It has been well documented we can be influenced by our surroundings or by what we hear even when our conscious mind is “turned off” or totally out of it, such as when we are asleep or under anesthesia. As previewed here on this blog, Mrs. Disco and I are doing everything we can to have as positive an influence on my healing process as possible. This meant we had a huge opportunity while I was “under the knife. During surgery, a time when a patient is most vulnerable/susceptible to picking up on what doctors/nurses are saying, we felt it would be a great opportunity to apply a powerful technique Mrs. Disco is not only trained in, but also amazing at: Guided Imagery.
Guided imagery can be explained in many ways—many of which I’ve heard, but I’m still not confident enough to publish what it is. So I’m going to leave that to Mrs. Disco in the paragraph below.
We look at it as a therapeutic tool using carefully chosen language, suggestions, and visualizations to positively influence the mind and body. What this means is that while Chris was under anesthesia for his Tommy John surgery, instead of listening to the voices of the medical staff and the beeping of machines, he was going through images and feelings of miraculous healing, among other things.
I find all of this fascinating. Mrs. Disco teaches me more about this kind of stuff every day as we go along the healing journey. There are some particular aspects of all of this we find truly intriguing. First one is the mind, in an altered state (under anesthesia for example), is capable of more rapid and intense healing, growth, learning, and performance. The other is that medical literature suggests when we have a sense of being in control, that, in and of itself, can aid in healing and recovery.
One of the things I was worried about with the surgery was that I would be able to feel what was going on, but be able to do nothing about it. Not sure where I got this, but maybe I’d flipped through an after-school drama one day and seen this phenomenon. Thankfully this didn’t happen, but based on how amazingly good I felt immediately after coming out of anesthesia, my mind was still working and listening.
So, if we can hear while we’re undergoing surgery and we heal better if we feel like we’re in control, then I’m pretty sure I don’t want to hear a doctor say, “I don’t think he’s going to make it” or “he’s bleeding all over the place” and I also want to feel like I’m in control in some way, shape, or form. Thankfully, I had an incredible surgeon, Dr. Kremchek, who is not only all about this, but we’ve noticed, he is also someone who focuses on the positive, naturally and effortlessly. So when Mrs. Disco came up with the idea for me to wear noise-canceling headphones to listen to an mp3 she made especially for my TJ surgery, Dr. Kremchek was all about it.
So how is someone supposed to feel like they are in control when they are actually completely out of it? Good question. I wondered the same thing.
I will add this aside…For some reason during the 2006 baseball season (before even meeting Mrs. Disco), I decided every time I wanted to sleep on a bus, I would play a mix of Radiohead songs. I had a bunch of their songs, but never actually listened to any of them, so I decided to listen to them while I was asleep. To this day, I have not purposefully listened to a Radiohead song while awake, but when one does come on the radio, I instantaneously know that I know the song and have heard it. Interesting…huh? I couldn’t tell you one lyric of any Radiohead song, but I have heard them—consciously or not—for hours and hours (long bus rides in the Midwest League) and they are implanted somewhere deep in my brain.
This brings us to my surgery. Mrs. Disco’s research told us we are susceptible to suggestion while unconscious, her experience made her the perfect candidate to record an audio track with Guided Imagery, and I had experienced first hand already the effects of listening to something while unconscious. It was all coming together perfectly. So for my surgery, I wore noise-canceling headphones while listening to guided suggestions asking my body to move blood away from the surgical area for a clean working space for my surgeon, asking my body to regulate my blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing by keeping it stable and by telling my body it’s okay to accept the new ligament as if it belonged there all along.
I’m so grateful God gave Mrs. Disco this amazing and totally pertinent ability to motivate me and help me heal through language and imagery. The mp3 is about an hour and twenty minutes long and its expansive content encompasses a bunch of stuff I don’t know much about, just know it works. She included the three sensory modalities (visual, auditory, kinesthetic). We all have preferences of how we like information presented to us and usually tend to respond better when they are presented in our “choice modality”. For instance, some people are visual learners who like to see what you mean in a diagram or picture. Auditory learners tend to “get it” when they simply hear an idea, while kinesthetic learners need to experience what you are talking about for themselves. Like learning to ride a bike – some may only need to see someone else riding the bike to know how to do it on their own. Others may only need instructions given and are able to get on the bike and start riding. While others need to actually get on the bike and try it themselves before they can fully learn. Most people learn through a combination of sensory modalities, so Mrs. Disco included all three on my mp3.
Here are a couple very basic examples of the three modalities she used on my mp3 (Mrs. Disco asked me to tell you these are the most simplistic forms of applying these techniques)
Visual: See your body healing. Picture your elbow becoming stronger, now.”
Auditory: “When you hear the beeping of machines, your body relaxes even more as you tune into your Inner Healer for a miraculous recovery.”
Kinesthetic: “Every time air enters your lungs, you’ll be reminded to relax and experience pleasant sensations of healing”
The day of surgery, I asked the nurse to give me at least a ten-minute heads up before getting wheeled into the O.R. so I could start my mp3 to help me relax a little more. All I remember is hearing my wife’s sweet, soothing voice calming my thoughts, reassuring me I was safe and in good hands. Next thing I knew, I was in the recovery room elated with my amazingly strong, new elbow and telling anyone who walked by how awesome it was.
Today if you were to ask me what was on that CD, I would have no idea. But the surgery went perfectly and from day one I have been healing amazingly well and have been ahead of schedule. And every once in a while Mrs. Disco says something that makes me think…hmm, I know I’ve heard that before.
Next up: NLP & Hypnosis
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.
This will be a relatively short and quick post. We’re coming down to the end of the season and between planning for off season travel back home and packing up, I’ll admit I didn’t have a ton of time to work on this. I will say I have another post to come out soon that I’m looking forward to hearing your comments about. In the meantime, if you want one of your questions answered on an upcoming Fan Mail Friday, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The last time I wrote (and you kindly answered) I asked about what pitches you threw. This time I have 3.5 questions: 1) Do pitchers generally only throw fastballs in the 8 pitches they get to warm up when they come into the game (or at the beginning of the inning) or do they try all of their pitches? 1.5) Do you have certain routine you go through with these pitches? 2) What glove do you use (make, model)? 3) Besides working on your book and updating your blog, what are you going to do in the off season?
Adam S. Arlington, VA
<2.) Most pitchers have a specific routine they go through for their warm-up pitches. For example, I typically throw 2 fastballs, 2 sliders, a change-up, a rise ball, and then finish with two fastballs. Between innings, typically I throw 7 pitches and will often take out the rise ball. Some days I will throw an extra slider or change-up depending on how the first ones felt. I think most pitchers are that way. If a particular pitch doesn’t feel right, they will throw an extra one or two. But for the most part, they throw fastballs. When you get on the mound, you should already be ready to throw, so for the most part you are just getting used to the mound and the visuals of the park.
2.) Since college, I have always used Rawlings Gloves. Do you hear that Rawlings? I have used your gloves uninterruptedly for ten seasons now and have had the option to freely go to another company. Who better to represent your company as a spokesperson than a loyal customer with thousands of fans who don’t play baseball themselves? That’s right, I don’t have a sponsorship. Yet. Oh, the model? I have had a Rawlings ProS15TC.
3.) To be honest, I really don’t know what the off season will hold for me and Mrs. Disco. We have been nomads for two years now since selling Mrs. Disco’s condo, so we will probably be visiting friends and family for a decent part of the winter months. I will probably take a month or two off from throwing and then will start getting in shape for next season around December. Being married to a yoga/pilates master and personal trainer, even if I tried taking a week off from working out and being in good physical shape after the end of the season, she wouldn’t let me. So needless to say I’ll be working out in the gym all off season. I will be looking for work (so if anyone is hiring, let me know) and hopefully will get some freelance web design work which allows me to maintain a flexible workout and travel schedule. Mrs. Disco will work as a trainer and yoga/pilates instructor as well. We are looking forward to the off season as it will really be one of our first opportunities to be a “normal” married couple for a few months.
I may play winter ball. We are waiting to hear about that.
Big fan of the blog. What’s your take on stirrups as part of the baseball uniform? Some guys wear their pant legs down to their shoes, while others (seemingly, just a few), pull up their pant legs to show some stirrup. I have to admit, I’m an old school guy, and I like the stirrups. Seems like from your picture, you do too.
Keep up the good work,
The Royals minor league affiliates made a uniform switch to stirrups in 2007. I have worn my pants up at my knees since high school, so I’ve always been a fan of the high socks, but now that we have mandatory rules regarding pants, I’m not that unique anymore. That being said, when I get to the big leagues, I’ll have the opportunity to be unique. As most everyone is aware, the pant style currently in the big leagues has become one of extremely baggy and extremely long pants. Like over the shoes long. I posted in spring training about the cognitive dissonance I experienced with my pants when I backed up a big league spring training game. My consensus was at home I would wear my white pants down and on the road I would wear my pants up with stirrups. We’ll see how that evolves.
I have been planning to do something on the 29th of every month in honor of Quiz. If you guys have any suggestions, I’m open to them. I may go with the mid-calf pants and high stirrups (see below) because I can’t grow a mustache on command and besides, let’s be honest, I need a few Rolaids Relief Man awards under my belt before I’ve earned such a supreme mustache above my lip.
Mr. Disco, (haven’t called anyone that since that one video in college, but I was young and needed the money), I am new to the Disco Mania, and have read the entire archive, but still have not found the fake interview that started it all, is it somewhere to be found?
J, Kansas City, KS