On to St. Petersburg, Russia August 13, 2010

We’ve be planning for this for several months. Finally, we’re on our way to St. Petersburg, Russia. We have a group of 21 heading there today.

We were all ON TIME. I was the last to arrive because I had to stop and get my Russian Dictionary and practice my Russian on the airplane.

We didn’t have any major kinks. When we arrived the United ticket agent didn’t know what she was doing and couldn’t find our tickets. But, after a telephone call to MTS Travel (our travel agency), they were able to get our tickets with little trouble. A few of us, however, weren’t able to get boarding passes all the way to Saint Petersburg, me included. So, we hope to be able to get them in Chicago, when we land. We have a three hour lay-over, so hopefully we’ll be able to get them.

We’ll keep you posted on what’s going on right here. This is suppose to post to my Facebook page, so we’ll see.

Knee Surgery 2 – Learning more

It’s been four days since my latest surgery to remove a rather large piece of cartilage from my left knee. You may have read that I had knee surgery on my right knee in March. So, this has been a few months of painful knees. I hurt my knee February 26. So, I’ve been dealing with some kind of knee pain for three months. Pain is good, however. If you think about it, when were some of the greatest moments of spiritual growth in your life?

For me, spiritual growth came during incredible times of pain. They may not have been physical pains, but they could be spiritual pains.  Mental pains that are brought on by situations in our lives. Perhaps they’re circumstances brought on through our family situations. All of these things have helped form the person I am spiritually.

This latest knee issue has actually been kinda interesting. Many friends have asked, “How can you do this again? What next?  Aren’t you frustrated? Are you depressed? Are you asking God why?

The interesting thing is, I feel incredibly blessed. If you believe God is sovereign (which I do), He allows these trials in our lives. It’s in His plan. If He thinks it’s important enough for me to go through these ‘trials’, shouldn’t I look for Him through them?  It’s interesting, though. I don’t look at this as a trial. I seems more a like a time out. You know, something you do in the middle of a big basketball game. Things are going great, you’re winning, time is running out — but the coach wants to make sure everyone’s on the same page. So, he calls a time out and talks it over. That’s how I view this. God wants me to take a moment, listen to Him and get ready to finish the task ahead.

I have a funny feeling that there could be a lot of ‘time outs’ because I have so much to learn.

The verses that keeps coming to mind are 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 which says:

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

It’s strange talking about my knee being ‘trouble’ because it isn’t something that was caused in persecution or attacks, but something God has been allowing me to go through.

So, what the ‘take away’ value from this?  I turn to James 1:2 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials fo various kinds.”

Here is a recent video I made on Saturday. If you don’t like blood or swelling, don’t watch it.

Knee Surgery update – May 26, 2010

What a great day! This morning I went to my physical therapy for my right knee. I bent my knee to 131 degrees. Not much progress on the bending, but great progress on the strength. I was able to bike 2.2 miles in 10 minutes on the bike, I did 30 squats with no pain. I actually saw my quad flex and bulge (bulge is a relative term).

Then, I went to the hospital for my second knee surgery. This one was on my LEFT knee. I injured it in 1992 (yes, playing basketball). But, back in April I noticed, what appeared to me, a second (but much small) knee cap.  The doctor had thought it was a bone chip, which he thought had broken lose from a bone spur.

Well, that’s not what it was. Through an arthroscope, the doctor was able to go in and identify a very large piece of cartilage. He told my wife it was about the size of a golf ball. So, he removed it and we’re good to go.

In terms of recovery?  He said it’ll be about a month until my knee is ‘happy’ again. But, I’m supposed to bend it and do straight leg lifts and keep it iced for the short term.

When I arrived home I started icing it, propping in up on pillows and walking a little. It felt (feels) pretty good. But, I noticed some blood soaking through the ace wrap. So, I call the doctor and he told me to stop doing any bending and walking on it and just allow it to heal a little. Tomorrow should be better.

Here’s a video of my day.

At around 7:30 pm tonight I noticed a rather large blood spot on the ace bandage outside my knee. This really surprised me because with my open knee surgery, I didn’t have hardly ANY bleeding. So, I called the doctor’s after hours service. He called back and told me to put more packing around the knee to help stop the bleeding and keep ice on it. I’m doing that. We’ll see what happens.

I’ve taken a little video about my day today, but nothing graphic this time….unless you don’t like the sight of blood.

Keep praying for my recovery.

Knee Update – More surgery to come

It’s May 23, 2010 and it’s been more than two months since my right knee surgery. I’m coming right alone. I’m not limping much any more. I’m still in physical therapy. I’m bending my knee to about 130 degrees. I haven’t had to ice it in weeks. However, it does swell up a bit when I’m standing still. Not sure why. It doesn’t seem to bother me too much when I’m walking.

In mid April, I had another doctor appointment. At that time he told me I was progressing well. He gave me three or four more weeks of physical therapy to get it back to normal. However, we did discover something ELSE. But, this time in the other knee.

In the early 90’s I had a similar surgery on my left knee. It has served me well for almost 20 years. However, when I was playing football last fall my doctor thinks a bone spur broke loose (after being tackled) and with the extra stress I’ve put on my left leg because of my surgery, it’s making its way out of the knee joint and into the side of my knee. It hasn’t really bothered me until a couple weeks ago when I was mowing the lawn. That caused me to make another appointment, at which time the doctor said it was time to take it out.

So, this Wednesday, I’ll be heading into surgery for another knee surgery. However, this time it will be arthroscopic. The bone chip is about the size of a nickle, so it’s not really small. But, the doctor thinks there will be little recovery time. He thinks I’ll be pain free in about five weeks.  But, I’ll be putting weight and bending it right after surgery. So, it should be A LOT easier than the previous surgery.

As for the other knee, I’m doing great. I’ve been mowing the lawn, riding my motorcycle, jogging a little (very little), and it’s getting better every day.

So, I’ve got a little bit of an adventure ahead of me again. Pray that all will go well, and once again God will be glorified through it.

Disappointment, but progress made

April 1st is one of my favorite days of the year. It’s kind of MY official beginning of Spring. It’s also a day that’s full of practical jokes, which is quite fun. This year I wasn’t able to do any practice jokes because of my knee surgery. However, I was able to accomplish a couple of things today.

Today also marked my second post-op doctor appointment. Today I was hoping to get word that I could start physical therapy on my reconstructed knee. However, the appointment didn’t go completely as planned.

Since I still can’t drive, my wife took me to my appointment. We were on time.  But, the doctor office WASN’T on time. That’s a great way to get me irritated. We sat for nearly 30 minutes waiting to get in to see the doctor. With no where to put my leg up, it was very uncomfortable.

However, I finally made it back to see the doctor. First, they removed my brace. Then, the staples that have been in my knee since March 17. Then the doctor came in and gave me the news. He told me the healing is looking pretty good, “But, let’s go another 10 days. You can start putting a little bit of weight on your leg. Don’t throw away the crutches yet, but start putting weight on it. And, by the time I see you in 10 days, hopefully you’ll be able to put all your weight on it.”

I asked, “Can I start doing leg lifts?”  Doctor Dean said, “No, not yet. That’ll put too much pressure on the repair. Just start putting a little weight on it. Don’t bend it yet. And, we’ll get you into physical therapy after that.”

That’s NOT what I was hoping for. I was really hoping I would be able to start therapy. I actually teared up a bit. I was so ready to start working hard a my recovery. Now, I just have to do more waiting.

Then, I thought to myself — “Self, why don’t you just start working hard to putting weight on your leg. Work hard at that and NOT over do it.” That was all I needed to get me motivated and out of the dumps.

I’ve found this whole process has been a roller coaster of emotions. When I first started out, I was bound and determined that I was NOT going to feel sorry for myself. When I did, I was going to focus on others who were worse off than me. I was going begin reading the Bible and try to make it all the way through the Bible in a month. I was also going to be encouraging to as many believers I met on Facebook or other social media websites. You would think those would be easy goals, right?  Well, I haven’t been very successful.

In the first three or four days of my recovery,  I read all the way through Numbers. But, for whatever reason, I just STOPPED. Every time I started feeling pain, or emotionally uneasy, I would start praying for friends who were worse off than me, or Christians who were facing incredible amounts of abuse because of their faith in Christ. But, when I started thinking about WORK and politics — I just stopped. I feel like such a failure.

Then someone pointed out to me, “Greg, God gave you a great gift. He gave you the desire to seek after Him. You had four successful days. Four days you hadn’t sought after Him before. Now, you just need to start over.”  He’s right. I never thought of it that way.

So, what does all this mean? It means I’m two weeks into my recovery. It sounds like the doctor believes it’s going to be at least another six weeks until I’m not feeling much discomfort. I have four days of searching after Christ, under my belt.  So, that mean I’m WAY ahead of where I was.

If you want to see what went on at the doctor’s office, watch this YouTube video below.

Health Care to bankrupt America? Fact or Fiction

Obamacare. Most of you who know me, understand I’m conservative. While I’m a registered Republican, I’ve been frustrated with the Republican Party for YEARS. When they had power, they turned into the same big spenders the Democrats were in the 1980’s when President Reagan was trying to reel in spending. Yes, under his presidency, the national debt increased significantly, but not because he wasn’t trying to do something about it. Without the line-item veto, he either agreed to Democratic ‘pork’ or he’d close down the government. I do believe he did that on a couple of different times to get the Democrats to amend their budgets.

However, the current administration brings a whole new meaning to deficit spending. Since President Obama took office our national debt has increased greatly.

Obama Budget Deficit

Obama administration budget deficit

The recent signing of President Obama’s Health Care bill will do more than raise deficits.  According to  Richard L. Wottrich, managing director of International at Dresner Partners, an investment banking firm based in Chicago, “This bill represents a large increase of taxes for many Americans in a year or two. For some tax payers they are going to see their tax bill hit 50 percent (of income) and higher because of the bill, combined with the Bush tax cuts, which needs to be renewed soon but the Obama administration will allow it to expire.”

According to Forbes.com, if you believe in the actual experience of health care reform in Massachusetts, the deficit will grow beyond all projections.

Karl Rove, a trusted adviser to President Bush says, “This thing is $2.4 trillion for the first 10 years of its operation. This thing has 10 years’ worth of — of tax increases, $569 billion in tax increases, including $210 billion in a new payroll tax and a new 3.8 percent surtax on investments that’s going to make us less competitive, $500 billion-plus in Medicare cuts to pay for, in essence, four complete years of the operation of this program.

The subsidies don’t begin until year four and are not fully operational until year 10. If you look at the first 10 years of the operation of this thing, it is $2.4 trillion, and this thing is paid for by Bernie Madoff-style accounting in which they double-count money and ignore enormous costs. They claim $138 billion of deficit reduction, but it’s either between $480 billion in debt — in deficits added to the — to the red ink….”

(You can read (view) his comments made on ABC’s ‘This Week’ in its entirety — click here)

Those of you who are not Karl Rove supporters probably won’t like what he has to say, but he does cite real numbers, while Obama adviser David Plouffe simply debunks his comments in pointless pejoratives. If he could only answer Rove’s criticisms it would have gone a long way to help his cause. Calling Republicans/Conservatives names does nothing in this debate.

The bottom line is the US economy is in trouble. According to Business Week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told lawmakers today that the U.S. government’s budget outlook is “somewhat dark” and Congress needs to agree on a plan to reduce the deficit. He spoke in response to a question about the budget impact of the health-care overhaul signed into law this week by President Barack Obama.

It’s not a good scenario for the United States, once the wealthiest nation in the world. Now, even the Chinese are laughing at our economic policies.

Knee Surgery Recovery – March 24, 2010

It’s nearing the end of the day today and I thought I would post. Not much new has happened. I do have a little more pain today. But, I’m trying to keep in under control with meds. Yesterday, I was trying to ween myself off of them, but the reality is — I still need them. I shouldn’t have tried to do that. That’s probably why I had such a difficult day.

I took my first shower today. THAT was an event. Because I can’t keep my leg straight without a brace and the fact that I’m not supposed to put weight on it — getting into the shower is a difficult task. You should try it. Try getting ready for a shower without bending your leg. Try stepping into a shower stall without bending your leg, or putting weight on one of your leg. The only way to do it is with crutches. When the bottoms get wet, on a laminate floor can be catastrophic. Once I got in, I was okay. But, when I tried getting out I was scared. I thought, “one wrong move and I”m back in the hospital.” I got more nervous and more nervous — then the knee/foot pain started getting worse. I was in trouble. Then I took the hop over the shower stall edge. Good foot on dry floor — bad foot in the shower stall. Since I can’t do a straight leg lift, can’t bend my knee and can’t put weight on it — I was stuck. What did I do? I eased my bad foot to the edge of the shower stall, ever so slowly easing my heel the 8 inches to the floor of the bathroom — whew — I was safe.

I’m not taking another shower any time soon. That was frightening. I think next time, a bath is for me. I can do that sitting down with my foot up. I just have to get upstairs to do that.

The shower was the most eventful event today. I did get  a couple of visitors. Steve Raemisch and Brian Felten brought me lunch. After that — nothing.

My day consists of waking up on the couch. Getting up and get ready for the day. Go back to the couch. Make coffee on the way to the couch. Fire up the laptop computer. Get up, get coffee — which is hard with crutches. Then back to the couch. Then lunch — on the couch. Then, more couch. Couch, couch, couch and more couch.

But, the great news is I HAVE A COUCH that I can be comfortable in. In Haiti, those who are injured are living on the streets. Those who have more serious injuries than me are struggling just to find shelter. I have a house. I’m truly blessed to have what I have. Pain or no pain, I’m truly blessed beyond anything I can imagine.

Keep praying for me. I wish I was stronger. I wish I was more of an example. I’m just doing what God allows me to do — were it not for grace.

Recovery March 23, 2010

Well, it’s finally hit. Self pity. Depression. Concern. Worry. Pain. All of it seemed to hit today. I’m not really sure why. I’ve been doing everything I can to try and keep my gaze toward Christ, but today I just started doubting EVERYTHING. Not about my walk spiritually, or how I’m trying to focus on learning something through the pain. Now I’m asking stupid questions.

They really are stupid, too. Questions like: What if the surgery didn’t work?  Will I ever be able to bend me knee again? Am I getting a blood clot? Am I doing little enough to give myself a fighting chance when I finally start physical therapy. See?  I told you they were stupid questions.

The day started off bad. I woke up at 6:30 with pain. I didn’t take any medication and I think my foot may have slipped of the pillow, so my knee may be bent a little — no easy task when you’re in a full knee immobilizer. But, it was enough to start my day on a negative note. When you’re in that much pain, you really don’t want to get out of bed. I popped a couple pain pills and waited for them to kick in. I finally got up and manage to turn my day around by reading the Bible. I started in Genesis and plan to read all the way through the Bible. Believe it or not, I did get a lot out of my reading this morning.

Because of the uneasy feelings I was having I decided to put them out of my mind by just going outside and watch the little neighbor kids play in the warm spring weather here in Michigan. I was up on my crutches about 30 minutes. It was good. I felt good. My leg didn’t hurt that much. The interesting thing about my pain is the knee pain isn’t that bad, it’s the associated swelling in my foot and the lack of circulation there that’s causing me the greatest discomfort.

If I’m upright for very long my foot literally turns a unique purple color. I think it’s because the wrap around my knee is pretty tight (compression wrap for the swelling), plus the knee immobilizer is causing a bit of a circulation problem. But, if I move my foot around while I’m hobbling on the crutches, it seems okay.

When I cam in from outside, I was pleased because I didn’t have much pain in my foot. However, I had to go out tonight for a family appointment this afternoon. I sat most of the time, but when I returned, my foot was purple again.

So, my uneasiness is based more on the pain in my foot, than the pain in my knee. Silly isn’t it? I guess I’m battling the fear of more blood clots. So, I’ve placed my trust on something OTHER than Christ.

I know better. Why do I do this? Is it lack of faith? It is a lack of a complete relationship with Him. What is it? Why do I question Him so often? I know God does this for my good. I know He’s not surprised by any of it. (sigh)

It’s almost midnight and I’m sitting here wondering what I’m going to do about it. Ultimately, I’m going to end my writing, pray and ask God to change my attitude and understand that my ways are His ways and the other way around.

Bottom line? Took a step backward today with the way my knee feels. I don’t feel like I made any ‘healing’ progress today. But, perhaps this was a day God wanted to cut me down a couple notches to make sure I ‘hear’ Him. “Lord I’m really trying to listen. Help me listen.”

Greg’s Knee Recovery – Part 1

While I have been home for about four days now, the recovery is just now getting under way. The first doctor’s appointment following the surgery always seems to kick that off. In my mind, it’s now in full swing, even though I can’t do anything to start rehabilitating my knee. The first step is always letting it heal.  So, that’s what I’m doing.

Today, was my first appointment following surgery. The doctor says my knee looks good. There is a little swelling, which should be expected following surgery. However, I’m being told not to put any weight on my right leg. The doctor also told me NOT to do any straight leg lifts. This will be very difficult. My leg is already atrophied. The quadriceps muscle and specifically the vastus medialis is really bad. It’s amazing how fast the muscle has atrophied. It’s hard not to want to start working on it.

During this short time, however, I’ve been amazed at the encouragement I’ve received from friends and just acquaintances. Some have shared the soul with me — telling me about their pains. Others have provided encouragement to me personally. This has been amazing.

When I first got hurt I was feeling sorry for myself. I was coming up with all kinds of  “if I only” to lament the injury. I was constantly thinking about all the things I would miss out on — basketball, motorcycle riding, running, walking, etc. However, now I’m looking at it more as an adventure and opportunity, rather than a hindrance.

While I’m not enjoying the pain and frustration of having to sit still, I am trying to look inward and see what God has in store for me. As he reveals Himself in my life, I promise I will share those details with you as they happen.

In the meantime, here’s the most recent video I made of my last few days of recovery.