Sunday, June 26, 2011

One year after MPFL Reconstruction

It has been exactly a year since I had my MPFL reconstructive surgery. When I was preparing for the surgery, there was little available online so I could read what others had gone through and how they coped. Sure, I did find some stuff on kneeguru, but I noticed that I mostly found the horror stories of surgeries gone wrong. I confided to my husband that this scared me, and he reminded me that it's usually people who have had negative experiences who post the most, as they're looking for the most support. I've found this to be true.

But, I've been happy to see that the little I've written here about the MPFL surgery has helped some people gain confidence. One year later, I feel great. Sure, there is still a little bit of pain and some atrophy, but my doctor told me it would be nearly 1 1/2 years before I'd see complete recovery. Regardless, the pain is minimal and nothing compared to the stability I've gained in my knee. I followed my physical therapy regimen to the letter, including a lot of stretching at home on my own. I bought one of those yoga stretching straps that I hooked over my foot, and then I laid on my stomach and pulled my heel toward my butt. The first couple of times I could only get about 30 degrees. That bothered me, because the doctor said he wanted 90 degrees by the end of the second week, and I wasn't even half-way there! So, every hour on the hour, I stretched. Each stretch was painful, but I found that by taking very deep breaths, I could breathe through the pain of each stretch. At the end of the third week, I was nearly at 90 degrees. At the end of the fifth week, I was able to go all the way around on a bicycle, and the whole staff at therapy remarked how far I'd come. They also mentioned that they knew a lot of my progress had come from my at-home stretches.

So, for those of you who are contemplating the surgery or are in recovery, I highly recommend a yoga stretching strap. Here's a link to one like I bought:

Of course, ask your doctor and physical therapist about if/when/how to use this strap, but I have to say, this was one of the most valuable pieces of rehab equipment I had. Another invaluable tool for me was Kinesio Tex Gold sports tape. Here's a link to that:

Again, ask your doctor or therapist if/when/how to use this tape, as there is a technique to taping it correctly. The tape helped tremendously with the pain and swelling, and if applied properly, it will last on your leg for several days--even after showering. I loved this stuff, and I've actually been thinking about buying some more for now. I don't need it much, but once in a while I still get some swelling, and this really helps.

Many people have asked me about my scars, and in some of my earlier blogs, I posted some gnarly post-op pictures. I will try to post a new picture soon so those of you who've asked can see that there is really minimal scarring involved with the MPFL surgery.

Overall, I now have full range of motion (got that back at about 8 weeks post surgery), and I feel great. I'm very thankful I got the surgery, and the doctor who performed it, Dr. Rick Csintalan, was amazing. He practices in Irvine, California, so anyone who lives in Socal and is looking to get this operation should seriously consider him. He, in my opinion, is one of the best doctors I've ever been to.

So, please--keep the questions coming! I'm happy to answer any that you have and I wish everyone the best of luck with their knees!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer Schedules and Stepkids

I could have just named this "schedules and stepkids," because either way, schedules are annoying. It's a tricky situation, because if you argue about a schedule with the kid's biomom, you look petty and like you don't want the kid around. But, if you don't bring up perceived or real inequities, it always feels like we're being taken advantage of. Of course I have an interest in the schedule, but I want things to be fair--not just for us, but for my stepson, too.

My husband and his ex never stipulated anything about holidays, sick days, or vacations in their custody agreement. When I first heard that, I thought it was crazy. They were so meticulous about every other little detail. Biomom would have him every Monday and Tuesday. We'd have him every Wednesday and Thursday. We would alternate Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Great.

Originally, whoever had stepson on the day the particular holiday or break fell on would keep him for the day, but that started to get really fuzzy (especially when it seemed to be biomom's day but she didn't agree). The thought was initially that if both parents had to work but stepson had the day off from school (say, Presidents' Day), they would alternate taking care of him. But, if the holiday fell on a day both parents had off, whoever had him that day would take him. For example, we always have had him the past four years on Thanksgiving because Thursday is our day. She would have him Memorial Day and Labor Day, because Monday is her day. Now, biomom made up these rules, but she always seemed to forget the rule on her day to take care of stepson.

To compound the problems, what happens if stepson is sick? What happens on trade-off days? Such as, if he's sick on Wednesday morning, does she keep him because he's been at her house, or do we take him because he would be coming to ours? Do we trade? Do we split the day? Such a headache.

So, just a few weeks ago, biomom drafted up something she wanted us to sign off on. We promptly took a look at it, and she wanted to make it so whoever had SS on a three-day weekend would be required to take him that Monday, too. I looked at the calendar and that means we would've had him every three-day weekend this year and all but one next year. She also wants him every Christmas, and she wants all birthday parties to be joint parties. There was more, but these were the standouts. So, we promptly looked over her requests and countered with our requests for modification. We did this less than three days after she gave it to us. Over two weeks later, we still have not heard anything back. What the heck? We have to hurry to get back to her, but she can take as long as she wants to get back to us? Yep, those seem to be her rules. Her rules are made for everyone else to follow--not her.

Anyone else have to deal with this?

All Work and Little Play

I hate to get on here and just whinge (love that word--thanks, Bonbon!), but I just have to for a few self-indulgent moments. If I can't tell random strangers in cyberspace my problems, who can I tell them to?

My job. I work for one of the most backward school districts in the country. They are laying off and displacing people left and right. The position I held this year (testing coordinator) was officially cut from the budget, but my school was offering to keep it around half time. That's just too much work for me to teach three classes and coordinate all those tests. So, I had considered applying for the magnet school coordinator job. This is like a prinicipal of a smaller school within the larger comprehensive high school. We had a really great coordinator who left because the district said they were cutting all magnet coordinators. A week ago, they decided to bring the positions back, but our coordinator had taken another job.

So, many people came to me and suggested I would be a good coordinator. The principal had even asked me fill in this vacated spot for the rest of the year (for no extra pay, mind you). But the politics of the job, the fact that one of my friends also wanted to apply for the position, and the fact that the job could be cut again next year made me decide to return to the classroom full time.

So, for the 2011-2012 school year, I will teach English full time again. Good news--I get to teach AP Language and have been invited to be part of a media academy. This will give me higher level students, which is always nice. I will get to hang out with teenagers again. (For some people, this would be a nightmare, but I actually love them). I can go in my classroom and do my thing without having to get as involved in the nitpicky school politics. Bad news: I could have nearly 50 students in each of my five classes. I will have enormous amounts of papers to grade. My best school friend and nextdoor classroom neighbor is getting displaced, and the admin is partially blaming me--even though it's not really my fault.

And now, after I've decided not to apply for the magnet coordinator, magnet teachers keep approaching me with the same "Oh, that's too bad! You would've been so good!" This doesn't help, as it makes me wonder if I made the right decision. After looking around, I don't know if upper school management is the place I want to be. My friends are all teachers--I want to be with them. I would've had to do supervision before and after school, and at lunch and nutrition. I would have to deal with demanding parents. I can do all this, but I've noticed that people treat you like you're a failure if you return to the classroom. Five years ago, there's no way in hell I would've even considered being a principal. Then, I got tired of the classroom and wanted out. I did a year of out-of-the-classroom work as testing coordinator, and I didn't like it. Sure, I think I'd be a good magnet coordinator, too, but with all the uncertainty in the school and district, I wanted something safe and familiar again. And I've started questioning my true interests (or lack of interest) in being an administrator.

So, have I failed if I go back to the classroom? I don't think so. I missed it when I was gone. Last night, my former students who are now seniors gave me hugs, thanked me, wanted to take pictures with me. No one does that with the testing coordinator. Testing coordinators don't change lives. I'm not even sure principals do. Teaching is hard but meaningful work, and if people want to look down on me for going back to the classroom, so be it. Did I make the right decision to go back? I don't know. But, I do know that in a year, I'll probably still have a job as a teacher. As magnet coordinator? Well, that's unclear. I guess I'll find out.