Fixing my hip

This column started many years ago when I published a local weekly newspaper and has been dwindling in frequency since my “retirement” from the news business five years ago. As I look back over recent years, I see that many of the articles deal with some of the health challenges I have faced. This is another of those.

Since I am now 62, some of this is not unexpected, due to the poor care I took of my body over the years. In 2009, I had a stent placed in my heart and in late 2011 I had a ruptured achilles tendon repaired, which led to many complications (both physical and mental) when the surgical wound did not heal properly.

I write about these things because I have found that the Internet has been of great value to me when dealing with my own health issues. If my experience can be of help to anyone facing similar issues then in a small way I am paying back.

Doctors are great when you get to the point of needing surgery, but I have not found them so good at diagnosing and treating a problem before it gets acute. My hip is a case in point. I started to have pain on the right side of my right hip well over two years ago. I mainly felt the pain at night when I slept on that side, which I am wont to do.

After googling around my first thought was that I had bursitis, an inflammation of the bursa. After a couple of steroid shots failed to improve the situation I had a hip X-ray to check for arthritis. When the doctor saw the films he asked me if my left hip hurt as well. When I told him “no”  he said, “that’s funny because the arthritis is worse on the left side.”

He then prescribed a course of Naproxen, a stronger version of the OTC drug Aleve to “calm the inflammation down.” The drug did relieve my pain, however, after about 6 months I started experiencing sharp pains in my stomach, even though I was following directions to only take it with food.

At first I didn’t know what was wrong with me and even feared it might be a recurrence of heart problems. I even took for the first time some of the nitroglycerine they had given me when I had my stent placed. When the nitro had no noticeable affect, I concluded it must be something else.

Stopping the pills cleared up the stomach problem within a week, but then the hip pain returned with a vengeance! This past Fall it began to be a real problem. I began to spend more time on the couch avoiding normal activities because of the pain. It got so bad that I spent one entire weekend on the couch doing nothing, nothing but googling that is.

A statement I found online that most people who have hip pain have underdeveloped butts got me to thinking. I am one of those who suffers from the heartbreak of smallbuttitis. I am a person that really should wear suspenders at all times, since there is really nothing there to hang a belt on.

I think the problem is at least partly genetic since some of my daughters have complained about me passing down this defective gene. When looking in the mirror I also noticed that I had let my posture get out of whack and was leaning forward when I walked instead of standing upright. In other words I was walking just like the Old Farmer that I am.

The real culprit, however, turned out to be another pain that I have been suffering from even longer than the hip– a pain on the inside of my right thigh in the adductor magnus muscle. The pain was pretty much chronic although it varied in severity from mild to strong.

I had mentioned this pain to an assortment of doctors, therapists and chiropractors but no one ever made the connection between that and the hip pain, or suggested how to fix it. Finally I ran across a video showing me a simple procedure to loosen up that major muscle. Essentially it involves doing a very deep massage on the muscle by balancing all your weight on that muscle by rolling on a medicine ball.

When I first tried this, the pain was so great that I could barely stand it. It also surprised me that the most painful part of the muscle was down near the knee, well below where I was feeling most of the pain.

After a few weeks of working that muscle, the pain in both the adductor and in my hip began to ease. I then began a regular weight training program, concentrating on increasing the strength of my lower body, particularly my long neglected glutes.

After six weeks of almost daily weight work, while paying attention to improved walking posture, and accomplishing some weight loss, my hip (and adductor) pain has been greatly reduced. I am not totally pain free yet, but I have come far enough that I know I am finally on the right track.

Disclaimer: Everybody’s situation is different and your hip pain may be caused by totally different mechanics. In most cases, however, it wouldn’t hurt to take a close look at your posture, other seemingly unrelated muscle pains and consider overall strength training, especially if you are getting up in years. After a certain age, the body starts to lose muscle tissue unless you make a major effort to maintain it! Being unable to walk and perform routine daily tasks without pain is a major problem and doesn’t do much for your mental health either. Good luck!

Der Kaffeeklatsch

For the last few years I was a member of a very small but remarkable group that met once a week at a local coffee shop. In fact there were only three regular members of this group, with my 61 years roughly equalling the age difference between the other two: my friend Bridgette, who is in her early 20s and expecting her first child and my long-time friend Bob Redden who died this week at age 96.

I would have called this group a coffee clatch, but I think that Bob would have appreciated that I googled the term to find the correct spelling and came up with the original German for the title which translates as “coffee chat.”

Bob was many things but most of all a scholar. He had a PhD from Syracuse and was chairman of the Geography Department at SUNY Buffalo before coming to Geneseo in the 1960s to eventually become Dean of Instruction. Although I liked to kid him by telling him that most of his knowledge was “out of date,” the fact was that he read voraciously, particularly in the areas of history and foreign policy.

On Friday mornings he would stop into the cafe for a short visit while his wife was having her hair done next door. The three of us would sit down to solve the problems of the world over a cup of coffee.

We never did solve all those problems but we did share a great deal of fun and both Bridgette and I benefitted greatly from Bob’s long perspective and his gift for friendship. We were even able to reconvene our group a few times at the County Nursing Home  where Bob spent his mercifully short, final days.

I can attest that Bob’s mind was remarkably sharp right to the end, but sadly, he lost the will to live after having to give up his home of many years on Westview Crescent. He knew the end was near and died peacefully in his sleep last Sunday night.

There will be a memorial service today at 11am at the Catholic Church in Geneseo. It seems appropriate that it should be on this day and time because that was the day and time of our weekly coffee klatsch.

So Bob we will meet one more time before you move on to that Great Coffee Klatch in the sky. Save us a seat!

BTW I know I have spelled Kaffeeklatsch four different ways in this short piece but, as Bob would no doubt correctly quote, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Bob’s was certainly not a little mind. In fact he could probably tell you not only who said that (Ralph Waldo Emerson), but also what a Hobgoblin is.

Bob saw the great sweep of life in this world for 96 years and despite growing up in the Depression, experiencing prejudice against his Irish Catholic roots and seeing the horror of war in WWII, he maintained a great and abiding faith in our country and the ability of good to triumph over evil. I hope you were right Bob!

All the lonely people

As I mentioned in my last post, I now find myself for the first time in about 35 years truly single without any prospects on the bench. How did that happen? Well for one thing I got myself into a monogamous relationship that I thought was going to be forever, so I didn’t worry about developing a farm team.

Everything was going great (I thought). We were cruising down the sunny highway of love. Then we hit a few small bumps in the road, and the next thing I know the car was upside down in a ditch! (Of course her version sounds a whole lot different, but this is my blog!)

So anyway here I am and I wanted to pass on what I’ve learned in my first month of singledom about the state of dating today both online and off. Of course online is a lot easier than trying to pick-up a girl in person. You don’t have to punch up your nerve too much and mercifully you don’t have to see their body language and facial expression when they turn you down, or more likely ignore you!

Actually I’ve been greeted quite nicely by the four girls I approached in person. It’s not my fault that two were married and the other two had boyfriends. Is it true that all the good ones are taken? One of the married ones seemed to be trying to hide her wedding ring as we were talking. Is that a good sign?

Anyway on to the Brave New World of online dating. Actually I did dabble in this once before about 10 years ago during my last short period of semi-singledom. A lot has changed in the technology. The biggest change is that now you can see who has looked at your profile and who has actually opened your e-mail.

This is a great improvement because when you find out that they never opened your e-mail you don’t feel so bad about them not responding. It seems that all dating sites have a lot of stale profiles and people that are just lookers, but don’t want to pay the monthly fee so they can actually read or respond to your e-mail. Some sites also seem to have some fake profiles but that’s another story.

Having a lot of time on my hands, and being highly motivated to end this wretched single life as soon as possible, I have signed up for about a half a dozen of these services (although not necessarily as a paying customer). My theory is that its a numbers game. The more women you approach, the more likely you are to find one stupid or desperate enough to take an interest.

My biggest problem is that like most active (and virile!) men of 61, I want a woman in her 40s. (Get over it you feminists, that’s the way of the world!) Of course, that considerably lowers my chances of success. Most good looking women in their 40s are getting lots of online attention. There seems to be a general rule that the hotter the girl, the younger the man she is willing to consider. Most really hot chicks would not consider anybody more than a couple of years older.

Fortunately there are a few exceptions to that rule. Unfortunately a lot of the people in this category come under the heading of what we call fake profiles, golddiggers or scammers. And yet there are a few genuine ladies out there who actually understand the value of experience and that age is just a number, I hope!

Another problem that raises its ugly head in these times is politics. I have to admit that the last three years under Obama has driven me from Plain Old Conservative to Angry Tea Party Ultra Conservative. Unfortunately a lot (or probably most) of the single women are liberals. Let’s face it, if we could somehow ban single women from voting, Obama would still be a back-bencher in the Senate! Needless to say this is also limiting my chances for success in the mainstream sites.

So here is my review of the sites I’ve tried so far. Match.com is the 800 pound gorilla of dating sites, but for me I doubt I could get a 800 pound gorilla to write back to me on this site. In the last month I have sent e-mails to 16 women on Match, 8 of which eventually got opened. Number of responses: 0.

The typical girl on Match seems to want to be wined and dined at expensive restaurants, taken for long romantic walks down the beach and then spend the rest of their lives taking exotic vacations. Sorry girls, but that ain’t me!

I found a more compatible type of girl for this old country boy on farmersonly.com. Here you find girls who claim to know what life on a farm is really all about and incredibly they still say they want it! A typical girl on this site says she wants to work 7 days a week getting her hands dirty. My kind of woman!

Again, however, stale profiles, inactive members and getting the few live ones to write back is still a problem. To date I have written to 36 women, with about 12 of them actually opening the e-mail. (The percentage is only this high because I finally wised up and stopped writing to non-paying profiles.)

Of those, four actually responded, although only one seems to have any ongoing interest. Part of the problem is that I am looking for a women to re-locate to my farm here in western New York, but I am casting a wide net. I’ve written to women all across the country, and some are just not interested in re-locating to Siberia. Still my numbers are much better on this site, so if you are a farmer looking for a farm wife (like I am) I highly recommend it.

A related site I tried was Earth Wise Singles. This is for your environmentally sensitive types, but I figured as an organic farmer I could maybe fool somebody. Unfortunately when I tried to narrow my search terms to find conservative women there were none! I actually did get one girl to write back on this site, but I knew it wouldn’t work so I dropped her before I broke her green little heart.

I also signed up for another site called Harvest Dating because it came up when I was searching for other farm singles sites. I think the only harvesting this site is interested in is harvesting money from your credit card. I’m ashamed to say they got me for one month for $39. This brings up the most important rule of online dating: If it looks too good to be true, it is!

They got me by having impossibly young and beautiful and no doubt fake people wink at me and send me e-mails. Of course as soon as you pony up to respond these people disappear like mirages in the desert. Of course if I was looking for people in 3rd world countries this site would be great. I’ve had cute 20 and 30 something girls winking at me from Turkey, The Phillipines and Kyrgyzstan!

Perhaps the most annoying site I’ve tried is SpeedDate.com. As soon as you log into their site you feel like you have entered a busy pinball arcade, complete with flashing lights and ringing bells. About every 15 seconds they offer you the opportunity to have an online chat with a succession of what they deem age-appropriate dates. Suffice it to say, if I wanted to date women like this I would start hanging around the local nursing home!

I could go on with a few other sites I’ve tried but you get the idea. Online dating is for the most part a virtual House of Horrors filled with lonely people like me. I’ll probably hang in for a while with farmersonly but the rest have seen their last nickel from me! I have the feeling however, that if I ever am going to meet the girl of my dreams its probably not going to happen online. I think I can do much better in person.

Oh, and just in case you or somebody you know thinks they might be that girl of my dreams, let me describe her: She is in her mid40s, tall, slim and athletic, beautiful, emotionally ready and willing to re-locate and work 7 days a week in the dirt. if she plays tennis too, that’s a perfect match! Shouldn’t be that hard to find, right?

And finally for those who think that I am being cruel to my Ex by posting this publicly, let me point out two things: First, as the dumpee, my feelings must take precedence. And second, as I have tried to say in as many ways as I know how, the door is still open Darling if you want to come back . . . for now!

My Winter Horribilis

On Dec. 2, I ruptured my Achilles tendon while playing tennis. At the time, and still to this day, I considered it a lucky break.  That may seem strange but I had been in pretty much constant pain since last July due to a series of partial tears. (See previous post “Every 30 years” on the subject).

Almost from the day the cast came off on Jan.15, I have had excellent function of my Achilles and have been able to walk pain free, thank God! The other results of my surgery were not so good. The biggest problem was that the surgical wound had not healed properly and I was left with a silver dollar sized hole in the back of my leg.

Gross out warning: If you have a weak stomach you might want to skip this paragraph! Still here? The hole was quite deep, right down to the tendon. In fact you could see one of the sutures that had been placed to tie the tendon back together. There is not a lot of flesh in that part of your body. Just a thin layer of skin and then the tendon. Apparently not much blood circulation either, because it is a notoriously slow healing area.

A week later my doctor got his first look at the hole and wanted to put me back in a cast, but I refused. A month rolling around on a knee walker had been more than enough, plus I was afraid that it would get infected inside the cast and I wouldn’t be able to see what was going on or treat it.

He relented and sent me to a specialist to see if i needed a skin transplant. Fortunately that wasn’t necessary and luckily I also avoided infection of the wound. The healing process, however was to drag on at a glacial pace for two more months.

During that time I was basically immobile. Although I had a special boot I could wear that would ease the pressure on the wound, any step I took outside the boot would tug on the wound and re-open it. Consequently I spent most of the time from Jan. 15 -March 15 laying on a couch watching TV and browsing the Internet.

That might not sound so bad, but for a normally active person like me, it was torture! I have to confess that it started to effect my mental state. Only now that I have been able to get back outside and start my spring farm chores do I realize how kooky I had been! I became obsessed with the national political situation and read blogs constantly and studied each new poll.

I became irritable at everything. Fox News was too liberal for me and I had to mute all the opinions of the increasing number of people I didn’t agree with. I listened to conservative talk radio from early morning to all hours of the night.

I barked at a bank teller and told off an insurance office receptionist. I berated my loving girlfriend, who changed my dressing twice a day, and fought to the death of our relationship over her lack of desire to continue participating in my farm dreams.

Adding to my injuries, I believe I was mishandled while under the general anesthesia. Shortly after I got out of the hospital I realized that I had somehow acquired severe tennis elbow in my right arm and a rotator cuff injury to my right shoulder, injuries I had not had pre-op. While there is no way to prove it, it seems obvious that someone must have yanked on my right arm when they turned me over after the operation.

Two cortisone shots and 3 months later I still have to wear an elbow brace to work, although my shoulder seems almost back to normal. For the first couple months, however, I was in extreme pain whenever I tried to use my right arm or tried to roll over in bed.

So it hasn’t been a great winter. The only bright spots are that I decided to go on a diet on Jan. 1 and have lost over 20 pounds and I am now walking pain free for the first time in 9 months and can officially start re-hab tomorrow– and, not so happily, for the first time in 35 years I am truly single again!  But that’s the subject of a future column.

FOPs for Newt

I am hereby founding a new political group called FOPs for Newt. The acronym stands for Fat Old Philanderers. Believe me, I am well-qualified to be a member of this group: I have weighed north of 250 pounds for most of my adult life, I am now over 60 years old, and about the philandering, well the less said about that the better, but let’s just say I would not be qualified to cast the first stone.

I am speaking out now because I feel that there is a lot of subtle and (not so subtle) prejudice against Newt because of these three traits that he shares with so many of his would-be constituents. Let’s take these one at a time:

Fat: I don’t exactly know how much Newt weighs but I’m pretty sure it is less than Pres. William Taft who reportedly tipped the scales at over 300 pounds. Does anyone seriously think that in this age of televised political beauty contests, that a fat man (even Chris Christie) could ever again be elected President?

If you read any of the comments posted online after any article about Newt it won’t be very long before the words “fat slob” are flung as if that ended the debate. As a fat slob myself I highly resent that.

As Henry Miller pointed out years ago, fat men may be fat in body but they are usually anything but fat heads. As he observed in his novel Sexus (don’t even go there!), “Fat men were often most dynamic, most engaging, most charming and seductive. Their laziness and slovenliness were deceptive. In the brain they often carried a diamond.”

Any fair observer of this year’s Republican debates must have come to the same conclusion. Newt mind has run circles around the competition! Do we want a truly smart president or simply one who can look pretty reading a teleprompter?Don’t answer that!

Age: At Age 68, Newt is getting toward the far end of the traditional Presidential range. Of course Ron Paul is 75, but nobody (not even Ron Paul) really believes that he can be elected.

On the other hand, if elected, Newt would be a few months younger than Ronald Reagan was when he won his first term and he didn’t do too badly! It’s also important to remember that improvements in health have extended the lifespan of almost all Americans, so that 70 is looking more and more like the new 60 or less! (BTW over our long history the median age for a first term President at election is about 55. You could look it up!)

As Newt could say in any debate with Pres. Obama, “I’m not going to make an issue of my opponent’s youth and inexperience!”

Philandering: This is a tough one, but I have to say that it is not even clear that Newt meets the strict definition here. According to the free online dictionary,” A Philanderer is one who carries on a sexual affair, especially an extramarital affair, with a woman one cannot or does not intend to marry.” (emphasis added).

According to everything that has been reported, Newt did carry on affairs during his first two marriages, but he ended up marrying both of the women! This is not so much philandering as it is premature serial monogamy.

OK, I admit adulterers are never going to win that argument, but if adultery were a disqualification for high office, our nation would have been much the poorer for it. It is not necessary to pick on recent Democrats by recounting the sleazy sexual habits of President Bill “Alley Cat” Clinton or John “The Fornicator” Kennedy.

We can go all the way back to our Founding Fathers and discover that Ben Franklin and Alexander Hamilton (and maybe even Thomas Jefferson) were not immune from such foibles and they all got their pictures on our currency!

Although, fortunately the press in prior times was more circumspect, it is pretty much accepted that such otherwise great Presidents as FDR and Dwight Eisenhower strayed from the marital bed, although at least Ike had the excuse that there was a war on.

And as for divorce, I thought we laid that one to rest when we elected the Gipper! Case closed!

So, in conclusion, if you don’t like Newt’s ideas or policies then don’t vote for him. But if all you can bring to the conversation is stupid prejudice and a holier then thou attitude than please spare us the hypocrisy!

The FOPs for Newt is not authorized or paid for by any political committee, although I would be happy to accept donations!

Every 30 years!

It’s been over a year since I penned a post on this blog, but it looks like I may have more time for it this winter. Next week I will be having surgery to repair a ruptured left achilles tendon and the usual recovery is at least 6 weeks in a cast.

Its been over 30 years since I ruptured my right achilles and went through this drill before, but I can remember it like it was yesterday. I have never felt such pain as I did on that day in 1980 when I went down on the SUNY Geneseo squash court wondering who had shot me– and I hope I never do again!

By comparison, the pain from the pop on the tennis court Saturday morning was mild. Of course the first rupture was sudden and unexpected, the more recent one has been coming for almost 5 months.

I first injured my achilles on the tennis court in July. I really don’t even remember how I did it, except that by the end of a match I was quite sore. I tried to stay off it for a few weeks, but having a tennis club in my back yard and having the annual club championships running through August made that hard.

In August I was playing in the finals of our grass court doubles tournament when at a crucial moment of a tightly contested match I ran for a lob over my partner’s head. The pain came back with gusto and I had to retire from the match with the score tied 4-all in the 3rd set.

Again I stayed off the court for a few more weeks and actually seemed to be recovering. I played once a week or so in October, and then just to be safe, I decided to take the last three weeks of our Fall outdoor League off, to rest the leg up for the Winter indoor tennis season which was due to start Dec. 1.

Ironically, while avoiding the tennis court I tripped on a branch while working in the woods one day and fell hard. I pulled the tendon so hard that I at first thought it had to have ruptured. After a few minutes I got to my feet and was able to walk, but the tendon was never the same.

I knew I was really not ready to play tennis Saturday and so arranged for a sub to play for me. However, at 8 pm Friday night I got a fateful e-mail that one of our group had torn his calf muscle playing racquetball and could not play in the morning. With the match scheduled for 7:30 am in the city, I was out of time to find a sub and out of  options, so I decided to chance one for the team.

To protect myself I watched a couple of online videos on how to tape an achilles. Basically, the preferred method is to run a piece of stretchable tape down the back side of the leg anchored between the top of the achilles and the middle of the bottom of the foot.This elastic tape is pulled fairly tight to limit the range of motion of the achilles so it does not overstretch. (This may have been the only smart thing I did all weekend!)

Thus prepared I was ready to do battle. The first set went off without incident. In the middle of a fabulous comeback in the 2nd set ( that saw us come from down 1-5 to win the set 7-5) I received one final warning when I felt somehing give in my leg.

I almost quit then, but after walking it off for a few minutes I figured I could continue the comeback. A few points into the 3rd set, after about 75 minutes of tennis, I again tried to run for a lob and felt the classic sensation that someone had hit me in the back of the leg with a racquet.

I quickly realized that no one was close enough to do that and since nothing had fallen off the ceiling to hit me, I concluded that the tendon was gone. I limped off the court and had to be helped to my car with a broom stick for a crutch.

The rest of Saturday was spent on the couch with my leg elevated and covered with ice packs as I drugged myself with liberal doses of ibuprofen and Tylenol. Although the pain was moderate it was tolerable and I actually slept fairly well Saturday night. Amazingly, by Sunday morning I was able to walk with little pain so long as I didn’t try to push off on the bad leg.

A trip to my orthopedic surgeon Monday afternoon confirmed my diagnosis. I was actually happy to hear that he thought I should have the surgery since my biggest fear was that it might only be a partial tear and I would only be offered a cast. After four plus months of struggling with ever-worsening problems with this tendon I knew from my reading that surgery was my best chance to get back on my beloved courts quickly and at full strength.

My doctor commented on how narrow the gap in the broken tendon was and I think that was because the tape job probably limited the force of the explosion when the tendon gave way. It may also have limited the pain.

All and all, however, if I add up all the pain that tendon gave me over the last five months, I guess the total pain was about equal to what I felt in one intense burst 30 years ago!

I know I probably should have just stopped playing tennis for the season back in July when I had the first injury, but that’s asking a lot. Now the doctor says no tennis for 6 months. At least it’s coming at the right time of year, and  that should get me back on the court around the middle of June –just in time to tune up for next year’s club championships!

After the series of injuries that I had over the past few months, and especially after my fall in the woods, I kind of feel that the tendon was probably beyond natural healing anyway. The achilles is notorious for slow healing because it has a very stingy natural blood supply.

Going through the pain of the operation and the rehab is going to be a drag, but I am encouraged by the thought that by next summer I will be back on the court playing better than ever! And in the meantime, there’s always reading, watching old movies and blogging–and in the spring, croquet.

I guess I can be thankful this only happens every 30 years and my next rupture is not scheduled until 2041, when I will be 90!

 

Remembering Ted

I wasn’t there at the beginning. I have no memory of Ted Bondi student athlete and All-American soccer player at Brockport, or Ted, the three-time sectional winning coach at Geneseo Central School. I only had the pleasure of getting to know Ted, who died over the weekend, in the last few years of his life as a member of the Downtown Geneseo morning coffee klatch.

As a little bit of a stranger in Geneseo, having spent most of the first 25 years of my time in the Genesee Valley in Avon and Caledonia, Ted took me in as a friend and made me feel welcome. Of course the fact that he had known my mother Alice Wadsworth Strong (who was just a couple of years older than Ted) growing up in Geneseo probably didn’t hurt.

When you think of small-town tradition in Geneseo, you naturally think of Ted and his surviving sidekick Bob McDonald. They loved nothing more than to recount local history and if I had a question about anything that ever happened in Geneseo I knew that all I had to do was drop in to the coffee shop on a weekday morning and Ted and Bob would know the answer. And truly, as I discovered on many occasions, if they didn’t know, nobody did!

Ted’s death comes as a shock because even though he was 81 he gave the impression that he could probably still go out on the soccer field and score a few goals. I repeatedly tried to recruit him to join our tennis club but he claimed his hips and knees wouldn’t stand it.

I saw Ted for the last time just a few weeks ago at his regular perch at the coffee shop. As always he greeted me warmly. In fact, I had gone into the shop specifically looking for Ted to try to recruit him into playing in my Genesee Croakers Croquet League.

I explained to him that this was the perfect game for him, since he would be able to revive his competitive instincts without putting undue strain on the body. Ted heard me out in his good-natured way and said that maybe he would give it a try. I almost called him last week when I had a vacancy, but it was never to be.

Ted leaves a huge hole not just in the coffee klatch but in the soul of Geneseo. It is for those who knew him better to recount all the many contributions he made to the community. I will just miss his friendship and uncommon decency.