“It’s not that bad, Mike,” said Patience.
“That’s easy for you to say. You’re protected from radiation. They’re going to give me cancer before I get my knee fixed. I go to the doctor, who gives me an x-ray, which he admits doesn’t tell him anything. He just gave it to me so that I could get into that fancy LMS scan and then get into the orthopedist’s office. And what does the orthopedist do before he even sees me?”
“He has you get another x-ray.”
“He has me get another x-ray.”
“I’m sure that two x-rays will not put you at too much risk.”
“Sure, now,” replied Mike, crossing his arms. “What if I break my arm next week? Then what if I have to go to the dentist and get a filling? Then what if I fall and bust my skull open. I’ll be glowing by next month.”
“Mike, you lived almost fifty-two years without breaking a single bone.”
“That was before I knew you. I’ve made up for lost time since you came along, Mrs. Smith.”
At that moment, the examining room door opened and the doctor stepped inside. He closed the door without looking up from his texTee and reached out a hand toward Mike. He was a tall, heavyset man with hints of Asian ancestry in his face, but when he spoke it was with an accent right out of West Virginia.
“I’m Dr. Pine. Good to meet you.”
Mike shrugged. Dr. Pine whipped his texTee around and held it in front of Mike’s face.
“Here’s your scan. You’ve torn your medial meniscus in three places.”
“I’m going to have to stay out of those places,” said Mike.
“Oh, that was funny,” said the doctor, without cracking a smile. “We’ll cut three little incisions around your knee and go in. Once we get in there, we can see what’s what, and fix it. I can get you on the schedule for the day after tomorrow.”
“May I see the scan?” asked Patience.
“Let her see it,” said Mike. “And let me get this straight. I have a billion dollar LMS scan and enough x-rays to look like I spend my weekends at Chernobyl, and you still won’t know ‘what’s what’ until you dig around in my knee?”
“Well, soft tissue is notoriously difficult to get a good image on. Based on the inflammation, it’s obvious that it’s the medial meniscus. It’s not really surprising. I see this injury half a dozen times a week. We can fix you up in no time though. It’s a day surgery. Walk in, have the surgery, and go home. You should stay off your feet for two days and then you’ll be back to your usual routine.”
“I’ll be able to walk after just two days?”
“Sure. I’ll want you to take it easy for a while. No jogging for two weeks. No strenuous lifting for four weeks. Other than that, usual activities are fine.”
“That prognosis seems extremely optimistic, Dr. Pine,” said Patience. “With this type of surgery, I wouldn’t expect Mike to return to his usual activities for at least six months, and even then, only after physical therapy.”
Mike looked questioningly at the doctor.
“Well, quite a few patients feel like they benefit from physical therapy. If after the surgery, that seems like the best option for you, I’ll prescribe it.”
“I don’t think you should have this surgery, Mike,” said Patience.
“If we don’t get you in this week,” said Dr. Pine. “It might be three weeks before we can schedule it.”
“I don’t think he should have the surgery at all.”
“That is not a good idea,” said the doctor, grabbing his texTee from her hands. “The meniscus is cartilaginous material. It doesn’t grow back. It has to be repaired.”
“And are you going to sew it back together, Dr. Pine?” asked Patience. “Or are you just going to smooth it off with a heat probe and then send him back home.”
“If it’s torn completely through, it has to be repaired. That’s something to be determined when we get in there. But yes… if it’s a simple tear, we’ll just smooth it over so you don’t have any catches or clicks when you walk.”
“I don’t want to click when I walk,” said Mike.
“You’re just as likely to click with the surgery as without,” said his wife, and then she turned back to the doctor. “Doesn’t the fact that Mike is walking with barely a limp indicate that the tears in his meniscus are fairly minor?”
“Possibly, but we can’t be sure.”
“Mike,” said Patience, stepping up beside him and putting a hand on his shoulder. “I think you should try physical therapy now instead of surgery. If it isn’t better, you can always have the surgery later.”
Mike looked at the doctor. “Is that right?”
“I suppose,” he said with a frown. “It’s not what I recommend.”
“Normally this would be a tough nut,” said Mike. “But the fact that I hate hospitals pretty much tips the scales in the robot’s favor, Doc. I’ll let you know if I feel like I need your services later.”