The Big Move

tl;dr: Amanda and I have bought a home near Keeseville and will be moving there in the near future. Not right away, but “soon”. We have things in Potsdam to take care of before we can “transfer our flag”.

I was born and raised in Keeseville, NY. I attended college in Potsdam, NY. After college I lived in Keeseville and had several different jobs. Then I moved to Potsdam as part of one of my jobs for a computer store in Plattsburgh, NY, traveling back to Plattsburgh at least once a week. I moved back to Keeseville when I married my first wife. In December of 1996 I accepted a job at SUNY Potsdam and we moved to Potsdam a year later. I have been here ever since and have now spent a little over half of my life here.

Moving again is not something I ever thought I’d do. Potsdam has been very good to me. I have advanced in my career, it’s been a wonderful place in which to raise the boys, and the Arts and amenities abound relative to other communities in northern New York. I used to think, “home (my home town) is only 2 hours away!” That was and is still true. But the more I realize that there are fewer days ahead of me than there are behind me, the more valuable those hours become.

And then there’s Amanda. She has always loved the area around Keeseville—Camp, Plattsburgh, the Adirondacks. Many times over the years she would break the silence as we rode through the Champlain valley, the lake on one side of us and the mountains in the distance on the other saying, “We could live here!”

We had a house in mind and were waiting for it to become available. (A longer story for another time, perhaps.) But over the last year or so we would casually browse the real estate listings in the Keeseville area. Nothing really jumped out at us—until last October. It was a new listing just north of Keeseville in a little subdivision off route 9. We made an appointment to see it, loved it, got approved for financing, made an offer, and bought the house, closing on December 21st! (That last sentence is a wildly gross oversimplification of 2 months of dealing with realtors, bankers, and lawyers.)

And so we are moving to Keeseville! (Well, “Peru,” technically, if you go by Zip Code. Town of Ausable, but Peru Zip. Weird.) We aren’t moving right away. We have details in Potsdam to take care of first and are fortunate to be able to own and maintain both homes for awhile. But the new place is ours and we have begun the process of moving some of our things there. If all works out as we hope, we’ll be officially relocated by Summer. We will miss Potsdam and our friends here. But this makes sense for us in lots of ways I needn’t go into here, and we are looking forward to this next chapter in our lives.

Some Things Never Change

Some weeks ago Mom’s kitchen flooring was damaged and her floor has to be taken down to the sub-floor. Asbestos is involved and the project is on-hold awaiting abatement of the asbestos. All of her lower cabinets were removed to the garage as was her kitchen sink. She has been without tap water in her kitchen for 7 weeks and has been washing dishes in the bathroom sink.

This weekend I am visiting her and since there has been no news on when she will get the abatement done I decided to brainstorm how I could get some of her kitchen’s functionality back. A slop sink is $140 at the hardware store. I put out a call on Facebook thinking someone local might have one lying around in a barn or something—no luck. Then Mom told me that when she and Dad bought the house from his mother there was a laundry sink on the other side of the kitchen which had been removed when they made changes to the kitchen when I was just a baby. She described it, and I said, “I wonder if that’s the thing under the stairs in the basement?” I’d seen it as a kid and always thought it was an old washing machine or something and never paid much attention to it.

I went downstairs to check and it was the old laundry sink! It was old and the base was rusty and the faucet was in pieces (in the sink) and the copper feeder tubes had been cut; but it was a sink! Kelly and I brought it upstairs and I started taking inventory. All the parts for the faucet were there. If I was lucky I wouldn’t need to buy a new one. The feeder tubes simply unscrewed from the bottom of the faucet. All I seemed to need was a long horizontal tube to connect the drain up. ($10 at the hardware store, cut to length.) And the feeder lines from the sink that was removed to the garage had the same fittings as this antique!

After a couple of false starts and pipe cuts and having to put a couple of 4x4s under it to get the right height (it’s a DEEP sink!) I got everything hooked up. Then…the moment of truth: I gingerly turned on the cold water valve. Water spluttered from the faucet! And it wasn’t spraying all over the place! It went down the drain and there was no leaking there either. The same thing happened with the hot. I was flabbergasted.

There are fancy-schmancy faucets around which people design whole homes, if ads on TV can be believed. But basic plumbing fixtures in the U.S. have not changed in decades. This sink and its faucet are 70 years old and have been sitting in a basement for 50 years. That I could reconnect them with a minimum of fuss and see it all work is impressive to say the least, and is a testament to the craftsmanship that went into their manufacture. Kelly said, “they don’t build them like they used to,” but they DO build them like they used to which is why I didn’t need 6 trips to the hardware store to make this happen.

Wherever he is, Dad is smiling a great big “I told you so,” as he undoubtedly was asked why he was saving that sink instead of throwing it away and very likely said, or at least thought, “we might be able to use it again some day.” He took it apart and left everything as if he would be hooking it back up next week. 50 years later I was able to pick up where he left off and give it new life. (Which hopefully will be very short!)

As Dr. McCoy said in the original Star Trek episode, “The Devil In The Dark,” “I’m beginning to think I can cure a rainy day!” And that, too, thanks to Dad.

[Oh P.S.: No one told Mom that they hadn’t disconnected her dishwasher, which is plumbed and drained completely separately from the sink! So I screwed it to the wall so it wouldn’t tip over and it’s now working fine too.]

Lucky 13

Today is June 13th.  It has been 13 weeks since I fell and tore my left quadriceps tendon.  I had another follow-up with the surgeon today and he is impressed both with his handiwork and with my progress.  I still have a way to go to build up my strength and my range of motion, but he has officially declared me to be “brace-optional.”  I no longer have to wear the brace when walking about!  I will still keep it handy for times when I am walking on uneven ground (e.g., push mowing).  But he said that unless I actually fall on that knee again, there’s no way I’m going to tear it again at this point.  

And most importantly, today is my 13th wedding anniversary!  13 years ago today Amanda and I gathered with family and friends on a cruise boat on Lake Champlain and promised ourselves to each other.  The honeymoon continues!!  

5 Weeks And Counting

It’s been five weeks since my surgery.  I can feel my knee getting a little stronger every day.  Mom came to Potsdam on Saturday and I asked her to bring the shower seat Dad was using before he went to Meadowbrook.  I showered for the first time in 5 weeks!  It was glorious.  (Which is not to say I haven’t been cleaning myself for over a month–’cause EWW!) 

I had a follow-up appointment with the surgeon on Monday.  He’s hard to read, but seemed skeptical about the brace.  (You may recall that his preference was that I remain in a full cast for at least 6 weeks.)  I was hoping that he’d prescribe some form of formal strength-building regimen or refer me to physical therapy; but no–a few more weeks of just walking.  And he admonished me to keep the brace locked/straight whenever I walk.  I’m allowed to let the knee bend and stretch a little while sitting, but that’s it.

That was a little disappointing.  I’ve seen a few videos online of people with (apparently) my same injury.  Some of them were not as far along as I am.  One or two were way ahead of me, doing exercises and stretches and all sorts of things that only made me wince.  I just keep telling myself that every body is different and that even if those people did have my same injury, they may not have had the same repair procedure done.  My doctor is an expert and has done and been through this before.  I am not and have not.  So I’ll do as he says.  “I don’t want to screw this up,” I told him.

Looking ahead to Summer, I can’t see how I’ll be terribly inconvenienced by my recovery.  As long as I can manage to swing my foot up onto the porch rail at Camp, everything else will be fine!

Driving Strength

This coming Monday marks 5 weeks since my accident.  I will see the doctor who performed my surgery that afternoon.  I hope to get some specific direction on strength building and exercise.

My knee continues to grow stronger.  I notice differences every day.  I was instructed to leave the brace set at 30º and I have done so.  My leg can now flex that full amount with no pain.  That was not true even a week ago.  The 30º angle has allowed me to sit normally in a chair which has been great.  Last week I tried again to get into the driver’s seat of a car.  I managed to figure out how, but it was painful and involved me manually lifting my leg with my hand.  This morning I tried again and was able to slide in with minimal difficulty and no assistance from my hand.  I can drive again if I need to!  Yesterday I started walking cautiously with the brace unlocked (still set at 30º).  It’s been a little liberating, but I know I have a long way to go.

3 Down, 3 To Go

Today marks 3 weeks since my knee surgery–1 week with the leg brace.  I went to see the Nurse Practitioner again today.  It was more of a check-in with me to make sure I had taken to the brace OK.  You’ll recall that it was the surgeon’s preference that I remain in a full cast for 6 whole weeks, but that last week I opted (in his absence) for the brace.  They had tried to get ahold of him while I was there, but could not.  Well, he called back and re-stated his preference for a cast, but the NP and the aide convinced him that I was OK with the brace.  It turns out that he and I have something in common: years of dealing with people who don’t follow instructions!  🙂  In his experience he can’t trust patients to keep the leg as straight as possible, so he doesn’t give them any option.  I’ve demonstrated that I can follow instructions and he was convinced of this and so approved of my keeping the brace.  (It’s ultimately my decision anyhow, but it was nice to hear.)

I have permission to continue slightly stretching the tendon by bending the knee, but no more than 30 degrees.  I have tried and still cannot get into the front seat of the two cars I currently have at my disposal.  Our 3rd is in the shop and is a larger car–I may have better luck with that.

My next appointment is on Monday, April 18th–5 weeks to the day after my fall.  It will be here before I know it!  I’m hoping he’ll authorize some kind of physical therapy at that point.  

Bracing For Travel

It’s been almost 3 weeks since my accident. I’ve gotten used to the brace and am walking as normally as possible. Things take a little longer, but I’m rarely in a hurry anyhow.

Amanda and I are on our way to Vermont to help a friend celebrate his birthday. We are having dinner at the Trapp Family Lodge and spending the night in a hotel in Burlington. Tomorrow we will stop in Keeseville to see Mom on our way home.

Amanda found some activewear khaki pants that are baggy enough to fit over the brace and have the bonus feature of zippers on the legs just above the knee that let you remove the lower leg and turn them into shorts. This means I can adjust/reposition the brace without having to take off the pants!

Next week I will get instructions on how to start stretching and exercising the muscle I damaged. I am looking forward to the recovery process, but know I will probably limp on and favor that leg for at least the rest of the year. And who knows? Maybe I’ll be one of those folks who can predict the weather with my “trick knee”!

Countdown to Cast-away…Cast Off!

Today I had my next scheduled appointment, this time with a Nurse Practitioner.  (It turns out my surgeon is in Poland helping Ukrainian refugees!)  The cast was removed, the incision inspected, and the staples removed.  Everything was textbook and the incision looks “very good”.

The surgeon’s plan for me was another cast for 4 more weeks, but the P.A. was candid with me:  she was concerned about muscle atrophy and tightening of the reattached tendon.  I was given the option of a brace which would restrict the movement of the knee as the cast had done, but which could be set to allow increasing amounts of movement (as directed and advised).  I was skeptical at first, but once I saw the brace and how it is designed I was all for it.  

So I now have a brace and am free of the cast!  The brace is set to mimic the cast (no bending allowed), but has just enough play in it that a minimum amount of bending will happen naturally.  I have another appointment a week from now at which things will be checked again and I will likely get permission to adjust the “unlocked” setting to something that will allow me to start stretching the tendon while sitting.

I feel I need to tell you that I’m in no pain!  Once the initial pain from the trauma/surgery wore off I was and still am in no pain.  Nor am I “laid up.”  I am getting around as well as one can without bending one’s leg.  The only things with which I need assistance are scooting into the back seat of a car and putting on my left sock.  Other than that, Life is pretty much normal (though I am avoiding flights of stairs for obvious reasons–no need to tempt Fate!).

Countdown to Cast-away – 1 Week In.

It’s been a week since my surgery.  I’ve been getting used to life in a full-leg cast.  I had a follow up appointment with Dr. Katz on Monday.   He said I’m clear to do anything the cast allows as long as it does not cause pain; so no restriction on exercise, walking, etc.  I am using muscles I don’t normally use to move in ways I don’t normally use; and my leg is getting used to the ever-presence of the cast (rubbing, chafing, etc.).  My “standing stamina” is improving, though I can’t seem to get comfortable while standing.  Today I realized that my LL Bean slippers, while very nice for lounging, are not practical daily wear.  After over 2 hours straight of standing for meetings/calls (I work from home right now) my left heel was hurting a lot.  I managed to figure out how to slip on my sneakers and wow, that felt a lot better!  Yesterday I made a single lap on our very short street (3 houses each side).  Today I’ll do 2.

Next Wednesday, at the 2 week mark, I go to have a chunk of the cast removed for wound/incision inspection and staple and/or stitch removal.  I’ll probably just end up with a whole new cast, which I’ll have for another 4 weeks.  I’m still unsure of the mechanics of what the doctor actually did while he was in there.  I’ve seen a few different procedures on YouTube, but am not sure which one was done to me.  I will find out if I can.

Picture of Cast and Cat

The 411 on my QTT

On Monday evening, March 14, 2022 I was coming down the stairs from my home den when I somehow missed the last step and came crashing to the ground floor landing on my knees.  It hurt but I immediately knew something wasn’t completely right with my left leg.  It was bent and it hurt when I tried to straighten it out.  I reached down and felt the kneecap and it wasn’t where it was supposed to be.  Worse, I could move it in ways it’s not supposed to move.  Realizing I had very likely seriously hurt myself I lay still and advised Amanda to call for an ambulance.

I was loaded onto a stretcher and taken to the hospital.  In the ER I was x-rayed and received a CAT scan.  There were no broken bones, but the doctor diagnosed a quadricep tendon tear.  I was given a brace to keep my leg straight and told to visit Dr. Katz, a local orthopedist as soon as possible.  I called the next morning and was able to be seen at 10:00!  Dr. Katz removed some fluid with a needle and then numbed the joint with lidocaine.  With pain no longer in the way he instructed me to try to lift my leg (I was lying flat on my back) straight up off the table.  I couldn’t–not because it hurt, but because my body  simply would not respond.  This confirmed the diagnosis.  I was scheduled for surgery the next morning which I am told was a success.  I am now in a full leg cast which keeps the knee joint completely immobile.

Some comments on all of this: First, I don’t know how or why I missed that last step.  At my age I usually focus clearly when I’m walking on uneven terrain.  All I can think is that I got distracted and thought I had gone the full 14 steps instead of just 13.  And down I went.

The brace did its job, but not well enough.  I was not looking forward to weeks of recovery time if it meant having to be as careful as I had to be with that brace.  I could not move from sitting to standing without assistance.  There was no way for me to move my leg without trying to use the muscle which was no longer attached, and that caused severe discomfort.  I learned quickly how to relax that muscle, but it required having someone lift and manipulate my leg following my instructions.  6 weeks of that would have sucked.

The cast is amazing.  It’s super thick and my knee is completely immobile.  There is no way I can do damage to the repair that has been done and I can move my leg around by myself.  I can sit down on and stand up from regular chairs by myself.  I can get into and out of bed by myself.  Once I get used to it and have built up enough muscle strength in the muscles I need to use to adapt to the cast, I may not even need crutches to get around.

I close by enumerating my blessings.  The American healthcare system is generally a mess, but I am keenly aware of whatever privilege it is that allowed me to see a doctor and have surgery less than 48 hours after my injury.  The outpouring of concern and support on social media is nothing short of fantastic and has been a real mood booster for me.  I am also blessed to have family that I can count on to take care of me and do the things I simply cannot do for awhile, especially and most wonderfully my wife Amanda.

The timing for something like this is never great, but if all goes well I’ll be out of this cast and on the mend by the end of April.  I can’t really complain about that!  There are a few places I won’t visit and events I probably won’t be able to attend in person, but 6 weeks will fly be before I know it.  This could have been a lot worse!