Treating an Arthritic Knee

I admit it. I am aging. I would like to say and gracefully so, but there are those that would disagree.

I’ve been active my whole life: played tennis, swam, rode horses, rode bikes, and the clincher – ran for over 40 years – until I couldn’t. That was a major bummer – not being able to run. But ever Pollyanna, I downgraded to fast walking – until I couldn’t. The solution? Slow the pace. This I did, despite ouches and grunts that occurred in rhythmic harmony. Thus are the musical notes of arthritis.

To quell my aches, I’ve tried a number of things including physical therapy, arthroscopic surgery, cortisone shots and gel shots. Nothing worked. I continued to toddle and limp along.

Enter my volunteer work at the animal shelter where I walk up to 10 strong dogs twice a week. We’re talking PAIN!! However, nothing was going to stop me from this passion it took me a lifetime to find.

I had a nice chat with my orthopedic doctor who suggested this relatively new procedure, Coolief. Here’s what she told me:

It’s simple: Radiofrequency energy targets the nerves in the knee area that send pain signals to the brain and destroys them so voila, no pain! It’s not quite that simple, so I will leave the nitty-gritty detail to the pros

As far as the experience – it is not pleasant. In fact, it is very unpleasant. In sum, four needles are inserted into your knee and adjusted so they target the correct nerves. This was excruciating, “No pain, no gain,” the nurse said. This was something I did not want to hear at the time. Once the needles were in and positioned, the rest wasn’t so bad. In fact, the warmth of the penetrating energy was soothing.

Before the docs can perform the “real” procedure, they have to determine if you are a viable candidate, so they do a “pre-procedure” Again, four needles are inserted into the area around your knee only this time lidocaine is inserted into your knee through them. When the procedure is over, you are instructed to go home and chart your pain level for the next four hours. If you do not have pain then you can be promoted to Phase 2.

There are no real after-effects of either procedure, so after the “real” one, I was fine after an afternoon of resting. I was then anxious to see how my modified knee would feel.

One of the issues I had at the shelter was getting the dogs out of their kennels where you have to kneel on one knee (my bad one) while holding the other knee against the kennel door to keep the dog from barging on out. This procedure had been a killer. (Notice past tense). Four days after the procedure was my first walking shift. I wanted to jump for joy at how painless it was!! Walking the dogs was also exciting because I could trot along with the more energetic dogs, also with no pain.  

The sad thing is that this fix is not permanent. The average time before symptoms return is 2 years. What then? A repeat of the procedure or eventually, a knee replacement. I am not at all thrilled about a knee replacement and what all that means in recuperation so I’ll probably hang out with Coolief for a bit, even if it does involve sticking needles in my knee

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Posted in Aging

Spa Baths and Cabbage Leaves

He didn’t have a name. They give all the dogs a name, but for some reason, this sad-eyed boy got passed by. He was the quintessential hang dog, rarely lifting his head to make eye contact, but when he did, my heart melted. I just wanted him to have a name.

I went to see him today. They gave him a name. It’s Carter. He has a bad skin condition, so I helped one of the other volunteers give him the spa bath treatment. He seemed to love the attention, especially when we got “the spot” and his leg jerked in happy harmony with butt scrubs.

I don’t know what will happen with him. I pray for the perfect family to come along and adopt him. He’s in the adoption row now, so there’s plenty of hope.

I learned something new today, too. Actually, it seems I always learn something new when I go to the shelter. Today we had to treat a mama dog who had suffered from a case of mastitis. The treatment? Hold cold leaves of cabbage on the offending teats. It works! Yesterday all she wanted to do was lay down and have the cabbage leaves pressed against her. Today? All she wanted was to bounce around and play. She is better. Cabbage leaves work on sore teats! Who would have guessed?

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Crimson, a Very Nice Dog

She was big and huge and clearly uncomfortable. She was due any day and very reluctantly obliged any of us by getting up for a walk. She was a stray and the shelter staff had named her Crimson. We all couldn’t wait to see her puppies.

Photo by Tess O’Brien from Burst

They moved her into the quiet row of kennels, as a calm and peaceful place to have her litter. I was happy they did this for her.

Tonight, I came in to find that her puppies were gone. They spayed her and took them away at the same time.  When I went to see her, I was met with a much smaller and younger-looking dog, but one who panted non-stop and was in obvious distress. My heart broke for this lovely dog who wondered where her babies were.

It is heartbreaking to see things like this, but then there are all the living dogs who need us to give them a glimmer of hope and love, which we do, unfailingly.

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Posted in Animals and Rescue

Is Correct Use of the English Language Doomed?

I am a grammar geek. That’s not to say I always get it right, but I love thinking about it and see grammar as a giant puzzle that deserves to be dealt with justly and correctly. After all, I grew up in the age of sentence diagramming, which I loved and still think of fondly.

I am also an English teacher. I teach college students whose idea of grammar is to see how many letters they can eliminate in a word to have it still make sense: u, imho, lol, among many, many others

The students I teach are mostly serious students and good people. The course I teach is an upper level course that focuses on business writing. One of its main premises is that the students come to it equipped with the skills of grammar, and if lacking, it is up to them to seek remedial help.

Ha!

The other day I administered an exercise having to do with subject-verb agreement, sentence structure, punctuation, and a short essay. Granted, some of the questions were on the complex-side, but theoretically, questions these students should be able to handle. The results were abysmal.

I’m in mourning as I watch the purity of my lovely language losing out to the era of text messages, disappearing photos, and beyond-casual email.  In fact, I am appalled at the some emotionally-charged, poorly formatted and incompetently-written emails that come across my desk from students these days.

What is the answer? I declare that there is none. The language will evolve or dissolve and the question now is, does anybody care?

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Posted in Editorials

The Skirt

It had been a long and crazy day. I taught in the morning, had office hours after, rushed home to get my dogs out, changed into jeans, and then went off to the shelter to walk the dogs. That evening my daughter and I were going out to dinner first before seeing the play Chicago! I rushed home after walking the dogs, changed back into my pencil skirt and top, and off my daughter and I went to begin our evening romp.

Dinner was good – I had my usual – a cheese omelet. Then, off to the theater. We parked on a back street and started the ½ block walk to the theater. About halfway there I felt something odd around my ankles. I looked down and to my horror, discovered my skirt had fallen down. I yanked that baby up as fast as I could and proceeded to spend the rest of the evening with one hand firmly grasping the top of that skirt.

My daughter and I about rolled down the street laughing at this new “mom-ism” caper. Interestingly, while gripping the skirt after “the incident,” I thought the waistband was awfully loose and wondered if I had lost weight.

Anyway, I made it home with skirt more or less intact and when I took it off, I discovered that when I redressed myself, I put the darn thing on upside down.

The moral of this story is that pencil skirts only go on one way and it’s best to identify the position of the waistband before putting one on.

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Posted in Life Experiences

A Young Dog Named Hershey

A wonderful happy and fun-loving 1-year old pitbull pup was surrendered to the shelter a week ago by the only family he had ever known. They got Hershey when he was a puppy and that’s when the trouble began. This family thought crating was cruel, so little Hershey, complete with puppy energy and teething gums, set about to chew and play with everything he could get his paws and teeth on. This included when the family was gone and they left Hershey to his own devices.

We all loved him at the shelter. I walked him several times, or rather, he romped and I followed at a good clip. But he would periodically stop to check in with me, make sure I was still there having as much fun as he was. One time I spent some crazy amount of time trying to get his halter on him while he just patiently stood. I never did get it on so we went by collar and leash.

I was looking forward to my next visit with him when I discovered that he was on “The List.” The shelter staff had tried to get a rescue group to pull him but because of the really bad write-up left by his owners, takers were not forthcoming. I went into frantic-forward as did untold number of other volunteers to find an answer for this beautiful, sweet and innocent boy, a boy who was about to be condemned through no fault of his own.

The good news is – Hershey was pulled by the rescue Operation Freedom Ride – literally hours before his time was up.  In a warm, loving foster home, he can now decompress and get ready for an adoptive home that will love him and treat him like the wonderful dog he is!

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Posted in Animals and Rescue

Cellphone Civility: Not

I was reading an article in People magazine when I came across a compelling quote by Alex Trebek. It especially resonated with me because of my professional involvement with young (and not so) college students. Here’s what he had to say:

Photo by Sajjad Hussain M from Burst

“When I was growing up in Ontario, if you were on the street and made eye contact with someone, you would say “good morning,” even if you didn’t know them. Now everyone has their face buried in their cellphones or have earphones in. We’ve become isolationists. There’s a lack of civility in our society right now that bothers me. I always ride the subway when I am in New York, and everyone is just looking down at their phones. It frightens me that we’re losing sensitivity toward others.

I often think of the movie Wall.E when I ponder the roles the cell phone and texting have taken in our lives today. Wall.E is the story of an enterprising and adorable little robot who finds himself in a space-city where scores of humans migrated when the earth was destroyed in a nuclear attack. The humans have become glutinous and essentially immobile and spend their days floating around on motorized chaises, talking on phones while ignoring the people right next to them. It’s a provocative little film and despite its clear commentary on the state of humankind, it leaves us with a feel-good ending.

I’m anxious to see what our feel-good ending will be.

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