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Little Spouse On The Prairie: Me Or The Knee

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A few Tuesdays ago, I noticed Joel limping a bit, dragging his right leg. I asked him what was the matter. “Knee’s a little sore. Don’t know what I did,” was his response.

“Maybe you should rest it,” I suggested. “Do you need some ice?”

“No, I don’t need ice. Good grief. Geesh. You think I’m a weakling?” he grumped.

Naturally, I backed off. As listeners probably surmise, I am not one to nag. Just kidding. I continued to harp about the limping for the rest of the day. My pestering caused Joel to decide the leg needed more exercise than ever, and he proceeded to get an early start on his New Year’s resolution by walking downtown a couple of times rather than drive on errands.

The next morning, the knee was swollen -- the limping, more pronounced. This was Wednesday. I suggested he run up to the clinic and have a doctor take a quick look. He scoffed at the idea, pointing out that once or twice a year, his elbow swells up and he doesn’t need to go to the doctor for that. He just waits a few days and the swelling goes away on its own.

I tried to stay quiet while Joel dragged his leg from room to room, but this injury was really cutting into his ability to stay caught up with the laundry and dishes. I brought him an ice pack and a western novel and propped him up on the couch with his leg right leg elevated.

On Thursday, I went to the local pharmacy and purchased a pair of crutches. My husband continued to insist that his knee pain was decreasing. If so, it must have been decreasing in inverse proportion to size, because now, the knee resembled a honeydew melon, those big, white fruits that, when fully ripe, sometimes burst their skin to allow light green juices to drip out the fissures.

I texted my siblings, letting them know that we were still up for hosting them in a week, but Joel might be out of commission. My brother texted back, asking if one of Joel’s old Civil War wounds was acting up.

We weren’t on speaking terms by Friday. As the sun got lower in the sky and the clinic closed for the weekend, I threw a fresh ice pack toward the couch, mildly disappointed when it missed the stubborn fool’s head.

Despite a cold snap, Joel was forced to wear shorts because his jeans wouldn’t slide over his honeydew melon anymore. Joel’s knees are gnarly under the best of circumstances, but now, if my eye accidentally fell upon the afflicted joint, I had to quickly avert my eyes. I announced on Sunday that he was going to the doctor on Monday. “It’s me or the knee,” I said with finality.

Why men refuse to go to the doctor, I do not know for sure. But, according to my health insurance policy website, three times more men than women say they haven’t seen a doctor in the last 12 months. A quarter of men said they would wait as long as they could before getting help with a severe health problem. Survey research shows that men may cite a belief that health problems threaten their masculinity as a reason for not going to the doctor (as if having a honeydew melon for a knee is super masculine).

Monday rolled around and Joel chose me over the knee. He went to the doctor, who shook his head and asked why on earth Joel hadn’t come sooner. He ordered an MRI, which revealed that Joel had “large joint effusion,” “periarticular fluid signal and edema, greatest in the popliteal fossa and lateral soft tissues,” “subcutaneous edema in the prepatellar region, complex cystic structure along the later popliteal fossa, adjacent to the lateral head of gastrocnemius,” “a ganglion cyst” and “elongated popliteal cysts.”

The reading also said he had “medial and lateral compartment osteoarthrosis and patellar chondromalacia, sequela from an old injury and mucoid degeneration and maceration of the anterior horn lateral meniscus, presumably degenerative.” At some point in Joel’s past, he had torn his ACL and never got treated. The doctor who interpreted the results said, “Translation: Joel’s knees are old.” Joel was supposed to baby the knee and take medication for swelling and pain. Most importantly, he could resume dishes and laundry duty within a week.