Last weekend I got myself to an emergency room because my left leg, the knee area, did not want to do what it was made to do. It was very painful, slightly swollen, definitely weak, and left me literally hopping on the right leg. It wasn’t spontaneous but cumulative, having started a few days before Christmas. It wasn’t injury-based that I could remember – and I would have remembered. An x-ray revealed a normal joint, so the doctor concluded that it was probably a tendon or ligament. I was given a cane (Oh no! Not me on a cane! My vanity was in full force.), a Rx for Vicodin (which would make only a slight difference), and instructions to use a knee support and heat wraps. I could make an appointment, I was told, with the hospital’s orthopedic clinic.
Last week I saw my primary care physician who, after some questioning and manipulating, diagnosed tendonitis at a point where the hamstring tendon joins with the knee.
A routine trip home by subway turned into an excursion because some trains were running on other tracks and some were not running at all. This information came after a 45 wait for a train that wasn’t operating, so I got on the next train to Brooklyn, a train I’d never taken and which I knew went nowhere near where I lived. My leg was throbbing, the muscle was in spasms, and I was hungry and uncertain. I finally got home with the help of two super-friendly and kind young men, one of whom accessed an app on his phone to find out where and when I could make a connection that would take me closer to my home grounds.
On the way home, I was thinking about what my doctor said: “If you don’t feel a 100% recovery in three months [three months!], come back and I’ll send you to an orthopedist.” Grrrrrumbling inwardly: Why now? I’m engaged in a job search, and I did not need to arrive at an interview with a cane leading the way and a “bad” leg trailing behind. Some first impression!
I thought of all the people with maladies from slight to life-threatening, all those without health insurance. My grumbling was quieted. Even though I’m not working, I have health insurance, thanks to my union. Where would I have been without it? Self-administering. Or racking up more ER charges. I really appreciate the union administrators who made this possible for me. I know that I will get through this. I know that the diagnosis and prognosis could have been different … and worse. I am grateful to the young men, complete strangers on the train, who took so much time and put so much effort forth to help me. I’ve spent money that I could not spare for taxis (a bad leg and descending subway stairs can be a treacherous combination), but I know that that, too, will be okay. And I’m grateful to my Buddhist practice that teaches, among other things, that “those who believe in the Lotus Sutra are as if in winter, but winter always turns to spring” (Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Volume 1, page 536).