Left Leg Lessons

22 years ago I fell 40 feet rock climbing in Ogden Canyon, shattering my left patella, breaking my tibia, and had my ear torn half way off. I had to have surgery where the doctor put in three pins two screws in my knee cap – surgery #1.

Two years after that accident, I crashed snow skiing and received a spiral fracture on the same tibia. A double whammy! The doctor put in a plate and 7 screws to support the spiral fractured tibia – surgery #2.

For more than a decade I favored my bad leg and avoided any major physical activity much more than hiking and some rock climbing… But running was definitely out. I got on an occasional ski slope, but the pain on the plate in the tibia was excruciating! So, about 8 years after getting the plate put in, I decided to have Dr Tom Bauman remove it – surgery #3.

This was a great decision. My pain reduced immensely and I was able to start new exercises such as running and cycling. From age 29 to 37 I’ve competed in more than a half dozen triathlons, finished two marathons, several trail running races, completed several 100 mile century rides, LOTOJA, and several other competitive cycle races. For the first time in my life I was able to become a very amateur endurance athlete.

In 2013 I started to experience some intense back pain and was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. This led me to reduce my running and to focus more on cycling. After several months of rehab I was able to forego a major surgery on my back. This was possible through lots of core exercises, massage therapy, chiropractor, and hours of yoga and pilates. I’m pretty sure this back problem is a result from my rock climbing fall I had 22 years before. Nonetheless, I had a great 2014 cycling season, and racing with the AtTask Canyon bicycle team has been a great experience.

Sometime around June or July of 2014 my left knee started to ache after long intensive rides and there was a strange grinding in my left knee. I went to the physical therapist and chiropractor and tried several homeopathic remedies to see if it could help with the pain in the knee. However, the pain continued, and so I succumbed to going to a doctor to get an Xray and an MRI. To my surprise, the x-ray showed that one of the screws was protruding through my knee cap had been grinding in my femoral knee joint – for 22 years! My response was laughter, I think as a mask of the anger I felt deep inside. After so many years this one accident in my life was coming back to plague me one more time.

I was referred to a Dr. Cooley who works out of the Park City IHC clinic and is at Tosh in Salt Lake City. He is an incredible doctor and came highly recommended by several athletic people and physical therapists. Upon his suggestion we decided to operate again to do in his words  “extensive hardware removal” from the left patella. surgery #4.

And Here I am today lying in bed in a straight leg brace and a super nice ice cooling system, and popping the occasional Percocet because the pain is so intense. I only hope that I can rehab and regain my mobility and perhaps even be a little bit stronger than I was before.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through all this, it’s a lot of humility. I keep having to remind myself that this pain I feel, and these trials I have are to build better character and to make me stronger.

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