T-Bot Is Here

A friend of mine called me “T-bot” yesterday, which cracked me up. T-bot. Ha! Of course that immediately sent my movie-maddened mind into a whirling dervish of film flashbacks. The first images that came to mind were these:

Terminator   robocop

But then I thought, okay, that’s a bit presumptuous. This T-bot is not a cop (robo- or otherwise), nor is she a time-traveling terminator. So I jettisoned those classic superhero-types in favor of a few more modern (albeit still mechanically enhanced), everyday human dudes and dudettes, like these:

repo_men   elysium   edge-of-tomorrow

That’s it! That’s me. I’m just a bad-ass, black Emily Blunt from Edge of Tomorrow  regular, plain Jane Doe (sans British accent), equipped with a little training and some damn-near indestructible gear. Yup, I’m the girl next door who happens to be poised to save the world from alien invaders.

edge-of-tomorrow2Okay, not so sure about that last part. Or the part before it, truth be told. My indestructible gear is actually titanium (I think), which, on the indestructibility scale, isn’t exactly adamantium. My armored exosuit is actually not so “exo” at all. It feels more like a heavy-duty cast on my leg, but worn inside out. My mechanical enhancements look less like those of the rather awesome chick in that pic to the left and a lot more like this:

That’s right: one of my body parts now has a serial number. For those who saw me pathetically limping around the Tactical Conference, I’m pleased to report that the ortho-doc finally said No Más! and cleared me to trade in my crusty old decrepit hip for a shiny new one. I’m twelve days post-op and my friends are already calling me “T-bot.”

In all seriousness, I never expected my new hip would enable me to fend off alien invaders. I did, however, expect a lot of pain in the early recovery phase. So, like a dutiful control-freak, I spent my pre-op weeks psychologically preparing myself for pain. After all, as long as I could endure a little pain, I could plow right through physical therapy and be back to normal in no time. Screw all that four-month-recovery crap. Who has time for that?

Having successfully completed my full training montage (as Gonna Fly Now played in the background), I went under the knife on April 30th. But once the anesthesia wore off and the initial (admittedly excruciating) pain loosened its grip, I was still blindsided, despite all my preparation. Pain or no pain, my leg was simply not doing what I wanted, no matter how emphatically I commanded it to. There I was, last week, leaning much too heavily on a walker, staring down at my leg, willing my thigh muscles to lift my knee up, inch it forward, and set my foot back down in front of me. One step. You can do it. Go!

I stared. And I willed. And I willed. And I stared. Aaaaaaand…. crickets. WTF? I’m not paralyzed; it’s just a stupid hip replacement, for crying out loud. I’m all stapled up with my sparkly new hip, so why is this sh*t not working???

All my preparation went out the window. I was frustrated. I still am, honestly. But at least now I think I’ve figured out one of the flaws in my original plan. I was thinking of this hip as a body part just like my ankle or my arm or my ear. Perhaps a better course is to think of it more like what it is: a piece of equipment. The fact that I’m wearing it internally makes little difference (although an exosuit would be way more cool). It’s equipment, nonetheless. It’s a mechanical contraption that just happens to reside in my body. And in order for my brain to effectively control this thing, I have to stop working under the same set of rules that governed what used to be my hip. Instead I’ve got to write a new set of rules for manipulating my new equipment so that it works for me and not against me.

In other words, a prosthetic joint doesn’t care. It has no subconscious. No moral compass. No soul. It’s not good or bad. It’s not rooting for me or even particularly excited to be on my team. It’s just a tool. And it’s not going to magically “do good” because it’s “in good hands.” However beneficent this tool’s new owner might be, she still has to operate the tool safely and productively if she’s going to ever again conquer a flight of stairs, let alone rid the world of alien invaders. Sound familiar? 🙂

Being pissed at this uncooperative hip is about as sensible as eyeing the target, slapping the trigger, and then blaming the gun when the bullet doesn’t hit exactly where I had “willed it” to go. Whenever we want to make lemonade out of lemons — whether strengthening marksmanship, or building trust between communities and police, or learning how to walk again — it’ll always take more than will power. All the honest, good will in the world is useless without proper tools; and all the fancy, high-tech tools in the world are useless if mishandled, misunderstood, or under-appreciated. Bottom line: I’ve got a piece of metal that only knows how to be inanimate, and a muscle group that only knows how to tug on organic bone. They’ve both got some lessons to learn. What they can’t do is sit there and gawk at each other in while T-bot is powerless to take one measly step forward. That dog don’t hunt.

Now that I’ve re-calibrated my mental approach, I think my leg will get its act together with time. But it better not take too long, ’cause I’ve got a new alias to live up to.

Oh, and speaking of taking the bull by the horns and all that, I blame the Percocet for any typos in this post.

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