Hey guys! Since I am back and playing baseball again on a regular basis for the first time in about two years I've started to get a lot of interview requests from newspapers and websites about the last few years of my career. Obviously the biggest topic and question that I am asked about is my injury. This is probably the most in depth I've gone into what happened over last year with my injuries and missed season, so I wanted to give everyone that doesn't know a chance to see what has transpired since last April. I hope you enjoy.
Experiencing a major injury is something most athletes will go through at some point in their career if they play long enough. Mine came when I turned 25 years old. I had made it through almost twenty years of team sports, including a lifetime of hockey and football, without ever visiting a hospital. I had minor bumps and bruises, and thirty or so stitches, but nothing that kept me out of a game. In most cases, nothing is worse than when the doctor finally says the dreaded word, "surgery." I guess my situation was a little different.
I could probably write a book about how my surgery and recovery from it went over the eight month period, but I'll save you the time, and me the carpal tunnel. I had been experiencing pain in my hand and wrist for over a year. I may not play a contact sport, but when it comes to a hurt wrist, I wish I did. It's nearly impossible to successfully swing a baseball bat when every time you do so resembles being stabbed with a sharp object. I had been to numerous hospitals, seen a hand full of doctors, and no one could really figure out exactly what was wrong with me. The hand and wrist are complex. There are a lot of things in a really small area that could be causing the pain, so pinpointing the problem is far from easy. In fact, problems with the lateral part of the bottom hand for a baseball player can often times be career threatening. Really not the way I envisioned myself exiting the sport just after my twenty fifth birthday.
Eventually, after what I always say, "enough cortisone shots to kill a small horse" and many different diagnoses, I was told I had a broken hamate bone. Like I said earlier, most players cringe at the thought of surgery, but for me it was different. I was actually relieved. Since I was told for so long that nothing was wrong with me, I thought I would never be able to play pain free again, because there was nothing to fix. Knowing that there had been a problem, and that I hadn't gone crazy, was actually good news.
I went under the knife on April 28th, 2010, about two years after I first felt discomfort in my hand. Here is a video before and after surgery my first surgery.
Looking back at all of this, the surgery was actually the easy part. It was the rehab that sucked. First of all, it's boring as hell. For the first two weeks you do absolutely nothing. I needed help doing the simplest of tasks. I couldn't wash myself, I couldn't cook, I couldn't drive, I couldn't do anything. After I got my cast off I was able to start using my hand again. First my job was to pick up change. I would empty my wallet and make piles of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. That was it. It felt a lot like being in pre-school all over again. I would do this everyday for about a week. Once I became strong enough I would squeeze a rehab ball that felt similar to play-doh. As the weeks passed I would start to use light weights, maybe three to five pounds, and do wrist curls. You can imagine how boring this would be, but it was also somewhat painful. I would go to the field for about an hour or two everyday, but other than that I was in my apartment reading books, watching TV, and sleeping. Luckily I had my girlfriend living with me to keep me company and take care of me, or I may have gone insane with boredom.
My rehab moved much, much slower and took much longer than most hamate surgery rehabs. In fact, I started to think I was crazy again. We were now two months out of surgery and I was in the same amount of pain that I was in before surgery! At the ten week mark, when most players who receive hamate surgery are back on the field playing in games, I was struggling to hit off a tee. I did so in pain every single day. I actually thought my career was over. There was no way I could play in the state that I was in, and I already had the surgery that was suppose to fix everything. After exhausting every option to get back on the field I just couldn't do it and opted to instead receive another surgery to see what was wrong.
After opening my hand up for a second time they found I had developed a cyst on the side of my wrist that they believed was the reason for my extreme pain and lack of improvement over the two months. After this surgery I rehabbed the exact same way as after my first surgery. If you thought rehabbing once was the worst thing in the world, try to do it all over again. The good news was that this time the pain actually went away after a few months. The fact that I've played through the 2011 Spring Training and am now two months into the regular season and I haven't had the slightest hint of pain in my hand is somewhere I wasn't sure I would ever get to.
I guess I've learned a lot throughout my eight months of surgery and rehab. For one, I've learned about the anatomy of the hand. Sadly, I've memorized the eight carpal bones and can recite them on command. (What a geek) On a more serious note, I've learned a lot about staying positive when nothing seems to want to go your way. If I had given up after my first surgery didn't work and the pain never wavered I wouldn't be playing right now. I've learned about being patient and staying determined in the face of adversity. I've always believed that certain things happen for a reason, and that helped me continue to stay patient and positive, and have faith that I would eventually be back to playing. And probably the most important thing I've learned throughout this year long process is making sure at least one of my kids is a doctor. Those medical bills are friggin' expensive! I am truly sorry Padres.
Thanks for reading!