Sunday, June 21, 2009

Modyland to Go Under the Knife - 6/22/09

So it is about time, I guess, that it happened. I have been playing rugby for 15 years and never suffered a serious injury that wasn't related to my head. It only seems appropriate then that my season and potentially career ending injury came on a non-contact play on a day that was about as non-serious a rugby practice as one can have...

It was the type of practice that I love to go to. It was pouring rain. The ground was soft. There weren't a ton of people which means fewer drills and more just playing. We even combined the men's and women's teams so we would have about 20 people playing. We just started with tossing the ball around and then when everybody was warmed up, started playing two hand touch. The pouring rain practically kept you from sweating, but I could still taste the salt on my lips from the hard running. People were wiping out in the mud, crashing into puddles, and sliding, face first, into the try zone from four meters out.

Forty-five minutes into the practice, it happened. I had already caught a bunch of kickoffs, had a few good runs, and made some solid passes to the speedy Mitch who scored a bunch of tries. I had made halting stops and cut backs and asked my knees to do the moves they groan about. And I was feeling great. As a matter of fact, I can't remember a time lately that I was enjoying playing quite so much and my body was responding in such a positive fashion as it was right then in the cool rain. I ended up on the outside when we were pushing for a try, and I was by myself. The player to my inside dumped the ball off to me as her defender closed in and all I had to do was catch the ball at speed, which I had been doing all day, and after a few hard steps, jog in for a score. As I accelerated to the ball and caught it, someone crashed into my left calf and I felt the smack in my lower leg, as I crashed to the ground, pretty much where I stood. I rolled over to a seated position to see if DeFilippo had fallen on me, maybe slipping while making the tag, and no one was behind me. No one was within five meters of me.

My calf was strangely tight. I have had a long history of calf cramps, but this one felt different. I started massaging the calf and trying to get it to loosen up, but by then, Mitch, Noble, and Aussie came over. Mitch took a look at the base of my ankle and asked if a lump had been there before. It hadn't. I already knew what happened and the look on his face as he looked at Noble and Aussie confirmed what I was unwilling to utter. I had just ruptured my Achilles tendon.

Aussie had thankfully driven right to the pitch, and after getting assistance to get to his car, he dropped me off at my truck. After asking if I was sure that driving was a good idea, I hoisted myself into my truck, and as the pain began to build in my calf, I started the drive to the hospital.

Getting on I-87 at Exit 12, I was hoping that I could make it to urgent care at Exit 15, because I thought it would go better than going to the ER with an injury like this. As I approached Exit 13, all anatomical hell began to break loose. I had my first muscle spasm in my calf. That might not sound like much, but the ER doc later explained that I had likely separated the Achilles tendon from my calf muscle in a rather violent fashion, so a calf cramp at that moment was not ideal.

I grasped for my Blackberry and eventually managed to get my wife on the line and found out that I would miss Urgent Care closing bell by about five minutes, so off to the hospital it was. She asked if I wanted her to come meet me, to which I said not until I had some news so she could just hang at home. And then the second cramp hit. She inquired as to the source of the grunting noise I made, and I told her what it was. She asked me if it was a good idea to be driving and my response: "God, I hope so, hon, because I just passed Exit 14." At this point, I had pushed the speedometer needle up around 75, which wasn't much of note except it was still raining hard. Confident that the aggressive tires on my Dodge Ram would handle it, I worked my way off Exit 15 and through downtown Saratoga as quickly as I dared.

As I pulled into the ER, I saw that there was valet parking. At this point, I was in SOAKING wet rugby gear, still in my cleats, and I couldn't really move my left foot, so valet parking sounded like a pretty good deal. The young valet came to my truck. I explained the situation and he fetched me a wheel chair which sounded like a good deal.

Fast forward about an hour. I am face down on a hospital bed. My wife has arrived with dinner, although I am in no mood to eat. I had spent 20 minutes biting my wallet because when the last round of muscle spasms started, they opted not to stop, and no matter what I did with my leg, I couldn't get them to cut me any slack. A nurse finally showed up with some pain killers. In the next hour, I was given a shot of morphine, a Vicodin pill, and then another shot of morphine so that my leg would relax enough so they could do what is known as a Thompson Test. This nifty assessment was the kiss of death for both Rugby and Summer 2009. If you are laying face down and someone squeezes your calf, you will point your toes. They squeezed my right calf and sure enough, the toes pointed. The squeezed the left and according to my wife there was no movement at all. I couldn't tell because I was trying not to bite all the way through the hospital bed mattress. Yeah...that test stung a little bit. Oh, and don't forget that they have been covering me with warm blankets because I left a puddle of water under the wheel chair and the mattress is SOAKED because I was, of course, coming from practice in a downpour.

The following day I saw an orthopedist by the name of Dr. George Silver. He knows me by my first name as my wife and I are frequent fliers, both already having knee surgery out of his office. Not to mention that Saratoga Rugby sends a lot of business his way. He re-administers the Thompson Test...I have a similar reaction. His reaction is surprising, however. He palpates my calf and traces down where my Achilles should be, if it was intact. I know he is looking at the cavitation that appears just under the skin, the way I was looking at it in the wheel chair at Saratoga Hospital the night before. Here it is time for everyone's favorite image: the M.R.I. Filmed in Saratoga and read in Pakistan, it will be like #30 in my career. I have a greatest hits for X-Rays, too! But it doesn't come.

He says, "Pete, we don't need to do an M.R.I. because it is clear that you have a complete rupture of your Achilles. I don't an image because I can see and feel it. We are scheduling you for the first open slot that we have for surgery on Monday because we can't get you in this late on a Friday." After I inquire about recovery, only having a few minutes so I can get through the battery of pre-op tests, I hear that all of June and July will be spent on crutches, in a splint or a cast. August will be spent in a walking boot. And if all goes right, I might be able to start walking around the time I go back to school for the fall.

So that is about it. About a half-hour ago, I passed the food and beverage line, so no more drink or food until I am done with surgery. I start pre-op at 11:15AM tomorrow, and then Dr. O'Connor, since he was the first one from the office with an opening, goes in and tries to repair the damage that I did just by starting to sprint from a jog.

It was about 11:45 tonight when I decided that if I am going to be lame this whole summer, at least I am going to blog about the recovery process. I don't know how far I will be able to take the Blackberry tomorrow, but I will try to get pics as I go.

My wife and I also have a bet as to whether or not I will return to work on Wednesday from this. She says no, and will do everything in her power to get the doctor to order me to bed. I say yes, and will be fighting everyone I can pretty much think of in my local sphere of influence to continue to prove to myself that this stupid, stupid injury is not going to control my life.

Should make for an interesting blogging experience because I just hate losing....

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