Old Bones And New Normals



Portage & Notre Dame

I crossed Portage Avenue from Fort to Notre Dame pushing against a harsh wind coming from the North. The winter of 2009 was notable for its cold and ice. I was looking at my feet, watching my steps, when I spotted a toonie and a loonie on the ice of the avenue. I bent over, and picked up the change, figuring this was a great start to a lucky day.

I looked at the crossing light counting off the seconds before the light was going to change. I hurried to the curb, my right size thirteen shoe not getting a good grip, and down I went, arms flailing, ankle twisting, pitching forward on my nose but out of the way of the cars starting to pass. “Well,” I thought to myself, “at least I cleared the intersection,” getting up on my knees.


Misery 1images

Misercordia Hospital

I asked a colleague at work drive me to the Misercordia, Urgent Care. I had three surgeries there when it was the Misercordia Hospital in the 1960s; a slipped hip, which was pinned by Dr. Bruiser, an appendix removed, and then the hip pins removed. Even though I was 14, 15, and 16, my bed was always on the fifth floor – the children’s ward and usually with a window with a great river view.

This day the staff in ambulatory care did an assessment and an x-ray, which showed a small fracture.   I arrived at one-thirty and was cared for and cast by four o’clock when my wife picked me up on the way home from work. Hospital stays have radically changed to day surgeries, overnights, a couple of days, the shortest amount of time before you can be safely released.



I’ve been lucky to have somebody looking after me on release. I’ve been married thirty years, but to three different women; only the last with the broad shoulders and fortitude to toss wheelchairs in and out of hatchbacks, as if a Ute back in Australia.

Today I’m recovering from an ankle fusion. I walked to the surgery on Friday the 13th, as if I was going for an x-ray at a lab, or an amputation at Kabul Stadium during the Taliban, presenting my left foot to Dr. Hammond. The foot, along with the rest of me, was strapped to the operating table in the surgery at noon.

I’m told my bones are incredibly strong by osteoid surgeons, starting with Dr. Bruiser, thanks to growing up with fresh dairy from our own Jersey cows every day. The downside is the amount of effort it takes to violate them with drills, chisels and hammers. My hip surgeon used that word – violence – “every surgery does violence to your body,” or was it “every surgery is an assault”

Hammond was done two hours later, after removing a screw and inserting another three while I was on happy drugs, and a spinal, blocking any sensations from my hips down.

They lifted the rather gruesome result so I could have a look before my left foot was put in a temporary cast. Once again, my wife was able to take me home at 4:00, same day service.

It’s a gorgeous November Sunday. I’m managing with pain levels at about 4 on a scale of 1 – 10, after some searing pain flashes first thing in the morning. Yesterday I was reminded of what 10 really feels like. But that’s done, at least for this time around. With the help of pain-killers I’m managing chronic arthritic pain in my feet and hands, diagnosed as “lousy cartilage genetics,” with the ligaments holding my ankles up, failing completely.


This surgery is my sixth since I fell in 2010, an accident to be sure. But since I’ve been trying to find a new normal comfortable enough to get through each day, after each surgery.

Left Ankle 2.0

My Left Foot 2.0

Here’s the list, 1) left foot-bone fusion, 2) right foot-bone fusion, 3) left hip replacement, 4) right hip replacement, 5) straightening of hammer toes 6) and last Friday’s ankle bone fusion.

I try to see this positively enough to keep me away from bridges. I’ve been a chronic depressive most of my life, and now also cope with asymptomatic gout, carpal meta carpal arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, polyneuritis, and a pinched nerve in my left arm consistent with a “C7 distribution”…spinal

Hammer-toe surgery

Hammer-toe surgery

issues likely, concluding with spondylolisthesis, with my last vertebrae tipped the wrong way in my pelvis.

Realizing I will never live another day without pain of one kind or another is not a cheery prospect, especially since my maternal grandmother lived to 97, and my father and his brother lived into their nineties. I always enjoyed being precocious, until I realized what it means at 60. The first clue I had of aging prematurely was a visit to the audiologist in my fifties. I had been tested when I was in my forties only to be told the problem might not be with my hearing so much as with my listening.

Ten years later I’m diagnosed with 30% hearing loss in both ears. “I guess I listened to too much rock n roll up close and personal.” “No,” responded the audiologist, “we see a lot of this in older people.”

I have a lot of medical appointments, and read a lot of Reader’s Digests, which I used to read at my parents. As it happened, a week later waiting for the joys of an electrical nerve conduction test; I read in an RD issue from 2001 that chronic depression causes premature ageing, early hearing loss, arthritis, and the like.


A friend died recently of cancer, I know others in my circle who know what disease is most likely going to kill them; cancer, heart or liver disease, stroke, MS, diabetes. I can’t complain, but I do, goes the joke. Another I heard from my shrink.

“Two old men are comparing and complaining about their ailments. ‘I have to have a bowel resection, cancer they’ve seen. When they take it out in pieces, my kaka will drain in to a Ziploc bag in my pocket.”

“It could be worse,”  says his grizzled friend, coughing into his handkerchief.
“How could it possibly be worse?” shoots back his colostomy dreading friend.

“It could be happening to me!”


My sister, who is ten years older than I am first alerted me to adjusting to our “new normal,” whatever changes our body gives our mind to divert into neural pathways that see us Modelling Marglive one day at a time; better living through chemistry, exercise, reading, and Meditation Based Stress Reduction exercises.

I cooked supper today, two days after my surgery in my wheelchair. “Nothing fancy,” as my mother would say. Pork chops, green beans, garden salad, coffee and cookies. Part of my new normal is drinking a lot of coffee. My pre-op blood pressure was 118/68, “much better than mine,” said the nurse practionner doing the testing. My sister’s is still lower than mine. My mother always said she drank strong black coffee all day to keep her motor turning over.

So other than Dark Roast Kick Ass coffee my new normal now includes the ownership of my wheelchair, bought with my benefits before I left government. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a retiring sort of person. I left because I wasn’t willing to wait to get started on my creative life having spent 40 years helping others do the same. This immediately created a new normal for my wife two years ahead of schedule who had already been coping with her new normal of wheelchair wrangling for all of my osteoid surgeries.


I own crutches, forearm crutches, and a walker, I want to call a stroller, not to infantilize myself, but strolling sounds way more fun than just walking. There are months I can walk unaided, or with only a cane. I no longer take walking for granted, and I have given up on stairs completely. My wife and I sold our big house in Wolseley with a unique form of downsizing; buying a lakefront bungalow on Willow Island, and subletting a single level condo in the city a five-dollar cab ride from the Pan Am Clinic. Cabs are definitely part of my new normal, as are endless medical benefit claim forms, and visits to the pharmacy.

We’re going to take a look at one of those cool “knee-scooters ” on Tuesday though I’m nervous about my balance, especially after my Gabapentin which makes me dizzy, or my oxy which makes me stupid and angry, always a poor combination. I no longer drive, and least not often, to my relief, as much of those around me.scooter

I picked up a brace from Winnipeg Prosthetics for my size fourteen right shoe on Thursday before my surgery. I also had my wrists cast for leather splints with the durability I need for typing, and which will smell a whole lot better in the summer then those I have been using.

So next spring when you see what appears to be a Goth, long coattails flapping, black ankle leathers laced up to his knees, and black wrist leathers up to his elbows, wielding a cane in the Exchange, it’s just me adjusting to my new normal. Pick me up if I fall down, will you, I probably should haven taken my walker.





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  1. Posted March 15, 2016 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    enough already

    you’ll look back this year and laugh, laugh& laugh

    how uncanny the pic of your sis and yourself 1968 – you and my first husband John Rogge look identical at that age.
    True Germanic

    bon chance

    • Victor
      Posted March 18, 2016 at 12:15 am | Permalink

      Thanks, comments are appreciated.

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