Hierarchy of Knee-ds

As some of you already know, about three weeks ago I re-injured my knee.  I wish there was some great story attached to it.  Really though it happened while I was playing (are you ready for this?) badminton.  That’s right.  I am nursing a badminton injury.  Here’s the story.

I know what many of you are thinking.  You’re picturing the time that you played doubles badminton for a week in 10th grade gym class with old rackets and torn birdies.  But do not be fooled.  In China, they take this sport to the next level.  And it really is challenging and fun to watch and play. 

Two of my colleagues playing badminton.  On Wednesday evenings, the staff regularly uses two courts in the complex.

Two of my colleagues playing badminton. On Wednesday evenings, the staff regularly uses two courts in the complex.

The two weeks prior to my injury I had started playing badminton with a group of Chinese colleagues after work.  Our boss rents out time in a nice complex every Wednesday night and the group heads over there.  I was enjoying the activity and getting to know my co-workers.  Tian was even going to start joining us.

The injury happened during a heated doubles match.  My team was playing the principal and another staff member.  We were doing fairly well, and I was holding my own, when all of a sudden my left knee twisted badly.  Slightly embarrassed, but mostly just frustrated at my body, I limped off the court.

There was no ice on hand, and Tian had to bum some off of neighboring restaurant.

There was no ice on hand, and Tian had to bum some off of a neighboring restaurant.

The former EMT-B in me knew what initial steps to take, but I got as far as elevation before the cultural barriers showed themselves.  I asked for ice or an ice pack.  They didn’t have it.  Then I suggested a cold beverage to apply instead.  As soon as I said it, I realized it was a stupid question…beverages aren’t often served cold in China and there aren’t any concession areas in this place, and they looked confused.  I asked what they would do in this case, and they didn’t have any suggestions except use a special spray which no one had.  I was having my first experiencing with Chinese first aid.

I realized quickly that sitting there was not going to do anything except make it harder to move later.  And the only way I could get home was by a 25-minute bus ride.  So I decided to get a move on.  I asked one of them for a ride to the bus stop, and he graciously provided it.  Mercifully a seat opened on the bus after one stop, allowing me to sit through most of the lurching ride.

This Chinese spray worked really well to relieve the pain and reduce swelling.

This spray helped reduce pain and swelling.

While on the bus, I called ahead to Tian, and she went to bum some ice off of a local restaurant because we didn’t have any in our freezer.  She told me later that it was a very bizarre request to make, but she did it anyways.  I also asked her about the spray they were talking about, and she knew what it was and picked up some at the pharmacy on our block.  I was a little skeptical.

When I got home, I rode the elevator (thank goodness) up to our floor and limped into the apartment.  I was pretty upset at myself and the situation, but Tian helped me calm down and get settled in.  I spent the entire evening and night with my knee elevated and on ice. 

Unfortunately, I had a long day of class the next day that I couldn’t miss, so Tian and I made the commute by bus together and took things very slowly.  Most of the day I taught sitting down.  It actually went ok, in part because of the spray that Tian had purchased.  It surprisingly worked very well and relieved some of the pain.  When I got home I elevated and iced it again.  I could tell it was going to be a few weeks before it returned to normal.  That idea was a bit depressing because everything in China is done on foot, and there are lots of stairs everywhere. 

The experience taught me again how not to take the basics in life for granted.  All of a sudden, my top concerns went from learning more Chinese words to being able to get to work.  Even the little things like getting dressed and preparing breakfast took more energy and time.  As she has before, Tian thankfully helped me get through this too.  Now I am pretty close to normal when walking, though I won’t be hitting the badminton court again anytime soon.



  1. I’d love to know where to get that spray for Susie’s backpacking trip!! Ouch hope you heal up fast. If you are open to alternative techniques you can also visualize a cooling blue light surrounding and replacing the “heat” of the pain.
    Best of luck and Happy Thanksgiving to both of you.

  2. Sarah Gough · ·

    That stinks Jeff! Hope your knee feels better soon. I didn’t know you were an EMT at some point. When was that?

  3. maybe you should stick to mahjong or chess? those are still competitive right>?

  4. […] most of you know, in October I hurt my left knee.  It has been getting better, but in the last month it hit a plateau.  It didn’t seem to be […]

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