This is my continuing blog on preparing to do a one-day hike of Jasper National Park’s Skyline Trail on June 30 to raise funds for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society

I hurt my knee a few years ago. Nothing major; just a strain that kept me off it for a couple of weeks. Since then I’ve wrapped it on hikes, used trekking poles more regularly and exercised more caution on steep hills. And the knee feels pretty good these days. Barely feel it any more.

Still, when I decided to do this hike, Janine’s support was conditional on one thing.

“You’ve got to go the doctor to get that knee checked,” she said. Janine is unenthusiastic about the prospect of hiking halfway up the Skyline trail to fireman carry-my limping carcass back home.

My “knee’s-good-barely-ever-feel-it-anymore” met with an ominous silence. So I agreed to go see the doctor immediately.

That was 3 months ago.

Today, I went to see the doctor.  A sports medicine doctor no less! One with pictures on his wall of various professional athletes he’s no doubt cured or injected with stuff in the past. Sports Doctor strides into the examination room and firmly returns my handshake (no doubt a subtle test for a misaligned pinky joint). He’s tanned, powerfully built and has startlingly white teeth. In short, he is one of those doctors who makes you feel guilty about your crappy habits before he even utters a word to you. This is all very different from my old family physician, Doctor Flaherty, who appears to have magically taken all his patients’ sicknesses onto himself like that guy in The Green Mile. You always feel better after you go see Flaherty. Mainly because you’re comforted by the fact you’re not Flaherty. Flaherty doesn’t jog. Flaherty smokes.

Sports Doc looks like he works out daily. Sports Doc looks like he hikes the Skyline Trail every second weekend.

“So you’re here about your back,” he says, looking at the referral form.

“Um actually no, the form must be wrong,” I tell him (good ole Flaherty messed up the form). I tell him about my knee. I tell him it’s mostly better and that I’m just here because my wife wants me to be careful. You know how those athlete’s wives can be, eh doc? ha. ha. ha.

Sports Doc takes this in with all the interest of a man who sees 30 patients a day. Then he tells me to sit up on the examination table. Then he begins to, what I can only describe as, rend me.

“Does this hurt?” he says, bracing my knee with one hand and firmly pushing against my lower leg with the other. My knee makes a sound much like what you’d hear if you sat on a package of bubble wrap.

“JUSTABIT!” I tell him. He says “Ummhmm.” Flaherty never once hurt me. Of course, Flaherty wasn’t a very good doctor either. One time, I went in with strep throat and he asked me what I thought he should give me.

Sports Doc takes my foot in both hands and begins to pull my leg towards him. “Tell me when this hurts,”  he says.

I’m stupid and don’t tell him until it actually does hurt. This seems to please him. “And does it hurt more now?” he asks pulling harder. 

I whimper the affirmative and start covertly looking around for that lovely framed medical degree that usually hangs on the wall in a doctor’s office.

Sports Doc grunts something to himself, then puts two fingers on my lower belly, puts his other hand on top of them and pushes down on the fingers with all the weight of his body. “Does this hurt?” he asks.

My spleen feels violated. My head wants to do a Linda Blair 360 spin-and-vomit all over the famous athlete pictures.

“Jesus yes!” I say.

“Hmmm,” Sports Doc says. “And does it actually hurt or is it just the pressure?”  he asks, repeating the procedure.

“Do I have to choose!?”  I ask.  It feels like he’s massaging my spine from the inside. No wait. That sounds pleasant. It feels like he’s trying to turn me into a sock puppet.  Yeah, that’s better. My wife doesn’t know my mid-field the way this man now does.  For a split second, I think fondly of Flaherty. Last time he gave me a physical, he even skipped the “turn your head and cough”. I think I was his last appointment of the day (it was 2:30). He just told me to eat more fruit.

Sports Doc moves a few more of my internal organs around and then tells me I can sit up. He tells me my pelvis is misaligned and says something about my knee that sounds like a dinosaur name. A course of physio should put it all right. I’m cleared to do the hike as long as I don’t feel pain. I hobble out of his office, feeling like I’ve just been worked over by some harbour toughs. My Triceratops knee is muttering a series of low throbbing curses at me. It will be hours before it feels normal again.

On my way out of the doctor’s, the woman at the desk asks me if I want to book my first physio appointment. I tell her I’ll start my treatment after I get back from my hike.

Until then, I’ll deal with my ailments the old fashioned way. I’ll just stop by Dr. Flaherty’s office and tell him about a good painkiller I read about on the internet.

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