Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Bledsoe knee brace fitting. I tried to get them to make a house call, but one of the guys is mortally afraid of dogs, and, though I assured them we don't have a dog, their insurance protocol—and maybe the idea that we might have a framed photograph of a dog on the wall—sends me to Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn Heights. I love Brooklyn Heights. We aspire to Brooklyn Heights, but this hospital is something out of Lars Von Trier's “The Kingdom.” I get the guy who's not afraid of dogs.

First physical therapy session. Ten doors down the street, and she'll even fetch and return Max because I can't negotiate my crutches and the stairs with him in tow. Operates out of her brownstone. 1960s space-age Jetson-like equipment. Classical music. She's more excited about this adventure than I am, calls me "fresh meat." Places four electrodes on my leg and surges electricity through it for 20 minutes, followed by a laser gun for ten minutes. Max is fussy in his stroller until we take him out and we all enjoy him rolling around on me as I'm on the floor learning my exercises.

Monday, May 18, 2009
Email from Dr. Issack's nurse. He'll be out of town on June 8th; can I reschedule surgery for June 1st? As I'm reading the message, Dr. Issack phones, says June 1st won't work because my knee needs a good six weeks to gain range of motion and prevent scarring. Says he's going to conference in Boston to learn a new surgical technique, I have a couple of orthopedic surgeons to recommend to you.

Well, good god, man. The knee bone's connected to the leg bone, to the hip bone, to the person himself. That's me. And yet, in context, I'm the sum total of a body part? That is my mood here. He apologizes, says he didn't think the conference would actually happen, but it's actually on; he agrees that it's an awkward situation, agrees to pick up my consult cost with any new surgeon. “My nurse will phone you shortly with information about these surgeons.”

Nurse doesn't phone. I leave two messages for her. I'm back in the Aetna matrix, seeing which surgeons take my insurance. Four hours later I call once again. She says, “Oh, I heard about the rescheduling.” So now my veneer cracks; I feel like that wheelchaired woman did during our four-hour wait. An apology goes a long way, really it does. But that would render her below her professional decorum. The impersonal nature of this phone exchange is infuriating. It's just so much hooey, an unnecessary unpleasantness that easily could have been prevented.

That's what I tell Dr. Issack late in the afternoon. I'd *69'd his cell phone, left a message, and he calls back. He's apologetic yet defensively so. I'm not apoplectic, just trying to arch toward Elvis Costello's “Oh, I used to be disgusted/And now I try to be amused.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Consult with Dr. Joseph Stein, Boro Park, Brooklyn. Books of the Talmud line shelves in the waiting room. Dr. Stein confirms my Terrible Triad. He mentions an alternative surgery: go in, clean out the busted ACL, patch the meniscus if it needs patching. I thank him but choose the reconstruction; I don't want to go around for the next year with a wait and see if it snaps again trepidation. He's okay with that. Same surgery, scheduled for the same day at the same hospital. Only now my surgeon wears a yarmulke.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Methodist Hospital for pre-surgery testing. I say good morning to the woman behind the counter. She's in her mid-50s, stocky, stoic. Pack of Marlboro cigarettes in the pocket of her white smock. She glances at my chest, looks back at her manilla folders, says, “I’m not registering. Somebody else will be here in a minute.” I say, “All I said was, ‘Good morning.’” That's what I'm talking about. This is not a new religion I'm recruiting for.

In the exam room. Nurse is mid-50s, thin, with short Julie Andrews hair and round, thoughtful eyes. Name tag says, “Marci.” I say, “Good morning, Marci. I'm Hal.” She finds that very interesting. I tell her I need her to know there's a person connected to this busted knee. Marci is my buddy. Maybe there is room for another religion. Faith-based. Revolutionary.

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