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First Day On “Crunches”

According to the MRI I took on Saturday, I have a stress fracture on my femur socket. Doc M explained it on a drawing where the crack was near the hip socket on the femur. He said, “You have a hard boiled egg and the shell is cracking. It cracks with the more weight you put on it. You have to stop everything you’re doing, otherwise no more running for a long long time.”

“What do I stop?” I said.

“Everything. Walking. Running. Swimming. If you keep putting weight on that joint, you’ll crack the femur and then you’ll have to get surgery, a hip replacement and you don’t want to be an old man being so young. You have to heal. So go get some crutches at Zee Chemist right downstairs.”

I went to get the crutches. Yelena, the attractive woman at the cosmetic counter helped me get them, though she did not know where they were; she had to ask someone at the pharmacy counter. Yelena was an expert in cosmetics, that being her department, but Yelena loved to be helpful to every customer, so when she saw me lost and the pharma-folks didn’t pay attention, she offered her services. When told where to find the crutches, which was “downstairs all the way to the back on the right,” she was eager to take me down there. We found wooden and aluminum ones. We both agreed that the wooden ones looked better, less institutional, “less to remind you of being in a hospital,” as she said in her Eastern European accent. They were “warmer”. I asked, “How much?” She said, “Let me go find out.” I looked at them and played with them, as Yelena suggested. I adjusted them, playing with the screws and adjustable settings, holes with screws to make them taller or shorter and to move the hand-rest up or down. Yelena came back and said, “Ok, she told me they were 29 dollars.”

“All right, I’ll take them, but can I have the ones in the back. These are dusty and dirty.” She said, “Sure.” Oh, I said, “But look, it says $39 on it.” Yelena said, “She told you $29, so don’t say anything. They’re $29,” and she took the price tag off. We took them upstairs and I gave her my MasterCard. We were by the cosmetics section once again. She rang my card with a $29 receipt, taxes included. Then she wiped the crutches, which she called “crunches,” with baby wipes. I said, “Thank you so much. What is your name?”

“I’m Y.”

“I’m Victor. Thank you Y. Looks like I’ll be wearing these for a month.”

“Best of luck,” she said.

I went back upstairs to Doc M’s office. There was M (not Doc M, I mean another M) and J, my physical therapists. They started instructing me how to use these crunches. First they adjusted the hand-rest; they debated the length of where the rest should fall. M said, “Don’t you think there has to be a slight bend to the elbow.” J asked me, “Are these the only ones they had.” I said, “Well…”

He said, “Did they have aluminum ones?”

I said, “Why – are these defective?”

“No, it’s just that the aluminum ones have more adjusting holes, but it’s ok, these are not bad at all. Ok, got’em,” and he managed to adjust them the way they needed adjustment. M & J were great. M showed me the method of going up and down curves and steps. She says, “Think, the good leg goes to Heaven and the bad to Hell.” I thought that was a bit freaky, but it makes practical sense for our up/down purposes. Basically, when climbing up, use the good leg, and then bring the crutches up. When going down, put the crutches down first, then bring the left (the good) leg forward. It’s systematic and makes sense. It would be awkward if the bad leg (or crutches) went up; they have to follow the good leg when going up and they lead when going down. M had her hand on my back as we practiced going up and down the stairs. It was nice of her.

Then…it was time. I left to crunch walk the streets of New York. On thing crutch wearing does is slow you down. Your pace makes you admire all that is in front of you. You observe more on account of your snail pace. So your eyes are fixated on your surroundings more. You can see those flowers that weren’t there before. You can see women and beauty better. You appreciate those things pleasing to the eyes more. At the same time, your arms ache, your hands ache, your upper ribs chafe against the crutch top, your good leg feels the strain of having to lead walk…

I had to get my bike gloves because I was feeling a blister coming on. See, you are resting your weight on your hands in between steps and I got this skin, which, while lovely and smooth, has a propensity to blister when repeated chafing occurs…

Somehow I’m taking all this with positive-ness, but I cringe at the thought of work with these crunches.

People are nice. People are courteous. They’ve been opening the doors for me. In fact, they stand in defense for me. Today, I was sitting on the disabled seating of the bus, something I am routinely doing and will do for the next four weeks, and the bus driver came to one of the stops. He got out of his driver’s seat and said to us sitting in the disabled seats, “Ok, I need one of these seats.” A lady in a wheelchair wanted to come in, so a set of those seats needed to be transformed  so as to fit her. Well, I got up and looked for a seat in the back. As I did that, a lady in the back said, “Why should you get up, you can’t walk. Let the other people get up.” She referred to the plump women sitting on the disabled seats – they had no visible disability, while I had my visible “crunches.”

It’s still hard to walk with these, but I’ve only walked for one day, for an approximate six or 7 city blocks, including street/avenue blocks, so far. It’s going to be interesting, but I repeat to myself: My problems are smaller than me. My problems are tiny. I am bigger than every obstacle I face from now one. Everything will be fine. In fact, sitting here in this patient waiting room, I can’t wait for the Gin & Tonic that awaits me at home. This will be a time of relaxation and mind exercises as well as the production of less-sweaty body work and instead doing more of that mental travail industry. I am really looking forward to it.

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Reflections