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Dr. Zorba Paster: A reminder from the working poor and hungry

Dear Doc: I read your article on hunger and, yes, I know all too well what it’s like to wonder what I’m going to eat week to week.

My husband works. I am disabled, and God bless my doctor who gives me insulin samples. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to eat. Pretty sad that you would have to make a choice – food or medicine.

We are the working poor. We know what it’s like not to have a holiday turkey. We know all too well. So I hope everyone who was able to sit down to a big holiday dinner this year knows just how lucky they are. God bless.

Dear Reader: Thanks for sharing your story. This is something we should think about every holiday season – and throughout the year. We do so much shopping, but if you’re like me, once the purchase is made and the gift is given, the mind goes blank. I can’t remember what I gave my kids or neighbors last year or the year before or the year before that.

Those Salvation Army red kettles that were so ubiquitous in recent weeks are there to help remind us that we should share our bounty with those in need. Don’t you feel good when you stuff some money in? I do. It makes me smile – I feel like I’m doing something.

You could argue that it’s just a pittance in an ocean of misery, but that’s so Scrooge.

I love the fact that in my small community it’s my neighbors, and often my patients, who man the kettles, ringing those bells. Moms and dads with kids, gaggles of giggling teenagers. Talk about teaching the right values.

It elevates all of us. And maybe one of our New Year’s resolution should be to give more away.

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Doc: My knee hurts. My knee surgery two years ago worked great until – bang! – I fell. In my house of all things, on one of those bathroom rugs that didn’t have the non-slip sticky stuff on the bottom.

Up until two weeks ago, I could dance, bowl, hike and bike. I went to my doctor, who said, after an X-ray, “There’s nothing wrong.” But I know there is because it hurts. What should I do?

– J.C. from Madison, Wis.

Dear J.C.: You have pain, so there is something wrong; the X-ray just showed there wasn’t a break. But ligaments, tendons, cartilage, muscles – all the “soft tissue” surrounding your knee took a hit when you took a dive.

If you were to take an MRI – which, by the way, I do not recommend – you might find small micro-breaks in the bone. Bone bruises of this kind are actually pretty common. An MRI, in your case, would be a $3,000 test that wouldn’t make a difference in treatment at all. So it’s downright worthless.

Best thing to do is to ice it when it hurts, do your knee exercises – the ones they gave you post-op should be just fine – and when the pain strikes, take ibuprofen or Tylenol.

How long will it take to get better? For some, it can easily be one to two months. So keep exercising and remember when you’re in pain: This, too, shall pass.

By the way, gentle readers, the above wasn’t really a letter, but a conversation I had on an escalator. People stop me in the darnedest places.

Dr. Zorba Paster is a physician, professor, author and broadcast journalist. He hosts a radio program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7; email him at zorba@wpr.org.