Hazardous to your health

Continued from the bulk of the story.

8 July 2016 S+8 W
Get me out of here (continuation)

I begin to wonder, out loud, how I will manage in Rome. Karen insists “Don't worry,” she says, “it's a boutique hotel in an old building, but it has an elevator.” There it is, up a flight of seventeen worn marble stairs. Another twelve up from where the elevator stops. The author gratefully acknowledges the straight-legged stair-climbing instruction of Lisa, Emerson physical therapist. You hold onto the hand rail and rock from side to side. It does take some upper-body strength.

Then, there are the cobble stones in Rome. My trekking poles work, but only if I keep my eyes glued to the ground, to be sure the tips don't land in cracks, seeing nothing where there is much to be seen. No worries. Karen insisted I take along a Nitro, by Drive.

I cursed and I swore about that too, but now, I think of the Nitro as the Ferrari of walkers, from the design perspective. There is also a touch of Range Rover, from the durability perspective.

14 July 2016 S+9 W
Challenges underway
Don't tell my surgeon

After a few days in Rome, we are scheduled to board a cruise ship bound for Lisbon via various Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese ports.

“Oh,” Karen says, “of course the ship has elevators.”

Here is how you get on. Karen says, “You can't do that,” and starts some sort of discussion with the security people at the bottom.

Then, remembering a phrase from early childhood, I say, “Watch what I can do,” and up I go. It is actually rather easy with handrails on both sides. Of course, you go backwards when you go down.

My surgeon told me not to run around the Colosseum in Rome. He didn't say anything about the Theater in Cartagena. No, I didn't go down the steps. No handrails.

Cartagena, like many ports that cruise ships tend to go to, features a nice, flat, car-free pedestrian zone.

Of course, there are occasional challenges that I can handle, like this one in Barcelona. Not too bad because I could back down, holding onto the stone railing.

21 July 2016 S+10 W
It must be contagious

When we get to Lisbon, we have dinner at a Michelin 2 star, Belcanto, said to be the best restaurant in Portugal, scheduled for 8:30 PM. We invite Jose Duarte, a former student, and his spouse, Rita. Jose's a senior professor now, recently Dean of the School of Architecture at the Technical University of Lisbon, now Director of the Stuckeman Center for Design Computing at Penn State.

Jose and Rita are late. We wonder why: Jose is Portuguese, knows the area, and is sure to be punctual.

He shows up on crutches. My first thought is to think it a crude joke. Then, he explains he sprained his ankle, that morning, jogging. We all—including restaurant staff—laugh uncontrollably at the spectacle of two very fit men at the table, one hobbling in on trekking poles, the other on crutches.

The day before we leave for home I walk six miles up and down Lisbon, a very up and down city. About a mile was on safe ground with lock flexion open to 20o, which enables a near-normal walk with trekking poles deployed. I have to admit, walking around places like these sure beats doing laps around the driveway:

28 July 2016 S+11 W
Weaning starts

Back home. Knees flex to 120o during passive bending, so I start dreaming about getting rid of the braces, driving, stair climbing. My surgeon indicates a gradual weaning from the braces, over the coming month.

4 August 2016 S+12 W
Jogging again

News: now keeping braces open to 60o all the time.

Wait, still more news: I just went jogging! Well, sort of. Jogging on a treadmill in a PT pool. Great fun!

11 August 2016 S+13 W
Damn the braces, full speed ahead!

I'm now walking around, carefully, sans poles, sans walker, sans braces, multiple km. I like to think of it as walking freestyle.

Starting stair work; I go up now more or less naturally, with death grip on the handrail; I go down backwards, like up in reverse.

18 August 2016 S+14 W
How to concentrate the mind

I'm working hard to get back to normal gait and endurance. I keep remembering a Johnson quote: “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

In my case, the thought of lecturing to 400 MIT undergraduates in 10-250 in a bit more than a fortnight concentrates my mind wonderfully.

25 August 2016 S+15 W
Surgeon loses interest

He walks into the examination room as I'm pacing back and forth, like a caged lion. “Well,” he says, “Around about the end of October or the beginning of November you can come back if you like, but you don't have to. Just let us know.” And that was the extent of my last visit.

1 September 2016 S+16 W
Interval training

Ok, here is the program as of today at the end of 16 weeks: walk 5 minutes, jog 1 minute, repeat 5 times for 30 minutes total every other day. Plan is to subtract 1 and add 1 as the spirit moves me.

15 September 2016 S+17 W
More interval training

Spirit moves me. Walk 4, jog 2.

15 September 2016 S+18 W
More interval training

Walk 3; jog 3. Way out of shape.

22 September 2016 S+19 W

Training continues but PT sessions are over. Ryan took me from disabled to generally functional in the past eight weeks. He always answered my questions with “The latest research shows....” I like that.

24 September 2016 S+20 W, S+136 D
Lick ’em tomorrow department

It just felt like the day had come, a week before my on-or-about October 1 projection. The speed wasn't anything to brag about, but I did five kilometers, jogging, nonstop.

So, I consider the rehabilitation enterprise over. I owe many thanks to a lot of people.