I heal fast. I don’t tend to bruise, I don’t tend to get cut and whilst I’m sore for a while, and had the doomflu at Christmas, I heal fast. Unless, that is, I happen to have had a tendon injured. In which case I heal at roughly the same rate as geological time periods fast. I wake up hurt. I go to sleep hurt. I walk around hurt. I’m better, mostly, don’t get me wrong, ater all I can actually walk around hurt now, but I’m still not right. It’s the most irritating type of injury too, because I’m about eighty percent there, it’s just that last twenty percent that seems to be taking a very, very long time.
So I did the thing I don’t like doing. I admitted I was hurt. I admitted I wasn’t healing at the pace I wanted to and I made an appointment with a physiotherapist.
I’m conditioned to, if not assume the worst case scenario, then certainly have it on my radar. I’m also conditioned to know that people my size have three things they tend to have to worry about; diabetes, heart attacks and bad knees. I eat, certainly not right, but far better than I have in the past, I walk a bare minimum of forty minutes a day and learn to fight for two hours every week so my heart’s in good shape and my knees? Well MeatLoaf once sang two out of three ain’t bad and then he lost a lot of weight and starred in Fight Club so I feel Mr Loaf speaks for me on this one. My knees are a bit shot, from seven years in retail and four years in school rugby being too much of a macho idiot to stretch in front of his team mates.
Oh and thirty plus years of being overweight. But that I’m working on.
So I went in preparing for her to look at my knees, recoil in horror and tell me that I could never do Judo again. In fact, I was fully expecting to be told that Judo was out, any other martial art was out (And I’m eyeing Taekwondo for next year) and that I should in fact be a good little fat loser and go and sit on my stool behind the comic store counter and wait for the diabetes and heart attack to sucker punch me whilst my knees exploded.
Note I said I consider the worst scenario, not whether I consider the sensible worst case scenario.
So off I went with my Superman travel mug full of coffee and a little trepidation. This was added to by the fact that I don’t like hospitals. Some people instinctively recoil from spiders or bears or kids in hooded sweatshirts. I recoil from hospitals because every single time, without exception it often feels like, that I’ve set foot in one something bad has happened to someone important to me. I’ve had both parents in hospital in the last two years, my wife’s been in twice and my best friend was in and out of hospital in the last couple of years of his life. Say the word hospital to me and my shoulders rise, and I start looking for one of my large jackets.
Let’s talk about armour for a moment. I am, as Louise Wener once sang, a big man, but I’m out of shape. I like to hide behind the big though because big speaks to reliable and dependable, it suggests I’m tough and capable, it gets doors opened for me because, in some cases, I suspect because people are frightened I could barge the door down anyway. I could. I don’t. That, hopefully, speaks well to me.
I like armour, I like what it means. I like the idea of being protected from a hostile environment but still being able to interact with it. I have a huge leather jacket I wore for years and which, endearingly, is now genuinely too big for me. I have a duffel coat that I’ll wear at the earliest opportunity come winter and a suit jacket that for the very first time in my entire life, I can do up. They’re all armour, just like the big, just like the clever, just like the jokes.
Hospital strips me of that armour. It turns me back into a frightened child and I could feel my shoulders hunch as I went in. I wanted to be somewhere else, I wanted to be at work, to be at home, to be doing anything than wandering into a building filled with people who’d either had bad news, or were about to get worse. Like I say, not sensible but very much there.
So I went and had coffee. Because you can do that in hospital now. Costa have a franchise in the front entrance and, with twenty minutes to kill before my appointment, I drank a large bucket of caffeiney chocolatey ice and thought about what would happen if the diagnosis was bad. If I needed an op? I was going to ask to see it because a friend of mine had a knee operation, watched it and said it was fascinating. I also wanted that because it was hard, difficult, not what I would normally do and that’s just what this injury has taken away from me; the ability to take a risk. Oh certainly I still train but sparring felt wrong, off. I was gunshy,leaning to the right and away from my broken wheel and in a sport where balance is everything that was dangerous, literally. That’s even before you get to someone injuring it worse than it already was, or landing badly or anyone of a dozen other bad news bombs just waiting to go off.
So I drank my coffee and made the decision and then went to see my phyisiotherapist. Because then I could get better. Then I could be back at full speed, training, sparring, fighting. The tournament I missed still haunts me a little, even now, and I want that balance redressed and soon. But first I needed to get through my appointment.
My physio was a small, precise lady who told me to roll my trouser legs up and take my shoes and socks off. Feeling a little like a 1940s bather, I complied and she had me lie down on a couch and began manipulating my knee. There were big plains of motions where it worked fine. There were about three where it really, really didn’t. She finished and told me three things in quick succession;
-My ACL and PCL were both fine.
-My tendons seemed a bit ‘irritated’.
-I’d be on a six week course of treatment.
Firstly, your Anterior Cruciate Ligament and Posterior Cruciate Ligament are big deals. These are where most of the weight and movement in the knee sits and an ACL or PCL injury can take you out of training for months or potentially altogether. I’m a Mixed Martial Arts fan and I’ve lost count of the amount of fighters whose career has been shortened by an ACL or PCL injury so that not being the case is definitely good news. Likewise, my tendons being ‘irritated’ whilst conjuring up amusing images of tendons grumbling about me over the water cooler, is also good news. It means nothing’s broken or torn, there’s no cartilage in my knee, nothing permanent. I just got a bad tweak and it’s taking a while to get back on the horse.
Or the teapot. You see for the next five weeks I need to stand on one leg, the bad one and bend my knee. I need to flex my quadricep daily. I need to raise my knee and let it support the whole weight of my leg. In other words, look like I’m about to break into ‘I’m a little teapot.’
I left refreshed and relieved and with that rarest of things, a positive hospital experience. The thing is I can’t spar at the moment, something my physio agreed with because it’s an open invitation to re injury. I can train but I can’t spar because I need to rehab and make no mistake, I’m going to rehab. Because once I’ve rehabbed I will get my yellow belt, will get fitter, I will spar again and I will be two steps closer to where I need to be. I’ll just look like the world’s largest teapot doing it and frankly, in this instance, dignity is a small price to pay. Altogether now, I’m a little teapot…