“I don’t see anything on the MRI.” ‘Dr. J,’ my orthopedist responded.
Just as I was letting out a sigh of relief, Dr. J interrupted my thoughts.
“Wait, didn’t you say you had an injury last spring?”
“Yeah, I thought I pulled my hamstring last spring during the Mud Dog Race.” I casually responded. Last April a few friends and I had embarked on the Mud Dog, which of course had made it to my bucket list of things I wanted to do some day. The race was filled with obstacles and mud-lots of mud. Just as I cleared the first creek and was climbing up the steep, chocolate embankment my left leg lost its footing. My right leg stayed in place, locked there by the root system I was wedged into and immediately there was a pop and a sharp shooting pain in my butt. Despite that, I pulled myself up and completed the race, dragging my right leg along. I had not been the same since and other issues had begun to develop. So much so I had spent a month in physical therapy to try and “fix” my problem.
I was met with momentary silence on the other end of the phone.
“Christina, you didn’t “pull” your hamstring last spring. But it does look like you peeled a good portion of it off the bone.” Dr. J went on to discuss what “could” be a possible surgical intervention, but truly he didn’t know. He was guessing and comparing it to the protocol for the rotator cuff repair he performed on me in 2009. He closed with, “you know I have only seen this once before in a tri-athlete, it’s a highly unusual injury… much like tearing your rotator cuff in your 30s- Christina you are a bit of an unusual patient.”
Hanging up the phone I sat there stunned and the reality began to sink in. My dreams of running the NYC Marathon in the fall were gone. Celebrating my daughter’s 7th birthday in Central Park during the marathon weekend was gone. Somewhere deep within me I knew that this was going mean another surgery and long road to recovery.
With this new knowledge I broke down into a full blown sob. I called my husband and broke the news, he sat there silent for a while just listening to me cry. Although my husband only runs when chased, after watching me run for the last seventeen years we have been together, on some level he “gets” what this means to me- even if he can’t understand it.
When I run, I get into a groove. My feet find a cadence all their own and I am off. Most days I am able to get into a zone, where there is nothing in my mind other than my breath and the nature around me. It is a moving mediation. Yes, some days are harder to get out the door than others, but almost always I feel 100% better after my run than if I had not run at all. I began running the spring of my freshman year at Boston College. Part of my “normal” run would often include Heartbreak Hill- part of the Boston Marathon course. I began running initially as a quest to get rid of the “Freshman 15” and later returned to it over and over again as a means to reduce stress. When I traveled for work, I always packed my running shoes. When I go on vacations I like to run to explore the areas we visit. Knowing that I would never qualify for Boston, my dream was to run New York and I was stunned last spring that I secured a lottery spot beating out hundreds of thousands of other applicants.
Now that was gone- at least for now.
Over the next few days I Googled hamstring rupture and hamstring avulsion in an attempt to understand my diagnosis-partial hamstring rupture at ischial tuberosity. There isn’t much out there. Even worse, it’s nearly impossible to find an orthopedist who even knows anything about the injury, much less operates on it. When I talked to my sister, a physical therapist, about it her response was, “that’s not even in my textbooks Tina.”
Through my research I found that this injury if most often found in water skiers and, get this, bull riders. Great. I have a rare injury, which very few doctors operate on. My search of the web and even injury chat sites continued until I found one name that was local, and two doctors in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that were pioneers in developing a protocol for not only the surgery, but also for the follow-up repair. Within two days of my diagnosis, I had an appointment and met with the doctor. The lead physician for a major sports team, he was fantastic. He confirmed my injury and the need for surgery. That was the good news, the bad? He didn’t take insurance.
Over the next month I asked around and friends of mine in the medical profession did the same, all in an attempt to find someone with experience with this injury. After a month of searching and interviewing doctors, I found my surgeon who was also a lead physician for a sports team, only it was the Nationals and my surgery date became entirely dependent on how the Nats did in the playoffs. Needless to say, game five of the series against the Cardinals was a tense one in our house…
I am now two weeks post-op. In only two short weeks I have learned to navigate daily life on crutches and developed small ways to resume my routine. My children have really adapted and my husband, God bless him, has not only taken care of me but has assumed most of my mommy duties in the interim as well. I am not allowed yet to really sit, because the surgery is a literal and figurative pain the ass, but I have developed ways to creatively lean, lounge, sleep and hobble through a post hurricane, house with no power.