I was on the basketball court by myself just doing some “moves” as I had always done since Haggarty Park in Jamaica, Queens back in the 1960s and ’70s. It was late May of 1995, and I was doing my doing my playful “fake [Michael] Jordan low post move” when I felt and heard a “snap” or “pop” on the back of my right ankle. At first I thought that a stone or a rock had hit me there or thrown by some kid being mischievous, but moments later, much to my sudden chagrin, I was unable to lift my right foot or push-off of it. I had heard of the dreaded “Achilles tendon injury” but immediately my mind went into denial overdrive because, after all, I wasn’t into competing with anybody at that moment, so why would that be the deal?
So I collected my ball and stuff and made my way over the low fence and into my Mustang, heading for the Emergency Room at a very nearby hospital. When I got there, I found that it must have been new Spanish immigrant and children day as the place was packed with these folks. “Damn!” I thought, “I ain’t got time for this waiting room shit…” So I just went up to the gals clad in those “nurses blues” smocks and described what had just happened to me. One of them offered that, ‘You probably just sprained your ankle” and that is all I needed to hear – for the moment. “Why don’t you just go and put some ice on it for a while”, she continued, and I drug my lame ass back off to the car, beer house for ice and home. My conscious was bothering me however, and telling me that something wasn’t right. It proved not that simple, when I found myself crawling around my apartment on hands and knees in the hours that followed. The ice treatment wasn’t helping; all of my toes on the right foot were swollen twice their normal size, and if I stood-up, I could only drag my right foot around. It wasn’t so much the pain as it was the horror and tingling sensation of it all.
Fortunately, days prior I had reunited with Guy at a college reunion, and we kicked it during a follow-up,”nice to see you again” phone call that next day. His Dad was a doctor, as we all knew, and when I told Guy what happened, he didn’t hesitate in telling me to get back to that ER and get examined! That is a real friend; no sugar-coating when you need the truth from a concerned amigo.
So when I went back there to Memorial Hospital, it was now after ten at night and I got examined relatively fast. Ironically the Doctor who did my X-rays had suffered the same injury and it was from his lips that I heard the word “surgery” in a major way in my adult life for the first time – I was forty-two years old – and it sent me chills up my spine, because he took my index and middle fingers and put them in the place of the rupture which was a space below my calf and heel on my right leg. I was recommended to an Orthopedic surgeon with a great reputation locally there in south Jersey, but when I saw him, it was the weekend before Memorial Day weekend, and his next available time to mend me would be a week after the holiday. “Uggh!” What could I do…he put a temporary “boot” on my ankle, gave me a script for crutches (which I still have) and said “See you in seven days!” ( or whatever it was, I can’t exactly recall).
When I awakened from the surgery, I had a cast from my toes all the way up to my hip on my right leg. I was collected by another dear college buddy, Eskridge and his wife the next day who drove all the way from Philly, after a mostly sleepless night in the hospital, carried up the fourteen steps to my second floor apartment after a stop to get my pain-killer pills (“Yay!”) and left with a pre-planned case of Heinekens, my TV remote, and other “toys” within arms reach. It was a warm early June day. What followed was about six weeks with the cast; food stamps, interesting courtesy from women at the supermarket who opened doors for me much to my shock, LOL; trying to use those silly go-carts to get around the store, interesting adventures trying to take a summer shower and not get the cast wet; trying to use a coat hanger to scratch an itch waaay-down inside the cast, having sympathetic visits from my partners who would come over with “remedies” to ease my pain, and “beach therapy” at the nearby Atlantic Ocean boardwalk.
After six weeks Doc cut my cast down to an ankle cast (that I still have as a kind of momento on my altar) and assigned physical therapy to learn to walk again – and this is the key point – mentally one has to overcome the fear that the repair will “snap” again or somehow become undone, and THAT takes a whole lot of time, trust effort and a great Physical Therapist who was, in my case “Kate” a tall, Swedish-looking blond who took me through my paces during the next ten months or so. In order to regain strength and trust it again you have to do exactly what your better judgement tells you not to do, and that is pull upon/against it; use a treadmill, ride a stationary bicycle, stretch it9″ouch!”), etc. At least I got lucky that way – a great-looking teacher to help me learn to walk again…”Fantasy Island”! LOL
Since I recovered, whenever I see an athlete do that unique “hop” like David Beckham did, I know immediately what went down; and he even seemed to have a “guard” of sorts on the back of his ankle, which leads me to believe that he may have had symptoms of Achilles tendonitis leading up to that rupture!
Looking at the nature of Soccer, I always cringe because the player’s legs have absolutely no protection. So if Beckham were to try to come back (too soon as most pro athletes are pressured to do), it would only take another player to “accidentally” run-up upon the back of his leg or ankle for him to re-injure it again – permanently ending his playing days. I know…he will have better and more prompt treatment than I did, but still…my prediction is that he is done playing soccer at the level he used to play, if not for good.
If I were him, I’d enjoy my millions and take up a tamer game – like Billiards.
pickhitt: true fact the Achilles tendon is the slowest tendon to heal in our bodies due to its location and tardy blood flow.
pickhitt: other notable pro athletes who suffered the ruptured Achilles and were never the same: Dan Marino and Vinnie Testaverde…
pickhitt: My repair still bothers me, especially first thing in the morning. I still use my “Pro-Stretch” device and sometimes wear an ankle “compression bandage/sleeve” if I want to barefoot it around the house. It feels the best, however, after a nice long cycle ride on the ten-speed, oddly enough – Go figure. This injury ended my days of playing the drums because you have to flex your right foot strongly on the bass crum pedal, and it just doesn’t feel “right” anymore (some would argue that I never could play drums, but that is a topic for another post, LOL). If you read The Iliad you will understand how I view it as my ball-and-chain for the rest of my life, and possibly female-related.