Rowing on Lake Santa Fe before my injury

Rowing on Lake Santa Fe before my injury

All through high school and college I played three sports. My senior year at college I earned letters in Football, Wrestling and Lacrosse. You may think, “Was this guy crazy? How did he have time to study?” I was born with a great deal of energy and when I wasn’t working out, I felt as though something was missing. Throughout medical school I continued vigorous exercise, playing rugby and then settled on rowing as my lifetime sport.

I began my rowing career the year of my medical internship at Boston City Hospital, and rowed that year in the Head of the Charles. I will never forget getting ready for the race. I was so nervous I leaned out to place my oar and fell into the water. Needless to say I was a little embarrassed. I rowed the race in wet cloths. Fortunately it was a warm day.

For the past 20 years prior to my injury, I rowed nearly every morning. I drove to Lake Santa Fe at 6 AM to enjoy the glassy waters, the herons, egrets, and osprey. The rhythmic rowing on this idyllic lake created a meditative state and served as a spiritual beginning to every day.

Now my day begins by grabbing my walker and hopping to the living room where I place a sleeve over my residual leg. I measure the diameters of the leg each day to document the degree of swelling and decide how many socks I will need to add to be sure the socket fits properly. I then lubricate the seal of the sleeve and slip into my prosthesis. Will it fit properly today? Will it be painful when I bare weight? I never know. There are good days and there are bad days. I practice walking. I try to stop from dragging my left hip backwards, and try to keep my hips even as I walk with my crutches. On good days I can use a cane. I always feel a little anxious about falling.

Two months ago I returned  to the lake for the first time since my injury. As my brother, Steve, and I arrived near the shore, all the memories of rowing on the lake came rushing back. With tears in my eyes I walked toward the water. The toe of my prosthesis caught in the grass, and I suddenly tumbled. I pulled my lower back muscles trying to catch my fall. I never made it to the water. My back pain forced me to turn back. My brother had to carry me under my arms to the car, and we headed home. I had back spasms for two days, and I haven’t gone back to the lake since that sad day.

How has your life changed since your medical or surgical injury?

(For the description of Dr. Fred’s preventable hospital injury hit “About Dr. Fred”)