Two years ago I tore up the tendons in my left elbow. Giving too many massages, going a little too deep, doing a little too much. (Trust me, massage may be peaceful on the outside, but it’s brutal on the inside.)
Each time I did a massage, my arm ached. The discomfort was one thing, but the emotional toll was, in many ways, much worse. What if I am doing permanent damage? What if I can’t do massage anymore? What if it hurts forever?
When a doctor diagnosed it as “pitcher’s elbow” I thought, well, that’s pretty cool – if I’m going to have a stupid injury it might as well be a baseball one.
It took more than a year, but today that elbow is nearly good as new (thanks mostly to Yoga, laser therapy, and patience). Nearly. But, now the right elbow is torn up … same thing, different arm.
So the cycle begins again.
Which brings me to my broken heart.
As the post-season hopes for the Baltimore Orioles grew dimmer and dimmer this weekend, their third-baseman Manny Machado was badly injured on Monday in a freakish knee twist that came as he was running to first base. His season is over.
He looked stricken far beyond the physical pain. (I think he started to cry.) And, I wonder if the physical pain was as bad as the emotional pain? What about next season? How bad is it? How long will it take? What if it doesn’t get better? To go from Superstar to disabled list on a stupid, routine play.
I’ve been an Orioles fan for nearly 30 years. And, in all that time, I have only one Orioles shirt with a number on it, with a name. I never even got a Cal Ripken jersey (although I’d be proud to wear one). I celebrate the team. I don’t like getting bogged down in picking a favorite player.
(Players can let you down. I’m looking at you, Rafael Palmeiro.)
Until last year, when I got this …
Manny Machado – the barely 21-year-old poster child for the Orioles’ exciting and bright future — made me break my rule.
Because he hits doubles like crazy. And, does amazing things like this …
And, this …
Nowadays, when my elbow feels good, everything is good. But, when my elbow feels bad, which is still a lot of the time, I get frustrated. I worry about the quality of the massage I am giving. I worry about the long-term damage I might be causing.
I love what I do. What will I do, if I can’t do this?
My office is in a small rural community. I keep my massage prices low so people can afford me. So I see a lot of clients from all walks – many dealing with chronic pain from repetitive stress and work-related damage. Pain much worse than my crabby elbow tendons.
Construction workers, butchers, ranchers and farmers, plumbers, nurses, truck drivers, carpenters, mail carriers, police officers, piece workers.
All I can hope to do is try to take the edge off for them, to work out the sticky places, loosen things up, and maybe give them some brief relief.
One client, who deals with daily pain from her job, said to me recently, “There’s no other jobs out there. I can’t afford to lose this one.” She worries every night that she won’t be able to “hold together” enough to work.
I suppose Manny thought some of those same sorts of things. From invincible to injured in a blink.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter whether you make a million dollars or just scrape by. Injury is the great equalizer.
It can take away your job and your paycheck. It can take away something you love. Just like that.
But, there’s some good news.
Manny’s MRI showed a tear to a ligament that helps stabilize and protect the kneecap. A painful injury, but one that generally heals on its own after six to eight weeks of rest and rehab. It could have been much worse.
I’m not 21 anymore. Healing is much better, much faster, when you’re 21, like Manny.
And, Manny has access to resources that many of us don’t. He has a team of doctors and therapists who will help him recover. (Hopefully, he has an awesome massage therapist. And, yoga therapist. And, if not … well, I hope the Orioles finally look me up.)
So, no worries, Manny … my heart is broken for you today. But, I know you’ll heal. You have to. Baseball’s no fun without you.
And, for those of us who hurt a little – or a lot – doing what we love, we want you to get better. We need you to get better. So you can inspire us to heal, too.