In that way that a niggling irritant will steadily blow itself into obnoxious proportions in seeking the spotlight, I have had to bow down before the increasing tantrums of my left knee and allow it take center stage. Through weeks of humping back and forth to school along rocky roads slogging sixteen pounds of paraphernalia, coupled with boogie boarding the aisles of careening rutieras, compounded by an ambitious hike up the crumbling, Soviet-era, one hundred and seventy three steps (I counted) linking my home and a picturesque lake in my new village, I’ve managed to create quite a diva out of this joint. It sends shooting pains up my thigh at night, rumbling into a dull throb in the morning that climbs to a screeching glissando of pain after ten or twelve hours of the above listed activities. I finally went to see the PC doctor, who set the wheels in motion that will all but ground me for the remainder of Pre-Service Training. I did not see this coming.
What I did know was that I would be walking. And walking, and walking, and walking, everywhere while in the Peace Corps. So I began walking, almost from the moment I began filling out the application. The furthest I ever went in a day was 10.12 miles; I routinely went four to five without breaking a sweat. I was hiking rough trails in the Fullerton and Tustin hills at least four times a week. (Okay, I will confess to slacking off slightly towards the end when it got up into the upper 80’s in Fullerton, which is quite balmy weather for me now.) Not one knee problem through it all. I did not see this coming.
My second week here I tripped on the tiled stairway inside the PC offices and went down smack on my knees. (One of the stairs is slightly higher than all the others causing one to miscalculate in clearing it going up and land heavily when going down; everyone knows this and many people have taken their own spills. The HR professional in me wants to run screaming through the halls at the liability potential. Oops. That’s right, I’m in Moldova. No one cares.) According to the PC doctor, this “triggered” an underlying problem with cartilage wear and compressing space in the joint. What’s this: a pre-existing condition that I did not note on my medical application? Mostly because I didn’t know about it, Doctor. (I guess the Peace Corps needs to take precautions against the middle-aged uninsured who sign up for two years of service in a sweltering country without pay with the sole aim of getting their blown out joints fixed for free?) The pre-existing clause causes an issue in gaining authorization for any kind of expensive intervention, like arthroscopic surgery, for example. What is authorized is three weeks of house arrest, a strong anti-inflammatory, a hulking knee brace that mysteriously increases my overall body temperature by at least five degrees, and a combination of physical therapy and ultrasound to excitedly anticipate in the coming weeks. I couldn’t be more thrilled.
The thing about my situation that sucks the most is that I’m stuck in the middle. All the older folks (60 and up) have already HAD their knees done, so they are all springy and sly with surgically-conferred youth. And of course the kids still have their knees, which they torture quite regularly with the blithe disregard of youth,straining and popping them in strenous soccer matches only to appear dewy fresh and mysteriously healed the next day. Me? I am just beginning the long, slow decline into better acquaintance with orthopedic surgeons, MRI’s and Latin terminology, which I’ve quite creatively managed to accelerate in my forever ambitious manner.
Oh well. Perhaps it is my devious little daemon taking action, zealously guarding my thirsty need for time. Time to read, time to write, time to sit and gaze dreamily into space; time that isn’t filled with the recitation of new nouns and verbs and propositions or downloading safety information, rape prevention tactics and other obviously, DC-formulated policies and procedures or listening to PCVs and administrative coordinators and program managers prepare us up down and sideways for any anticipated occurrence which could rattle our now somewhat tenuous hold on the idealistic convictions that landed us here.
PST is lasting too long and the diva knee is asserting her potent will. Other than mornings spent in language class (which I am insisting on attending for my own sake) I have now gained about ten hours per week back for ME. Perhaps my joints are not so bad, after all.