Conservative in San Francisco … who knew?

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:54 am by tennisfreak

In a city where gay marriage is no more taboo than jaywalking, where “green” is not a color but rather a way of life, where the political parties are Democratic and Progressive, conservative ideas are alive and well. Where? My orthopedic surgeon’s office at Kaiser Permanente. Oh no, no. Don’t get me wrong. Everybody who works there still embodies left-of-center ideals, still hates Bush with a passion. But when it comes to the healing process of my Achilles tendon rupture, they are probably more conservative than McCain would ever be!

Now, before I start offending any more people, I should explain. I went in for my third post-operation exam last Wednesday. After reading about all the varieties of treatments our bloggers have had, I was prepared to ask about the next step. My progress so far seems to be normal. A week after the operation, I went in, had the stitches removed, had my foot put in an “equinus” position (which makes me think of a horse for some reason, but in this case, means having my foot pointed downward), had a cast put on, done. Two weeks later, had the cast removed, had my foot pushed more toward neutral, had a cast put on, done. Rinse, lather, repeat. I had a feeling that my third meeting, which was 5 weeks after my operation, would probably be same, but I was hoping for something more. Obviously, I haven’t take a survery (but now I kinda wish I did), but based on everybody’s blogs, it seemed to me that a lot of people were moving on to partial weight bearing or a boot or whatever by the fifth or sixth week, if not earlier. I started to have fantasies of a boot, something I can remove, so longingly, I was like a man shipwrecked on a deserted island, fantasizing about the first thing he’d do once he got back to civilization.

After sawing off my cast, my doctor did a few flexes, a few squeezes, and said how wonderfully everything was healing. I looked back at my leg (I was lying on my stomach) and what I saw was anything but wonderful. It looked disgusting! Scabs. Swelling. Colored splotches. I knew he was probably right, but I still felt it kinda funny how anyone would look at my leg, in all its puffy scabbiness, and call it “wonderful.” But I digress. Since everything was looking so wonderful, I decided to talk about … the boot. With full confidence, I started:

“So, everything looks great, huh?”

“Yup. I did a pretty good job if I don’t say so myself.”

“Awesome. So, doc, you know, I’ve been reading online …”

“Uh-huh.” (with that “huh” part dragging out a little longer than I wanted to hear, and that dip in intonation)

“… and it seems like a lot of people move on to a boot or something by the fifth or sixth week, so …”

“Yeah, but we don’t do that.”

The directness of his statement almost stopped me dead in my tracks. A quick left jab I wasn’t expecting. I was hit, but not down, so I pressed on.

“Well, yeah, I know we’re not doing that today. But I’m thinking at the next meeting, we’ll be switching, right? By that time, it will have been seven weeks and …”

“I don’t recommend it.”

Another quick left jab, but this one quicker … and left-er (if that makes any sense) and harder. But I wasn’t finished. A change of tactic then.

“Huh. So, why is that? I mean, I’m sure there’s tons of ways to recover from this thing, but it just seems …”

“Well, it’s how the operation is done, for one thing. When we operate on your Achilles, we don’t depend on the sutures to strengthen the tendon. We make sure to connect the tendon well, but let the body heal itself. I think this works best. It’s organic. It’s your own strength, so you’re not depending on something we put in you. I’ve had years of experience on this and this way has been very successful.”

Each one of his statements were like blows to the head and the last one was the knockout punch. I was down for the count. Weakly, I tried to come back.

“Ummm …”

“In my opinion, it would be an unwise decision to move on to a boot so soon.”

My best defense at the time was wanting to say, “But I want to be unwise ….” But I realized how stupid that sounded. The bell rang. The champion was declared. I lost.

He said I would probably be in a cast, getting around with crutches for another 4 weeks, bringing the non-weight bearing total to 9 consecutive, excruciating weeks. Sensing my despair, he conceded that his methods were indeed more conservative, but they have shown excellent results. I know I should listen to him. The last thing I want is for something to go wrong. I think I really would go insane if I re-ruptured during this process and I felt so sorry, angry, and terrified when I read about that happening to a couple of our bloggers here. But at the same time, I really don’t look forward to 4 more weeks of climbing three flights of stairs in my elevator-less apartment building; 4 more weeks of this long shower ritual I now need to go through that I’m sure everyone’s familiar with; 4 more weeks of feeling the pain of my foot swelling against a hard cast. OK, time to remind myself: Happy thoughts! Happy thoughts! Sunshine! Smile! Celine Dion!

He said that at our next meeting, he’ll test me out. Mentioned something about a walking cast, possibly a boot if I can remain at neutral, but most likely not. Nine weeks in a cast and on crutches. Sounds extremely conservative to me. Has anybody else’s doctor prescribed that?

Oh, and by the way, after last week’s Get Smart, this week I saw The Diving Bell And The Butterfly on DVD. Wonderful story. Very inspirational. You get to see just how strong the human spirit can be. It’s the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, former editor of French Elle magazine, who suffered a terrible stroke that left him nearly completely paralyzed. Yet with optimism and determination, he was able to write a memoir using only blinking as his way of communication. A must see. It made me forget about my troubles for the day … until I had to shower. =P


I couldn’t help but wonder …

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:15 pm by tennisfreak

… what other TV series is going to be made into a movie? I mean, there was Sex And The City, and in a few weeks is X-Files, and I just saw Get Smart this weekend. I’m not old enough to really remember the original series, but I enjoyed the movie. The dance-off scene is particularly hilarious! I recommend it if you want some light-hearted entertainment. Yup, that’s what I do nowadays. I’ve traded my tennis shoes for books, my tennis racket for movies. My game now consists of a virtual representation on Wii, where cute little characters without arms bounce up and down with melodic notes above their heads when they’ve won a point. Those crazy Japanese, I tell ya.

And also with all this freed up time, comes a lot of silence to contemplate. Things like, why do hot dogs come in packages of 6 but the buns in 8? (Thank you Ms. Degeneres) Or, if a tree falls in a forest, and there’s nobody around, does anybody really care? And of course, that annoying question, pertinent to all of us here, which may not have a clear answer: why did this happen?

Screwdiver asked me (don’t worry, Screwdiver, I didn’t forget about you, and thanks for the message btw): “if it did not happen the day it happened- is it just something waiting to happen, waiting for us to make a very forceful movement?” Like I said in my first post, I don’t know. When I chased after that dropshot, I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. I’ve made that move hundreds of times before (whether my ball actually got to the other side of the net and dropped in, is another story). I’ve thought about some of the explanations, and I realized some of them don’t apply to me.

First off, I’ve read many entries from everybody which has this general story: I was starting to play XYZ again for the first time in a while. Did some stretches, warmed up a little, felt pretty good. About 10 minutes into playing, I turned, jumped, landed, did a triple Axel, whatever, and BAM! Emeril declared I ruptured my Achilles tendon.

This isn’t what happened to me. I’d been playing with my team for a few months already and prior to that, I was playing tennis weekly for the past year. Also, I ruptured my AT in the third set, after 2 hours of playing. My muscles were very loose already. I was hydrated. I still had plenty of energy. WTF, right?

Another common explanation I’ve read online is age. The middle-age weekend warrior. Or someone who is slightly older who realizes after this has happened that he or she isn’t 18 anymore. Let me start off by saying, I applaud everyone, no matter what their age, who makes an effort to benefit their health. I hope when I reach the age of some of our bloggers that I’m still attempting to be active. Now I must reveal that I’m 26. Last I checked, that’s not old. Maybe if I were an actress in Hollywood, that would be considered ancient, but in real life, I think I’m still relatively young. Heck, 50 can be young! Just look at Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche! So what gives?

Now I have a theory. Definitely not scientific. No double-blind testing. No control group. But it kinda goes along with what Sheila proposed regarding climbing the hills of my hometown, San Francisco. For the two weeks before I had my ATR, I felt like I was overdoing it a little. I ran 5 non-consecutive days on concrete, 5 miles each run. I went to an hour-long spin class twice. And I played tennis 4 times, averaging 2 hours on court each time. Now, I run, spin, and play tennis anyways, it’s just during those two weeks, I increased the quantity of each. But all three days before my AT-fatal match, my calf muscles were kinda tight and sore. I think this possibily led to my Achilles finally saying, “Who do you think you are? A male Jackie Joyner-Kersee?” Does putting a lot stress on your AT, like when Sheila scaled through SF, and then doing one forceful move, like when she managed to run down a passing lob, lead to ATR?

Maybe another explanation is wear and tear, because I’ve been running and playing tennis for awhile now … was something bound to go? I mean, you look at ATP and WTA players, and they never have concussions or dislocate their arms. But they do get injured pretty seriously because of years of grinding, and finally, one day, the body just says, “You’re either in, or you’re out. I’m out. Auf Wiedersehen!”

And of course, there’s the worst answer, which is bad luck. Like the Fates conspired against you, or Zeus himself struck you with his lightning bolt. I say it’s the worst answer because it prevents me from my goal in asking this “Why” question in the first place: to not let it happen again. I know that I might re-rupture if I keep running and playing tennis. I know that once something’s been broken, it’s never 100% again. It might be 99.99%, but I believe our chances of rupturing our AT again is higher than somebody’s who’s never ruptured their AT. So trying to understand “Why”, and prevention are very important to me. Unfortunately, this is a conversation I haven’t had with my doctor yet because I see him 5 minutes at a time. I will talk to him about it, but in the meantime, what’s everybody’s take? Anybody’s doctor have some meaningful insight?

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