Monday, June 15, 2015

Thoughts on a messed up arm

This is a blog post about an injury. It is been a long hard road since I started this rehab on my injured left arm and its going to be a long road ahead.

This ordeal all began back in March of 2015. I had a gig the night before it began. We had a great time and played well. The next day, I was doing the dishes in my kitchen when I flipped a heavy frying pan over to rinse it. I felt something give in my elbow and that would change the scope of my next several months. The following Monday my arm was bruised from above my elbow to below my wrist and the pain was excruciating. I made my way to Triangle Orthopedics thinking that I would get an MRI or an xray. After a quick diagnosis, I was told that I had a torn bicep. I scheduled an appointment with a bicep specialist and thought that was where we'd be heading for the next several months. After some more pain in the ensuing days, I went to my friend, Thomas Michell in the NCSSM Athletic Training Department. He seriously questioned the bicep diagnosis and sent me immediately over to Duke for a meeting with a highly respected orthopedist whom he trusted a great deal. At that appointment, I was told this was more likely a repetitive stress situation and that the real area of concern was my brachialis. I was advised to go to physical therapy and did so for the next several weeks. By the time I left Durham to head to Interlochen for the summer, I was really feeling pretty good. I had a full range of motion in my arm and was back to playing the violin on a semi-regular basis.

But sadly, after only one week at interlochen of daily conducting and playing, I had a knot the size of a quarter in my left elbow, couldn't play, and was conducting with great pain on a daily basis. To make matters worse, I woke up one morning with hives up and down my arms and all over my back.  I was getting desperate.

It was at that point that I looked on the internet for a chiropractor or physical therapist that I might be able to trust here in Traverse City. I found Dr. Don Funk at his practice,  Structure and Function, here in Traverse City. Don is a great guy to work with at every level. He is knowledgeable, authoritative, and super friendly. He's got a small child at home, and we really related to each other both as Dads, professionals, and as caring, dedicated individuals. Almost immediately, Dr Funk reassured me that he understood the problems that I was experiencing, and that he could help me get on the path to good health quickly and efficiently. The problem, he told me, was a result of years and years of micro tears and the resulting scar tissue that developed. Essentially, my muscles and tendons had repair themselves in such a way that I was able to supinate my arm, but could no longer pronate my arm. He advised me that the problem could be corrected with PT and that he had a plan to get me there. He also readied me that the advise I had received back in Durham was on track and that this setback was simply par for the course. Basically, he could get me feeling better. And, I was thrilled that he wanted me to continue all of my activities. Rest want going to be part of the plan.

That was four weeks ago. In the time sinse, I have regained a great deal of motion in my left arm, the pain has diminished significantly, and I feel good about my future in conducting and playing the violin.  I have to tell you that just a few weeks ago, it was hard to imagine being able to play my violin on any regular basis again. I was able to fight my way through rehearsals but even the most basic of conducting motions for my left arm were difficult and painful. Try to imagine the two primary activities that have been central to your life and your career being in jeopardy. I was completely freaked out. I was concerned about my ability to do my job. Moreover, I was concerned about my ability to do the things that bring me such great joy in my life.

Now, just a few short weeks later, I can reimagine what my life looks like as a violinist in the classical arena, in I.finitt Road, the country band I play in, in Broad Street Collective, leading worship on Sunday morning at Blacknall, and playing and practicing with my children and students on a regular basis. I was worried that my practice of demonstrating string techniques in my rehearsals could be over forever. And, I was concerned that I would have to limit my conducting on some level which seemed impossible to imagine.

So, is there a point to this post? I suppose there is.

First appreciate the activities that you love in your life. I've always appreciated my ability to conduct and particularly my ability to play the violin. But when it starts to feel like it's going to go away, you grow to appreciate it even more. Ever since I had surgery on my vocal cords about 5 years ago, I've been intimately aware that my violin is my expressive voice. The thought of that voice going away was more than I could bear. Appreciate the activities in your life that you love.

A second point to this post is one of appreciation. I want to thank Dr. Don Funk for his magnificent care over the past 4 weeks. He's a magnificent doctor and I recommend him highly to anyone at Interlochen or in Traverse City that needs some chiropractic care or physical therapy. He was a God-send for me this summer. Thanks Don.

Another point of this post is simply to say to my colleagues, take care of yourself. I am the classic guy who doesn't listen to his body. I fight through pain. I play too long and too hard. And I generally don't take care of myself. Colleagues, learn a lesson from me. Stretch before playing a long gig. Stretch before conducting a long rehearsal. Ice sore joints and muscles after long gigs and rehearsals. And, seek out great health care early when pain starts. I recommend chiropractic care very highly.

Finally, I want to thank my friends and colleagues here at Interlochen, back at NCSSM, and all over Facebook-land, that have expressed concern and care for me as I have been battling this injury. I can't tell you how much your care and concern mean to me. I have felt incredibly loved throughout this ordeal. I'm not better yet, but I'm on the right path. Doctor Funk has recommended a chiropractor/ physical therapist in Durham that is very close to NCSSM. I will continue my physical therapy with him when I get home, and know that I will be back in good health with continued diligence and care.

In the end, it is been a trying 6 months or so from a physical perspective. But, I really think I'm on the other side. I am hopeful that as we begin a new school year, I will continue to feel better on a daily basis. It is so nice to begin a new school year with hope. It is one of the great things about being an educator. We have beginnings and we have endings. As we be getting a new year at NCSSM, I am anticipating a great year of music making and a great year for my own physical health.



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