Category Archives: Injury

This is Happening

surgery

I’ve known for months that this whole injury thing was going to end in surgery. During all this time that I’ve navigated the labyrinthine medical system — with constant referrals, tests, follow-up appointments and a lot of running around in circles – I’ve felt a little removed from the reality. In other words, the gravity of having surgery hadn’t really hit me because I’ve been running around in circles trying to get there.

Just the other day someone at work asked if I was bothered about surgery. They phrased this in graphic terms that would make a lot of people squeamish, and they were surprised by my calm reaction. It still hadn’t hit me.

This week I received the surgery packet with the exact time of the appointment, instructions on how to prepare, and other important details. We’re now inside of two weeks from the actual event, and it has now finally hit me. This is really happening.

Even though I’ve supported countless friends and family with their surgeries, I’ve never had one before. I’m not the kind of guy to get spooked by needles or medical facilities, but I am now getting a little nervous. My feeling now is similar to my only other phobia, which is a slight fear or flying. My mind knows that airplanes are one of the safest methods of travel, but I still feel weird when cruising at 30,000 feet. The same goes for this surgery. I’m aware that it is a routine, simple procedure, but I’m now feeling a little creeped about the idea of someone operating on me while passed out.

All that said, I couldn’t be more ready. In the last few weeks and months, there has been little improvement. There are good days and bad days. Even though the trip to Miami was a nice reprieve from the cold, the pain still exists. There is a constant burning sensation in the hip and groin region. Even though I can usually feel it in some capacity, sometimes it is worse than others. I’m looking forward to not feeling it again.

Many friends have given me advice. Immediately after the surgery, I am going to be in more pain than I can probably imagine. That’s going to suck. That’s also part of it. It is worth it to endure some tough days and weeks in order to get past this, and get back outside again.

There’s a lot of preparation to be done, but it is also important to treat myself and have some good times before starting with the recovery. We’re already talking about having a nice steak dinner on the evening before surgery, an indulgence that I rarely take anymore.

From here on out I’ll be counting down the days.


Surgery is Imminent

I knew that surgery was the direction we were headed, but the paperwork had not officially been filed. Everything took a little longer than usual because of the holidays, yet the result was the same. The doctor signed on the dotted line, and we are heading towards operation.

During this period of limbo, we had penciled in a tentative date of 1/31. When I saw the doctor Monday, they said that it is possible to get it done quicker, perhaps as early as next week. The wheels of the medical system turn slowly, however, so we have yet to finalize it on the calendar. My expectation is that it’ll be close to the end of the month as originally planned, give or take a few days.

We still don’t have a definite diagnosis, but we’re nearly 100% certain that the culprit is in the hip joint. The depth of the operation and subsequent recovery period will depend on what they find and what they do. As my doctor put it, they could just find a tendon “flopping around” (his words), which would be a relatively easy operation. There could be something else, any number of things that could be more involved. Since I’ve been living with this thing for 17 months (!), I’m confident that they’ll find something in the hip joint and will fix it.

Even if the surgery ends up being minor, recovery time is going to be slow. Hips heal slowly, as I know all too well. The best case scenario is 4-6 week recovery; worst case is around 8-12 weeks. It will hurt, and there’ll be a long period with no weight bearing. I imagine there will be some physical therapy as well, although we have yet to address that. Since cycling is a low impact sport, I could potentially begin a little riding during my recovery period. Hopefully. We’ll fight that battle when we get there.

I’ve never had surgery before. On one hand I’m a little nervous. On the other, I’m excited and impatient. I’m tired of this injury and ready to be rid of it. Let’s do this thing.


History Repeats Itself

“It’s like déjà vu all over again.” – Yogi Berra

We now have more answers, and soon I think we’ll be planning our attack.

It is hard to believe for me, but the culprit is another sort of stress fracture in the same area. Technically they are calling it a “stress reaction,” but since the re-injury was at its worst four months ago, my guess is that it was fractured and is now healing. Apparently my new MRI is very similar to the MRI from last year when the first diagnosis was made.

It seems unfathomable that I was yet again riding on a stress fracture without my knowledge, but in hindsight, it makes sense. I even mentioned to one of my orthopaedic doctors a few months ago that it felt like a fracture. For whatever reason he didn’t listen to me or pursue. Don’t get me started on doctors.

The pain has been rough, and now I understand why. The doctors never told me to stop riding. I did it on my own accord just to get some relief. The hip always hurts and the pain sometimes radiates, but if I rode, it would make my entire leg painful and sore for days, sometimes weeks. Again, now I understand why.

The underlying cause is still unknown, but there clearly is something down there, most likely related to the bone in my hip joint. There’s a literal laundry list of possible diagnoses, but we won’t really know until a surgeon gets in there and looks. MRIs can only tell a part of the story with hips.

The next step is undoubtedly surgery. I am tentatively scheduled on January 31st, although that could change.

Recovery time will depend on what they find and what they repair. I had previously been told that just scoping the hip would have a short recovery, but since they’ll likely have to do more, it’ll be longer and there’ll be a period with no weight bearing. It seems like 4-6 weeks is standard, but it could be longer. The bikes will be waiting awhile, I’m afraid, and that’s fine. This is no longer about riding, and more about living.

I know that a lot of people who read this site do so because they like to armchair adventure. Others like to learn about new and interesting places to ride in the southeast. That is all going to have to wait for a little bit, but it will come again. Thanks for being patient.

The one thing that I really appreciate from this site is the overwhelming support I’ve received. All of the comments and emails have been encouraging and have kept me positive. I hope you’ll continue to be there for me during the long climb ahead.


The Clouds are Clearing

Before I get into the most recent injury update, I wanted to talk about my bike rack of all things. Even though I haven’t ridden in about three months, I still have it on my car. I see it every time I drive, and trust me, it’s a hassle to get into the trunk having it there. Life would actually be easier without it.

I’ve purposely kept it on my car. Removing the rack during this lengthy downtime, to me at least, is the psychological equivelant of admitting defeat. It may still be a little while, but that bike rack will be used, and it could be sooner than we think. But I cannot rush myself.

This morning I received yet another cortisone shot. This would have both a diagnostic and therapeutic effect. First, we could further try to isolate the source of the injury. Second, it would give me some pain relief, which would be more than welcome after this rough recent stretch. The idea behind the diagnostics is that if the numbing medication cures the pain quickly, then we’ll know the source of the injury.

Before the shot, I was careful to be aware of my injury-specific pain. Today was a warmer than recent day, with a temperature in the 60s, so the hip actually felt a little better than usual, but I could still feel it there. I made it a point to walk around a little bit, making sure to concentrate on how the injury felt.

The shot was as I remembered — not too bad. It feels a little squeamish when the medicine goes in, but I would call it more of a weird than painful feeling.

I could tell a difference as the syringe was leaving my body. It was instant relief. It felt great. The doctor’s had me walk around a little bit, and I had to wait for my orthopedist to finish visiting with another patient. There was no pain whatsoever. He gave me a brief look and said I was good to go. We are not scheduling any further appointments until the pain comes back, which it probably will.

This means that the injury is almost certainly in the hip joint. I’ve suspected this for a long time, but I understand my doctor’s reticence to operate right away. Hips are funny when it comes to pain. I could have a back problem or knee problem that could be felt in the hip. Even now, on the bad days, my hip pain radiates down my leg, around my glute, and sometimes in my inner back. If the doctor is going to scope the hip, he’s going to make sure we’re not wasting time, money and a recovery period.

The next step is to wait and see. If the same type of pain comes back, then the next step will be surgery. Depending on my body, I cannot see this going longer than a few weeks. From there the question is whether I’ll choose surgery, and what sort of recovery time I’m looking at.

A good friend of mine gave me some invaluable advice. She said that even though I’m not doing what I love, there are other things in life to love. I can use this time to focus on other areas, pay attention to other passions, maybe even pay a little attention to my wife!

We are taking that advice over the holidays, heading down to Miami. The idea is that we can have a nice getaway, and also that the warm weather will be give me a chance to relax in peace. We’ll mix a little bit of family time along the way.

Since SteepClimbs has not been updated as much recently (sorry about that guys!), I’ve focused my creative efforts elsewhere. I started a new blog called AWCulture, where I talk about my interests in popular culture, history, and film. Most people that read this blog probably have no idea what an art snob I am. Since my tastes are far from the mainstream, I don’t expect many readers. But that’s nice too.

The title of this blog is fitting, because this is a steep climb to get back to doing what I love. It feels like I’ve been climbing a monster hill for a very long time, wondering when the punishment will end. Today was the equivalent of my looking at my Garmin GPS and seeing that the switchbacks are ending, the grade is lightening, and an intersection is around the corner. There may be one more steep pitch before I reach the end of the climb, and it will make the descent feel that much better.

Thanks for listening.


The Process of Elimination

iliopsoas

I went into this last appointment without any major expectations. The last several appointments have not provided answers, so why would this one? To be honest, the last few weeks have not been altogether pleasant. The hip area has continued to hurt, and my exercise has been next to non-existent. Not to mention that all these doctor appointments tend to add up. Cycling may be an expensive hobby, but it doesn’t hold a candle to perpetually being injured.

As expected, there were no clear-cut answers, although the news was not bad. The process of elimination continues. On this trip, the doctor pretty much cleared my hip joint from being the culprit. My leg movement is fine going up, down and outward. It is when it goes inward and when pressure is exerted when it starts to hurt. Eliminating the hip joint is great news. That means means that this is most likely not osteoarthritis, and I’ll be able to keep my hip.

We are again looking towards the iliopsoas area. Since all of my previous MRIs have been of the hip joint, they don’t show what the doctor needs to see. So we need yet another one, the 4th overall in the last year. This will be focused on the pelvic, groin area, and will not have any dye.

The doctor didn’t speculate out loud about the diagnosis, but my guess is he is looking at Snapping Hip Syndrome. That makes perfect sense, and has been mentioned several times. In this scenario, the snapping happens when the iliopsoas b crosses over the hip joint. The sound seems to occur in the hip, but we know now that the pain center is in the muscle. It happens randomly when I move a certain way, like climbing stairs. It wouldn’t show up in the MRI of the hip because the muscle would be at rest.

I’ll be more optimistic for my next appointment on December 2nd. There may even be answers. It is very possible that regardless of the diagnosis, this will result in surgery. I’m optimistic based o where we’re focusing now that the recovery time will not be as bad.