Forgive the terrible pun but you have to keep some sense of humour as life twists and turns. I’ve fallen prey to the cliche of silence during a prolonged period of difficultly. It’s been 437 days since I was hit by a car. I’ve moved past the incident but the consequences are part of my daily life—a fact I still can’t quite believe. I haven’t wanted to sound like a broken record, whining about it and blaming it for where I am or what I have or haven’t done; inside, however, it’s impossible not to think about it, especially during the last seven months.
I got over the initial mental and physical trauma of the accident, even racing twice last season, but looking back I rushed back into competition, eager to prove I could overcome and that my career was worth fighting for. I paid the price, having difficulty recovering, under-performing, and ultimately I was forced to call it a season after only two events. Quite honestly, I simply forgot what my normal pain-free and highly functioning body felt like and that recalibration is something I had to fight all winter as I turned my focus to the 2019 season.
I worked hard during the off-season but almost immediately I began to have strange pains in my left leg during hard efforts. At first I thought it was fatigue and some physiotherapy would put me right but I just couldn’t seem to shake it. I got worse, took time off, and built back up only have the pain return. The cycle repeated itself several times while I tried different types of treatment, had additional MRI scans, and saw different doctors. I had different diagnoses, the general outcome of which seemed to be that I had to have patience and allow my body to heal on its own timeline. But the cycle continued and I was getting frustrated along with the kind people trying to help me.
Thanks to all the medical personnel that have helped me along the way.
Finally, it what seemed like a bunch of coincidences that accumulated to a small miracle, I saw a sports doctor that specialized in hip, groin, and knee injuries. “I think they missed something on your MRI,” he suggested. After full examination, we walked back to the computer for him to look at the scans. “I think what you have is a hip labral tear,” he said to me. “Can you fix it?” I instinctively replied, not having any understanding of what he said. “Ummmm….” he began but didn’t finish. It felt like the longest “ummm” in the world, only to be followed by silence as he opened up my MRI scans. My head stayed clear but I could feel my heart lurch into my throat.
We continued to sit in silence as he navigated through my MRIs, quickly flicking through images, pausing and zooming in, leaning in and back from the screen. It was all black and grey fuzz to me; what was he seeing? “There,” he said assuredly, as if he had found Waldo.
He pointed to a black swoosh over a white piece of my hip cartilage and then a second one. Whether it was directly from the impact of the vehicle or a consequence of the muscle damage inflicted, he couldn’t say; regardless, here was the car accident again, the mental blow of the diagnosis feeling just as forceful as the front hood of the car. He started to explain the anatomy of the hip, what a “labral” tear meant, and how surgery was performed to fix it, all while the practical side of me attempted to keep scrupulous mental notes and ask the appropriate questions. The emotional side of me was wondering how on earth the previous two doctors had missed this. Just as he was finished explaining arthroscopic surgical techniques, he concluded that I probably could avoid surgery with a focused one to two months off running, physiotherapy, and rehabilitation. If I could get my hip functioning again then maybe I could avoid surgery and my career wasn’t completely down the toilet.
I went home, as every patient does, to the Google the sh!t out of “hip labral tear.” I went down the rabbit hole, eventually realizing that I needed to get off the internet, eat a cookie, and go to bed early. I crawled into bed emotional exhausted from the weight of what had just happened, acknowledging the fact that this could be the beginning of the end of my professional triathlon career, but I also felt incredibly relived. After seven months of defeat, of feeling like I as going crazy and losing everything, on top of getting over the accident, I finally felt like I had my bearings. I wasn’t sure what exactly the future was going to bring but I still fiercely knew what wanted and now, thanks to the kindness and well-trained eye of a hip specialist, I knew what I was fighting and that there was hope.