31 January 2012

"People are Going to Think You Weren't Born, You Were Embroidered!"

Ah, yes. Well, this is the kind of comment you get when you are as scarred up as I am from surgeries. My left knee has three small scars from arthroscopic surgery and three massive scars from knee reconstruction and knee replacement, respectively. Now I'll be adding ankle scars to the mix, thus the comment about me being embroidered.

How many Vans shoes or Vans-related items do you see in this picture?

The ankle? It's still there. I'm not allowed to put any weight on it. I spend much of my day sitting in this chair with my feet up. Crutches aren't much fun in terms of getting around. It's safer and easier to sit quietly for the time being. However, doing so has its limitations. The doctor said I can return to work. I tried to go back this week, but my job told me to take another week. Today, I sent them an email practically begging them to take me back. If I'm going to just sit around all day, I might as well be getting paid for it. And working will make me less lethargic. I won't be concentrating on the fact that I've got a three ton boot on my foot or on the fact that crutches are of the Devil. I'll be at work concentrating on the tasks at hand.

I think the doctor said something about me starting to put weight on the ankle after the second week. That scares me more than the crutches do. I suppose he will say more about this when I see him next week.

Go left, people. Go left a lot. If you go right, make your next wave a left. Just remember, broken goofy foot surfers need to know that the lefts aren't going unridden. Lefts need love too! Remember I said that.

28 January 2012

An Accounting

Okay, folks. This is the bill for the surgery. I paid the anesthesiologist $700 on the day of the surgery. I still hadn't gotten all of the money transferred into bank account by that day, so there was a last-minute mad scramble to make sure we could get the surgery paid for. I don't use credit cards, but I know others who do. I have written a check to cover the $2606 that was charged to the card. My mom covered the surgeon's flat $1000 fee (which is for the surgery, all office visits, supplies, etc.).

The surgery was, in fact, done by The Shit. I saw him on Monday morning and was instantly won over. We discussed the injury, his take on the surgery and his philosophy about practicing orthopedic medicine. He had no intention of charging me for that office visit. Had I decided not to seek treatment from him, he would have been fine with that. He simply wanted to give me one last option before I made my decision. Before we were done talking, my decision was completely solidified.

When he sent me home, he told me not to eat lunch. There was the possibility that they'd do surgery as early as that evening. I assured him that I don't eat that much, so I was fine with his admonition. His office was going to be looking for the best place to do the surgery as well as shopping for the best price. I was to do nothing until I heard from them. So, I went home, trying to ignore the kitchen. And, as is typical when someone tells you not to do something, your brain decides it must do that thing. I thought I was going to starve to death for the rest of the afternoon. My brain was begging me to eat something. I finally called his office to find out if I could eat already. When his office manager returned my call a little later, the first thing she said was something like, "Go eat!"

I got a call later in the day. The rest is a blur. Surgery would be the following day, but I had to run and get a physical right then. Can you be in Culver City in 15 minutes? We found a doctor who will do the physical. Again with the mad scramble? In a word, yes.

On Tuesday, the day of the surgery, I was busily trying to finish the video for the kid's Mission Project. Do we all do mission projects in the fourth grade? I know I did. I barely know how to use the iMovie software, but the kid wanted to do a video to accompany his report and that's what we did. (What was wrong with doing a model, son?) I wanted to get it done before surgery since it was due at the end of the week. I didn't think I'd be feeling too good in the days following the surgery. Leaving it until after the surgery was not an option. I got it finished with about an hour to spare, even after agreeing to be at the surgical center about an hour earlier than we'd initially planned.

Now, four days out of surgery, the ankle feels pretty good. I'm in a big, honkin' boot and I'm not allowed to put any weight on the ankle/foot at all. The doctor has sent texts or called each day to check on me. I just knew he wouldn't send one today. I mean, it's Saturday. I'm kind of assuming it's his day off. Guess what? I still got a text today asking how I'm doing. I informed him that if today is, in fact, a day off and if he was sending me a text while in the presence of his family, he was to give his cell to one of his little girls and direct her to lock it away until Monday!!

The doctor says he intends for me to be back in the water in six weeks. That seems a bit soon, but he's the expert. I trust him and I believe in him.

In the meantime, I sit with my foot up. I see him again early next month. I do believe he said something about starting to walk on it about two weeks after surgery. That doesn't sound fun or even painless. But if that's what he says I should do, I'll do it.

26 January 2012

New Hardware

22 January 2012

My Thank You to Everyone

I said, in all seriousness on Facebook, that I will get a tattoo on that ankle which says something like, "Sponsored by and with love." I already have a tattoo on the ankle. Obviously, surgery will ruin it. (And that's sad since it's my tattoo with dolphins and a shark(fin) in the ocean.) Well, I'm going to have to do something once that tattoo is cut up. So, I think I shall cover it and do one that remembers all of you and how much love you've shared during this episode.

I see the specialist tomorrow morning. I'll report in once I get his take on the injury.

21 January 2012

Cue the Tears!! And . . . Action!!

Where to begin? Do I start with waking up this morning to find that a friend had started a fundraising effort to help me pay for medical care? That immediately had me sitting in this very chair trying to squeeze back tears that would eventually come all day long as people donated to my cause. Do I start with having to brave the Harbor-UCLA Hospital (i.e., the County) on Friday?

Where to begin?

I'll begin at the beginning. I broke the leg/ankle on Tuesday. I did not immediately go to the doctor. Why? Well, as is typical of moms, I didn't want to disrupt my child's world. He was finally testing for the next level in tae kwon do. We all thought he'd never get past this stage in his progress. He seemed to be stuck at the blue belt level. So now that he was finally ready to move on to the next level, there was no way I was going to mess that up. Being the crazy woman that I am, I'd decided that I might not have broken anything, that perhaps it was simply a bad sprain. I limped to his test on a cane, the one I used through the early part of my knee replacement recovery.

On Wednesday, I limped into work, still on the cane. Since I work at a small company where everyone's participation counts, I wanted to make sure there was nothing pressing that needed my attention. Of course, my boss said, "Why are you here?" My answer? "Because I'm loyal." If this was a big company, I would have called and told them I'd screwed up my ankle and wouldn't be in. But this place is different. I like it there. I know my work is important. I just felt like I needed to make an appearance, if only to let them know I needed to see a doctor.

Since I'm uninsured, friends told me to try the Venice Family Clinic. Well, they informed me that I lived outside of their area of care and sent me over to an urgent care facility. At urgent care, you pay for every service delivered. You pay right then and there. At the behest of a friend, I got an x-ray. Guess what it found? Well, you've seen the x-ray; you already know what's there. The urgent care folks put me in a splint ($125), gave me crutches ($35) and said I could see their orthopedist the next day. So, let's see . . . it was $95 to see the urgent care doctor, $95 for the x-ray and then more money for the splint and crutches.

I return the following day to see the orthopedist ($175). He said right then and there that I needed surgery. Well, that had me and my mom in tears since, as I said, I'm uninsured. This is where the drama begins. The orthopedist's office spent the day trying to figure out how I could get surgery for a price that we might be able to afford. They eventually called me and said that if I could pay cash, it could be done for $4800 at a surgical center as an out-patient procedure. Well, that's still more money than any of us could afford. And I did need a second opinion.

You know, I've lived in L.A. my whole life (other than my years in college and short time living in Europe). The idea of seeking treatment from the County has always been a scary one. We all hear the stories, especially those of us in communities of color. And on two occasions, I took friends to the County for their appointments. The first friend and I waited something like 12 hours to be seen by a doctor. This was in 1992. The second friend and I waited five hours before she gave up. And she had an appointment! This was in 2010. I did not want to go to the County for treatment. In my mind, especially as someone's mother, I could not afford to spend days at a time at a County facility waiting for treatment.

But I really had no other choice once presented with the reality of my situation. On Friday, my mom took the child to school. I went down to the ER at Harbor-UCLA. This is the County hospital with an orthopedic residency program. Well, I was seen within 15 minutes of my arrival. Then I had to wait. Believe it or not, it wasn't a bad wait. At one point, a nurse came into my area and apologized for having to be there, but explained that they had four computers and the one in my area of the ER was the only one that was working. Seriously, State of California? This is what the folks who work at the County facilities have to deal with. Anyway, that same nurse came back shortly, realized I needed to see an orthopedist and made an appointment for me to see one later in the afternoon. They told me to go on home and come back later. I wasn't there that morning for more than an hour. It was not a bad experience.

So, we return that afternoon for my appointment. Remember, this is not a situation where you just go to see the doctor, like you would if you had insurance. I had to report to Patient Registration, then go to Urgent Care, then go to have x-rays taken, then go back to Urgent Care before finally being sent upstairs to see the orthopedist. By that point, I'd been there for several hours. I was tired. My foot was full of fluid. I'd been crutching all over that damn hospital. And it was getting late.

Finally, I'm called in to see the orthopedist. And he isn't nice at all. He makes no eye contact. He says something about me needing surgery and simply walks off talking to the resident who'll also be helping him with me. Well, I'm not cool with doctors who have shitty bedside manners. I don't like that at all. I'm not sure how it happened, but I eventually started talking to both him and the resident. Within a few minutes, the orthopedist was looking at me when he spoke. He and I eventually had one another laughing. This is the kind of doctor I can handle. That holier than thou bullshit? No. Anyway, before they even did anything, he announced that I'd need surgery and needed to be back there on Monday morning. He also said they were going to drain the joint/foot, shoot up the joint with Lidocaine and reset the bones.

#@$!%&! At that point, I was ready to leave. Why? Well, during the midst of County experience, a friend contacted me, saying he'd sent a picture of my x-ray to the doctor who'd rebuilt his feet and that this doctor, a man I keep referring to as "The Shit", wanted to talk to me. During that day, I had, in fact, talked to that doctor. My friend had told him of my situation and the doctor nonetheless wanted to see me on Monday morning in his office. What really stuck with me were my friends words: "Don't do anything rash." I took this to mean, "Don't let the County get hold of you before you see The Shit!" So, when the County orthopedist said he was going to reset the bones I balked.

Finally, I told them that I might not be back to them for surgery, thinking that they'd not waste their precious time on me. Wrong! The resident politely explained that it didn't matter who was going to handle my medical care in the end, but those bones needed to be reset immediately. Fuck me!! I knew I was in for it. I didn't know what resetting bones entailed; I knew it was not going to be pretty.

They drained the joint/foot with a big needle. That wasn't nice. Then, they shot up the joint with Lidocaine. Finally, they put me in a cast that was still wet and malleable . . . and commenced to twisting the hell out of my foot and leg, applying pressure at the sites of the broken bones. The resident told me this particular form of torture would only last about two minutes. Several minutes later, he and the gigantic orthopedist, a dude who looked like he could play pro football, were still pushing and twisting. Me: "You said two minutes!!!!!!" Resident: "I meant give or take five minutes!" This was not the worst pain I've ever felt. It didn't generate any tears. Had the resetting of the bones taken longer, it might have. Still, as I've said throughout this injury, I haven't taken any prescription pain meds because this really hasn't hurt much. The worst pain I've ever felt in my life was during the first few weeks after the knee replacement. That pain was constant. That pain was mind-altering and life-altering. The pain from this ankle/leg break never reached that level, so I haven't taken any serious drugs for it.

I left the County with an appointment to return on Tuesday. They'd wanted me to return on Monday, but that's the day I'm to see The Shit and I wasn't going to miss that appointment. At the same time, as one who has little money and no insurance, I wasn't going to dismiss the County as an option either.

When I went to bed on Friday night, I was torn. The County would cost me little or nothing. They would put two screws and a plate in the ankle to fix it. This is essentially what the first orthopedist was talking about. But I was hesitant. Why? Well, I know from prior experience that when you wreck a joint, there's always the possibility of ligament damage. The first orthopedist said nothing about this and neither did the County's doctors. The Shit was the only doctor to make reference to this. And that made me realize that if I went with the County, they would fix me, but they would do the minimum. That's all they can do. They are not there to fix athletes. They are there to fix people who don't have the insurance or the money to get medical care. Yes, the County would cost me virtually nothing. I appreciated that. However, I have no intention of slowing down. I want to keep kicking ass. I want my ankle to be able to withstand the punishment I will certainly give it.

By the time I woke up on Saturday, I'd decided my only choice was the specialist I'd see on Monday. I was willing to do whatever I needed to do to be under his care. This could not be about money. For me, this was (and always has been) a quality of life issue. I'd decided I would sell all but one of my surfboards if I had to. I'd sell my big red car if I had to. I'd told myself that if the doctor was willing to work with me financially, I'd find a way to pay him.

And then I signed on to Facebook. That's when the tears began. My dear friend in England had begun a fundraising campaign to help me get money for treatment. Guess what? I cried pretty much the whole day. It seemed like every time I looked up, someone else was putting money into my PayPal account. I've said before that I do cry; I'm not an overly emotional person though. I often get a little teary-eyed about things. It's rare that I just have a good cry. Well, today was the day of many good cries. I awoke thinking I had no way to pay this doctor anything and worrying how I would and could make this happen. Now? I can write him a check for close to $1000 right off the bat. I have no words for this. Many of these people only know me through the computer. Some don't even know me at all. People nevertheless came out of their pockets to help me. (And, of course, I'm starting to cry again as I type this!!!)

The friend who hooked me up with the specialist I'll see on Monday told me to give him (the doctor) shit for surfing an SUP. I already got that ball rolling yesterday with a few pointed texts telling him never to drop in on me and calling him "Sweeper Man". What will greet him on Monday? A statement written on my cast: "I do blame Laird!!!!"

Thanks, everybody. I love you!!

Update: It's now Sunday. I will be giving the doctor more than $1000. It's just astounding. I really don't know how to thank everyone. But the one thing I will be is forever thankful. And I will never take this ankle for granted. I never knew a body part could make someone emotional and sentimental, but I assure you this ankle will do just that.

Update of the update: Oh, man!!! I'll be able to put over $2000 toward my medical care now!!!! The surf, skate and friends community are something else!!!

20 January 2012

If I Wrecked Waves as Well as I Wreck Joints . . .

By the time I die, I will be totally bionic. I'm certain of it. First it was the titanium knee. Now it's the ankle with the plate and the screws. And don't even get me started on how sexy all of these scars will be . . . not.

Oh well, you live your life like you mean it and you're going to end up at the orthopedist more than a few times, right?

18 January 2012

A Tale of Two Ankles

Two broken bones and counting. Do I hear torn ligaments? Going once? Going twice?

Actually, we don't know the extent of the damage yet. I do know that my status as part of the 99% is showing. I have no insurance and I've got to pay for this shit out-of-pocket. Yes, I have a job, but I don't work full-time there yet (and may actually be out of this job now).

Do I want to discuss how this happened? No. I will just say that it was a bar fight and "you should see the other guy!"

In other news, there is none. I am now on the DL for at least two months. (sigh) I see the orthopedist tomorrow to find out more.

Does it hurt? Yes. Am I taking pain meds? No. The pain from this is nowhere near the pain I felt during the knee replacement. I refused the pain med prescription when it was offered for this injury. I won't fill it, so why even bother to let the doctor write the prescription?

Don't forget me, Mother Ocean. I'll be back soon enough.

14 January 2012

Now It's the John Bonham Kick

You know, I have my moments. And I tend to have them publicly. My "moments" are generally musical moments—although I have been known, of late, to politely invite people who were all up in my business without an invitation to, essentially, shut the fuck up and be gone. That's a bit new for me since I dislike confrontation. I was recently described by a friend as being so laid back that I don't need any drugs. I'm in a state of mellow about 98% of the time. Still, as I get older, I get less willing to put up with other folks' stupid BS. This is how the STFU moments occur.

Digression is a horrible thing!

Anyway, as I was saying, I have my moments. We all remember the James Brown moments. They resulted in a James Brown-themed surfboard. Late last year, in a different internet location, I was all about the damn cowbell. People still allude to cowbell when sending me messages. I now can hear a cowbell in songs without even having to listen for it. My ears immediately perk up whenever I hear a cowbell quietly keeping the beat in a song, let alone when the cowbell is singing out loudly and clearly.

My most recent moment isn't a new one. It's just that I've now fixated on the drummer and his drumming. Did I mention I'm going to be taking drum lessons this year? Why?

Well, why not?

Anyway, it's all about Bonham these days. I don't think he's the best drummer in the world. He wasn't even the best drummer in rock and roll. Still, he was just loud enough while being just subtle enough to make already brilliant songs, and equally brilliant vocals, soar. That's the only way I can describe it. When I hear Led Zeppelin, I feel like I'm soaring. Hell, I feel like they're soaring. And I've never tired of their music. I've been listening to them for decades. I suppose I will listen to them for a few more decades if I'm lucky.

What? You want to talk about surfing? Hmmm, well, I have been surfing . . . and matting . . . and skating my ramp just about every day. I must say that my frontside turns are pretty damn impressive, especially when one considers that I had a complete and total fear of the frontside just a couple of months ago. Now I'm simply working up the nerve to grind that coping. The turns are solid. Malba was right when he said I'm better going frontside than I am backside. My backside turns are now a mess, so I'm working on them too. Either way, skating is becoming more enjoyable. I'm falling less these days. I managed not to hit the ground at all when I last visited a skatepark. Yes, I did skate while I was there!

I've been drug-free and soaring all day. Now it's your turn!!

13 January 2012

I Got Scared Just Watching the Video! I Can't Fathom Actually Being There!

Check out Mpora Gear

07 January 2012

Kelp Dusting with RS

I don't heart hyped swells and over-crowded breaks. I find that as I become older on land, and more experienced in the water, my need for peace and quiet increases. I don't want to share waves with 20 of my new best friends.

I do enjoy getting far enough out of the city to find a wave or two that isn't under surveillance.

My favorite mat spot has no cam. If you want to truly know the conditions from one day to the next, you have to drive up there and see them for yourself. Each and every day.

So, for two straight days, while most surfers in L.A. were frenetically invading the city's most convenient point breaks, acting as if they'd never seen waves before and would never see waves again, I headed for one of the last places where I can usually surf in peace.

It was there that, much to my amazement, I spotted someone else on a mat, someone whom I didn't know.

Well, he and I braved the small crowd at this spot for two days, snagging what we could and sharing waves with each whenever it was possible.

RS, I'm glad to have finally met you! I thought we'd probably run into one another some day. Thanks for letting me steal "kelp dusting". I don't know what it means, but I love this phrase!!

04 January 2012

02 January 2012

All is Quiet on New Year's Day

It's a shame that a camera couldn't do this vision justice. As we headed down to San O yesterday to meet friends, we drove through more fog than I've seen in a long time. I dislike fog and the tricks it plays on my mind.

Somewhere in Orange County, right around Laguna, I think, the sun appeared. A big, yellow orb sat right there in front of us, its light burning through the fog while glorious rays emanated from it. This is probably what the religious among us believe they'll see before they ascend to heaven.

I'm just glad I witnessed this—on the first day of what has to be a better year than that last one.

Oh, the surf wasn't half bad either.