I doubt I was the first patient to ever burst into tears in the orthopedic surgeon’s office, but by the look on the doctor’s face he hadn’t seen too many. I apologized quickly, mildly embarrassed at myself. He handed me a Kleenex gently, and began to tell me about his years of experience, his success rates for patients like me...
A middle-aged woman in otherwise good health
I giggled between sobs, shook my head, and started to interrupt him, but I couldn’t. Words coated and stuck to the back of my throat, unable to go anywhere. He slipped out of the room quietly, leaving me with his nurse to start the pre-surgical paperwork.
C 6-7 disc herniation with spinal cord impingement
The pain, at least would go away. Truth be told, most of me was willing to hang up my skates for a chance to have full function of my left arm back. The pain was as if a blacksmith had taken a poker from the coals and lodged it in my left shoulder blade. It ran from shoulder to forearm, and unlike any injury I have sustained before or since, I could find no comfortable position to ease my pain. I spent the majority of time holding my elbow into my side in a weird Bob Dole-esque pose, and the lack of sensation in my fingertips made it difficult to scribble my southpaw signature anywhere. My wedding was in three months. It had to be done.
1 titanium plate
No more derby.
It wasn’t as if there was a great spectacle of a career- ending accident (a la Tart of Darkness), that would have been, I don’t know…respectable. I always imagined myself ending my career by landing a massive hit on someone twice my size that sends both of us tumbling across the track and into the stands. Then being wheeled out of a bout venue on a stretcher, giving the thumbs up to my team mates while under the influence of copious amounts of pain killers. I didn’t get that. I simply went to practice and came home. I knew I felt pain in my back, but I was too-cool-for-the-doctor- tougher- than- that-I’ll just take some Advil and I’ll be fine. The next day my body was so overwhelmed with pain that my fiancé (now husband) had to dress me and rush me to the doctor.
|Weaver makes surgical steel sexy.|
5 months later I was cleared to play.
I have my good days. Sometimes I still feel like I am least in my late twenties again. I can still get around the track when I need to, but my days as a primary jammer are gone. I’m happiest when I am at the back of the pack, with a long view of the incoming jammer. Three years later, my plate and screws have become a part of what I call my “bionic wonderfulness” – an inherent part of who I am and how I play, but also something different- they made me realize how much I love this sport, and how much I am willing to lose to play it. Since then, I have lost my PCL ligament, torn my meniscus, separated my shoulder, and sprained my ankle too many times to count, but I keep going. When is it time to stop?
I put in a call to the above mentioned Tart of Darkness, Head Referee for the Palmetto State Roller Girls. Tart’s accident was spectacular- I am not afraid to say that. On June 1st, 2008, she tripped over sprawled out legs and landed on her right arm. I saw the fall, but didn’t realize what happened until I heard her scream. As then-president of the league, I followed the ambulance to the hospital, and sat with her during x-rays and morphine drips. Two hours later, I was calling her mother to tell her about Tart’s shattered elbow and arm. She told me that night that she was done with derby. Her tone was somber, but emphatic, and she was completely at peace with it. She gave her right arm for the sport. What else could I ask of her?
|Courtesy of Shannon Stewart|
I keep asking around about skaters like me- those who have earned their “heavy metal” from derby and keep at it. I hear about those who have had plates due to prederby accidents or surgeries (Palmetto State had a girl with steel rods in her back from scoliosis), but I can’t seem to find any whose “bionicness” is derby-earned.
So, I ask you, where is the heavy metal? Does it affect your play? Do you think about it during the game? When is it time to stop?