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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: A new year, a new knee, and I’m ready to go

Humor columnist Doug Clark (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Humor columnist Doug Clark (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

What happened?

I feel like I took one of those Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole pratfalls.

One moment I’m watching a roomful of giddy Republicans grow giddier by the second as the Election Night returns roll in.

Next I’m being wheeled into surgery to get a brand new bionic knee complete with Alexa Bluetooth and a laser defense system.

After that, comes a scramble of …

Painful physical therapy. Thanksgiving. More painful physical therapy. Christmas. Mariah Carey’s painful New Year’s Eve meltdown …

Now here I am, slouched at the keyboard with a two-month chunk of time as gone as Anthony Weiner’s political influence.

Far be it from me to overplay my plight. But you won’t believe the suffering and indignity I went through. And that’s just in the first few minutes after waking up.

“I have to PEE!! I need to PEEEE!!!”

I’m happy to report that this wail wasn’t coming out of me, or my new knee.

I actually awoke in the recovery room feeling more clear-minded than on a usual workday. This, I’m told, is one of the benefits of having a spinal block vs. the mallet-to-the-forehead anesthesia covered in the Affordable Care Act.

The aforementioned plea was emanating from a confused gentleman who had arrived in recovery not long after I did.

While I watched, a growing group of concerned health care professionals tried to keep the poor fellow from becoming too agitated or, even worse, taking off without settling his bill.

They did their best to assure the man that he need not worry, a catheter would take care of any calls to nature, and…

“I NEED TO …” he continued, unfazed.

I wish I could tell you how this episode of “Spray’s Anatomy” turned out. But a nurse finally took note and wheeled me to the room without a view where I would soon take my first baby steps on that rusty treadmill to recovery.

I didn’t go into this blind. As I was accurately warned, replacing a knee is even worse than a trip to the DOL to renew your driver’s license.

This is an excruciating ordeal. Luckily, scientists have developed some elixirs that are powerful enough to make the experience bearable and daytime TV watchable.

Slowly, I had to relearn how to stand, walk, go up and down stairs and insert the pods to make a cup of Keurig coffee.

What I didn’t expect was the trouble I’d have marching.

“What? Who are you kidding?” I told my physical therapist Patrick when he asked me to march during a PT session one day. “This’ll be easy.”

See, I played trumpet from fourth grade through college.

I did more marching than Camp Pendleton. I marched up and down football fields and over the downtown Spokane streets during parade season.

So I picked up my feet and, “Arrrggghhh!”

As I later learned, certain nerves that affect a person’s balance must be cut during replacement surgery.

As a result, when I began marching, my new surgically enhanced joint decided to march off all on its own, but in a different direction.

A dying goldfish, flopping on a rug, exhibits more grace than I did.

At least I was in my own home. Only Patrick was there to enjoy my clumsy display.

The bad news came a week later. I had to repeat my galumphing humiliation as an outpatient in a crowded Spokane physical therapy business.

“Thanks, everyone. I’ll be here all week!”

A word about this thing called PT. With due respect to Patrick and all the others in his profession, I’m almost certain the letters stand for “Pain” and “Torment.”

I dropped more curse words in those initial twisting and bending therapy weeks than what you’d hear during an entire season of “Hell’s Kitchen.”

That was then. My new knee, expertly installed by an amazing surgeon, is allowing me to return to my pre-arthritis state of marginal coordination.

Before signing off, I’d like to thank all the great readers who wished me well in my time of kneed.

Readers like Sally Jackson, one of the local Democrats who died a thousand deaths on that Election Night two months ago.

“Hurts like hell, doesn’t it?” she wrote in a hilarious get-well card. “Unlike Trump, this, too, will pass – so good luck with the knee.”

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

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