Tuesday, November 11, 2014

BAD KNEES GOOD BOOK

HOW MY MESSED UP KNEES TURNED ME INTO AN AUTHOR

It was my MRI, but the mournful expression on the face of the white-coated orthopedic surgeon suggested he was grieving for his own legs. “Bone-on-bone on both knees,” he said. “You have craters where you once had cartilage.”  Now I had an explanation for the excruciating pain that had robbed me of my mobility.
          “Okay, doc. What would you suggest I do next?”
     Ever so proudly, as if he presenting me with a Grammy award, the surgeon handed me a gleaming replica of the Stryker Scorpio knee replacement system. I took one glance at this bionic, slash cyborg, device—more like a prop from the Terminator  movie franchise—and fled, or more precisely flopped away on my two gimpy kneed legs.

Would you like this bionic cyborg device in your body?



I was terrified. Knee replacement surgery seemed akin to gross amputation. Why the necessity for this traumatic procedure, twice—on each knee, I wondered? Surely this is a simple patch job; the biological equivalent of filling in a pothole?  

With certainty I knew this was something I wouldn’t do, but as I searched for an alternative solution the pain persisted and my universe shrunk. No more tennis, no more walks on the beach, no more soccer games, no more travelling, and even obligatory visits to the grocery store became too taxing. In fact, only vanity prevented me from applying for a disabled placard to allow me to park my car a few yards from my destination.
Inevitably I resigned myself to a future marooned on my bum. At least my bum didn’t hurt…at least not yet.
No! This is NOT a picture of MY bum. 

         
So, what’s a poor guy to do stranded all day on his butt? Watch TV? Tried and done that. And then an absurd notion entered my head, “Why not write a book…”
          Now I am not a Luddite. I’m well aware that the earth is round and technology is crazy cool. My resistance to bionic knees was not a foolish quest to invalidate the wonders of modern medicine. Quite to the contrary, I admire medicine. But in this instance, to me, “the punishment did not fit crime” and the recommended remedy was far too draconian. Hence I began the first tentative steps into ‘authordom.’ With computer in hand (or hand on mouse) I now used the wonders of modern technology as my primary research tool.
Bound to a chair I travelled through the universe and the ages; and visited the arcane and cruel laws of South Africa’s apartheid regime (the topic of my book)—without ever leaving my desk. Google and Bing replaced the library and index card system of yore, and brought all knowledge to my desk seemingly at my bidding. And from this foundation of dedicated research, my historical novel “The Zebra Affaire” began to take form and reveal its true shape.

Here’s the obligatory plug of my novel. You are welcome to 
buy it at Amazon.com and other fine retail outlets. Thank you :)

Now we’ve reached the heart of this story; a “circle of life” thing—that still fills me with wonder—kind of happened. You see the book owed its very existence to the plight of my poor knees, and seemingly in a selfless act of gratitude this same book chose to show pity on my knees and reciprocated in kind.
          One day when researching the specifics of the bloody massacre of black school children during 1976 Soweto Riots—I was suddenly transfixed by the search engine’s seemingly arbitrary highlight of something called stem cell regeneration of knee cartilage. And so I followed these crumbs of information that my grateful book had offered me. Apparently I had finally found the asphalt patch I’d been seeking for my potholed knees.
An innovative medical group, a modest two hour drive from my home, was pioneering the procedure. They instructed me to bring my MRI (which I then pried from the grasp of the protesting orthopedic surgeon) to the initial appointment.
Anxiety skyrocketed. It was vital I qualified for the program. Fortunately both knees did; I experienced a similar euphoria as if my two knees had graduated college magna cum laude.  
Now I will spare you the gory details (as there were none: no scalpel, no chainsaws, no staples, and no sutures). But there were lots and lots of needles. It would be fair to describe my needle-sprouting knees as living pin cushions during the stem cell “seeding” procedure.

An intimate portrait of my prickly knee. And yes, it did hurt.

 

Eighteen months have come and gone since stem cells harvested from my own body were carefully inserted beneath each knee cap. I used the time well, finishing off my novel, and designing both the front cover and the book’s interior. And as I labored the stem cells did their share of the work.

All now is well! “The Zebra Affaire” is receiving splendid reviews for which I'm grateful: “I see Pulitizer Prize material here,” stated  a kind Jeanne Mary Allen, “Engaging! Authentic! Beautiful! Horrifying! Mesmerizing!” wrote a well informed Randy Penn. Clearly my pen is well indebted to my long suffering knees! As for my ability to walk—it is now a joy to be fully engaged, zooming about,  speaking at book clubs and book signings—with barely a twinge in either knee.

 




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