Happy New Year!

I am thankful the holiday season is over and I can return to what I consider to be my “normal” life.

If only it were so…

Last year – the one that ended yesterday – I had a very complicated surgery done on my right knee followed by 3 months in a full leg cast, then 3 in a locking brace and concurrent physical therapy which will go on indefinitely – augmented by having an even more complex surgery on the left knee sometime soon with similar follow-up. New Year’s looking a lot like the old except this time I know what’s in store for me.

This is not a plea for sympathy but rather a personal example about how complicated decisions may be made.

Here goes.

10 years ago a fall resulted in a ruptured left knee quad tendon. Since then there have been four failed surgical attempts to correct it leaving me cane/walker dependent and activity limited. 12 months ago the same fate befell my right knee.

In a change of luck, I drew the best orthopedic surgeon in the country who said he’d not only repair the right knee but could also redo the left. Obviously something had to be done about the right or I would be wheelchair bound. Easy choice. I also figured if the surgery went as he said I might trust him with a fifth attempt at the left.

Notice, I didn’t need to make all these decisions at once. Just the first one, and 7 months ago that surgery was performed, followed by the sequence above. But the latter aren’t decisions, just the progression from that first decision. (Yes, I know, some will say I could have refused the cast, the brace, the P.T., etc., but I’m not a dolt.).

But I do now have a second decision – do I have the second surgery? Or do I decide I’m limping along better than before so why not just let it go? I am 77 after all.

In favor of surgery? After the past few months I believe the doctor – he says he can repair it and I trust him. Success means restored mobility, significantly reduced fall potential (at my age and 6’4” significant catastrophic risks), but how much of my life expectancy would another year’s worth of healing and PT eat up?

That’s where it gets tricky since I need to consider the odds. If my genetics, current medical condition, etc., suggest I’m looking at three or four years I probably don’t want to burn up one. On the other hand…

No, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, much less a decade or two. But then neither is a less than average life span. At 77 and in my current “condition” (and I’ve had every test known to god and (wo)man) the consensus of the “experts” is that I am looking at 15 – 20 years, assuming I don’t have a catastrophic fall or other accident. Notice how that word “fall” plays in.

There is one other factor that most of us never recognize – if I decide to have the surgery and my time runs out “early” I’m not going to mind having made the “wrong” decision. If I decide not to have it and I’m unnecessarily handicapped I’m going to regret it every day for, potentially, a very long time, which I’ll spend not doing stuff I could be doing.

That final factor makes the decision a lot easier. Surgery in late January – let’s get it done and be locked down during winter anyway.

There is another factor that has to do with the burden I am inflicting on Judy for 3 – 4 months. She says she doesn’t mind and would prefer to have me around and functional in any case. Again, I choose to believe her.

In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I have not historically believed people. Not doctors, not women, not men, not much of anyone and that mistrust is well earned. But the past 20 years have mostly reversed that or I’ve gotten better at knowing who to trust – probably both.

Now it’s your turn – do you want to go through the process of making a decision to do something or do you prefer to decide not to? Or take the most common route, the decision not to decide?

Do you want control over what you can control and are you willing to accept responsibility for the results regardless? Including the results you can’t control?

Do you want a little help processing the options, including discovering a few you aren’t currently aware of? Assistance calculating the odds?

Obviously, that is the sort of work I do, and not just for myself. Yes, the usual leading question is whether or not life is better with or without – or with less – alcohol and how to adjust accordingly. But remember that excess alcohol is just a symptom so other decisions will need to be made. My knee, your chardonnay. Feel like talking about it? That’s a free initial call.