The fightback starts now

That sounds ever so dramatic, doesn’t it?

See, the problem is that I have one big leg and one small leg. Not in length – I’ve just checked and they both reach all the way down to the floor. The trouble is that the muscles in one of them have atrophied completely away to nothing.

Let’s cut to the chase.

I had a routine, minor knee op in February. I had it on a Friday morning. I was meant to be back at work on the Monday.

Things didn’t go as planned and I ended up having a second emergency operation ten days later and spending two months off work. What has followed has been a tale of pain, expensive medication, frustration and regular general grumpiness. It’s been incredibly limiting. It’s no exaggeration to say that I’m the most unfit that I have ever been and I’ve been unable to do any meaningful exercise to try to put things right.

Until now.

I was given the green light by the surgeon to get in moving a little while ago. Walking is “ok”, while running is (quite literally) a non-starter. Cycling is apparently the way to get things started again. The trouble is that cycling around our area requires going up hills and that’s (again, quite literally) a real pain. I need flatness.

Gym was the obvious answer, but really, where does one find the time? I mean, have you seen my weekends? (If not, there are examples here and here.)
And if you don’t go to the gym often enough, your special price for gym membership disappears and you have to pay full price and really, where does one find the money?

So I’ve made some lifestyle changes which are due to kick in real soon now. They will allow me more time to attend the gym and make things right. As an example, I did a whole 16.4km on the bike today. And while that might not sound like much, it’s more than twice what I did on (the flat) Sea Point Prom on the public holiday yesterday and an infinite amount more than I’ve been able to do for the past six months.

Realistically, I’m not sure that I will ever get back to where I was before. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to give it a damn good go.

The fightback begins now.

Dys is not good

Literally, it’s not.

Pronounced “dis”, it’s quite literally Latin for ‘Bad’. And it’s used a lot in modern language to describe bad things:

Dyspepsia – bad digestion
Dystopia – a bad place to live
Dysentery – which very much uses dat exit
Dysfunctional, dyslexic, dystrophy, dysphonia, dysphoric.

There are plenty of others, too: yesterday, I learned about dysesthesia. It’s why I can’t wear trousers.

noun MEDICINE
noun: dysesthesia
an abnormal, unpleasant sensation felt when touched, caused by damage to peripheral nerves.

Yes, it would seem that along with everything else that went wrong with my knee op, there’s some damage to the infrapatellar branch of my left saphenous nerve. Now we know. It means that I get an abnormal, unpleasan… look, it means I experience dysesthesia.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t really have an issue with wearing shorts, but it would be nice to have the choice to cover my lower half every now and again.

Fortunately, with every diagnosis comes a potential cure. The first option is expensive: it’s pregabalin – an anti-epileptic drug. My doctor told me how to take the tablets:

First you open the box.
Then you take out the big patient information leaflet, and you burn it.
Then you take the tablets.

I covered this approach about 10 years ago.

Still, I never take my own advice, and so I hit up my local search engine and ho-lee sheet! He wasn’t joking. Here are a selection of potential side-effects.

  • accidental injury (!)
  • bloating or swelling of the face, arms, hands, lower legs, or feet
  • trembling, or other problems with muscle control or coordination
  • rapid weight gain
  • unusual weight loss (er…)
  • uncontrolled eye movements
  • loss of bladder control
  • painful or difficult urination (er…)
  • loss of consciousness
  • difficulty having a bowel movement
  • difficulty with speaking
  • excess air or gas in the stomach or intestines
  • false or unusual sense of well-being (lol)
  • general feeling of discomfort or illness (more like it)

We’re not done yet though:

  • Urinary incontinence (again)
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Impotence
  • Urinary frequency
  • Urinary incontinence (and again)
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Delayed ejaculation
  • Anorgasmia

Oh good.

And these aren’t even the serious ones. But don’t worry, the serious ones are all listed there as well. And they make it quite clear –  that while this drug might stop your knee feeling weird, but it might also completely – completely – fuck up your kidneys, bowels, bladder, gentleman’s parts, lady bits, liver, brain, immune system, skin and guts.

And how’s this one?

False beliefs that cannot be changed by facts

Hilarious. It was only on the weekend that I shared this quote about annoying people who I now recognise are just taking pregabalin.

In an argument between a logical person and illogical person, the logical person is always going to lose because the illogical person isn’t playing by the same rules.

No. They’re smashed off their heads on anti-epileptics, farting, leaking and they can’t get it on, or indeed off, or get it out. Or keep it in.

Eish.

Fortunately, as you may recall some 14 paragraphs up, there is another method of potentially defeating dysesthesia. It involves a sheet of sticky plastic, adhered across my knee, just below my patella. I’m trying it out now and I would show you what it looks like, but I can’t BECAUSE I’VE GOT JEANS ON!

Boom!

It does seem that it’s actually the occasional touch of cloth (careful now) that triggers my dysesthesia. Stick a big sheet of medical plastic over the affected area and there’s constant pressure on there. I guess it’s like knocking back a shot bad tequila in one go to avoid any further afterburns.

I don’t want to tempt fate, but it seems to be working. And (as far as I’m aware) it doesn’t have any of Pregabalin’s potential side effects. It will hurt a bit when I have to replace it.

On a more serious note, it’s likely that my dysesthesia will disappear by the end of the year, which is something that I really look forward to. And while I have made light of the huge list of dodgy consequences of Pregabalin, I’m also aware that for patients to choose (or have) to endure those risks and that unpleasantness, they must be facing severe medical problems, and I’m very glad that I’m not in that situation.

Car park sniggering

Just a quickie. (Careful now.)

It’s pouring down in Cape Town today. I’m not complaining: we need the rain [links to millions of drought posts].
Earlier, I described the morning as “gloriously filthy“, and I fully stand by that.

Unconnected with the prevailing meteorological conditions, my knee remains really rather sore. This makes wearing long trousers uncomfortable. Hence, I am wearing shorts today.

I covered this in my recent blog post, amusingly entitled No News Is Good Knees.

When I got out of my car at work today (in the rain, wearing shorts), I became aware of a group of five or six young individuals poking fun at my wardrobe choice, while having a cigarette.

“Whatevs”, as they say. Water off a duck’s back. (No pun etc etc)
I’m way past caring what unimportant people think of me.

But, I will just point out that I was wearing shorts in the rain because my knee is painful. Those twats were voluntarily standing outside in the pouring rain (in long trousers, admittedly) attempting to give themselves lung cancer.

I’m really not sure I should be the one being giggled at.

No news is good knees?

A quick update on my knee situation (backstory here and here), because the cashier in the supermarket was asking about it this morning and she’s had bladder problems for 6 years now and even though she’s seen a specialist (he’s the best one in Constantiaberg, you know) and had several operations (including trying botox) it’s still not any better and she needs to take drugs every month and yes the medical aid does cover it, but it’s expensive and debilitating and… hasn’t the weather turned cold?

Actually, it all started because she asked me why I was wearing shorts on such a cold, wet day.

Now, I can wear long trousers, but because of the continued swelling and sensitivity of my knee, it’s a lot more comfortable if I don’t. And so I have been wearing shorts. Fortunately, my work allows me to wear shorts, the only issue being that when wearing shorts under a lab coat it can appear that I’m not wearing anything at all. But that’s actually just a minor concern, because in fact, I am wearing shorts under the lab coat – you just can’t see them.

Safety first.

Wearing shorts was, until recently, quite beneficial too, as the Cape Town summer waned slowly and lazily towards heady autumnal days. I sneered at men in longer, less practical trousers as they sweated their way around the Mother City. Now they’re laughing at me.

Not, I must point out, that the Cape Town “cold” bothers me. I was brought up… hang on… [cue the Dvorák]… ah, that’s better. Now, as I were sayin’, I were brought up in t’ Yorkshire Pennines. I din’t even know what t’sun was ’til I went darn sarth when I were 14 an’ t’clouds broke up just past t’Toddington services.

What I’m trying to say is that what passes for “cold” here in SA was actually pretty decent weather for us on all but the hottest day of summer.

And, due to the continuing inflammatory processes within my knee joint, I have my own little heater on board anyway. It (my knee) actually gets so hot sometimes that ailing power generation SOE, Eskom got in touch to ask if they could attach a steam turbine unit to it, but I declined, fearful that it might make an awkward-shaped bulge under my lab coat.

We may have load-shedding again this winter, but I insist upon maintaining some small degree of near respectability.

But I digress. Often.

My knee is improving. There are good days, there are bad days. But as with any recovery process, it’s worth noting that the good days are slowly but surely beginning to outnumber the bad ones. I’ve been off crutches for weeks now, and I can almost walk down stairs without looking like I have suffered some sort of recent cerebral trauma.
Walking is fine, running is not. Football remains a pipe dream.
And I’m single-handedly propping up the SA non-steroidal anti-inflammatory market.

The thing is, I could possibly expedite my recovery by working harder and doing more, but equally, if I did that, I’d be more likely to hurt myself and set myself back n weeks, like I did last month. And so, it’s a balancing act. As an aside, my balancing is actually pretty good.

The goal is to be mostly completely mended by the time we head off to Europe next month. To be still struggling then would be annoying.

In other news, I’m happy to report that my bladder is fine.

Flat

It’s a Friday evening, it’s 8:12pm and I’m in bed.

I’m not sick: I’m just exhausted. This week has kicked my behind.
I lost. It won. It was a decisive victory.

A flare-up in my knee has dragged my recovery a couple of weeks backwards, and the associated time and effort to go and see the surgeon again, get another cortisone injection, get myself to another two physio sessions while feeling inflamed and sleep-deprived – on top of planning for the next two big projects at work – has finished me off.

If I sound a bit down and a bit sorry for myself, it’s because I am. But things will be better tomorrow (when you will be reading this). A good night’s sleep. The improvements that have come from those medical interventions this week. Scant plans that involve fun and exploration, while leaving time for watching some sport and enjoying some family time.

Not overdoing it. That’s important.

That’s why I’m in bed at 8:12pm on a Friday evening.