Kenneth Lawrence Smith

I don’t remember the first time I meet Kenny.  It must have been on a Sunday or a youth meeting at our church in 1973 or so.  He was funny, tirelessly upbeat about everything in life and had so many friends as to make you feel terribly deficient because you couldn’t hope to catch up to him.  Danny Glover (not the movie star but my lifelong friend from grade school, another story and another time) and I shared an apartment back in the day when electricity was abundant and cheap.  Kenny would come by our place.  We kept our apartment at 68 degrees. Sometime during the evening his nose would start running and turn red and shivering, he would ask for a blanket — in the middle of July.  Funny the first things we remember about people.

I don’t know what Kenny was like before he became a follower of Christ.  I heard stories about him and they were pretty dramatic. The Kenny I knew and became friends with was a voracious reader of God’s word, a friend to all, a prayer warrior, a pursuer of God. From what I heard about him before,  his life was a remarkable transformation from darkness to light, from spiritual death to life.

Kenny and Joe Brown eventually moved in with us and we were a household for a couple of years.  We played a lot of basketball.  I know, I know, we don’t look like basketball players but Kenny loved playing basketball.  He loved watching football, bragging on Reagan High School’s football team and his closest friends who played on the state championship team.   He followed most of the other sports, but as far as playing, Kenny was a driving / slashing point guard trapped in a football body. I know it sounds a little crazy.  I can still see that goofy looking, looping lay-up from the right side and the silly grin on his face when it went in. Then he would talk trash for a couple of minutes.  It might not be that humorous now —  I guess you had to be there.

Kenny didn’t bother with the small details of life.  Little things like car inspections and working brakes on his old VW Bug often seem kind of important to some people, but he had a way of getting around those things and getting on with life.  Somehow, he even trusted my younger brother, John Dorman, to run some errands in his car and forgot to tell him about these little insignificant items.  It made for an exciting drive.  John still shakes his head about that.  You might even think those things would drive a normal person over the edge, but, somehow we all thought, “That’s Kenny.  He’s got this.”  I guess you had to be there.

On another occasion, Kenny and 5 or 6 of our really good friends from church made the long trek to the lovely west Texas city of Wink!  My home town.  They met my family, ate some of that down-home Dorman cooking, worshiped with my mom at the piano, toured the Wink schools and attended the little Assembly of God church I grew up in.  Kenny always fancied himself as a boisterous, bold worshiper in church.  That day my mom and dad led the singing, the congregation entered in and about 15 minutes later, one of our dear sisters was overcome by the Spirit and let out a shrill whoop that pierced the air and lasted for several seconds.  She was 3 rows behind Kenny.  I looked over at him and his face was as red as a beet.  He had never been in a service like that.  We talked about that for several weeks as he tried to come to grips with it.  He couldn’t describe it adequately.  I can’t either.  I know you had to be there.

Lastly, Kenny loved to worship God, loved to worship by singing.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t carry a tune in a bushel basket, as the old saying goes. Somehow, I was actually the choir director for a couple of years at our church — a story for another time.  One holiday season, Kenny approached me and asked if he might sing in the choir.  He said he just wanted to be part of the choir, to see what it was like to be up there and sing with them.  What could I say??  Of course you can! We made a deal.  The most important thing was for him to worship in the choir, to sing from within about the truth he knew.  The second most important thing was to sing softly in the tenor section.  He humbly agreed.

I was so proud of him.  I still remember him standing up there, arms raised upward, tears rolling down his cheeks, singing from the bottom of his heart.  I’m so glad I was there to experience that. In the end, I had to be there. I didn’t miss out on the unique person, Kenny Smith.  I saw transformation in him, experienced life with him, laughed with him.  He was such a great friend.  I’ve kind of come to an understanding with God that it’s OK to be angry about things at times, maybe even a little angry with Him over how things turn out.  I am struggling with feeling like Kenny had to go too soon and I’m not happy about it.  I know I’m kind of looking through a murky glass and not seeing the big picture but it’s how I feel.

It’s been a hard week for me, after hearing that he had passed on from this life.  I can only imagine how hard it has been for his kids and close family.  Our prayers go out to God on behalf of you as we mourn this great loss.  At times like this, without trying, songs my mom would sing through the years return to me to remind me of God, of his faithfulness, of our home with Him. There are too many to mention.  Kenny often talked about Heaven, about being with Jesus.  Those songs were all around me today.

For some reason, the one line that has stood out to me is the last line of the second verse of the hymn, “Fairest Lord Jesus.”

Fair are the meadows
  Fairer still the woodlands,
Robed in the blooming garb of spring;
  Jesus is fairer,
  Jesus is purer,
Who makes the woeful heart to sing!

I didn’t remember the rest of the verse, just this line “Who makes the woeful heart to sing.” Certainly, my heart has been heavy and woeful for several days.  It hasn’t felt like singing much recently.  We comfort one another with Hope and a certainty that He will make our woeful hearts to sing.  We’ll see you soon, Kenny.  Warm up those pipes.

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Mande Running Free at Last

I don’t normally long to share pet stories on the blog, but enough people liked this email and I thought I would just drop this here for archival.  

Our dog, Mande, passed on last week.  Early in the morning, she didn’t come out of her office (which she graciously shares with me) to go outside as usual so Deb went back to find her.  Deb picked her up to carry her to the door but Mande began coughing and it was obvious things were very bad.  She was unable to stand up on her own.  We let her rest until we could get her to the vet.  She was probably in a little pain but mainly she was very short of breath and immobile.

The vet was very gentle and verified our assumption that her time had come.  It was a sad, sad thing for us, but we were very glad that if she suffered at all, it was only a short time as far as we could tell.

She remained defiant of time and old age until the end.  She would prance a little when it was time to go out, pretending that she was a young pup.  She defied the thought that she always needed to go outside to go to the bathroom, choosing occasionally the spacious living room area that had 3 big windows and I guess to her, it was outside.

She remained regal in her view of life, overlooking her vast estate in the back yard, putting up with those other dogs who would come to visit on occasion and invade her kingdom.  She let them eat her food and lay in her bed, even though she knew it was a little disrespectful.  She was gracious to her subjects even when they ran over her going out the back door.

She allowed various and sundry animals to roam freely in her yard, including baby deer and several bunny rabbits.  They would graze as she gazed, and were unafraid when she would come out on the deck for a drink or a little personal time.  The royal queen would not harm them.

Mande came to us as a rescued Schnauzer.  It seems she had a longing for the open road, bolting for freedom whenever an open door or gate presented itself.  It was amazing to us that she would take off and never look back, even though we were her shelter, her food, her safe place.  Many of our friends have accidentally left the door open for a moment while saying goodbye, only to spend the next 10 minutes running down the road chasing our little dog.

She never returned on her own. Once a couple of golfers found her on the golf course behind our house.  They read her tags, realized her home was close so they got her into the cart and she rode home, proudly sitting in the front seat, displaying for all to see her limo had arrived and she was returning in style.

Most of the time it was phone calls from neighbors .. “We have your dog.”  On another occasion, a lady said she opened her car to return home from the clubhouse and Mande jumped in.  She suggested we rename her “Gomer”, because she seemed willing to go home with anyone.

But, after 15 years with us (and the 2 or more years before she found us), it seemed time to go, so she did.  Sadly, with a few tears, we said goodbye.  Long lived the Queen.

That morning I was drinking coffee and looking at her back yard when one of her bunnies (we call her Bobby Bunny) was grazing in the grass and I saw it run quickly from the grass into the shrubs/overgrowth.  Almost immediately a hawk swooped down and lit on the bird feeder, disappointed no doubt, narrowly missing a meal.  The queen would have been proud that her subject survived…

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Knee 2.0 … one year in (or out, depends on your perspective)

My knee surgery anniversary came and went on Jan. 5th, 2013.  The good news is I didn’t think about it at all.  Life is going on, in a good way.  When you are as hard-headed as I am, you can go a long time with a painful situation.  But, here it is, a year and almost a month and I am mobile and very, very glad to be able to walk, climb and, on occasion, to hop just a little if need be.  I’m not out there playing games as I did at one time, but, it is so good to be able to be mobile without pain.

Our friend, Kathy Brimberry, just had knee surgery 3 days ago.  I don’t remember too much about my first few days, thankfully, but I do know that it involves a good bit of pain and a pain-med fog while in the hospital.  Hopefully you will forgot most of these three days.  Our thoughts and prayers are with you and Mike as you press into the recovery process and regain a part of your life that has become too much ‘less than’, which is why we have the surgery.

Like they told me, it takes three days to get out of the hospital, three weeks to be able to walk without aids, three months to regain reasonable mobility and finally, a year to forget you had surgery.  I haven’t totally forgotten … sometimes when I get up from a chair, my knee will have a funny click or a little something will go on to indicate … that feels strange.  But, it is working.  Also, the docs tell you to flex it as much as you can and take the pain meds when it hurts because enduring the pain does not hurry the healing process.  .. That was actually contrary to what I have always thought … go figure.

Lastly, follow all the PT instructions as much as your body will allow.  Flexibility does not come without effort.  We’re with you on this, Kathy and Mike.  Keep at it.  It will get much better, soon.

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Knee 2.0, 7 Months and Counting

Time for an update.  Actually, I could say I’m just a tad early for the 8 month update :).  Thanks to all who pray for me and who ask about my progress and sorry I haven’t posted much sooner.  The good and OK news is there isn’t much to report on. Progress is steady and most often noticed after a few weeks rather than week-to-week.

Aug. 5 was 7 months, to be more exact and it is a good thing that I am not thinking about days and weeks after surgery.  My doctor and PT’s told me to expect ups and downs, uneven progress and some discomfort for at least a year.  I do most things that I need to without too much effort.  I am still cautious about exercise.  The reason is because of a setback.  By June, I was very excited about progress and reveling in my new-found walking abilities.  I was hitting the 2.3 mile lap around my neighborhood with zeal, checking my time and distance with a new app on my iPhone that told me how far I was walking, elevation changes and even gave me benchmark updates along the way so I could compare myself against previous efforts.  (Why do guys have to make things a competition even if it’s just against themselves?)

By the way, the app is “Walkmeter” and it works fine.  I am not pushing it, and I find it a bit off on distances but we’ll blame the satellite GPS issues rather than the app.  It gives me something to do to ease the boredom of repetitive walking routes.

But, mid June, I injured my heel about halfway around and by the time I arrived back at the house, it was almost unbearable.  Turns out to be an issue of Plantar Fasciitis, an inflammation of the plantar fascia membrane connecting your heel to your toes.  You can follow the link to find out more about it.  The salient point is it HURTS LIKE THE DICKENS.  It hurt so much that I was unable to stand on it. In fact, the pain was such that I stayed off my feet for 4 or five days.  I treated it with anti-inflammatory meds and ice packs and rolling a tennis ball under my arch.  I bought shoe inserts to support my arch and just took it easy for about a month.

The biggest bummer was the lack of momentum in building up my endurance, but, the good thing was I had the ability to think about it and plan to continue, as opposed to being unable to walk normally on my old, broken knee.  I’m thankful.

Now, I’m working out 2 -3 times a week on devices that aren’t so hard on my feet and moderating my diet and targeting losing a significant chunk of weight.  Progress is slower, but I guess that comes with my mature age.  Sunday, a couple of friends told me how wonderful it was to see me walk easily and quickly off the stage at Hope Chapel.  See, progress!  I don’t think about it and didn’t know it was evident, but, they knew.

So, I’m thankful to be here, thankful for friends who pray and encourage and notice when my step is returning to form.  Blessings, Ya’ll!


Posted in Knee Surgery, Me | Leave a comment

Four Months after Knee Surgery

Wow, 4 months have gone by quickly.  April 26th will be the end of 12 weeks after replacement surgery.  I haven’t written much about it because my progress hasn’t changed much on a week to week basis.  All is going well.  I am not back totally; I have occasional discomfort but, overall, I’m doing very well.  Everyone says it takes a year plus to get your knee back into the normal range.  No matter how quickly I have recovered, I still have 8 more months to go.

Highlightsjust being able to walk more than 50 yards.  I have a 2.5 mile route through my neighborhood that I have walked several times in the last month, when I have 50 minutes or so to spare.  I forget there are three major climbs for me to match the downhills along the way.  It is a good effort to get up each one.  My leg always feels discomfort by the end of the journey and I wonder … how will it feel tomorrow?  I go home and ice it down and the next day, it feels fine / normal for my recovery stage.  Although the knee hurts somewhat when I first get up from a chair, within a couple of steps, it is fine, and I notice that I am walking more quickly, closer to a normal pace for me.  On Sundays, when I step down from the stage area, I feel almost normal … Yay!

My surgeon, Dr. John Pearce, tells me I am doing well.  Thanks, Dr. Pearce – I’m told you are one of the best and I believe it.

I graduated from Texas Physical Therapy Specialists of Austin (Balcones Woods Drive clinic) about 3 weeks ago.  Dr. Mark Milligan told me it was time to spread my wings and walk away, they had done their job and I, mine.  Kudos to Mark and the staff there.  What a great group of people to have guiding me through my recovery / rehab.  All along the way, I have met fine people who cared about us, about our health and well-being.  My in-home therapist , Sam, recommended TPTSA and David Browder, DPT, for outpatient rehab. David is the director of the clinic I attended.  I walked in the first day – well, I hobbled in the first day and looked around a large room with weights, bikes, incline-machines, tables for joint manipulation and best of all, the beloved ice-machine which ended every workout by circulating icy water around the swollen, inflamed joint to ease results of the workouts.  Dr. Mark did an assessment of my knee, put me through a beginning set of workouts and declared that in spite of my character, he would continue treatment.  Twice a week, for about 6 or so weeks, I put my knee through a set of exercises to restore flexibility, strength, balance and general confidence in this new apparatus that has invaded my leg.

Every visit started with Madi, Laura or Justin putting me on the bike to warm up.  5 minutes on the bike and we move on to one of the tables.  From the table, I would do various stretches, flexes with weights and elastic bands to improve flexing and strength.  No, I’m not in these pictures, but  you see other clients who didn’t mind getting in the photo.  Behind Madi in the photo here is a table with some tan particle-board type material attached to the wall.  This is where we did ‘wall-slides’, with my back against the wall, a weight on the ankle, cloth over the shoe to protect the wall from marks and 2 sets of 10 side-leg raises of the left leg then later the right leg too.  Can’t end up lopsided … it strengthens the hip muscles, I think, but, these weren’t my favorite exercises 🙁 .

One of the big goals was to get the rotation of the new (left) knee as close to the healthy knee as possible.  I was told that my right knee would rotate 135 degrees and when I entered rehab, my new knee was already back at 115 or so.  Earlier I had heard that 120 degrees would be acceptable, but, in my first week, Josh measured my knee at 120 and I thought, good, I’m done with this. Not so fast, my friend.  Dr. Mark says, nope, we’re shooting for the whole enchilada, so every session ended with measurements to make sure we were making progress along the way.  About 2 weeks from the end, we hit 133 / 135, and then Mark said, ” OK, you’re normal.”   Well, he didn’t mean normal like most folks, he just meant that my new knee was rotating as well as the original.

Overall, Dr. Mark was in charge of my rehab, but I had three Doctoral interns from Rocky Mountain University who took turns guiding me on each visit, Josh Rymer, Paul Tripp, and David Kartchner (David is in picture above).  A Sorry, David didn't make this shot, he was with a patientfine group o’ guys.  They were extremely congenial, caring, encouraging, careful and always attentive to how the exercises were affecting me physically.  Mark would oversee the session, make sure my knee was manipulated correctly along the way.  The PT’s often sat in the center of the room, at the Column of Deliberation, updating files and overseeing everything.  Here is Paul and Mark at the column of Deliberation:  From this vantage point, they could see all the activities ongoing and make sure I didn’t take any shortcuts along the way.  They were always watching  :).

One of the more important roles they play is to give encouragement and feedback.  I’ve never had a knee replaced. I didn’t know what to expect. I had no idea if a pain was normal or if the screws had come loose in my knee.  “Yes, this is to be expected.  Yes, most everyone experiences this. What you are experiencing is common. No, your knee will not come unglued nor will it rust in the rain.”  Mark told me several times, their goal was to provide good rehabilitation, with minimal pain.  I found out my West Texas axiom of “Pain is weakness leaking out” is wrong.  All along the way, I was encouraged to use the prescribed medicines to ease the pain because pain can often cause the healing process to slow down or stop.  It was good to have wise people leading me through the whole thing (and not my football coaches 🙂 ).

About ten years ago, I tore my Achilles tendon and had surgery to repair it.  Because of insurance changes, new job demands, my PT was cut short and I never finished rehabbing.  I have regretted it later in years because my ankle and foot pronation were never the same and I tend to roll my right foot and ankle outward when I walk.  It makes my shoes wear out in the wrong way.  It shows me that after such surgeries, good rehab / PT is very important and following directions for proper healing.  Mark gave me some exercises and tools to help with my right ankle and I can tell the difference after adding them to my regimen.

The problem with having good physical therapists is you become addicted to them.  It’s so comforting to have a coach, an adviser to give you feedback, keep you on track and working toward your goal.  When we started talking about ending the therapy, I had moments of panic.  How will I survive?  Who will assure me I am getting better?  How will I keep up with the various restaurants and eating habits of Josh, Paul and David?  I tried to bribe them with fresh bread from my own ovens. I volunteered to sweep the floors and fold all the towels and pillow cases, if only they would let me drop by weekly for a workout.  But, alas, I was sent away with a T-shirt and a loud clang on the ‘Gong of Graduation.’  Thanks guys, after all we meant to each other.

But, really, they were a great crew and I recommend them highly if you need some physical therapy, especially if you are recovering from surgery or some other traumatic event.  (In fact friends Jim and Martha Davis are being attended to by this very group).

In this photo on the left, you see some of the contraptions used for strengthening and for mobility.  One thing I would never have thought is the loss of balance with the new knee.  With all the trauma to the muscles, ligaments and tendons, they just didn’t work well after the surgery.  One of the exercises was to stand on my left leg, balancing for 30 seconds at a time up to two minutes.  Very hard to do after my surgery.  After a couple of weeks, they complicated it by having me stand in front of the small throw-back / trampoline device on one leg and play catch with myself using a two pound ball bouncing off the mesh. ( It’s in the bottom left of the picture in this paragraph.)  Thanks, Mark.  I’ll get even with you some day. Actually, I’m not sure I was ever coordinated enough to do this before surgery, so, after … well I got where I could do it for 30 seconds but … come on, man.

But, I did get most of my balance back.  How do I know?  I found out the other day, I could put my pants on, one leg at a time, without having to sit down.  I think it’s working.  Rehab doesn’t stop. I continue exercises on my own.  Still 8 months of this year long recovery left.  We’ll keep in touch.

Posted in Knee Surgery, Me | 15 Comments