Thursday, May 31, 2012

My kneed to swim

It's wonderful when I swim. I leave my prosthesis on the grass and hop-dive in. Kick with my right leg. Stroke with my arms. Shoot through the water like a dolphin. Float on my back staring at the sky, at the wild roses that cascade to the edge of the pond. Swim steady laps across the length of the pond. I just jumped in ten days ago but day before yesterday I swam almost a mile. Could have kept going. Didn't want to stop. Hated to crawl out of the water. It's like hopping off a trampoline back into the unforgiving world of gravity. Damn gravity.

 My right knee crunches when I lean on it. A new pain has flared on the outside of the joint. Usually all the grinding comes on the inside. I wear my knee brace all day now. After I've walked a while the pain and weakness fade into a white noise I mostly ignore. That's too familiar: it's how I managed my deformed foot and ankle in 2006, the year I felt my leg-clock run down.

If you'd have told me thirty years ago I'd do as well as I did with my fused leg, then been active for five years as an amputee, I would've been thrilled. Lose motion at fifty? Big deal--so distant from twenty. Infinitely far away. A small price to pay. Wrong, Liz.

Now I'm scrambling for a new point of reference, a physical venue where I can find the hard work and repetitive motion I love. Give me a tool to use, a tractor to drive, a horse to gallop & I was set. I craved the movement, the breeze, sun and dust, and my muscles aching at the end of the day. I need a setting where I'm still able to push my body.


I swap rubber bands from wrist to wrist each lap to keep count. Otherwise I lose track. After about a quarter of a mile I slide into the zone. I lose myself in the strength of my arms and legs. Or rather, leg. Except my phantom leg kicks too. I lose myself in the joy of going as fast as I can, as hard as I can, as long as I can. And nothing hurts.

Doctor's appointment tomorrow: cortisone shot in the knee. Bring it on. Prescription for the "TENS unit" insurance overlord Nurse Ratched said I have to try and document before we go farther with another approach. It all feels like deck chairs on the Titanic.

Maybe, instead of a knee replacement, I need surgery to give me gills. Then a ride in a sloshing tanker truck of water up to Cayuga Lake, the 400-foot-deep Finger Lake twenty miles from here. Forget just swimming across it at the surface: I'll swim it end to end, underwater, when I'm released. Flip my leg like a tail. And go.  

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