Expiring warranties and surgery

The 2006 calendar year will be remembered for a wide variety of reasons.
Some will look back in the years to come and view it as a time of massive political change.
The Conservative party of Canada began the trend back in January, ousting the Liberals from power for the first time in 12 years. The Americans kept the ball rolling as the Democrats re-took control of both the Senate and Congress.
And locally, Roy Avis beat incumbent Dan Onichuk to become the next mayor of Fort Frances.
Others will look back on 2006 and remember it as the year the curtain was pulled back and the use of performance-enhancing drugs by pro athletes finally became a prominent issue on the international sports scene.
Seemingly every major sports figure has had to deal, or is dealing with, allegations surrounding possible drug use. Everyone from Barry Bonds to Lance Armstrong to the entire National Hockey League has had to address the issue at one time or another.
But while these issues—and a host of others I have neither the time nor the space to address in this column—are certainly important and noteworthy, I’ll remember this year for an entirely different reason.
This is the year the warranty on my body expired. I know it’s a bit of a strange statement but bear with me for a minute and I’ll explain the analogy.
Anyone who has ever owned an expensive item—regardless of what that item is—undoubtedly has been faced with the maddening situation wherein said item breaks shortly after the warranty has expired.
The owner then is left to foot the entire bill for the repair or, in some cases where a repair is impossible, simply stuck with the broken item. Count me as one of the lucky ones in the latter category.
This past week, I was down in Toronto to have a relatively simple arthroscopic procedure on my left knee. The troublesome wheel had been bothering me for years and I finally decided to have it fixed.
The surgery marked the second time I’d had it cleaned out in the past 15 years—the first being when I was 13 years old after having ripped it up during a football game.
As far as surgeries go, it was pretty basic stuff—especially when compared to the heart surgery I underwent six weeks ago.
Basically, all they were doing was making two small incisions on either side of my knee, flushing out all the loose bodies floating around in there by pushing three litres of saline solution through it, and trimming up any cartilage that may be frayed or torn.
I was pretty excited to have the surgery done. I hadn’t been able to completely straighten my knee for a couple of years due to the damaged cartilage which had, in turn, made playing sports pretty difficult.
My goal was to get it fixed, retire from contact sports, and take up something relatively safe—like soccer. Needless to say, it didn’t quite play out the way I had it planned.
I woke up in the recovery room feeling pretty good and asked to chat with the surgeon. I should have known there was a problem when the nurse looked at my chart and told me she’d find him for me.
The surgeon stopped by about 20 minutes later. Again, I should have known something was up. When was the last time anyone got to see their surgeon immediately following surgery?
Heck, I didn’t see my cardiologist until the day after my heart surgery.
I asked my doctor how the procedure had gone and he responded by saying, “Your knee is a mess.” Fantastic—just the response you want to hear from your doctor.
He proceeded to tell me that during his exploration of my knee, he’d discovered that all of my remaining cartilage was damaged. As a result, when he removed the offending bits, I was left with nothing.
That’s no cartilage—as in zip, zilch, and nada.
My knee is now rubbing bone on bone and apparently that’s not such a good thing.
I asked him what this all meant and he explained that I was going to require knee replacement surgery.
He couldn’t tell me exactly how long my current knee is going to last—it depends largely on how I take care of it from here on out—but at some point in the not too distant future, I’m going to join the artificial joint club.
In the meantime, I was told I’m going to have to “make some major changes to my lifestyle.” Anything involving running is now out. I have to try and keep the wear on the bones in the joint to a minimum and that means limiting the amount of impact my knee adsorbs.
Essentially, that means no rugby, no football, no soccer, no basketball, and no jogging.
The entire conversation was pretty surreal. I’m 28 years old. In my mind, knee replacements were for professional athletes who had completely destroyed their joints and senior citizens.
From shock, I quickly passed into the “feeling sorry for myself” stage.
Team sports are all I’ve ever really known. They are how I enjoy spending my free time. They also are instrumental in helping me regulate my life.
My long-suffering parents would attest to the fact that I’ve always been a much more reasonable person during sports season.
In the past, sports are where I’ve gone to blow off steam and cope with stress. The prospect of losing that outlet—at least in terms of how I’ve traditionally approached it—was pretty daunting.
It’s been almost a week since my procedure and I guess I’d describe my current mood as hopeful.
For starters, for the first time in recent memory, my knee is relatively pain-free. I have moments where it is sore, but at least I can straighten it out and am starting to get my full range of motion back.
I’ve also had a while to get used to the fact that different isn’t necessarily bad.
I’m going to miss some of the sports I’ve been forced to give up, but I can’t dwell on that. Instead, I’m looking forward to partaking in other less-damaging pastimes (see swimming and cycling).
I also came to the conclusion that my situation isn’t unique. There are lots of people in the community that have had to make adjustments to their lifestyle. It’s part of getting older.
Sure, I’m a little ahead of the curve but I can’t do anything about it now. I take some comfort in the fact that other people have gone through similar situations and are doing just fine.
But most importantly, I think I’ve gained a new respect for my body. I understand that I need to take better care of it because it’s the only one I’m likely to ever own.
So hopefully, when I look back at 2006 years from now, I’ll be able to point to it as the year I extended the warranty on all my other joints by taking better care of them.
acruickshank@fortfrances.com

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