The Amazon Trail
My Lesbian Knee
By Lee Lynch
Photo: E. Mulligan
Not that a lesbian knee is different from, say, a gay male knee, or the knees of a whole congregation praying against gay marriage. But it was my knee, and now it's gone, replaced with ceramic, cement and plastic. It's not the knee that danced in the dark bars of Greenwich Village or the one I knelt on to ask my sweetheart to marry me.
The thing is, with this knee, I can dance again. Last year at Women's Week in Provincetown I made it about five minutes on the dance floor. Total. This year, I can dance till dawn with my sweetheart.
She was with me every possible moment during this increasingly normal ritual of aging: the knee or hip or whatever replacement. I worried that we'd be given a hard time once we told the Florida hospital that we are partners, but, perennially short-staffed, I think they're relieved when patients arrive with do-it-yourself nurses.
Though we didn't have to fight to be together, it wasn't easy on my sweetheart. When you discuss operations with surgeons, they run through the known dangers, which include such minor bloopers as rejection and death. As my poor sweetheart sat in the waiting room, every doctor but ours came to tell families their loved ones had survived. Our surgeon sent his assistant to escort my sweetheart to an office. Scared the heck out of her.
She didn't know what to expect as she followed the assistant to the great man's lair, but the doctor had nothing more to report than my transformation to a six million dollar dyke. Over the months of recovery he never said anything, looking at x-rays of my knee, other than the word "Perfect."
That word did not exactly describe the hospital where he kept his instruments of torture. Nor did it describe the staff. This place is all about making money. The employees could have been very good at their jobs, had they been given time to do them. It's not unheard of, we later learned, to leave patients in recovery waiting for a bed all night. Five hours my poor sweetheart waited.
By the time we got to my room I awoke to a panic attack. The nurse on duty seemed not to understand the concept of urgency. As a matter of fact, she couldn't remember what drug she'd already administered. She thought it started with the letter "A." I whispered to my sweetheart about the little red pillbox in my jeans pocket and she slipped me a little white pill before she hit the director's office with all her femme ire. That nurse never came near us again.
The pharmacy itself was filled with incompetents. Because of a food allergy, I need to get intravenous drugs in a saline solution. An ear, nose and throat specialist told me that shooting me up with glucose could cause a pulmonary embolism. The pharmacy, despite clear orders, sent up bags of glucose 50% of the time. My sweetheart wouldn't let them near me until she read the small print.
The pulmonary embolism was discovered the day I was to be released. I was shivering so the nurse, who had taken a shine to my sweetheart, ordered an x-ray. That didn't detect the fatal little stinker lurking inside, but my surgeon kept me for a CT scan. If my sweetheart hadn't been in attendance every hour she wasn't home caring for the animals or grabbing a nap I would have been a goner.
Now that I needed a blood thinner, phlebotomists drew blood regularly. It was bad enough during the day, when those well-meaning vampires fumbled with my veins, but it was at night, when my sweetheart had to be home, that the real horrors happened. One young woman, in the full flower of her sexuality, came by with a retinue of lusty co-workers. I could see them cavorting outside my door like a party scene in a Fellini film. The princess, rushing to rejoin her admirers, would hastily invade the first vein she could find and rattle her cart on to her next victim, glancing at nothing but the crook of my arm.
Although we swore we'd never return to Inferno General, we found ourselves racing back to the E.R. a couple of weeks later when, between the blood thinner for the embolism and coughing from the bronchitis I picked up in the hospital, I blew out my right eye. So I've been walking around seeing shadows of hemorrhaged blood and fragments of vitreous fluid instead of the beautiful world where I can again walk without pain.
I would never discourage necessary surgery, but I would urge gay patients to brook no homophobia that would deny the presence of an advocate. Certainly, my sweetheart ran a very successful interference. I can't help but wonder, though, about the surgeon's assistant who joined us as we waited for the anesthesiologist - and asked if she could pray with us. What exactly did she mean when she prayed for a straight knee?
© Lee Lynch 2008
Lee Lynch, Author of Sweet Creek from Bold Strokes Books
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