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


19 Responses to “Notes after two days of rehab”

  1. April 25, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    Envisioning your recollecting of the other people you saw in therapy recalls an earlier thought I had: That in some respects we’re beta-testing this world for those that will come.

    Making betas making room for better alphas.

  2. April 26, 2013 at 4:10 am

    Nice perspective, Ian, and bang on. In the scheme of things you are very lucky, and it won’t be long until you are as good as new.

  3. April 26, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Congratulations on the progress so far — and thanks for the perspective on life 🙂

  4. April 26, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Wow! You are definitely making progress. Slowly but surely! Keep up the hard work, Ian, and thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. I think of you every so often when I’m at Edeka, but I’m guessing it’ll be a long time until I bump into you there again. I do hope your family is in charge of the shopping for now. 😉

  5. April 26, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    Really nice report on rehab Ian. Looking forward to a bike ride along the Elbe when you are feeling better.

    • April 26, 2013 at 8:18 pm

      Oh boy, Mike – that’s still a ways off, but next week I’m going to give the stationary bike a try with the pedal stroke on the shortest setting. Maybe I can then start to work up little by little.

  6. April 27, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    Those three guys are lucky too. There are others even worse off. I don’t want to belittle their plight – far from it, my heart goes out to them – but at least they’re getting help too, somehow.
    Thanks for sharing your plight and theirs. Everyone takes their health for granted when it’s such a gift. Nothing’s more important. Someone should tell the IPadders…
    I hope you’re doing OK. At least you’re keeping things in perspective and you’re finding the courage to maintain your sense of humour.
    I’ll appreciate the next beers we have together all the more when they happen.
    All the best.

  7. April 28, 2013 at 3:07 am

    I heard an interview on radio yesterday with a physician who’s been tending some victims from the Boston bombing. He said very much what you say here – that the determination, dignity and plain spunk of some of these people is breath-taking. He said something else I found interesting – that the people who do the best are those who make up their minds immediately that they aren’t going to be licked by what they face.

    And on a related note – friend Carolyn, she of the smooshed knee, is now able to drive. Stairs come next.

    • April 29, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      Oh God, I saw by accident a couple of those photos from the bombings – legs blown away at the knee – looked like a battlefield, just horrible stuff. Their recovery is hardly under way.

      About driving: I feel ready to do so already, but my wife says: no way!

  8. April 28, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Je suis complètement d’accord avec toi, Ian! Nos petits “bobos” ne sont rien en comparaison des traumatismes et/ou des blessures graves de milliers d’indidivus qui essaient malgré tout de mener une vie digne, honnête, et productive! Je vois que le programme de rehabilitation fonctionne bien. Bravo! Tu seras bientôt sur pied.
    À bientôt, à Vancouver.

  9. April 29, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Every time I read the titles about this, I think, wait he’s an addict? Then I remember its your leg. Anyway, I’m thinking well wishes in your direction.

  10. 18 Davey
    May 13, 2013 at 1:29 am

    “There but for the Grace of (God), go I” Almost every day I am reminded of this. No matter bad we think we have it, or how depressed we get, there is ALWAYS some-one who has it worse and still carries on.

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