Set Me Free
Set me free, little girl
All you gotta do is set me free, little girl
You know you can do it if you try
All you gotta do is set me free, free. Free, free.
Set Me Free The Kinks. 1965.
The room filled with sound from the plaster cutter as the nurse began cutting the first of my three casts. The noise is less than my orbital sander, but much more than an electronic pencil sharpener. I see the circular blade cut through and then feel it bounce off my skin below. No harm, no foul. This reminds me of those prankster fake knives from my childhood that gave the illusion that the blade was penetrating deep inside somebody while in fact it would simply slide up into the knife’s handle. I always wondered as a kid what would happen if the blade jammed. Now I start to have the same doubts about this cast cutter. But no worries. 45 minutes later all the casts lay in a heap by the garbage can.
We roll on to the x-ray room for new photos. The technician who was there last time greets me. She is from Switzerland. We talk about the oppressively gray weather of Zürich. I tell her about my very good friend Erich Weiss who lives on Wasserwerkstrasse downtown. Erich is my comrade. He is an extraordinary writer, a champion of the oppressed and a vagabond wunderkind with a gypsy’s soul. We met Erich traveling decades ago on the Magic Bus, a low cost hippy bus service that traveled overland from Europe to India. We still have contact.
But I digress. The orthopedic surgeon visiting from Curacao appears after reading my X-rays. He is the first doctor that I have seen in six unsupervised weeks. I’ve been stranded on a sandbar. He begins by manipulating all my broken joints, moving them with two hands in various directions. “Do you feel any pain?” “No, only heavy stiffness”. “And now?” “No. Just the same stiffness.” He seems a bit surprised by my reactions or lack thereof. “Well, then there is no sense in putting you back into casts.” Bingo. I hit the trifecta. This has been a good day at the track.
We pitch him the idea of hydrotherapy to take place in our terrace pool. He’s enthusiastic about this and I later arrange for a hydrotherapy specialist to lead my physical therapy in the water. The doc also says to return in 6 weeks for new x-rays and a new plan.
The ambulance delivers us home by four o’clock. We have been gone for five hours. We each drink a pint of Guinness in celebration of my new found freedom. Sitting in the wheelchair, I glance down to my two pathetic appendages. They are deeply discolored. The skin is wrinkled and hangs off the bone due to a lack of activity. I mention that I look like Gandhi after a long hunger strike. Hettie thinks I resemble Yoda from Star Wars, Episode Two. I stare at a scab on the side of my left heel. Underneath I discover a large hematoma (think of the biggest badass bruise that you’ve ever seen) hanging from the bottom of my left foot. Now I know where all that intense pain has been coming from that past two weeks. With the plaster removed, it should now heal quickly.
It has been a wonderful day and only getting better. Without casts, I can now rehab all three fractures in the pool. Our local freighter delivers a lift today, having completed a two-step tango voyaging from Miami to Curacao to here. Once installed, I will be able to transfer my sorry ass from wheelchair to pool. I’m a water dog panting in anticipation. Let the games begin.