Although I was athletic and active, I could have been described as a “sickly child.” I constantly had sinus infections and had to have my tonsils out when I was 4. I was allergic to everything including dust, pollen, and bees. During the first semester of my freshman year of college, I was hospitalized with pneumonia and missed at least a month of school. At the end of the second semester, I contracted mononucleosis and was sick all summer. But I learned from my mistakes and was never sick in school like that again.
As a lawyer, I worked tremendously long hours under stressful conditions. Although I worked out and trained for and finished the New York Marathon, my exercise habits were not always consistent. I tried to eat “healthy” foods and followed the federal guidelines which advocated a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet.
Despite my best efforts, I gained weight and I was told by one doctor that I had pre-diabetes and metabolic syndrome. I had neck, back, and shoulder problems. I took numerous over the counter medications such as Tylenol and Advil and prescription medications like Nexium. I was in pain. I was told that I was an accident waiting to happen.
And then the first accident happened. I twisted my neck while I was sleeping. I could not turn my head and was in agony for six weeks. I received the conventional medical treatment: CAT scan, pain pills and muscle relaxers.
Next, I injured my rotator cuff playing softball. I again followed conventional medical treatment. I had to do nine months of intensive physical therapy to recover. But I learned something from each accident and I was determined not to make the same mistakes again in the future. I learned one important lesson that would help me later: if I were motivated and disciplined and consistently did physical therapy, I could recover from my injuries. I also learned how to research medical problems and find the best health practitioners to help me.
And then I had a third accident. I lifted a box of deposition transcripts without bending my knees and injured my back. Again, I received the conventional medical treatment: six weeks of pain medication, muscle relaxers and physical therapy. From the time I injured my back in about 1990, I would have a relapse about every 4–5 years. Sometimes, it would only take something small to trigger a major back episode. In one instance, I only turned the door knob on my front door. This resulted in another six weeks of pain and physical therapy. About four years later, I was playing basketball and landed funny. This time, however, rather than just conventional medical treatment, I started seeing a chiropractor and being more aware about my body. That was the last time I had a major issue with my back. And that was about 18 years ago.
Shortly before my last back injury, I had recently changed jobs and was working very long hours under stressful conditions. I was not consistently exercising and gained weight. One morning when I was going to work, I was not feeling well and had tightness in my chest so I drove myself to the emergency room. The doctors were concerned that I was having a heart attack and performed all types of tests. Luckily, the tests were negative but upon my discharge the doctor told me “you cannot just go back to your old life.” Shortly thereafter, I had an extensive physical and underwent another battery of tests. The doctor told me I had metabolic syndrome and was probably pre-diabetic. I was concerned because diabetes ran in my family. Both my grandmother and my father were diabetic. After that, I bought a mountain bike and started to exercise consistently again. I dieted and lost weight.
Although I was exercising and taking care of myself, I was still in pain and taking over the counter medications like Tylenol. I went to a rheumatologist who suggested that I had myofascial pain syndrome. Then I another injury. I could not lift 5 pounds. I saw doctors all over the country. But, despite numerous tests, numerous specialists could not figure it out. One doctor wanted to perform neuro-surgery on my neck. Luckily, from my previous injuries, I learned how to research medical symptoms and treatments and be a patient advocate. For example, I read The 7-minute Rotator Cuff Solution: A Complete Program to Prevent and Rehabilitate Rotator Cuff Injuries by Joseph Horrigan and Jerry Robinson and found a practitioner who formerly worked at Horrigan Sports Chiropractic and Soft Tissue Center. Although a number of orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine specialists could not determine whether I had a neck or shoulder injury even after reviewing neck and shoulder MRI’s and examining me, the practitioner who formerly worked at the Horrigan Soft Tissue Center determined that I had a shoulder injury simply by moving my arm. After numerous treatments and diligently doing physical therapy, I recovered without surgery.
A few years later, I sustained my worst injury. In 2006, I tore my ACL, MCL, and meniscus ski racing in a NASTAR course. I was also diagnosed with a possible broken bone and nerve damage. A short time after the accident, the ACL was reconstructed with a hamstring graph and the meniscus was repaired. Despite diligently doing many hours of PT a day for 12 months, my leg was severely atrophied and I was unable to resume my normal activities or return to sports.
In 2007, the doctor ordered a follow-up MRI which showed a “little scar tissue” so a second surgery was scheduled. The scope, however, revealed a “massive amount of scar tissue” and I was diagnosed with arthrofibrosis, a debilitating inflammatory disease. The surgery went well and so did the rehab. Then, after doing 6 hours of PT a day for 9 months, something “broke” inside the knee while I was brushing my teeth. My knee swelled and the scar tissue grew back.
I spent a considerable amount of time researching complications following ACL surgery and saw athrofibrosis specialists all over the country. In 2008, I had another surgery and did hours of PT a day. In addition, I continued to do a tremendous amount of research and consulted a nutritionist. One day I was browsing in a bookstore and discovered Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill: The Complete Guide to Fats, Oils, Cholesterol and Human Health by Udo Erasmus. I stared drinking a protein shake with 3 tablespoons of Udo’s omega 3-6-9 oil and eating an anti-inflammatory diet. Two years later, another surgical procedure was performed. Unfortunately, I was in bed for 10 months following this last surgery.
It took 4 surgeries, 8 years of doing PT for many hours a day and following an anti-inflammatory diet, but I’m almost fully recovered. I ski and mountain bike. (Sitting for long periods with my knee bent still presents problems.) As soon as I was healthy, I became a ski instructor earning Professional Ski Instructor Association Alpine Level 2 and Children Specialist Level 2 certifications. To be awarded the Alpine Level 2 certification, I was required to win a silver medal and returned to racing for the first time since the original ACL injury. I won the silver medal in the same course that I tore my ACL. I also won something more valuable than a medal. I learned how to overcome my fear and how to regain my health.
Although I tell people that I am 29 every year, I am actually much older. But now I feel better than I did in my twenties. I am college weight, pain free and I don’t take any medications.