Happy New Year!!!
Whoo Hoo! I discovered an unpleasant new health issue. It’s new to me anyway, and I’m flaunting it like a new string bikini. I’m sharing the story because it is a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. It involves the mechanics of the human body, which is a machine, the mother of all machines.
As I’ve written before, based on my observation, the normal human body is a perfectly designed machine. Each and every part of it is located where it makes sense. For example, the nose is on the face, not on top of the head. Otherwise, we’d drown when it rains. The arm bends at the elbow, the hand toward the mouth, so we don’t eat like pigs and other lower class mammals. The leg bends at the knee, the foot toward the back so we can kick ourselves when we have knowingly allowed an opportunity to pass us by. Maybe that’s just an expression. I’m tempted to cite more wowzy examples but I think you get the drift.
Now to my earth-shattering discovery but first, I must confess, sometimes I’m always the last one to know.
I blame my Apple smartphone.
My smartphone is an integral part of my fingers. It’s my go-to when I’m alone or waiting for my turn in line, for blood test for example. I play Scrabble with my sister, sister-in-law, and one “random guest.” One day I’ll try to figure out who that is. I email, text, google, do online shopping, news reading, blogging, banking, some phoning, etc. etc.. One day I inadvertently hit something on the screen. Suddenly out of nowhere appeared that day’s date, an ongoing count of steps, and miles covered by the steps. There was even the number of flights of stairs climbed. I thought OMG. Siri follows my every move! I know she occasionally injects herself into my life. One time I burst into a karaoke song and she barged in, I did not understand what you said.
I closed the page on the phone and voila: A step-counting app appeared!
Step counters had been all the rage but I refuse to buy apps or Fitbit. I only do free apps. Walmart. Banks. Amazon. WordPress. I noticed the app in front of my face is part of Apple’s smartphone package and therefore free. Oh boy oh boy! I showed it to my Plus-One, BT. I told him, Now we can count our steps and keep up with the gang of old people who brag about their daily thousands of steps! He got as excited as I was and responded, But I have Android in a cheap phone from Walmart. I need my own step counter app. No problem. I downloaded a compatible free one in his smartphone. I like to think I’m the tech-savvy one.
That was early September 2019. Henceforth we established in the retirement resort a step-counting route, on which we walked religiously daily. We raised the statistically normal person’s average of 4,000 steps to a minimum of 10,000 every day, no days off. Sometimes we even made 20,000. We competed against each other. When we went to separate destinations, we compared numbers at the end of the day. If one did not have the minimum 10,000, the laggard took off and walked some more to make up the deficit. At the pool at night, we crowed about meeting our challenges to the other crowers. Life is good in the retirement resort, where crowing about health habits – eating plant-based foods, gym routines – is a favorite pastime.
Two months later, in the beginning of November, BT and I traveled one way by train for a relaxing ride to Albuquerque to root for my Son the Sculptor at the dedication of his commissioned public art sculpture. The train ride inside a first-class roomette was anything but relaxing. After the art dedication, our bodies were not in a train-riding mode. Fortunately we had a pre-arranged 900-mile road trip back from Albuquerque to South Orange County, CA, courtesy of my brother-in-law and his wife, Phoenix residents who had also attended the art event. NO spring chickens, all four of us seniors who’ve convinced ourselves we can still do the limbo rock. Okay, I just speak for myself. But we all believe in step counting gadgets.
During the trip, we drove for about 4 hours before taking a break for the first time to stretch our legs. I noticed a pain on my left knee as I tried to stand up. The pain showed up at each stretch break on the drive. I blamed my sitting position.
Upon arrival at the retirement resort, I took the blood test ordered by my primary care physician Dr PCP. He would compare the result with the one I had a month ago. He was monitoring my elevated liver enzyme count, which had fluctuated while I was on the CO-1686 clinical trial. Maybe the high liver enzyme count was only caused by all the antibiotics I had taken during the seemingly endless urinary tract infections. A couple of days later, my smart phone vibrated. It showed an incoming call from Dr PCP’s office. I thought, the blood test result must have alarmed him. Maybe my liver enzyme count had doubled!
I answered the phone.
Celia, do you have any pains in your body? The voice at the end of the line was that of PCP’s registered nurse, RN. I answered, No, Why? She responded, Your muscle enzyme count is elevated. MUSCLE enzymes? I asked her. What happened to LIVER enzymes? Why does my body have more enzymes than the law allows? She said if I did, Dr PCP would give me something to take.
After hanging up, I immediately consulted my colleague, Dr Google, who’s at my beck and call 24/7. He said elevated muscle enzymes can be caused by trauma, arthritis, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, heart attack, etc. HEART ATTACK?
I focused on trauma. Trauma seemed more manageable and less scary. I remembered the pain when I stood up after long periods of sitting. I decided my left knee was traumatized by the awkward sitting position for hours. I called RN and told her about the circumstances that traumatized knee. She agreed it could elevate muscle enzyme count and passed the info on to Dr PCP.
Dr PCP is cool. He was not automatically convinced. He asked RN to mail me an order to repeat the blood test after a week. I could imagine Dr PCP wanting to examine me again then refer me to a vascular specialist if my muscle enzyme count did not normalize. I must hand it to Dr PCP. He is a conscientious primary care physician. He also loves the way referrers are made happy by the specialist doctors.
I waited two weeks before I took the follow-up blood test. The results came back and RN phoned me the news with a smile in her voice: Your muscle enzymes back to normal! She made no mention about the liver enzymes. I was glad there was nothing to worry about.
Days went by. My left knee pain worsened. Each time I stood up I felt like falling on my face. Fortunately, it just so happened that I was scheduled to see Dr Paa, my podiatrist. He does my big toe nails every three months. The knee is part of the foot so I’d ask him. I was not optimistic because long ago when I asked Dr Google if the knees were too high for podiatrists, he responded: orthopedic specialists for pain from diseases that affect the knee, physiotherapists, osteopathic or rehab physicians for pain from injuries, the list went on and on. OMG information overload! All I wanted was a simple yes or no. Sure enough, when I saw Dr Paa, he told me to see Dr PCP.
Dr Paa and Dr PCP share offices. I went to Dr PCP’s medical tech and tried to make an appointment. Instead of making an appointment, she asked me all sorts of questions, with a view toward discussing my situation with Dr PCP and said she’d call me back.
The following day, she phoned me. She said, Dr PCP wants to know if the pain is in the back of the knee. I answered, No why? She responded, Dr PCP is thinking blood clot. I said, No way. My blood flows continuously like the Niagara Falls. It clots quickly but only when necessary like after a blood draw. She said, Okay, then, Dr PCP said, take NSAID like Ibuprofen for one week and don’t exercise for one month.
After the phone conversation ended, it dawned on me: I had bragged about my arterial blood. When it comes to health, things can change rapidly. No crowing be allowed about glowing health. I remembered my late husband Octo, the second in the widowhood series. He had enjoyed excellent health and one day laid out his plan to live to be a hundred. Three weeks later his remains were cremated. Leukemia got him.
So back to Dr Google I shuffled to ask about symptoms of blood clot in the leg. He said, warmth and swelling on the affected area. I looked. Nope. None. Another symptom: vomiting. I had not vomited since my last post nasal drip. Another symptom: Chest pain. None. The last time I had chest pain was years ago when I became voluptuous and needed to move on to the next size bra. And so with all the other symptoms. Nada. Blood clot was not the cause. So back to sleuthing with the good doctor Dr Google.
Finally, we found the ailment that appeared to fit my symptoms. It’s called patella femoral pain syndrome or PFPS for short. Dr Google said, it is also called Moviegoer’s knee or Runner’s knee and is the most common cause of knee pain. It comes from muscle overuse. Obviously the daily 10,000+ steps for two straight months with zero break or rest were just too much for my aging legs and the knees took the brunt of the over exertion. Sitting during the long drive exacerbated the problem. The cure, among others listed, is RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. As always, here and now, I recite my disclaimer. This post is not meant to give medical advice. Check with your doctor. I am not a doctor, a nurse, a therapist, or anything within miles of the medical profession. I am a retired professional engineer, a civil engineer who delights in analyzing water puddles on the paved street after a rain and blaming the current young civil engineers for bad street design.
Dr PCP agreed with me.
The new ailment is under control now. My left knee hurts only when I stand up after sitting for a long time. Once I start walking, everything is fine as long as I keep walking. I can even do 10,000 steps no problem. But what kind of a deal is that? I need to rest sometime. So the answer is moderation in sitting, standing, and exercising.
I believe sauntering on the beach in my string bikini qualifies as moderate exercise.