By George Brown
I’m not complaining mind you, but at the rate osteoarthritis is eating up my hands Yvonne is going to be feeding me in a couple of years. But it could be worse. I could be Sal.
Sal is a good friend who happens to be a few years younger than me, but is facing surgery to replace both of her knees. They won’t operate on both knees at the same time of course, but to hear Sal tell it, if they were to operate on both knees tomorrow it wouldn’t be a day too soon.
Sal’s story is an interesting one, sad but true. It took some doing but after being sworn to absolute and eternal secrecy Sal has granted me permission to share her story with you. I should note, when a story is told the second time and by another person – especially one prone to spells of extreme exaggeration – the exact facts of the story could get twisted, just a little. But what happened to Sal is one of those stories about which it can be said, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” So I’ll do my best to present Sal’s story as accurately as she shared it with me – more or less.
Sal is not her real name, but this is where the secrecy begins. Not long ago Sal and some of her lady friends, two cars full as I recall, embarked on their annual pilgrimage to a place where they could enjoy some southern sunshine and quality girl time. This band of slightly older than middle aged ladies reached their destination without incident and had a smashing good time.
Much too quickly their seven day sabbatical passed and it was time to return home.
Now you’d have to know Sal to fully appreciate the story that unfolded over the next 12 hours or so. Sal is a stouthearted woman, the kind that has a gentle spirit on the inside but a powerful amount of grit and determination on the outside. Sort of a cross between Martha Stewart and Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons, only even more brazen, talented, and driven to accomplish anything and everything she ever sets her mind to do. Sal is the sort of woman who is not about to let anything get her down. (I was going to mention how Sal’s blazing red hair reflects her fearless and fiery spirit, but that’s a clue that could give away her identity.)
As I was saying, their week of fun in the sun had come to an end so they loaded the cars for an early start home the following morning. Sal, being the take charge person that she is, was driving the lead car.
After a couple of hours she decided it was time to stop for breakfast so she pulled into a McDonalds with the other car right behind. Everyone started getting out of the cars to go into the restaurant, everyone except Sal that is.
When Sal opened her driver door and swung her body around to get out of the car she felt and heard a horrible popping, cracking sound in her right knee. She winced but proceeded to place her feet on the ground and then used the open car door to pull herself to her feet.
Sal knew right away something was bad wrong, but all she could think was, “I can’t let this happen. I’ve got to get home.” Not wanting to alarm the others Sal gritted her teeth so as to absorb the pain and slowly made her way toward the restaurant door.
“Are you alright”, one of her girlfriends asked?
“Yes…no…I’m not sure. I think I may have hurt my knee,” Sal said as she limped inside and headed for the bathroom. From a comfortable sitting position she examined her knee. It looked a bit swollen but not overly so, so she made up her mind, pain or no pain, she would tough it out to have breakfast and get back on the road, and maybe let one of the other ladies drive.
With breakfast completed, everyone headed for the cars, but Sal had no more than hobbled outside when her knee made that same cracking noise again, only even louder this time. “Oh crap,” she said half out loud as she clung to the brick wall of the building to keep from falling.
“I think I’m going to need some help,” she said and then slowly slid down the wall to a sitting position.
As luck would have it, the friends riding in the second car had already exited the parking lot and headed down the road, assuming Sal and her two riding companions were close behind. Helping Sal to her feet was not an option, what with one of her friends being a tiny little lady and the other recently having had hip replacement surgery. One suggested using the Ronald McDonald highchair on wheels to get to the car and then go to Urgent Care, and the other recommended calling 911, but Sal would have no part of either idea, especially that of getting in – or on – the child size chair.
“No,” she said, “I just need to get home. Please pull the car closer and I’ll see if I can get in.”
With the car pulled about 8 or 10 feet from where Sal was sitting, she started scooting backwards on her bottom toward the car, dragging her lame leg and pushing with the other as best she could. She reached the car and somehow managed to pull herself up, and then plopped down in the backseat of the car.
After a couple more hours of driving it was time for a rest area-potty break but Sal quickly realized there was no way she was getting out of the car.
“I’m okay for now,” she said. “You go ahead and I’ll wait until the next stop.” But they hadn’t been back on the road long when Sal suddenly realized nature was calling sooner than she had expected, so she instructed the driver to pull off at the next exit, which she did, pulling into the handicap parking space at an Arby’s restaurant even though they didn’t have a handicap card.
Sal made a valiant attempt to exit the car but it was no use. She couldn’t stand, let alone take a step. I guess you could say it was her good fortune that the friend who recently had hip surgery still had a couple of Depends in the car, which she had kept handy during her recovery. Realizing they still had another 7 or 8 hours of driving ahead of them Sal said, “Pull over there under that tree at the back of the parking lot.” Yep, you guessed it, safely hidden in the shadows of that tree and with her two friends standing guard, Sal squirmed around in the back seat of the car until she was sufficiently equipped to comfortably, after a manner of speaking, complete the trip home.
Sal watched with envy as the other two ladies made a trip inside to the bathroom and to pick up some to-go sandwiches.
“No drinks for me but I’ll take some ice for my knee,” Sal told them as they went inside. Needless to say, Sal’s envy of the bathroom privileges her friends enjoyed only increased as they made two more stops in route home, and although she was sorely tempted to sip on the ice cubes, she kept it firmly packed on her knee.
Sal had made it a point not to call her husband so as not to worry him, but when they finally neared home she called to explain her predicament and advise that the emergency room would be her first stop when she arrived home.
Other than the details of Sal’s upcoming surgery this is where her story ends. Well, that is except for that awkward moment when the ER nurse asked Sal if she needed anything while she was waiting to see the doctor. Sal thought for a moment and then said, “Um, that depends. Can you help me to the bathroom?”
George Brown is a freelance writer. He lives in Jackson Township.