Wednesday, March 12, 2014

No. 85 – Budapest

Performer: Jethro Tull
Songwriter: Ian Anderson
Original Release: Crest of a Knave
Year: 1987
Definitive Version: Live at Hammersmith Apollo, 2001.

Every year for the past four, I’ve had some physical malady that required lots of medical attention. As I mentioned, I’ve had to come to grips that perhaps I’m not a fundamentally healthy person, or at least how I mean it to be. Before 2011, I hardly ever went to the doctor aside from an annual checkup. Now, I almost use up all of my personal time each year for various appointments.

The malady this year, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, is my digestive system. It had been bad since Christmas, so a few weeks ago I scheduled a colonoscopy—my third. I was due to have one anyway, so it isn’t a big deal, but in the interim, I’ve been more disciplined about eating fruit and fiber and not eating fried food, and I feel 500 percent better, so I already know that my recent problems were just more of the same and not something new. Everything checked out fine.

In 2011, it was my ear. Last year, it was my manhood, well, technically my prostate. That’s been fine lately, too, and it really helped last summer to discuss it with Dad and Laurie’s uncle, Jim, who are in their 70s. Jim in particular helped just by putting things into proper perspective—the first time a man gets a sense that everything down there doesn’t work the way it should is a huge psychological blow. I get why Viagra became a hugely profitable drug.

In 2012, the issue was my shoulder. As I mentioned (good ol’ No. 590), I’d done something during yoga class the previous fall after Laurie and I saw Jethro Tull rip through Budapest. The injury caused me to lose strength, although I wasn’t in any real pain. My doctor sent me to get an MRI in March.

Have you ever had one of those? I’d heard stories about how they’re problematic for claustrophobes, and I get why, at least for those that require a scan of your upper body.

If you haven’t had one done, it’s different from a CT scan. With a CT scan, of course, the scanner is basically just a ring. Whatever body part is being scanned is sent in and out of the scanning area, and it’s no big deal. An MRI, at least the one I had on my shoulder, involved being eased head first into a tube that’s literally no more than two inches, maybe one, from your face.

Even though I’m not claustrophobic, it still was a bit unsettling. All you try to do is not think that if something were to happen, you’re stuck in there. The only saving grace was that the end by my head wasn’t closed off. I could detect light, and that calmed me. I still closed my eyes most of the time and tried to shut out the endless rattling that the MRI scanner made during the half-hour procedure.

After the scan, I went to an orthopedic surgeon whom Laurie recommended. He was great. He worked me over pretty good, testing for muscle strength and range of motion, the whole while dictating observations to an assistant who took down everything. It was super efficient, rather than him stopping every so often to record his own thoughts.

Then he took a look at my MRI and gave me the bad news: I had a torn rotator cuff. You mean I’m out for the year, doc? Yes, that’s the first thing I thought when I heard the news: If I were a pitcher, I’d be thinking 2013.

Actually, it wasn’t that bad, he said. I had a muscle tear and a slight tear of the tendon. He wasn’t concerned about the muscle tear at all, and the tendon hadn’t torn completely. That meant I didn’t need surgery, just rehab, thank goodness. The muscle and tendon would heal themselves, he said.

He wrote a prescription for pain meds if I needed them—I didn’t—and a recommendation for rehab at a chain called Accelerated, which has locations all over Chicago. Fortunately, there was a location within walking distance of my apartment, and I was able to schedule evening appointments after I got home from work, so I didn’t have to take any time off.

When I showed up the first time, wearing gym clothes (I’d be working out, essentially), I was introduced to my rehab trainer—Katie. Woah! I just hope the amount my eyes bugged out of my head at her Playboy-quality hotness amply displayed in a clingy T-shirt wasn’t as obvious as I was afraid that it was.

After quickly taking a history, Katie put me to work, giving me a battery of exercises one after another that were meant to strengthen muscles around the shoulder, so my rotator cuff could heal. None were difficult, but some were pretty painful and tiring at first.

Of course, that Katie was so smokin’ hot actually was good incentive. For one, it cut down on any desire to skip a session. For another, what guy wants to ease up and not try to make a good impression in front of a beautiful woman? I was going to show her how well I could do everything; that’s what guys do.

Besides, there was a payoff at the end of each session. Katie would run through a series of hands-on stretches and massaging of the shoulder before giving me the Quasimodo ice pack—yes, just like those you see pitchers sport post game.

Needless to say—but I’ll say it anyway—I was an eager student, both during my rehab sessions and at home. (Aside from gaining favor from Katie, I did want to mend my shoulder, after all.) By summer, I went back to my orthopedic surgeon, and he noted right away that my range of motion and most of my strength were back.

It meant the end of seeing Katie, but it also meant I was available to throw a few innings for the Reds during the stretch run that year. They never called, alas.

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