The Christmas Box
Entry # 5:
A Tangle of Spaghetti
The following excerpt is found on a storage box, used to house Christmas ornaments, a bedraggled cardboard arrangement, upon which I began scrawling an annual message, careful to affix the date each year. Some of the messages are filled with hope and whimsy; others, with dark forebodings of dire straits. Still others contain a blending of the two, a more accurate description of life up here on the mountain, on Bell Springs Road, and possibly where you live, also.
January 1, 1995
Well the break I kneeded
Went by so fast
The time to stop kicking back
arrived and you know what
that means: on to bigger
and better things.
This was a truly remarkable year; May
this next year be the same!
See you soon :) I actually drew a smiley face.
The one misspelled word says it all for this particular Christmas season. I had scheduled reconstructive knee surgery for the week before Christmas break, so as to have almost three full weeks off, before I had to go back to work. This was my left knee that I had injured on Friday, December 13, 1991. Dr. Bowen had gone in arthroscopically and cleaned it up, but back in 1991, there was nothing he could do about spaghetti ligament.
I vividly remember saying to him, the morning of my first arthroscopic procedure, “Gosh, I hope after all this hassle, you actually find something wrong.” He looked at me askance, and said, “I absolutely hope I do not find anything. What are you thinking?”
Of course, he was right, and when he presented the photos to me, I was sick to my stomach. I do not pretend to know what a ligament in pristine shape looks like, but I figured the tangle of spaghetti that I was looking at in the picture, did not bode well for me. What I was soon to find out, twelve weeks later after I got off crutches, was that having no structural support on one side of my knee, meant that there were times when the knee simply folded like cardboard, and I would go down like the proverbial sack of potatoes. One of the more famous instances took place in the staff room, when I bustled in, and in turning the corner, went flat on my face with the whole elementary/middle school staff watching.
No, I was not drunk, though I wish I had been. That would have provided an explanation; as it was, oh well. Each time it happened, the knee followed its own course, and left me to cope with the aftermath. After it had occurred for the umpteenth time, I went back to Dr. Bowen, and begged him to do something. Well, three years had gone by, since he had told me they were doing some experimental work with cadavers, and that he thought the technology was not that far away, to be able to address my need.
Now he told me that with recent advances, he was able to take a tendon from my ankle (What, I don’t need ankle tendons?) and use it to replace the destroyed ligament in my knee. Unfortunately, it still meant the six-inch incision down the length of my left knee, but that was OK with me. Now they can do the same procedure arthroscopically, but not at that time.
One amazing thing was that after reconstructive surgery, I was only on crutches for one month, instead of three, and that Dr. Bowen wanted me up and about as soon as I could stand it. He also told me I would have to come back in ten years for a tune-up, something I have not yet had to do, seventeen years later, at least not as far as the left knee is concerned. I was always proud of the fact that the only school time I missed, prior to having the surgery in 1994, was the ten minute period that I spent flat on the blacktop that fatal Friday afternoon, before the bell rang and the buses carted the kids away.
Miss Morrison, our PE teacher, who had an elective class 7th period, had been summoned, and she knew shock when she saw it. “Call 911,” she said flatly. She covered me with a blanket, while across the street at the fire station, I heard the whistle go off, which back in the day, meant “Get your volunteer-selves down here and escort this guy to Howard Hospital.”
Meanwhile, when I went to have the surgery performed, I was taking off the last four days of school before Christmas break. These represented the first four sick leave days I had ever taken, and we got pretty creative when it came to replacing me in the classroom. After working with Richard Matlock as my boss for the first four years, I was now working for Jeanne Cassela, who had taken over as principal at the start of the ’94-’95 school year.
Jeanne had been working for the MCOE, before coming on board, and both Paul and I had been on the hiring committee. Jeanne had been in our team-taught classroom a lot, while she was still working for the county. Bottom line was that she wanted to work with Paul, and do a four-day stint as my replacement. They planned an integrated, thematic-based unit, centered on where we were at that time in the curriculum, and I went off, fairly confident that the place would not crumble in my absence.
The way I understood it, things went reasonably well, with the caveat being that Miss Cassela was still the principal, and as such, had to respond to the unplanned elements of her job. Meanwhile, I was able to get the surgery done, and still have almost three weeks to recuperate, before returning to the classroom, where the kids treated me as though I were the returning conquerer, with me cruising around campus in the resurrected wheel chair, that had heretofore been nothing more than a prop.
Well, better a wheel chair, than a rocking chair, and there was nothing wrong with students seeing that determination was an admirable quality. I was determined that my classroom would remain as undisturbed by my injury as possible, and that the kids should see that a knee injury kneed not prevent me from working. As long as it was my knee and not my head, I could cope and so could they.