The doctor mouths “four to six” in answer to my question. Her eyes say more: I’m sorry, there’s no fixing this.
“Four to six weeks?” I whisper back.
“I’m ordering physical therapy and pain management at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab.”
I tell her I hate that place. The truth is I’ve never been there. The MRI shows a tear in the muscle connecting my thigh to my groin, the gluteus mimimus. Oh, and attendant flexor tendonitis. It feels like all the knives in the drawer have been thrown at my right leg. I look for hope in the word “inflamed” as if it’s a fire to be extinguished. The doctor assures me steroids reduce inflammation, but pain remains until the muscle heals. She arranges for a wheelchair to fetch me.
“Is this what puts baseball players on the Injured List?”
“Yeah. This kind of injury puts them out for the season.”
Major League Baseball has two Injured Lists: the 10-day IL and the 60-day IL. Players move off the active roster and onto the IL depending on the prescribed recovery time of the injury. NY Mets pitcher Jacob DeGrom spends a lot of time on the 10-day IL. He says he doesn’t know what he does to cause the tightness, tendonitis, and soreness in his various body parts. Well, I know! He’s throwing, running, reaching, stretching, swinging.
All I do is walk the dog and water the geraniums.
This is the summer we all break out of our pandemic packaging, swing our arms around the human race and make big, unmasked plans. As soon as we notice our freedom shoes under the bed, we meet the day like it’s Christmas morning. After spending fifteen sheltered months behind closed doors humped over Zoom squares, curled around books and squinting at TV subtitles we’re ready for the party.
I’m supposed to be riding my bicycle to newly reopened lakeside hot dog stands and hip new coffee shops. Instead, the IL calls for friends to share their leftovers and homemade cookies at my table.
I’m eager to get out and do what I did 18 months ago. I ignored the caution to start slow and go slow in reinvigorating muscles that weakened during the shutdown. Kaiser Health News published a lengthy article about “older Americans struggling with physical, emotional and cognitive challenges following a year of being cooped up inside.” Nina DePaola, Northwell Health in New York, warned that getting back in shape may take time. “Pace yourself. Listen to your body. Don’t do anything that causes discomfort or pain. Introduce yourself to new environments in a thoughtful and measured fashion,” she said.
Thoughtful and measured pacing eluded me as the city gardens came into full bloom. I walked farther and faster. I did nothing to injure myself. Neighbors who see me now with a walker offer a simple hello. If anyone asks I say I slid into third.
Now each painful step is involuntarily thoughtful and measured. I shelter in place dreaming of freedom.