The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Monday, September 13, 2010


Days 6-10: Physical Therapy and the End of the Internet

On Tuesday the 24th, six days after my surgery, I went to my first physical therapy session. Sherry drove me to Google and we enjoyed a lunch at the nearby BigTable cafe. By now I was walking on one crutch. Sherry stood in line for food while I gathered silverware and drinks.

The therapist was (and is) a very nice, slender lady named Maureen. She and an assistant helped me out of the brace and onto a table -- I felt helpless without the brace, and held onto them for dear life. There was my swollen knee with a purple YES still scribbled absurdly on it. She started pushing my kneecap up toward my thigh. I didn't like this very much; as far as I was concerned, my kneecap was perfectly fine where it was. Maureen asked if I felt comfortable massaging it and I said no.

She gave me some exercises to do, very simple ones: Raise the knee, sliding the foot toward me, then slide my leg back to straight. Next, put a towel under my knee and push into it as hard as I could. These exercises, especially the first, would help pump fluid out of my knee.

That was a very boring week. If I was lucky, there was a Giants or A's away game in the afternoon, followed by a home game in the evening. I read Ivanhoe. I played Zork II. I played Mahjong. I solved crosswords on Yahoo. And I scoured the internet, and got thoroughly sick of reading about baseball, reading news, reading articles about painkillers on Wikipedia. A friend asked if I had "reached the end of the Internet." I felt as though I came pretty close.

I realized that there was no way for me to go back to work; I was stuck in the CPM machine for 3 weeks after surgery, and even if I could drive, and regained a lot more stamina, I simply wouldn't have any time for work. I told my manager and tech lead about this, and they were gracious about it (especially my tech lead, who had had his own bouts with knee problems). I arranged for short-term disability leave.

Thursday was the last day that I took Vicodin. My prescription was running low so I transitioned to ibuprofen. Before the surgery I had jokingly claimed to look forward to scoring some hillbilly heroin. Vicodin did seem to numb the pain -- and made me feel hot and sweaty. It wasn't a wonderful or euphoric feeling though.

Thursday night I had a terrible experience: I woke up and felt as though my leg were still moving back and forth.

Friday a physical therapy session opened up on short notice. By now I was done with the crutches and walking peg-legged, the brace keeping my leg straight. (The crutches never gave me much trouble, probably because they were supporting my leg rather than replacing it.) The knee, when unwrapped, looked much less swollen. (Also I was pleased to see the purple YES fading.)

When the knee fills with fluid after surgery, the muscles surrounding it shut down. My quadricep was small, flat, and silent; I could not make it flex. To counteract this, the physical therapist used ... electrodes. Yes, my leg was like the frog's leg in the classic high school biology experiment, hooked up to electricity to make the muscles twitch.

Saturday I got to have a little bit of fun, attending a friend's party. My friend Lisa picked me up at 7. Several of my friends and their children were there -- the two-year-old twins Sam and Julian examined my brace and pronounced it a "boo-boo." Four of us sat down to play some bridge. After six hands my leg hurt from being in a bent position, and I was tired. Another friend drove me home.

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