The Knee

I have to write about my knee. I have this list of things next to me that I want to write, some that I actually have to write, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to write about anything until I write about my knee.

My left knee. It’s on my mind all the time, because it’s currently not working. By that I mean I can’t bend it. I injured it at the bout a week and a half ago, and I’d hoped that by now I’d be back to running, jumping, squatting, kicking, hopping, and skating. But no.

It was the fourth quarter of the bout and the score was super close. The lead kept changing with each jam, and in my My-Dad-Made-Me-Watch-Too-Many-Underdog-Sports-Movies brain, I just told myself the score was tied. The opposing jammer was none other than Sara (but who at that moment was Queen Elizadeath II).

I found it archived here, starting at 11:27. This will go on to become Queen Elizadeath’s finest jam, as she will make fifteen points and tie up the game. I hit her to the rail on her second pass, but it’s not enough to stop her. And if you look, right as she’s making her third, pointabulous pass, I try to hit her and miss, landing on my knees. It really doesn’t look that bad on the footage. And it’s a fall I’ve done hundreds of times in derby. We wear kneepads designed to take that fall.

But my kneepad slid a little. Just a little bit up. And when I fell onto my knees I felt something in my left knee pop, and then I felt this warmth.

So here’s all the things that went through my brain at the exact same time at that moment:


And then, most importantly:


So I got up. I got up because I was afraid my mom might think I was hurt. I limp-skated back to my manager, who was putting me in the next jam. The attending doctor handed me ice. It was decided that maybe I will sit out a jam. It all looks very calm when you watch the footage, because I knew if it looked like I had hurt myself I’d be pulled from the game, and due to all of the adrenaline and fear, I didn’t really know how bad it was. I knew I could move my leg, I could sort of bend my knee, but if I extended it too far it felt like my leg was going to unhinge from my knee and just fall away, like if you took a screw from a marionette’s knee — the tiny wooden shin would clatter to the ground. That’s how it felt.

That’s how it still feels, by the way. That’s why I have to write about the knee, because Dr. Google says I probably did something to my PCL, and that freaks me out.

But back to the game. At 2:52 in this clip the doctors have started tending to my knee and you can see that I’m thinking all those caps lock thoughts above. Mostly that there’s just nine minutes left in the bout, and I think I have enough to keep going. Suddenly a photographer is by my side, taking pictures of the doc examining my leg and I’m thinking, “OH NO, MOM!” I grabbed my helmet and placed it onto my lap so that there weren’t close-up shots of my heart-kissed panties and my pain-soaked face on the Internet for all of eternity. Normally if you’re dressed like a skank, you’re drunk enough not to care that your panties are showing. Not so in roller derby.

I lucked out in that the refs were discussing penalties and Armed Kandy’s eventual ejection while my knee was getting wrapped, and by the time I got back into my gear I’d only missed a jam or two. I finished the bout. (And at 13:33 right here, I get Queen Elizadeath back.)

In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have had as much fun as I did at the afterparty dance party, but you know. Dance party. I went to bed able to bend my leg, as long as I did it slowly. I iced it and elevated it and had a very restless night as I felt my leg slowly stiffen. By morning I could no longer move it. X-rays were clear and the doctor said it was probably fluid in my knee, that it would be fine in a week, but go easy on it.

That night I went to the track to watch practice to make my attendance requirement. Mickispeedia sees me from the track, notes my knee brace, smiles and asks, “Was it worth it?”

“We won, so yes.”

“Atta girl.”

Then I get an emergency call from AB Chao in Louisiana that sweet Madeleine’s illness has progressed from what we’ve jokingly called Mad Chao Disease into something much more serious. Three hours later I’m hobbling onto a redeye flight to Monroe. But that’s another story on the list of things to write.

I also had a flight to Mexico planned. The holiday weekend trip was scheduled to celebrate both my birthday and hiatus.

[Note: Every friend I’ve had who got hired onto a show, when she calls to tell me her good news I say, “That’s fantastic! Get out of town. Right now. Go. Because this is the memory you’re going to need to hold onto when being in production destroys your life.” Every friend I’ve given this advice to has taken it. Every single one of them has thanked me later for being right.]

When I told the doctor I was supposed to be swimming in the ocean in a couple of days, he said, “Well, we could do an MRI right now, but that takes time and it’s expensive and… I think you should go to Mexico. Take it easy there, rest your leg, get a tan, and when you get back we’ll see what we’re really dealing with.”

I like a doctor who prescribes a bikini.

I have a follow-up with him tomorrow, and hopefully he’ll tell me that it’s just a slow-healing thing. But what he also said last week, right after telling me to enjoy my tequila, was, “We’ll wait a week to determine if you need surgery. I’m sorry I said that. ‘Surgery.’ I know doctors don’t like to say that word so early so, ha-ha, sorry, didn’t mean to scare you. But seriously, next week we’ll discuss if you need surgery.”

He also told me that every day it would get worse for a little while before it got better, which was true. Last week it was difficult to determine what pain was just soreness from the bout, what was soreness from hobbling around an airport terminal, and what was actual injury. Now that I’ve been tequila-free and in one place for three days, doing nothing more athletic than leaning over to answer my cell phone, I can tell that my knee is wonky. It isn’t so much the pain. That comes and goes, throbbing and stiff. But it’s the fact that every once in a while it truly does feel like, “OH GOD, MY LEG IS FALLING OFF.”

Having only one leg has taught me a few things over the past week. Like: people truly don’t give a shit. Flying is not for the infirm. I was left in a wheelchair alone by an empty gate for TWENTY MINUTES. They told me a cart was coming, and I just watched time tick away as I knew I probably wouldn’t make my connecting flight. I had people pushing me through terminals, passing me off to each other like I was a condiment cart. “Hey, can you take this to D24? I gotta take my break.” I got squished into seats, kicked in the leg, stepped on, and most of the time all I got was a wince and a “Bless your heart.”

But there have been some very helpful, sympathetic people. In this situation, you find that you actually have to have — you need — other people in order to make it through the day. I can’t do it alone. I need help getting up out of things. I needed help carrying luggage. I needed help going down those little Beatles runway staircases they put on half of my planes this past week. And the helpful are chatty. I have heard the worst horror stories about knee injuries and surgeries, head trauma and torn ACL’s. I’ve been asked how I “broke that leg.” My favorite was something I heard more than once. Someone would look me over see me gimping along in my knee brace and ask, “Where you hurt?” Then they want to know how, and if they press past “I hurt it playing sports,” or “I was skating,” we eventually get to roller derby, and then, you know: there’s a lot of talk about roller derby.

I got stared at a lot at the resort in Mexico, as I was getting wheeled out to the pool. People watched me hobble-hop into my semi-permanent reclining position. I think the stares were mostly, “Look, that girl over there has a wheelchair. She looks fine. And she’s having no problems drinking or eating those fish tacos. Oh, no. That must mean she’s dying. That’s so sad. Poor thing. I hope she likes that book.”

I’ve learned that I’m mentally incapable of putting my left leg into my pants before my right. Every single time I put my right leg in first, and then I am frozen still, because I can’t lift my left leg that way to put on my pants. People, I can’t put on my pants. It is sad. I’ve had to have help putting on socks. Every night I go to sleep with my leg in the air.

And I’m so sick of not being able to work out. This is the most unexpected of side effects. The other day I saw a commercial for running shoes, and I got furious with jealousy. “Look at them running like it’s easy.” I get randomly angry, filled with R-A-G-E at objects. Strangers. Random sounds.

Jason has commented. “See? I knew you had hate in your heart somewhere. You just had to be hobbled to find it.” But he’s right. I have no outlet for this frustration, and since I can’t run, jump, squat, skip, hop, dance or skate, I just have to SIT HERE and FEEL MY KNEE PAIN and wish for the ability to get up from being on the floor. I know. It’s nothing. It’s really nothing, and when I get it all in perspective, I’m fine. For pete’s sake, when I was hobbling to LAX for that redeye to Monroe, feeling very sorry for myself, I remembered that I was on my way to a hospital to visit a girl with a very serious kidney infection (she is fine now) and then realized I was standing in the security line behind a six-year-old Haitian girl getting facial reconstructive surgery. At which point I tilted my head back to look up and shout, “I GET IT. A LITTLE HEAVY-HANDED WITH THE MESSAGES, DON’T YOU THINK?”

It’s probably nothing. It’ll probably all be okay. Please don’t email me with your horrible knee stories. You will not make it better, and I have ordered myself to stay away from Dr. Google today. It’s bad enough I have to wait until tomorrow to most likely schedule something for next week that might tell me when I will be able to put on my pants without the Benny Hill theme song playing in the background.

I’m just ranting here because I HAVE UNREASONABLE, UNCONTROLLABLE HATE IN MY HEART. Right now it is about how I have to pee and that is not a fun process what with the need for knee-bending as I am a girl. And please don’t send me emails about how I can maybe bypass the knee-bending part of peeing. I’m not looking for solutions, here. I’m just… well, pissy.

Oh, and… I don’t think my mom watched the bout. And no pictures from that moment have surfaced on the Internet. But knowing my mom, right now she’s standing in a grocery store, rubbing her left knee, thinking, “Ow. OW. Why does my knee…Pamie’s hurt!!!”

Dan took one look at my leg last night and went, “OH, MY GOD! IT LOOKS TERRIBLE!”

To which I said, “Actually, I don’t think it’s swollen at all. That’s my knee. That’s what it looks like. And thank you.”

Dan quickly tried to cover. “Oh, I’m sure that’s not true. You can’t see it like I can. What’s that mark?”

“That’s a scar from last summer when I was making fun of Sara when she wasn’t around, mocking how she exaggerates penalties against her by flinging herself to the ground all dramatic, and I forgot I wasn’t wearing kneepads at the time.”

This means my left knee is jacked up inside and out because of Sara’s Karmic Wrath. I am in both awe and respect of its power. Therefore I just made a donation to Canine Companions for Independence, because, seriously, this is a world of able-bodied people just running up flights of stairs, leaving nothing behind but their dust. Perhaps I will have done a little bit of good to reverse the curse, and I’m hoping tomorrow when the doctor sees me again, I’m told I’ll be back to running, jumping, squatting, kicking, hopping, and skating in no time.

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