Feeble Knees

Friday, November 19, 2004

My Nom de Plume

My knees, which always have been unlike anyone else's, are in fact much unlike most other people's. I learned that the degree to which they turn in makes me severely knock kneed (also known as genu valgum). This didn't really concern me too much, until one day at what I thought was going to be a routine appointment, the orthopedic surgeon waltzed into the examination room and calmly, coldly, explained that I need to have my legs chopped above the knee and realigned, a process called Femoral Osteotomy. The average recuperation time for osteotomy is six to twelve months, barring any complications (of which many are possible) or need for additional surgery. Only about four thousand of them are performed in the U.S. in a year.

Yow! And I just thought I needed a knee brace!

It was a shocker, boy. For weeks I brooded over orthopedic Web sites and message boards, trying to get more information about this very rare procedure. It just didn't sound good, any way you sliced it. Though I wasn't experiencing much pain, I was being advised to seek the surgery so that I would stave off needing total knee replacement in seven years. YOW. Later, at my first physical therapy appointment, the therapist examined my knees and shook her head. "You realize that you are in for a lifetime of pain, don't you?" she said.

The surgeon gave me a long and depressing list of restrictions: No hiking (that really bums me out), no stair-stepper machines, no squatting (guess I better steer clear of places with only Turkish toilets), no step aerobics, and no digging in the garden (This one *really* hurts! ) I had to give up my elliptical machine, since it was aggravating my knee and no doubt contributing to the degeneration of the cartilage. Furthermore, I am to absolutely restrict the number of times I go up and down stairs during the day. This means getting up, getting dressed and going downstairs - ONCE. Then going upstairs in the evening, ONCE, when I'm ready to go to bed. He strongly recommended that if we ever find ourselves having to move, we should only buy single story, ranch-style homes. My eyes popped out of my head. "OK", I thought to myself, "So this guy is serious about no stair climbing!"

He saved the big whopper for last: "You don't have any small children that you have to care for, do you?"

No, not yet.

This is the sticking point. I'd have to have both legs done, so we're talking one to possibly two years of my life spent recuperating. Each surgery (presuming they did one leg at a time) would require me to be completely non-weight bearing for 8 to 10 weeks, and then limited mobility after that, with frequent return trips to the doctor & tons of physical therapy.

At the moment, I'm 33 and my husband's 34. We've been married 2 years and were just about ready to start having kids (this is how I got into all this mess in the first place, by going for a physical to make sure I was in OK shape to conceive). Having the surgery now would mean delaying our plans to have a family for an undetermined amount of time. I couldn't resolve myself to that. My husband is willing to support me either way and do whatever necessary (God bless him). But I just can't resolve myself to putting off having a family over this.

Thankfully I'm not experiencing a great deal of pain, nor am I debilitated. It's really just a nagging thing that's been getting more constant over time. Who knows what kinds of new procedures could be developed in the next couple of years? Who knows if we'll all still be here? Who knows whether or not my knees will actually get much worse? For the most part, I've been good about all the restrictions. Although it's nearly impossible to limit one's trips up and down stairs in a day (try it sometime, you'll be amazed how impossible it can be).

Anyway, fast forward to a couple months ago when I first found Messy Christian's blog. I couldn't believe what I was reading, someone who'd been through a similar church experience as I had. I wanted to comment on some of her posts, but feared being recognized by members of my former church (I've long since left my church, married and moved a couple of times. While I'm enjoying my newfound anonymity, other friends who left the same church haven't been so fortunate.) So I was trying to come up with a pseudonym for a new email address. I don't remember the particulars, but somehow I came across this Spurgeon sermon, which was excellent. But what really stood out to me was the text - Isaiah 35:3 - which says: Strengthen ye the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees.

While reading the sermon, the thought struck me that for the first time in my life I felt like someone who couldn't be the strong one anymore, who at the moment couldn't carry anyone on my back. I felt weak and limited by my physical problems and rather depressed and sorrowful about my not-so-rosy prognosis. Nothing anyone could say would comfort me, and I asked people to please not try to offer me a million platitudes about my situation, or tell me what "they would do if they were in my shoes". It dawned on me that I was the feeble knees Spurgeon was talking about. It ain't flattering, but honey it's the truth.

I liked the double meaning as well. (I love irony!) "Feeble knees" certainly describes my physical state. I can't climb, I can't run, I can't dig, I can't help carry heavy objects when helping friends move. For the first time in my life, I'm just not very useful at all. It also describes somewhat of my current emotional and spiritual state, in that I'm learning all over again (maybe really for the first time) what it means to be the weak one who needs help, and needs to ask for it. Thank God Jesus is my strong high tower, and my Shepherd who knows all my afflictions. But whereas before it was always Me and Jesus, now it's me and Jesus, and my husband, and my physical therapist, and my orthopedic guy, and my foot doctor... You get the idea.

So feeble knees I have, ergo, Feeble Knees I am.
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