[This piece was originally published by The Third City on February 8, 2015.]
A few hours after I injured myself shooting hoops at a local YMCA, emergency room doctors at a nearby hospital sent me across the street to see an orthopedic surgeon, who quickly sized up the situation after examining my multi-colored, grapefruit-sized left knee. The surgeon was confident I’d ruptured my patellar tendon, a diagnosis confirmed by an MRI scan a couple days later.
The doc and I then talked surgery and rehabilitation. He told me he operates on Mondays and Thursdays, and he suggested we schedule the procedure for the Thursday after the Super Bowl.
I sat quietly on his exam table, still in my basketball clothes, staring down at my bulbous kneecap, which, no longer tethered to my left tibia, was now in a place it wasn’t supposed to be.
I’d not yet figured out how I was going to make it up five steps to the front door of my house that evening, much less negotiate an additional flight of stairs to my bed. Nor had I wrapped my brain around months of rehab. I’d even managed to block from my mind — if only for a few moments — the fact that I was now (voluntarily) unemployed, having given notice to my old boss earlier in the month.
But the one thing I did know was that I wasn’t having surgery that Thursday.
“Doc,” I asked, “can we push the surgery off a few days until the following Monday? Would that short delay be bad for my knee?”
“Is there a problem?”
“No problem. It’s just that I have a gig.”
Yes, that’s where my head was at that particular moment in time.
In early December I’d agreed to play music at a February 5 fundraiser for Raise Your Hand, a grassroots coalition of parents who advocate for quality public education. It’s a group near and dear to my heart.
I’d even lined up a couple of my good friends to play and sing with me that night, and I was looking forward to the event.
(Pre-surgery Raise Your Hand gig with Brian Wilkie and Diana Laffey)
I also realized, while talking to the surgeon, that it would likely be months before I could again play music with my friends in neighborhood bars. And having shot what was almost certainly my last jump shot earlier that day, I wasn’t about to let an upcoming music gig slip away without a fight.
As it turned out, my surgeon signed off on the short delay. He then prescribed a leg brace to immobilize my knee and some painkillers for my Elvis Presley Pez dispenser.
The following week, my buddy Brian Wilkie, one of the city’s best guitarists, drove me to and from the Raise Your Hand gig, loading and unloading all my gear. Anyone who has heard Brian play knows that in a just world he’d be performing on big stages in Nashville or New York; instead, my friend spent the Thursday after the Super Bowl helping me get through the evening. (By the way, that prescription leg brace cost me more than the Gretsch guitar I played at the gig that night.)
Let the doc do his cutting on Monday. Last Thursday night I needed to pop pills and play rock-n-roll.
Life is for living.