Hazardous to your health
A Tale of Torn Tendons
I went out for my constitutional 3-to-5k, almost daily run, carefully avoiding all the roots and rocks on my wooded route. Then, I came home, puttered around a bit and, crash, tripped on step. There was excruciating pain, but only for maybe 15 seconds or so. It still hurt quite a bit to move during the next few days, especially getting up to a vertical position, but I wasn't too concerned when my heath care provider said it would be more than two weeks before I could see a doctor.
I staggered over to my classes using my father-in-law's second-best walker and announced to my students I had a sports-related injury, confessing that I tripped on a step. It seemed much less embarrassing, somehow, to speculate that it was a sports-related injury, and because it was right after running, Karen (spouse) assures me there was a connection.
Then, just to be sure I had nothing more than strained quadriceps, I called again, hoping I could get an appointment at least with a nurse. But then, I was granted a miracle: there was a cancelation; I could see a real-live doctor!
My escort to the examination room asked what happened. Oh, I strained my quads playing rugby, I said, followed immediately by just kidding.
The examination didn't go well. The doctor poked around a little, seemed upset that he couldn't get a patellar reflex, and sent me to the emergency room. When I got there they wanted to know if I had chest pain. I said no and wanted to say I was anticipating a pain in another body part.
Curious onlookers kept looking at me in my ER cubicle. I later found that the rugby story had made it into the record.
I flunked a certain strength test, so I was scheduled for an MRI next day. I thought that would be like an x-ray. Maybe a few minutes to get set up and a second or two of beam. The operators thought it would take an hour a leg, but I was good at holding still so it only took an hour total. The machine sounded like a jackhammer most of the time.
A few hours later came the bad news: transected quadriceps tendons, both legs. Sounds bad. I prefer torn. The surgeon (terrific) wanted to do the repairs the same day; it had already been more than a week since the big event and eventually the tendons start to withdraw, making repairs harder. I wanted to wait a week so I could do my final two classes of the term. Then, we did what has to be done in a successful negotiation (teachable moment for my class), we worked hard to understand each other's point of view, we acknowledged that the other side's point of view was legitimate, and compromised. I would do my Monday class, he would work on me the following Wednesday, so I would miss the final class, but not to worry, I would be ably represented by my incredible TAs, Jessica Noss, Nicole Seo, and Rebecca Kekelishvili, along with Kris Brewer (also incredible), who helpfully agreed to record the term-project presentations so I could watch them later.
I showed up at noon and waited. The anesthesiologist came by to discuss options. You have two, he said, general or spinal.
What about the whiskey option, I said.
Well, 150 years ago, that was the only option, but we don't offer it any more. Not enough demand. I could see the day was going to be fun.
Ok, I'll go for the spinal, that way I can supervise.
Well, you won't do much supervising. We also give you a sedative, so you will be half asleep.
Hmmm. I thought to myself. It will be much like a faculty meeting. But still, there will be some sense of participation. In the end, I wasn't even half awake, but maybe just as well.
Anyway, all seemed to go well with my degloved tendons (technical term). Now I just have to deal with having my legs in immobilizers that keep them completely straight for a month. Try getting out of bed in that condition sometime. It is a challenge at first, especially when you are constantly thinking about how a slip will ruin some very nice surgical work.