About five years ago I was diagnosed with chondromalacia patella (patellafemoral, a.k.a. “runner’s knee”), which is characterized by pain, stiffness, and my knee giving out seemingly spontaneously. I think this was caused by running, climbing CN Towers, cycling, and generally being active, then compounded by a bike accident in which I banged up my right knee. When I was diagnosed, I sought out physiotherapy, massage, and a brace, but after a while I felt that I had plateaued; the symptoms had apparently subsided.
Fast forward to now and the problem has roared back with a vengeance: massive swelling, falling, and immobility. This time, however, my older and wiser self has determined to stabilize the damn thing (again with physio, massage, and an improved brace). I don’t hope to run 5K or climb 1,776 stairs, but a bike ride on the Martin Goodman trail might be nice . . . one day. We shall see.
Part of my strategy is to use a cane to prevent falls when my knee gives out, to stop traffic, and to get a seat on transit.
Now, I’m not going to moan about my “plight” as things could be much worse: cancer, dementia, and so on. This is just a wonky knee (actually, both knees are cranky) and I have a plan in place to diminish the wonk. No, I’m going to observe the world around me (sidewalks, roads, cars, infrastructure, cyclists, and pedestrians) and how I navigate through it.
Approximately, twenty years ago, I wrote an article for the now-defunct Ottawa music paper Trans FM about accessibility, centring on clubs and bars. The paper was a guide to campus radio station CKCU.FM (a.k.a. “The Mighty 93”) and it dawned on me that some of our listeners may not be able to get in the clubs and bars that not only sponsored the station but also hosted bands. In fact, I once saw one fellow plucked out of his chair and carried upstairs by staff at Barrymore’s. While I don’t think the bloke who carried the guy felt anything but compassion and goodwill, I think the man being carried harboured a sense of indignity and lost independence.
I remember one summer when I severely sprained my ankle and required a cast. I had a Ramones ticket and was determined to see them at RPM. So rather than use my crutches, I hired a wheelchair (yes, I know). Fortunately, I didn’t have to power myself all night as my friend Linda was there to push me around (a rare case of this, so don’t get any crazy ideas). As we rolled closer to the stage, a bouncer told Linda to move me back, so she did. I literally put the brakes on.
“Where am I going?”
“The guy told me to move you back.”
“My foot’s broken, not my fucking head. You want to move me, ask me, not my helper.”
How often does that conversation transpire, I wondered. This was a temporary measure for night, not a lifetime.
And now, here I am again using a device normally reserved for the elderly to move around safely and securely. My fingers are crossed that this, too, is a temporary measure. That said, the perspective is remarkable as is the opportunity to use it to help make Toronto a more mobile city. Stay tuned.