Yes, but can you wipe your ass?
Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 11:39AM
Elena Taurke in Aging, Crip People, Dance, Disability, Healing, People Getting Old

The first time I heard the question was shortly after I told my rheumatologist about the pain in my knees after tap-dancing for some length of time.  I recall that I was rehearsing for a little showcase.  I recall that I was proud.  I recall that he said: These are not normal knees…of course you are going to have inflammation if you tap-dance.  And a little while later he asked if I have trouble wiping myself.   It's important, obviously.   Tap dancing?   Not so much.

Long before this exchange, when my mother noticed that the brace they put on my hip at the age of two was turning my hip inward, she asked whether this would interfere with my posture.  And the wise doc replied: Posture is going to be the least of her problems.  

Almost 50 years later, looking at an MRI of that same hip, a fancy orthopedic surgeon tells me: You are not a good candidate for surgery.  Why?  Because he observes erosions in the bones typical of rheumatoid arthritis.  And since he can't stop the arthritis, he sees little point in corrective surgery.  50% of your problem will still be there.  Note that in an earlier conversation, while reviewing my x-ray, he convincingly described how to surgically correct the anatomical problem (possibly caused by that brace) that was causing the hip pain.   Now he can't be bothered.  Lost cause.  Would mess with his statistics, my partner speculates.  I don't know his reasons but I feel like I've been kicked into the ghetto.  If I can wipe my ass, the medical profession can wipe its hands of me.   The interference with my lunge or my balance as I kick-ball-change is none of their concern.  

You actually don't have to be a cripple to get this treatment.  You can just be old.  When I broke my arm at the ripe old age of 46 or so, the orthopedist (a different guy, but just as smart) kept saying, Well, at your age it doesn't matter if you can't straighten your arm or put weight on it.   You are not that active.  I told him more than four times that I was serious about  yoga and often did arm balances on my elbows.  I could have been speaking in a wind tunnel.  He could not hear me.  As long as I could wipe it, he was done.

Look, I want neither surgery nor trouble.  I'm not going to pursue a lot of fine tuning at this point in my life.  I just want the medical profession to understand that I have the same desires as normal people.  Wiping is not enough.  Survival is not enough.  I need to thrive, to move, to stretch, to excel.  And I do, Dammit!   Even if they can't fix me. 


June 2012


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