here's a story i told the other night at the peter miller retirement party. it's kind of a long story, and it's better told over a glass of wine with the members of the peter miller fan club in attendance. but i'll try to do my best for you:
years ago, when i was more agile and lived in duluth where there was not much else to do, i studied martial arts. i earned a brown belt in jujitsu, but because i never bothered with annoying things like stretching before or after workouts, i ended up with injuries. the worst was one in my right hip--we did a lot of hip throws--and it got so bad that i started limping. so i went to the doctor, who took some xrays and diagnosed bursitis.
yikes, i thought. that's an old person's ailment!
but with ultrasound treatments, ibuprofin, and stretching, it got much better. also, i quit doing jujitsu. that helped, too.
after a few years, i moved to the cities. one autumn, my right hip flared up again. it got quite bad. so painful that i was limping heavily and in pain all the time. i was pretty sure i knew what the problem was--that damned bursitis--but i figured i'd better get it checked.
i found a new doctor in the medical arts building not far from work. i made an appointment. he took xrays. he came out and slapped them up on a light board, just like they do on "house." he turned to me and he did not say what i had expected. he did not tell me that i had old-lady-bursitis.
he said, "your right hip bone is tipped. it's crooked, and what you are feeling is the bone rubbing in the socket."
i was floored. my hip bone was tipped? when did this happen? could jujitsu do that? ok, just kidding, i knew that wasn't the case. but i was astounded. nobody had ever noticed this before, and here i was, already in my mid-30s.
he went on. "fortunately, there's a cure."
he told me about a brand-new procedure that involves breaking my hipbone in three places and repositioning the bones so that the socket would no longer be tipped. he said, "i've never done this procedure, but i'm very interested in learning it. there's a clinic in california that does it, and i would be willing to go with you to observe."
i just stared at him. he wants to do what? he wants to break my hip bone in how many places? he'd be willing to go with me? like that's some kind of honor for me?
he said, "you'd be in a cast from your hip to your ankle for about six months."
i looked at the xrays. they looked exactly alike to me. i said, "i can't see where it's tipped."
he said, "you're not a trained professional."
i said, "i thought i had bursitis."
i don't remember what he said. maybe he didn't say anything.
i said, "if i do this procedure, what's the recovery like? will i ever ride my bike again?
he said, "maybe."
would i ever run again?
maybe. probably not.
he said, "you're a perfect candidate for this. you're young and strong and healthy in every other way."
i started to cry. suddenly bursitis seemed like nirvana. ah, remember the glory days when i only had bursitis? but even though i was devastated and the tears were sliding down my face, a small part of me was watching coldly. it said to me, do not trust this guy. this guy wants to learn a procedure. this guy wants to go to california. buck up and do something!
so i left. i went back to work. i called HR. i said, "you'd better approve a second opinion, because otherwise our insurance company is going to have to pay for me to fly to california and have my hip broken in three places and reset, and i'll be out of work for months."
a rather startled HR person said that a second opinion sounded like an excellent idea.
i found another doctor. he, too, was in the medical arts building. i made another appointment. he took xrays. he came out and slapped them up on the light board, just like on "house." he said, "you have bursitis."
he showed me on the xray where my bursa was inflamed, and even though i'm not a trained professional, i could see it.
i said, "what would you say if i told you that another doctor told me that i have a tipped hip bone and that my socket needs to be broken in three places and repositioned?"
he stared at me, and he said, "that's ridiculous."
i pointed to the door. "your colleague across the hall told me that just last month."
he stared at me a while longer, and then he said, "oh, i don't believe he would say something like that. you must have misunderstood."
i left. i went home. i took some ibuprofin. i did some stretches. my bursitis calmed down. i never went back to either doctor. and i am very grateful that, no matter how upset i am, no matter what news i am hearing, no matter what is going on in my life, there is a small part of me that sits back dispassionately and watches and thinks, and gives me wise counsel.
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