For those of you incessantly checking the blog, all one of you, (hi Mom) – we apologize for way too long of a delay in getting blog post number dos up here. Mrs. Disco writing, Disco is currently whipping a BodyBlade around in physical therapy in hopes he’ll actually learn how to fly.
As we mentioned in the last post, Chris’s injury came out of left field. As bummed as we initially were, the week immediately following his injury was filled with such contrasting medical opinions that we had the opportunity to step back and do some serious self evaluation. We were obviously hanging on the hope he wouldn’t need surgery, so the stark contrasts in each doctor’s opinions really threw us for a loop. Going from one extreme to the other was emotionally draining and by the end of it, it got pretty ridiculous.
So, to bring you on our journey of the emotionally radical highs and lows, I’ll give you the timeline rundown of what we were told the week following his injury.
Basically, this is how it went down:
1. Mid game, Chris leaves the mound for elbow pain. (Emotions: Oh crap! How bad is it??)
2. Immediately upon entering the clubhouse he passes initial elbow stability tests, which lead us to believe it’s not blown out. (Emotions: Pretty bummed he had to come out of a game b/c of pain, but figure with a couple days rest he’ll be ready for his next start. We are optimistically cautious.)
3. Next day Chris is examined by an ortho surgeon. Ortho says, “nope, you didn’t blow out your elbow; probably just a forearm strain. Rehab it and you’ll be back in a couple weeks”. Trainer pushes for MRI anyway. (Emotions: Yes! Feeling relieved it’s not serious. Can’t wait for MRI confirmation.)
4. Later that evening, radiologist calls to say, “Sorry, rehab isn’t an option because you have a torn UCL. Surgery is the only answer. You’re out for the rest of the season.” (Emotions: Shocking, shocking blow. Lots of tears. How could it be torn?? Surgery? More tears. Really, really sad tears. Sad. Sad. Sad. Feeling pretty darn low right about now.)
5. First thing the next morning, two new orthopaedic surgeons examine Chris’s elbow and decide they disagree with the initial MRI report. They believe there is no tear, just a forearm strain. They recommend 6 weeks of rehab. Surgery not needed. (Emotions: Relieved there isn’t a tear and feeling lucky that he doesn’t need surgery. At this point we are feeling hopeful, like we got a second chance after enduring last night’s sadness. Dodged a big bullet. Today is a good day.)
6. Later than night, right before bed to be exact, the chief radiologist calls to confirm doctor’s thoughts. Says, “definitely NO tear in your elbow. No tear at all. Initial radiologist was wrong. You definitely do not need surgery. You just have an over-stretched UCL, making it appear “wavy”. You only need rehab.” (Emotions: Holy roller-coaster ride the past few days. Up, down, up, down, yes it’s torn, no it’s not, etc. Still bummed about Chris having to sit out for 4-6 wks, but thankful it’s only a month compared to a year. Hoping to get one final opinion from one of the top sports surgeons, we overnight Chris’s MRI to a few of the best elbow surgeons in the US. We go to sleep feeling very happy and very blessed.)
7. Late the following night, 10:30 pm to be exact, we get a text from Dr. Timothy Kremchek (doc for the Cincinnati Reds) asking if we have time to talk. Dr. Kremchek says, “Absolutely no question about it, Chris’s UCL is definitely torn. Text book MRI. He further explains that a “wavy” tendon does not mean stretched; it means torn. If Chris wants to continue playing baseball, rehab will not solve the problem – he will need surgery.” (Emotions: Impressed at the personal attention from this amazing surgeon. He made us feel like he genuinely cared about Chris’s well being. BUT… now with those new results, we are back to being bummed, a little discouraged and confused. NOW what are we supposed to do?? hrmph.)
8. Next day, we get a call from a different ‘top surgeon’. He’s very rushed and says, “yes it is a tear”, but gives generic information about rehab and says he’s “got 50 more MRIs to review today so if we have any questions to call his fellow”. Fellow says Chris could try rehab for 6 weeks to see what happens. (Emotions: Not feeling very important to this particular surgeon. More confused. A little more discouraged. Should we try rehab? Should we not? What the heck are we supposed to do?)
9. That night we talk to Dr. Kremchek again. He is confident it’s a complete tear. Doc explains Chris could try rehab, but a torn ligament is a torn ligament is a torn ligament. Kremchek understands all of the recent conflicting medical opinions causing our current state of uncertainty, so he suggests Chris try to throw. He says, “the proof is in the pudding. If Chris can’t let loose, if he can’t just ‘let it go’, he’ll have his answer”. (Emotions: Bummed, but feeling optimistic about gaining clarity. Thankful for Kremchek. That night we pray for clarity and nervously await the next day when Chris will throw for the first time since his injury.)
10. The next afternoon, Chris goes out to the field to play catch with a teammate while I watch nearby from the bullpen. It’s not good. He feels pain through the first couple soft tosses and is afraid to even try and let loose. He sucks it up and tries anyway. No chance. No matter what he tries, his body just won’t let him throw any harder than the 38 mph heat he’s currently throwing. (Chris’s addition: “At this point he’s barely throwing hard enough to be a tee-ball pitcher” nyuk nyuk.) Exactly as Kremchek said. He finally convinces his body to throw a tiny bit harder and it doesn’t go well. At all. Significant pain in his elbow. He can’t put anything behind it. He catches one more ball and instead of throwing it back to his teammate, Chris walks towards me… head down, shoulders defeated. He looks up at me with tears in his eyes and says, “well, at least we got our answer.” (Emotions: Tearful relief. Feeling grateful God granted us the clarity we prayed for the night before. Sad to acknowledge Chris’s season is officially over.)
11. We walk in from the field together with the amazing trainer, Jess, and call Kremchek. We’ve got some serious questions for him. He patiently and thoroughly answers each and every one of them. We know some surgeons don’t actually do their surgeries, so we ask Dr. Kremchek if he would consider doing Chris’s surgery start to finish. Kremchek says he does all of his surgeries and explains the entire process. We ask him to explain his “docking” technique of how he attaches the new ligament and ask why his is a little different than Jobe, Andrews, and Yocum. Before hanging up, we learn one final piece of information we feel valuable enough to choose Dr. Kremchek to perform Chris’s surgery. Kremchek makes a strong effort not to disrupt the ulnar nerve during surgery unless absolutely necessary because some patients experience nerve pain, tingling, or other side effects. We don’t want Chris’s ulnar nerve touched. We schedule surgery 4 days away.
12. The next day we pack up our car and make the 534 mile drive out to Cincy to meet with Dr. Kremchek. He is amazing. He does a saline MRI and as he noted earlier, this new MRI confirms a full and complete tear of Chris’s Ulnar Collateral Ligament. Because there wasn’t obvious trauma to any of the surrounding structures, the doc and radiologist concur that the UCL had probably been tearing little by little over a long period of time. This piece of information is unbelievably paramount to us for so many reasons. It is the final nod, the official “yes”, the complete confirmation that we are officially on a new journey better than we could ever imagine and we are oh so excited for surgery.
Emotions: bring. it. on. tommy. john.