Happy Crashiversary, Elmo

>>>Happy Crashiversary, Elmo

One year ago Saturday, my life changed. So I took the day off, to consider how far I’ve come.

It seemed especially fitting, since things are about to change again. More about that later.

The Elmo stories (of Elmo, my replacement knee and then the fight to save him when I smashed my femur) have been going on for more than two years now. People ask to read them start to finish, so I’ve set up this Saving Elmo index page to let you view the whole series in one swell foop.

A year ago, I took an unthinking header down three little steps, and didn’t go home again for eight months. To my cats Lola and Nikki, it must have seemed as if The Silly Human simply walked out and didn’t come back.

It had repercussions: Lola became an affection-starved bully. Nikki nearly died (long, sad story behind that), and wound up in the closet.

Literally. Nikki lives in my entry hall closet the same way Harry Potter lived under the stairs, to the point that we’ve had to install litter box and food or she’d starve. She’s found sanctuary from Lola’s bullying under my winter coats (do NOT ask about the condition of said coats).

After mounds of patient loving and coaxing from me and Bob and Rox and Nathan and Apple, she’s finally coming out of the closet and joining me on my desk…at least for awhile.

Lola NEEDS to be loved. A lot. Every pet or kind word to Nikki is one less for Lola, and since my absence she’s been fiercely defending her love.

I worry about them, because I’m leaving again. I’ll spend a couple of months with surgeons in the Bay area and–cross your fingers–be walking by Christmas.

Kaiser Permanente, after months of resisting, has conceded that maybe eventual amputation isn’t such a hot idea, medically speaking. Kaiser NW doesn’t offer much in the way of orthopaedic traumatology (as I’ve discovered), but I’m told by my consultants that Kaiser Northern California is pretty darn good at it.

NoCal’s Dr. Dan called a couple of weeks ago to discuss the matter, and we discovered we were on the same page. On the 28th of this month, he’ll essentially spatchcock The Leg.

Nathan is leaving his shed in the backyard and moving into the house, to make sure the cats can still cuddle at night with a familiar face. Until Lola can figure out the keyboard, he’ll help the cats Skype to me down south. My friends will be looking in from time to time to make sure everything’s OK.

I’ve got to hand it to Kaiser; when you finally get them to listen, they go all out. They’re flying me and Mom down to Oakland, putting us up in a hotel for the initial surgery.

Dr. Dan’s team will dig out all my fracture hardware, and stuff what’s left full of antibiotics. For awhile it’ll be a waiting game; I’ll hang out in a hospital bed on IV antibiotics and an open wound.

“Think of it as a kind of unusual spa vacation,” said Dr. Dan.

Somehow I doubt there’ll be much in the way of pedicures and facials…

Samples from from my leg will vacation in an incubator, waiting for nasty bugs to hatch. If one does, they do Surgery 1(a), to move the right kinds of antibiotics in place inside the fracture. Then we wait again, possibly for weeks.

More likely, Dr. Dan will start the second surgery, the big one. He’ll McGyver Elmo, running a brand new rod out of the top of Elmo’s head from knee to hip. He’ll dig out the bone marrow inside and use it–with some experimental bone fertilizer stuff–to stuff that great gaping hole in my bone.

The long rod will strengthen The Leg from the inside, reinforced by new plate outside. Dr. Dan predicts new bone will grow and I will be able to put all my weight on The Leg within 6-8 weeks.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

After that, rehab and lots of physical therapy. Dr. Dan is a big fan of loading weight onto the fracture to accelerate bone growth. So is my cousin David. So am I.

Nobody is saying this will be a cakewalk or a guaranteed success. I might see my Year Two Crashiversary from a wheelchair still, sliding down the slippery slope to distal-femoral implant.

That’s not the direction I see, but if it happens, I’m prepared. My house will be as wheelchair-friendly as it possibly can.

Just look at that new roll-in shower. Can’t wait to try it.

I’ve become a whizzbang wheelchair driver with Tyrone-the-spiffy chair. I go over curbs and drive cars all by myself, stuffing Tyrone inside. On my crashiversary I made five stops for a total of TEN womanhandlings to break Tyrone into components and move him in/out of the car. New record, and I have the bruises to prove it!

I’ve found the painkillers that work without making me woozy and mean. I’ve learned so much about going through the world with wheels on your butt, about becoming my own best advocate in a world that doesn’t really get wheelchairs.

I’m armed with more information than before. I know there are new distal-femoral implants that don’t chew up the bone and force amputation. They may last as long as knee replacements, too.

If iI need one, I’ll be ready to fight for my leg. Again.

I contemplated all of that on Saturday, while I watched my friend Kaitlyn perform old rock songs in her school-of-rock recital (she did a great job and was gorgeous doing it).

Thought about the wonderful friends–like Kaitlyn and her husband Aaron–who have stood with me, behind me, surrounded me with love and support and ideas. The coworkers who formed a bucket brigade to get me down three flights of stairs in a power outage.

Thought about my blog readers, who’ve been, literally, my sanity safety net. About the number of times I’ve given up, wanted to just go back to bed and STOP BEING, when an online friend pops in. “Just wanted let you know I’m thinking about you. What can I help with?”

My family’s unwavering support. Amazing.

I left Kaitlyn and Aaron, loaded Tyrone back into the car, and drove off with no destination. Hung out with skateboarders and drifters in a plaza, talking about life and nothing in particular. Heard their stories, gave them mine.

Then I went back to the scene of my crime. Had dinner at the little Thai place I’d dined at that night. Wheeled over to the spot where I fell, and waited for the sun to set.

I sat in my chair, watching those steps as the sun went down. They were a lot shallower than I remembered. In my recollection I’d fallen perhaps five feet to solid concrete. Reality turned out about three feet shorter.

I saw stains on the sidewalk still, where the cherry tomatoes I’d been carrying had been ground into the cement. I saw how well the stairs blended into the concrete below in the gathering dark. The dark blue merged almost perfectly with lower plaza horizon.

I realized that “scene of the crime” was more accurate than I cared to think. It seems that I’ve never quite gotten over (or admitted) that I’d been beating myself up for falling. That I was so stupid-silly to not watch where I was going, that I caused all this grief.

Time to stop that. It happened. It’s over. No point in dwelling on it. No point in asking why–if Kaiser had a great trauma center for my kind of bonebreak–they didn’t send me there months ago.

No point. Two different people this week talked to me of mindfulness, of learning to live in the moment, non-judgmentally, instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

“I think you could really benefit from learning how to do that,” one said.

She’s right. Live in the moment, charging forward. Breathe in today and savor now.





  1. Ace Brimstone September 27, 2017 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    Lily Tomlin said “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of changing the past”. I wish you healing & the utmost successful surgery. Rehab won’t be a picnic, but you are up to the task!

  2. Jen September 23, 2017 at 2:06 am - Reply

    So relieved to hear that your insurer has approved what they should have approved months ago. I’m too far away to offer to kitty-sit Nikki for the duration but could the situation be smoothed with some kitty-dope for Lola….something a bit stronger than the catnip she can probably pick up from the flea-bitten, cauliflour-eared Tom who hangs out at the garbage bins behind Macca’s?

    Much as I dislike the idea of tranquillizing Lola it may make life easier for Nikki and bring some peace. Nikki may benefit from some too, for the time you’ll not be around to referee.

    Your vet can no doubt recommend something. Here’s a local product. You may find the equivalent in the US.


  3. SB Anthony September 22, 2017 at 9:56 am - Reply

    As usual, nicely written with intelligence, humor, and compassion. I’m rooting for success along with all the others! May the force be with you.

  4. kathryncecelia September 21, 2017 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    I am so excited for the possibilities that lie ahead. I pray for a great recovery. I am proud that you stood up for yourself, too. It is hard to do and when a person is a victim, as you are of this fall, it is especially significant that you are the “master of your ship”. Keep up the good work, Cap’n.

  5. Sunny September 19, 2017 at 8:58 am - Reply

    Good to hear from you. Great fan club we are, and everyone is saying it (almost) all. Seems ya may not be aware, so I will give you a hint. Female felines are all very territorial. No amount of attention and TLC will out weigh that fact. If you don’t have what they consider the minimum amount of space, the ruthless domination will continue along the lines you have already described, and the lesser of the two will exist in a miserable fashion. The closet that is generously permitted for your undercat will also become a point of jealousy as time goes by and she will lose that haven too. They don’t understand our form of sharing spaces. Believe me, I have had near 50 of these love balls over the years, they just won’t take a hint. You will have to subdivide your apartment, or find a new home for one of them. I’ve even had one take refuge, as a last stand spot, in my glory hole. Pretty easy spot to defend, but it was also doggedly contested… Good luck with one more complication. It is just what you needed. Someone will surely just love to have such a beautiful lil critter. Check with the fan club first. Sounds like a lot of compassionate folks. Hope to hear good news from you soon. My dizzy best to you in your voyage thru never never land. (comin to ya from just north of Africa, I bet I’m your furthest fan)

  6. cynthia September 19, 2017 at 12:18 am - Reply

    Thanks. Y’all just made me cry. Love you all. Cards? I’m at Kaiser Walnut Creek, California from September 28 to….probably October 5-6. Would love cards if you want to send them. Thanks again.

  7. Patricia Denny September 18, 2017 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    You certainly are a strong-willed, determined woman. That’s so admirable. I guess we could say that you have to be, unless you just want to sit in a huddled lump and discontinue living a life that was full-filling and creative. Personally, I don’t believe that you could do that. Not too many women could be self-advocates and keep pushing. I have full faith that you will get back to walking and overcome this unbelievable circumstance.

    To use a well-worn phrase, you go, girl!

  8. Sandy September 18, 2017 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    I feel like I know you because your blogs are so revealing. I hope all of us followers can help somewhat.
    I have two cats also and I have found that they love having a teenage girl sit with them. They respond differently to the girls than to me. Hope you can find one to at least drop in once and while when you and Elmo are on this journey together.
    Wonder if counseling is available at the hospital to help bolster your new attitude.
    Wishing you the best of all outcomes!

  9. Stephen Richard September 18, 2017 at 1:23 pm - Reply

    I’m raising a glass to the good times

  10. Matt N. September 18, 2017 at 11:48 am - Reply

    Way to go Cynthia. Proud to see you reacquaint yourself with scene of the crime (who the ‘F’ approved that design and blue edge painting? Seriously, WTF?).
    With all your daily, hourly challenges that most of us can’t fully understand, you have moved forward, asked, and sometimes not asked, for support and leaned on YOUR community. Being mindful is an excellent term and ideology for anyone, especially with a harsh reality-slap-in-the-face day in and day out. While there are hurdles (or non-ada compliant sidewalks, doorways, halls, bathrooms, etc) in the way, taking the moment to focus on the best the chaotic minds and logical minds have to offer and seeing your way in the middle. Swinging like a pendulum will only feel good/relief for a moment or 2, but does not solve or attempt to solve life’s little (or BIG-ass spitballs) curveballs thrown at us. Sometimes, we have to take the hit to the body (preferably a proverbial hit) to get to the next base and give our teammates (our community) the opportunity to hit us home. (Ok, that was a few sports analogies, sorry 🙂 ).

    How you managed through all these trials and tribulations are truly remarkable. It speaks volumes to a honed character of strong will and not accepting anything less than what is the right way to deal with your situation. I would be proud to know my daughters (or son) looked up to you as a role model of strength and character.

    Continue on and know you have a community behind you. (Still interested to watch how the medical side implements your solution and saves your leg)

  11. Diana tillotson September 18, 2017 at 11:00 am - Reply

    I’ve lived with the feeling ,if only, for a lot of years and finally let it go, much better to look forward. I wish you the best in the up coming surgery , I can imagine how difficult this will be. You got this woman. I think of you often and look forward to your posts. Your kitties will welcome you home. You’re one of the bravest people I know..keep on keeping on. If you have the hospital address, it might be nice to get some cards while you’re laid up this time, just a thought. Diana

  12. Karen Seymour September 18, 2017 at 9:01 am - Reply

    Your blog archive was my go-to for advice when I first got my kiln a few years ago. Then I finally subscribed after meeting you at BeCon this summer. This series of posts (and dealing with aging parents) has made me much more aware of every-day obstacles my fellow humans face. I notice myself looking to see if a person needs a door held open and asking if help is desired get things off top shelves, getting down to eye-level when discussing things. Your writing
    is experiential rather than preachy — creating a book might help some folks gain this sort of insight in high school rather than at 64 like me. But books are a lot of work in an age when reading a series of blog posts may suffice. Thanks so much for letting us share your adventure. If only we could spare you the pain and anxiety. Hugs to both you and the cats.

  13. Gail Northness September 18, 2017 at 8:39 am - Reply

    Best wishes on your upcoming operational adventures. You have an indomitable spirit, which helps you get through the rough parts. Thinking about you…I will continue reading, so you MUST continue to write!

  14. Island Fused Glass September 18, 2017 at 8:38 am - Reply

    Great to read your blog this morning, moving on and up. I lived the “if only I could take back those 60 seconds” for many years, it serves no one. Sending positive vibes for body and your cats.

  15. Teddy Devereux September 18, 2017 at 8:12 am - Reply

    Best wishes Cynthia. Hope everything goes smoothly. Some of my favorite books that might interest you – “Lost in Shangri-La” (about plane crash in New Guinea in 1945 and how the Americans were rescued. I found it fascinating). “One Summer, 1927” by Bill Bryson (mostly about Babe Ruth and Charles Lindbergh). Trevor Noah, Born a Crime (humorous even though hard upbringing – starts out with his mother throwing him out of a moving car at about age 5). Alexander McCall Smith’s series, The Ladies #1 detective agency.

  16. Cheryl Sattler September 18, 2017 at 7:27 am - Reply

    I hope others can benefit from your extremely articulate advocacy. And for goodness sake tell the city about those steps !!!

  17. sandra uhlman September 18, 2017 at 7:22 am - Reply

    I agree with Denise, you have been mindful and very courageous! You have helped me lick my fear of getting knee replacement! So thank you you are an inspiration to us all!! Good luck to you and your cats xx

  18. ellen abbott September 18, 2017 at 6:42 am - Reply

    been wondering when the new surgery would take place. I worry about the not-cats too. and yes, mindfulness. no point in berating yourself, gotta let go of that guilt that perhaps was holding back your recovery. the mind is a powerful thing. reality springs from it.

  19. denise clarke September 18, 2017 at 6:22 am - Reply

    Cynthia, I have been reading your blog from the beginning of this accident and before and I see nothing but ‘mindfulness’. You are so very courageous and I
    see a book coming from all of this. It would be such an inspiration to everyone and you have experienced so much to not share it would be a shame. I think some of the medical profession could certainly learn from you as well.Will be thinking of you as you journey through this next chapter.

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