Phone rings. The physician’s assistant from my orthopedic doctor is on the line.
Because of my weight (I’m morbidly obese), there’s not an MRI machine in town I can fit into.
“We even tried the zoo,” he said.
I’ll repeat that for people who think I made it up: They even tried the zoo.
You know the zoo, where there are elephants and rhinos and whatnot.
I’m too fat to get an MRI there.
They also tried Iowa State University’s famed veterinary clinic.
Nope. Not set up for humans. Legal reasons. Yada, yada, yada.
The physician’s assistant remained optimistic. Calls were out to Iowa City and locations out of state.
Unquestionably, this was the lowest moment of my life.
The torn meniscus in my left knee throbs constantly and makes the simplist of movements a challenge.
I’m to start my last semester of classes at Drake University before student teaching in the fall, earning my master’s degree and becoming a teacher.
I need to be able to walk to class, even with the assistive devices and a temporary handicapped parking pass.
I felt my mind slip toward a spiral. The pain in my knee ebbs and flows between a dull throb and the feeling someone is taking a rusty razor blade across my nerve endings.
How was I supposed to get to class this fall? Forget about student teaching.
Some friends kindly suggested disability. But what about the student loan debt?
What about my plan to do something positive with my life?
My despair had little time to overtake my mind.
The phone rang again. It was another guy from the orthopedic doctor’s office. My knee brace had come in.
Well, that’s something.
I went down to pick it up.
The guy strapped it on and showed me how to do it on my own. I stood up. It felt much stronger. The pain was still there, but it was reduced due to the brace’s compression.
With my cane, I could manage.
School was back on.
Survival was possible.
I could lose weight and get on one of the MRI machines and get the surgery later.
It would be hard. Damn hard. But what isn’t these days?
I drove out to the weight loss clinic in Clive. My nutritionist had moved back to Omaha, but the people were kind enough to let me come in to get a weight.
I got the number. I choose not to share it. I’m not ashamed of it.
I don’t want to talk about my weight like it’s a baseball statistic.
I don’t want its change, up or down, to be the thrust of my story. I am more than that number, whatever it is. I did that once, very publicly, and it ended in mixed results.
The last time I submitted to a weight was May 2020. The number I got Wednesday was the same. The clinician who helped me said I could safely shave off three or four pounds because I was wearing my clunky shoes and knee brace.
This was better news than I expected. There was a very good chance I weigh as many as 20 or 30 pounds more than I did in May 2020.
I began tracking my daily calorie intake May 12. Since then, I’ve cut calories by 34%. I also changed the quality of food I eat — more veggies and fruits, better cuts of meat, more home cooking.
Things are going in the right direction.
I stopped by the comic shop to pick up my latest funny books and got home exhausted, sore, and ready to rest.
I was proud of myself. Not too long ago, the challenges presented by this day and the back-and-forth between extremes would have inspired suicidal thinking. I would have started mapping out my overdose, my jump into the river, or hanging.
Instead, I called my therapist, but not in an emergency call. I wanted to talk through the disability option. He knows about such things.
To be clear, I don’t want to go on disability.
I want to finish school and become a teacher.
Persevere. Keep moving forward.
But the Cub Scouts taught us to always be prepared, so I checked out some facts.
I resigned myself to limping along with my cane and brace until I could lose enough weight to get into the MRI machine.
The phone rang again. It was the physician’s assistant. They found a surgeon at the clinic who was willing to do the surgery without an MRI.
I meet with the surgeon Tuesday.
That’s a lot of stuff for one day. A hell of a lot.
Sometimes the ride is filled with so many potholes and detours I think the car is going to come apart before I reach the destination.
But if I’m moving forward, I’m still headed in the right direction.