had been counting on it starting only sometime after the first weekend in May.  The clinic here in Hamburg has a great reputation and has just re-opened in brand-new facilities.

It’s just in time.

I’ve ditched the brace that had been clasped to the leg from ankle to hip for six weeks to keep the knee stable after the operation, but there’s still so little movement in the knee, I get worried that it’ll never be the same again.  It’s hard to see over the lip of the hill when you’re standing at the base.

I now get around mostly without crutches with a tension bandage around the knee, but it’s a hop-along scene.  This is what it looked like four days ago when I made the switch:

A friend congratulated me on the quick approval for rehab, saying all the pain they’ll be putting me through to stretch out the tendon again will be worth it.

I can’t wait…

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!

06
Apr
13

Angela Merkel guarantees Muslim kids will not get separate sex sports

Geez, I would like to say more, but the headline says it all:

Germany The Local Toytown no sex sports muslim kids

 

Source:  One sometimes hilariously bad English-language online newspaper 

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.

18
Mar
13

I’m staying Canadian: an open letter to the mayor of Hamburg, Germany

calvin-hamburg-hamburgerDear Mr. Scholz,

Thank you very much for your letter in which you invited me to become a citizen of the Federal Republic of Germany.  The recent introduction of standardised electronic EU permanent residence cards, one of which I had the pleasure of picking up recently (see below) has no doubt made it simpler for you to streamline your database and target the Ausländer of Hamburg in your drive to promote the benefits of citizenship in this great land.

I have given the matter a great deal of consideration, but have decided for a number of reasons that the chances of my becoming a German citizen are – at this time and most likely even if the temperature of Hell hits zero – zero.

Responding to only some of the many advantages you list:

All the rights I currently enjoy including the right to pay taxes will continue as before.

Mr. Scholz, I don’t mind paying taxes.  I’m Canadian, after all, where wallets are sold with special pouches that flip open automatically for quicker tax payment at every turn of the road.  But if you’re trying to sell me citizenship on this basis, you should re-phrase it somehow.  How about: You will continue to enjoy the warm, fuzzy feeling you get knowing your contributions to the great European Social Project and other black holes including the Elbe Philharmonic Centre, the new Berlin Airport and the bailout of Greece, will go on as before.

The German passport will allow me to enjoy visa-free travel to many countries.

Mr. Scholz, allow me to condense in a few lines how much of a pain in the kiester it was the last time my family crossed the Canada-US border by land on the way to Seattle.  I was flashing a Canadian passport, so no trouble there.  But because my wife was travelling on a German passport, we were singled out for special treatment and made to park our car off to the left in a huge lot and leave the keys on the dashboard.  I’m sure they had a good sniff though our undies as we shuffled off to a humungous building nearby to join the waiting queue of people in a similar situation.

Two hours and I forget how many US dollars in fees later, we were on our way again, but not before my wife and daughter nearly burst their bladders as they tried to find a toilet for those waiting their turn.  And to top it off – this is completely our fault – my wife forgot to get her passport stamped on the way out of the country, so there’s no telling what bureaucratic bullshit awaits our return to the US on holiday sometime this year.  An overnight stay in their specially designed hotel rooms, perhaps?

Ahah!  I now recall where the German passport has it all over the Canadian: when we were travelling to Turkey, the price of a visa for Canadian passport-holders was the highest in the world.  It’s more than double what anyone else pays.  That’s because Canada soaks the Turks for an equal amount for visas to Canada.  Fair is fair.  A German passport holder pays diddly-squat.

I won’t have to deal with the Foreign Residents’ Bureau anymore.

Because it is so very enticing, this point should be way up top.  But considering it is only once every five years that I have to get up in the middle of the night to stand around in front of a locked gate for a couple of hours to be handed at 6am a chit that allows me a couple hours later at 8am to get one of only 60 waiting-room numbers issued on any given day for the chance to hand over my new paperwork to one of your minions, well… I guess I can deal with it.  Besides, I love the smell of mothballs in the morning.  Smells like…

Mr. Scholz, I am unfortunately unable to continue this open letter because my upper limit of 700 words per blog post is fast approaching.  In a world where few read anything on the Internet beyond block letters superimposed over a cat pic photo, you have to keep it short and sweet.

Yours sincerely,

Ian OHamburg

PS. Damn the word count, when will Germans ever learn to spell my fz*cking name right?  I know nearly every automated computer system in the country explodes at the insertion of a capital letter in the midst of a name with no room for a space, but if you’re going to be communicating with Ausländer – some from countries with languages so bizarre the word for ball contains a glottal stop, four Ms and a silent Q – you really should try to update a bit.




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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