Who really needs kneedy people?


As soon as Mary Ellen made plans for our last vacation, I made an appointment with the orthopedist. My left knee was killing me and I didn’t want to be a drag on our daily activities. My knee problem goes back to an old football injury in college. I was drunk and fell out of the stands during homecoming.

When I arrived at my appointment, I asked why my former doctor had unexpectedly retired. The receptionist said he wanted to devote more time to running triathlons and skiing, which is really nice for him but for the patients who were scheduled for knee surgery, this is kind of rubbing it in.

My new doctor said he needed to take a few pictures of my knee. I told him that wouldn’t be necessary and showed him some great shots of myself in Bermuda shorts on my iPhone from our recent New Orleans trip. But X-rays were still required. They clearly showed the reason for my discomfort and surgery would be my only option for relief.

“Dick,” said Dr. Estes, “I understand you and your wife are going on vacation. Not too strenuous, I hope, considering your knee.”

“She wants to go to Canada and go hiking.”

“Sounds a bit rocky to me.”

“Yes, we’re visiting Banff National Park.”

“No, I mean your marriage. What kind of wife makes a husband endure that much pain?”

Dr. Estes confirmed I needed a new knee, but in the meantime he recommended a cortisone shot right in the problem area. Several years ago when I had a similar pain, I got the identical injection. The same nurse was still working in the practice. She walked in with the kind of big grin that only someone who was going to stick a needle directly in your throbbing kneecap could have.

“Oh, hi, Mr. Wolfsie. Well, I guess you remember the drill.” It was not my place to offer marketing advice, but I told Julie that “the drill” is not the best word choice to put a patient at ease.

The cortisone helped, but most of the trails near Banff were far too rugged for me to negotiate, so I waited in the car while my wife and son walked along the Hoodoos. I waited for them while they hiked in Johnston Canyon and I waited for them while they explored the Marsh Loop.

Wait, wait, wait is pretty much what I did all week. Brett told me he took some great photos, and I even had to wait to get back to the hotel to see how much fun I missed.

I attempted to hike one trail that had a sign saying “handicapped and stroller friendly,” since it was flat and paved. I question the friendliness part because while I was hobbling along as fast as I could go, a guy in a wheelchair was griping at me to speed it up, and a toddler in a stroller was shaking his fist and crabbing at me to get over to the right so he could pass. I turned around and went back to wait for my family.

When I got home, I called the doctor’s office to be scheduled for knee replacement surgery. “OK,” said Leslie, Dr. Estes’ assistant, “but the earliest he can fit you in is September. Will you be OK waiting?”

“Of course,” I said, “I’ve gotten really, really good at that.”

Television personality Dick Wolfsie writes this regular, syndicated column.