Monday, 19 March 2012

ACL Class - Circuit training for invalids

The text came on Friday to confirm my appointment for Monday morning at 8.30am for my first ACL class.

I woke up early and got ready for the cab to pick me up. I was a little anxious about getting there on time.

"Hi. Can a book a cab for 7.30 tomorrow morning."

"Yes. From where?"

I gave her the details of starting point and destination. She asked for my credit card details.

"Thank you. Monday at 7.30am. We'll do our best."

"What do you mean you'll do your best?"

"Well it is rush hour."

"Yes, but I am booking it now, 24 hours before I need it. You must know how many cabs you have on the rota at that time, and how many are currently booked, and where they are going. It is not your first day of business, so surely you know if the cab will be with me on time or not."

"It is rush hour. We'll do our very best."

"Ok. I'll do my best to pay. Bye."

As it happened I needn't have worried for the cab arrived only ten minutes late. I had already factored in a delay of 30 minutes so all was well. The driver turned out to be what Katie and I call a chatty hunter. You couldn't shut him up.

As I opened the door. "Morning. Oh dear, what you done to your leg. I've had trouble with my back for years. My brother did his acl, but he had the op and he was fine. He'd dead now. I had a friend in my old job, I used to work in the City, well he had the ACL op. Never walked again. I'm going ski-ing next week. Granada. Dropping the girls at the beach and me and my mate go ski-ing for four days. I hope my back's alright." I closed the door and settled in for the journey.

After a while I stopped listening to cabbie, and tried to work out if he was wearing a wig.

At the hospital I sat and waited as the other class members arrived. First up was a Spanish sounding chap, not hair bun. This one had had his op at least three months ago. Then came Jennifer Aniston's younger not quite as good looking sister. Then they came thick and fast and I couldn't assign identities to them all.

We got the call over the tannoy and I followed the old hands into the gym. It is like a gym at a proper gym but not as swanky and with just one or two versions of each item of equipment.

Some people, like kids at school, already had their PE stuff on. In fact they all did except me. I got changed while they all went through a simple warm up. Not dissimilar to the one we did in the pool, but a bit quicker. By the time the warm up was over I had got changed and joined the queue to pick up our sheets.

These consist of the all the exercises we need to do to get better, listed down the left hand side, with weekly sections going across for you to monitor your progress through the levels of each exercise.

In charge of ACL class were Clodagh and Minnie so at least I knew someone. I didn't know if we were allowed to chat so I just began doing some exercises. Clodagh and Minnie went round monitoring every one and making sure we were comfortable with the things we had to do and checking if we had any problems since we last saw them.

I told Minnie that I was concerned that my knee had been clicking a bit recently, in a very similar way to before the op. It felt like the the same click that Mr Knee had shown me when he manoeuvered my knee before the op. I'd been worried about this for a few days but had not discussed it with Katie. We're not doctors and I thought there was no reason for us both to have sleepless nights about the op not working. Minnie put my mind at rest;

"All knees click. It's probably a release of pressure or something like that. But keep an eye on it. If it's really painful when it clicks that is a different thing."

I breathed a little easier and got on with things. My step forward off the step is very weak. You stand on a step with your injured leg, and try to put your other foot on the floor in front of you. Try it. It's simple if you're not injured but with the injury it felt like my knee was going to collapse under me.

I went over to the weight machine. You load up the weights, sit in a chair, sort of thing, and push to lift the weights. The idea is you need to be able to lift, with your bad leg, at least your body weight before you are allowed to start running again. the aim in the end is to lift as much as your good leg.

Good leg managed 160 kg, twice my body weight. I was quite pleased. Injured leg could only do 60 but I thought my patella was going to shoot off as I lowered the weight back down. I'd say it is comfortable with 40 so I've got a lot of work to do in the next six weeks. Minnie advised joining a gym. I thought back to my totally unsuccessful attempt to do this last week and gulped.

She left me on the weight machine and Jennifer Aniston came and sat on the static bike. When she'd arrived she was walking quite normally and I assumed she was one of the physios.

As she sat on the bike she asked me how I'd done the injury. I told her. She too had done hers playing football. I decided it was too early in our recovery relationship to say I'm not a fan of women's football. I was glad I didn't.

"When did you have your operation?" She asked as she burned through another kilometer on the bike.

"Five weeks ago." I thought, she'll be impressed with how well I'm doing. Look, 40 kilos on the weights. "How about you?"

"Three weeks." I thought I'd misheard her.

"Sorry? How long?"

"Three weeks." I nearly fell off my chair. How can she be doing so well after just three weeks? Alright she's half my age so the body recovers quicker but this is nuts. In a funk of maleness I loaded up the weights on the machine and pushed. It didn't move. I closed my eyes, scrunched up my face and pushed. My ears were popping when Clodagh came over.

"Alright Daniel?"

"Erm yeah, I think the machine's broken."

She looked at the weights. "No I think you've got too much weight on." She adjusted it and I pushed that 20 kilos up like it was nothing.

From then on I just felt like a failure. I kept mumbling to myself three bloody weeks, my arse.

Minnie booked me in for a another visit in two weeks and I made my way to the bus.

On board I sat in front of three ladies in their 60s. Their accents indicated that they were from abroad, Middle East I think, and I thought they may be on holiday but it quickly became apparent that they lived here.

"It takes two years to get a visa to move to Australia." Said the leader of the troup.

"I know." Chimed in her friends.

"But here, five minutes and you're in, with benefits. Crazy. We let anyone in."

"I know." Chimed her friends.

I turned round. I knew I shouldn't have but I couldn't stop myself. I was still fuming about three week Aniston.

"I'm sorry ladies. I couldn't help overhearing." I was addressing the ring leader. "You seem unhappy that it is so easy for people to move here. I feel proud that we take people from all over the world, find a place for them, make them feel welcome, and give them a chance of a decent life. You disagree?"

"It's too easy. They let anyone in." She adopted another foreign accent. "I'm poor and my country is poor. Can I come and live off you?" Now she put on what I think was her version of a posh English accent. "Oh yes, please come in. You can have my house." Now back in her own accent. "Disgusting."

I should have turned away.

"Forgive me, but based on your accent you weren't born here. Surely you have benefited from the very system to which you are objecting."

She stared at me as though I had just shown her my genitals. (I hadn't.) She rang the bell.

"Come on, I'm not riding a bus with a racist."

The bus stopped. They got off.

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