I went back to San Diego last weekend. I had a dentist appointment, and it worked out that I could see my brother right before his birthday and also hopefully get some filming done for the documentary project I have(n't) been working on.
Incidentally, I was also there a few days after my mom underwent a sudden and unexpected knee surgery. This is the third or fourth time she's had it worked on, and she actually seems pretty chipper about it for once. She swears that it's kept her from having knee replacement surgery, and she's looking forward to getting back on her feet so she can swim and play golf again.
I saw her a few days after her surgery, but she was already barely even using her crutches. Half the time she put them down and made a big show out of how she could walk without a visible limp. She's eager to show this off, as her surgeon has told her it's a sign that she's recovering well. She puts a lot of faith in this doctor, and she proudly tells people about how he's the top rated surgeon in all of San Diego.
She told me the same thing when I was in high school and was having mysterious shoulder problems, and I took her advice and let him operate on me. The surgery didn't do much about my pain, except that most of it was now concentrated more severely in my back and neck instead of just in my shoulder. The surgeon said he had cleaned out some scar tissue, but even then I knew this was general medical bullshit meaning that he hadn't been able to find anything wrong with me. I was left with three bulbous, itchy scars that didn't fade or diminish with time, and my back and shoulder pain just became worse and worse. I was in a sling all fall and couldn't even get in the pool to play water polo, and I tried my best to swim in the spring, but I had to quit halfway through the season.
I saw a bunch of different specialists, but none of them were able to help me get over my pain, so I eventually gave up. It still hurts a lot, and I feel it almost every day, but I've learned to ignore it the best I can. My bad experience has left me fairly mistrustful of the medical industry, seeing as it sucked thousands of dollars out me and my parents while I got worse and worse. It's just the opposite for my mom, though. Every time she finds a new doctor or top rated specialist, she seems so aglow with the promise of doing new things with her life. I don't know if she's a little nuts for being so optimistic about these expensive cures, or if I'm the crazy one for giving the health care industry the cold (and wounded) shoulder.
Sometimes I think about giving it another shot. I'm often tempted to imagine life without the constant stiffness and pain, but I'm more than a little afraid I'll just get jerked around again. I'm not sure what's worse: suffering in silence or wasting my time and money to end up feeling used and humiliated.
The last time I saw my mom before I left, she already had the bandages off her knee. She was powering along on the stationary bike in her exercise room. She says the bike is safe because it doesn't force the knee to bear any weight, though she admitted that her surgeon has chastised her for trying to do too much too soon. She asked me about my plans to find a new job, and she advised me to try to find a consulting job. She forwarded me a list of the top rated firms in the industry, and she told me I should work for one of them. They're the best, she said. I smiled and shrugged, not knowing what else to say.