BRYAN ETHIER: Keeping up with Hobbleong Cassidy

There’s no humor in pain, unless you live in my house… I was in the upstairs bathroom alphabetizing our cats’ litter boxes when a blood-curdling scream from downstairs straightened me up like a ramrod.

I opened the bathroom door and peered down the stairs to find my wife lying in a crumpled heap on the bottom three steps, rocking back and forth in clear agony and rubbing her right knee.

“I heard that pop all the way up here,” said my daughter Brooke, who had just emerged from her bedroom. “What was that?” “I took three steps, and my knee just went on me,” Deb explained, her face contorted with pain.

I wasn’t surprised. Just a few days earlier, she had rolled her ankle, which, in turn, had somehow twisted her knee. She’d been hobbling since and had earned the nickname ‘Hobbleong Cassidy.’

“Probably a good idea to her off the stairs and into bed,” I told Brooke. Together, we moved down four steps. From there, I bent forward, teetering on the lip of the sixth step and risking my own life, and began to tug at Deb’s armpits. “Don’t touch me! We don’t need you falling down and breaking your back,” she cried. Good point. I released Deb, looked at Brooke. We shrugged.

If you’ve ever sustained a leg injury, you know it’s almost impossible to mount 13 steps by yourself, unless you can levitate. Brooke and I needed a plan.

“Maybe she can pull herself up the stairs on her bum, like a toddler?” “That may work,” said Brooke. “Let’s try to straighten her out.”

“Be careful!” Deb warned. We were. But as we gently moved Deb, her ailing knee creaked like a stuck, rusty metal hinge. After 10 minutes of trying, we gave up.

Next: The tried-and-true ‘Push ‘em up, shove ‘em up method.’ It took us almost a half hour, but we finally finagled the very exhausted and sore patient up to the second floor landing, where she sat, eyeing our bed.

Then, with a look of raw determination on her face, Deb accomplished the impossible by simultaneously forward and backward summersaulting into the bedroom and then to the foot of the bed. From there, she managed, with our help, to hoist herself onto the bed and out of harm’s way. Brooke and I looked at her and said, in unison: “You are not going to work tomorrow.”

“We’ll see,” Deb replied, starting to catch her breath. A nurse NEVER takes a day off, I thought.

“No. You’re going to the doctor,” Brooke said, taking charge.

“Maybe I will go to the walk-in orthopedic clinic in the morning.” Brooke and I agreed that was a good idea. As a registered nurse and nurse manager, Deb excels in helping people recuperate from knee injuries and other malfunctions of the human anatomy. As a patient, however, she is a willful second grader, bent on doing only what she wants.

To wit: Despite wrenching her knee like a plumber twisting off a 90-degree flex joint, she decided to polish her toenails.

“You have to take pride in your appearance,” she explained, through clenched teeth. Pride is useful when you desire an orthopedist to date you, not examine your knee, I figured.

The following morning, knee inflamed and throbbing, yet toenails sparkling red like ruby slippers, Deb slowly serpentined out of bed and onto the bedroom floor. During the night, she’d decided that the constant pain in her knee necessitated an early morning “run” to the ER. But first, we had to transport her down the stairs. Deb and I were thinking alike, for she grabbed a bath towel from a clean clothes hamper and tossed it onto the floor.

Then, she slowly wriggled her way onto the towel. That allowed me to push her across the hardwood floor, much like the “pusher” does in a two-man bobsled team, and to the stairway landing.

“We do the Bobsled Boogie!” I whooped. And away we went, seeking to survive the stair-by-stair drop from the second floor to the first. Well, the Bobsled Deb team reached the first floor landing in an Olympics-best time of 2:01:02. I loaded my patient into my KIA, and in five minutes, we were in the waiting room of an empty ER. Twenty minutes and a series of X-Rays (negative) later, Deb was on crutches and scheduled to meet with an orthopedist later in the day. So far so good.

Back at home, Deb tried in vain to navigate about the house on the metal crutches. Unfortunately, being “right leg dependent,” she was unable to perform the requisite “hop, drag and land” ballet to propel her forward. Instead, with each attempted step, she actually danced backwards, like Curly of the Three Stooges doing the “Curly Shuffle.” Despite these mechanical challenges, we made it to the orthopedist later that day. A 31-second exam revealed possible damage to the meniscus ligament. An MRI would be required in a few days. (It confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis.)

As we were about to leave the facility, I spotted a mini-Dairy Queen ice cream shop squeezed inside a Shell gas station! Mother of all mothers, a Blizzard would cure Deb’s ails. We looked into each other’s eyes and smiled.

I jumped out of the car, raced down the embankment, and zipped into the gas station/ice cream mart. To the left were food snacks, a service counter, and a broad selection of automobile products: WD40, fuel line detergents, automobile fragrance products, windshield wipers, Turtle wax, replacement mats, everything but transmissions.

To the right was the holy grail herself, the DQ, with its shiny ice cream pumps, its stacks of delectable cones, a grill which was hot and browning a plump hot dog ... all one yard or two from an endcap display of Chevy oil filters. I gulped in fear when a short, wide woman in her 30s emerged from a back room wiping some viscous fluid off her hands and onto a soiled hand towel. I followed her to the counter. “Can I help you?” she asked, pleasantly enough. I swallowed twice, certain we would be poisoned.

“I want a few Blizzards?” I asked and held my breath. Ten minutes later, I emerged with three large Oreo Blizzards and no automobile engine products. Life was good… if the treats hadn’t been contaminated by some foreign lubricant. We drove home encouraged by the promise that our favorite desserts awaited us. That night, I cooked dinner – baked chicken, white rice (six pounds, oops!) and a barrel of baked beans—but only after first contaminating half of the kitchen appliances, spices, silverware and fine china with raw chicken juice. Deb reprimanded me by striking me on my right knee with the rubber tip of her crutch.

Fortunately, dessert was a success. The ice cream hit the spot, though I did smell like I’d bathed in diesel fuel, afterwards. No worries. We cleaned up, and I helped Deb into my daughter’s first-floor bedroom. She’d remain there for the time being.

I allowed myself a respite and took the dogs outside to play. While playing catch, I received a text on my cell phone. It was from the patient: “Please bring my purple scrub set, clean underwear, low cut socks and grey/pink sneakers, deodorant, brush and hairspray.” So, I did. Just call me Mr. Belvedere.

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