Spooning a Robot: How a Tissue Donor Taught a Terminator Feelings

(Note: This originally appeared at TheNerdyBomb website and is reprinted here with permission. Also, you should read TheNerdyBomb daily. Thanks!)

I am a Terminator.

More accurately, I am part-Terminator.

OK, most accurately, I am part-Robocop, given that I’m less of a from-the-future cyborg assassin and more of a his-body-is-broken-so-let’s-replace-him-with-parts type of guy, but since I’m the one writing this, and since I prefer Terminators, I’m going with that, particular the T-2 type.
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Sometime earlier this year, I tore the ACL in my left knee, the second time this particular injury has occurred in this particular knee, a fact that makes me particularly sore. I first injured it 13 years ago playing basketball when I landed one way while my knee landed another. This time, though, there’s nothing to point at, no single moment in which I can say “aha, that’s what did this,” other than general wear and tear and the fact that despite my best efforts (and voodoo), my body continues to age daily.

So, here I am, with a busted-up knee (and I haven’t even told you about a third surgery I had on it for torn cartilage, although I guess I just did), and the recovery has been brutal, albeit with a few nice advantages. The time off work (four weeks) gave me plenty of time to catch up on movies and TV shows I’ve been meaning to watch and books I’d been hoping to read. I, of course, made a list, taking great joy in crossing items off as I watched (or read) them, and the end results are like a Who’s Who (or maybe a What’s What) of nerd culture: Archer, Orphan Black, Orange is the New Black, The IT Crowd, the Dirty Harry movies, all of Stanley Kubrick’s movies, Gladiator, West Side Story, A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, Yellow Submarine, The Hustler, The Color of Money, Brave and Romeo and Juliet.

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Despite my best efforts, I could not acquire boots, clothes or a motorcycle.

Oddly enough, neither Terminator nor Robocop made the list. Too close to home, perhaps.

Note: I see now that I didn’t list any books, but honestly, reading is very difficult when you’re doped up on post-surgery pain medication. Plus, I couldn’t stay awake while reading, largely because I couldn’t sleep well at night. I have a huge brace on my leg, and every time I roll over I feel metal against skin, and believe me, it’s no fun spooning with robots, especially since I’m that robot. But whatever. I made my list of things to read with the best of intentions. I apologize to myself (and, I guess, librarians everywhere) for failing to follow through.

But really, I say all that to say this (dramatic tone shift ahead; consider yourself warned): my surgery was a total success, and I couldn’t have done it without some help. Yes, the doctors, nurses and medical staff (perhaps from Cyberdyne Systems?), along with my family and friends were important, but there were a few who were even more crucial in the repair of my anterior cruciate ligament.

Where my first knee surgery used my own tendons to rebuild the torn ligament, this time found it necessary to use a cadaver tendon. Yes, this means I have dead people parts in me, thus making me also part-Frankenstein’s monster. But I’m terribly thankful to have those parts, and as such, I followed the suggestion from the surgery center and wrote a letter to the donor’s family (who I will never meet or know). I share this with you now in hopes that after having a laugh at my expense earlier in this post, you’ll now give some serious consideration to also being an organ and tissue donor.

Dear Donor Family,

Even the simplest of gifts have an amazing impact.

So much focus is given on organs, and while I wholeheartedly approve of organ donation (and am, in fact, a donor myself), this letter isn’t about that. For now, allow me to be a bit selfish, but that’s only to thank you and your loved one who was so generous.

Today I have a repaired ACL in my left knee, thanks to the gift of tissue donation. I’d never thought about where the tendon would come from, and honestly, I had never really considered the concept of tissue donation.

Figuratively and literally, thanks to you and your loved one, I stand corrected.

This gift, this simple tendon, will allow me to return to my normal activities, from working to exercising, from driving to running. While this might not carry the impact of, say, a donated heart, please know that to me, this tissue donation is exceptionally important. I am forever grateful.

I am currently going through physical therapy and intense rehabilitation to build up the strength in my surgically repaired knee. I want you to forever know that you and your loved one are with me in every step, always.

I cannot say this enough: thank you.

In the end, I guess I’m a Terminator, because even the cyborgs learned to have emotions.

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One thought on “Spooning a Robot: How a Tissue Donor Taught a Terminator Feelings

  1. Loved the story! It hits very close to home! I am starting to wonder if it is genetic. BreAnn has had three knee surguries. All three ACL’s but all different. IThe last was a cadaver as well. Good Luck to you Kevin! Enjoy your new knee and keep on moving!

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