On July 5, 2023

Holding the perimeter: Part 2


Old war wound

Holding the perimeter on my health is a lot like holding the perimeter on my lawn. If I want to keep my lawn from being swallowed up by the surrounding forest, I need to maintain it. With the right tools. I happen to enjoy this type of physical, outdoor, labor.

Taking ownership of my holistic health, however, is not something I was taught to do as a child. I was raised to think of my health as something best left to professionals and specialists. While I do not hesitate to seek medical attention when needed, someone else, is no longer the first place I go.

Seeking advice

Our town was having its annual summer festival and announced a ‘tug of war’ competition. Joining one of the team, I sought advice from a total stranger on how to strategize for a win.

“Get in the front of the line, and plant your entire body, at a rigid, steep angle away from the opposing team,” he told me. 

Had I known how serious the opposition was about winning—I would have switched sides. My team was in it for fun. 

On the day of the festival, I went to the head of the line and planted myself at an angle in the sand. When the gun went off the other team exploded with single-minded purpose. With a mighty roar, my giggling team was yanked into the mud with a single pull. 

The top half of my body went down with them. The bottom half however, stood its ground.

No one but me heard the snap as my knee came loose from its moorings. I writhed at the bottom of the pile, trying hard not to vomit in front of the entire town.

My husband was summoned as I refused an ambulance ride. I had no health insurance and knew this injury was serious but not life threatening. I also knew that injuries are costly. 

I should have taken the ride. 

My husband was grumpy that I had gotten injured—again. 

As an active gal, I have incurred numerous sport-related injuries. Without health insurance during our young adult years, injuries created a financial hardship for us. But the lack of health insurance gave me a lifelong benefit I am forever grateful for.

The lack of health insurance led me to find alternative paths to healing myself. Faced with a problem or injury, I know now that I possess the tools to repair and maintain my own health. Sometimes I seek medical help to diagnose the situation, then I take it from there.

On that day, I needed to determine the extent of the knee injury because the upper portion of my leg would slip off the lower portion if I tried to put any weight on it. Gag! Our knees are weird and wonderful things.

I called our local orthopedic clinic and asked to meet with the most surgery conservative doctor they had. They set up an appointment for me with their most senior orthopedist. 

When we met, I told him I lacked health insurance and would like to find a non-surgical path to healing if possible. I told him I was really good at rehabbing myself. He said he understood and performed a rigorous manual exam of both knees for comparison. He said he was looking for lateral movement or ‘sloppiness’ in the injured knee. 

“Your knee should be nice and tight in all directions,” he said. 

He found plenty of movement instead. It was obvious I had a tear but he could not determine whether it was a full or partial tear without expensive diagnostic tests.

He suggested I could wear a cast for 8 weeks, then come back and he would repeat the manual exam. “If you are lucky”, he said,” it will be a partial tear and with diligence, rehabilitation and time, it can repair.

Eight weeks later the cast came off and the surgeon found a bit more resistance than he found during the initial exam. 

“That’s great!” I said excitedly, “I’ll take it from here.” 

I went home and did exactly that. Since I was laid up anyway, I took time to consider how I would heal this very important body part. I needed my knee back. I wanted it back to the same level of wellness I had before.  

I remembered that before the injury, I had been able to touch my big toe to my nose. It was something I had done occasionally as a kid just for laughs and because I could. Into adulthood, I had continued doing this as I sensed keeping something was much easier than trying to get it back once lost. It never occurred to me it would become an important tool in my wellness toolbox.

I scooched to the edge of our futon bed that sat close to the floor and reached forward to grasp the foot of my good leg. Gently, I pulled that foot toward my face and tapped my nose with my big toe. 

A little nervous, I reached my other hand toward the foot of my injured leg.

I grasped my foot but was unable to draw that foot toward my face at all. Not even an inch. Instantly, I knew what my rehabilitation goal was. 

In my mind’s eye, I envisioned a bullseye before me. At the center of the bullseye was the goal of being able to touch my big toe to my nose again. 

I felt the buzz of excitement as I mentally shifted from being in a state of ‘sickness’ to the road to recovery. It is a very empowering road to be on. I am no longer waiting for someone else to figure my health out, make a plan and be in charge of my health. I have taken ownership of my health.

From that day forward, I sat on the edge of the futon bed and grasped my foot in my hands. Then ever so slowly but firmly, drew my foot toward my face. When I felt the sting of pain and resistance, I stopped. Then I took a deep breath, relaxed—and ever so slowly, went a tiny bit further than I had the day before.   It took an entire year to reach my goal.

Now, many years later, I can no longer remember which knee it was I injured.

In honor of getting my knee back (I’m so grateful!), and to help prevent further knee injuries, I touch my big toe to my nose every single day. 

Holding the perimeter on my health is not someone else’s job. It is mine. And as it turns out, I often possess the right tools to do it.

For more information about Sandra Dee Owens, visit: sandradeeowens.com.

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