Friday, April 27, 2012

The Knights Who Say Knee (Brace)

My knee is tired. I only have the one, and it's been complaining a lot. In turn, I complain to my friends, relatives and horses. Six years ago, a year before my above-knee amputation, an orthopedic specialist sent me to an orthotist (vocab word: will be on the final) for this unloading brace. 

Back around 1975 when I had two normal legs I realized I was bowlegged: when my feet were together my knees had several inches of daylight between them. I rode horses constantly so I claimed it had made me bowlegged like a cowboy, but it was probably just heredity.

Then my left leg caught a bacterial bug that turned into osteomyelitis, which is always bad, and worse if you belong to a hardcore Christian Science family in the Boston area at a time when it was legal to pray for your kid instead of take them to a hospital. (It's still legal to do this in 38 states. Not in Massachusetts anymore.)

The infection destroyed my left knee. It fused solid in a bent position perfect for riding horses but bad for walking. I did both for thirty-five years until my left foot and right (normal) knee were trashed. The amputation solved the foot problem. Now, five years later, my remaining knee is trashed. The already off-kilter joint grinds towards the inside. (I've been told I'm hard on my equipment.) The unloading brace pushes the outside of the joint to take pressure off the inside. And yeah, it's as bulky and annoying and "Run, Forrest, run!" as it looks. I only wear it a few hours a day.

(It also feels like a second prosthetic leg. Wow. Let me just say I'm grateful to be only a single amp. I love my trashed, organic knee. My daughter tried on my brace one time and hated it. Come over and try it sometime.)

Knee replacement surgery is probably on my horizon. It's a bad deal for an AK amp because it'll leave me pretty much without a leg to stand on. On a wonderful amputee website called Stumps R Us I posted the question: any AKs gone through it? Recently a fellow amp wrote to tell me about his knee replacement this past winter. I was hoping for happy magical news, but it was what I'd expected. Endurance, patience and nose-to-the-grindstone PT. So. We'll see.

In the meantime, have you hugged your limbs today?  :-)


  1. While I was having PT after minor knee surgery, I saw people rehabing after knee replacement surgery. It does take a long time, though very worth it, according to people who worked hard in therapy for months, close to a year. You recover faster if you do therapy both before and after surgery, and SWIM like a maniac. Let me know when/if you have the knee replacement, I'll visit and do knee exercises with you.

    1. I'm on a gradual descent towards knee replacement...I have a relatively "very young" friend (late thirties) who just had one, as well as a woman my age who I know. I've tackled various surgeries in the past--even amputation was very straight forward compared to knee replacement. But we'll see. I'm still hoping the Insurance Overlords might deign to give me a new & improved brace...though they keep stalling & denying it... I appreciate the pep talk Laurie. I know you've been on your own road to recovery this year. We're definitely all in this human life together.

    2. What kind of insurance do you have? I worked for a health insurance company for eight years. How much is the brace you want, and what kind is it?

  2. He Liz,
    Your writing..."Christian Science family in the Boston area at a time when it was legal to pray for your kid instead of take them to a hospital. (It's still legal to do this in 38 states. Not in Massachusetts anymore.)"

    When did this happen? Were you part of the change? I am thrilled to hear this is against the law in MA, too bad it is a too late and a limb short for you!

    1. The change in the law came (I believe) in the early 1980's. I'm going to post in more detail about the law & whole outlook in the US towards religion-based medical neglect of children. I wasn't part of the change at that time (I left Christian Science in the 1990's.) The laws are written (in great part lobbied by the CS church) to say (paraphrased) a child isn't considered neglected just because she is treated with prayer. It leaves a big gray area.

      I've had the honor of getting to know Rita Swan, an ex-CS who formed Children's Healthcare Is A Legal Duty Inc. (CHILD, Inc), a non-profit that fights these laws. She's the one who has brought about the changes in state law. Rita put me in touch with Sean Faircloth who interviewed me in December.

      (I love, "too late & a limb short"--very poetic!)