Mahmood's broken hip

Body signals, and why I should have listened to them

What I thought was simple enough muscle strain due to the half-marathon I completed in Athens in May, and is fixable by physio therapy, turned out to be a lot more severe!

A couple of weeks after my return, I thought to finally listen to my body signals and go see a specialist. I consulted an orthopaedic surgeon who suggested that it was just the fickle groin muscle and advised physio. I did that for a month and realised a perceptible improvement; however, the underlying problem still existed, evidenced by my inability to ditch the crutch and my constant need with ibuprofen to deal with the pain. I could not put any weight on that leg, and the theories for that conditions encompassed muscle fatigue, knee problems and various others passed on through advice from well intentioned people, including a gardener in a public park in
Brooklyn. According to the very nice gentleman, 6 – 7 pounds of broccoli should do it. That’s what he is on to deal with his problematic knee.

So off I went to see the surgeon again on my return from the States. This one was also convinced it’s a busted knee problem and insisted that I should get some ultrasound scans for the muscles and an X-ray/MRI for the knee. The surgeon wasn’t convinced. After manipulating my leg in ways I didn’t think possible – coupled with excruciating pain – he was convinced that the issue is with the hip. The knee’s reaction, he felt, was referred pain. To be sure, he ordered an x-ray of the pelvic region.

hip / pelvic bonesWhen I entered his office after the x-rays, he was looking at the film and was shaking his head. What he said was worrying, and quite surprising: “this is criminal. a rookie physio should have realised that the problem was in the hip, not the knee. You, my friend have a fantastic tolerance to pain. You have a broken hip! Specifically you have a fracture between the femoral head and the greater trochanter. It’s amazing that you can put weight on that leg. You shouldn’t. What you should do is fix it, and do so quickly.”

Lovely. I knew I am a man, but apparently I’m THE man!

What I have to do now is have an operation to have a couple of screws fitted in to weld the bone in place and provide extra support. This is obviously done under general anesthetic and the recovery could take up to three months.

Lovely. There goes my plan for a summer holiday, and more importantly, running when the season starts again in September.

I, my friends, don’t do things by half. I go all in. Black or white. And my first ever sports injury is at 52 years of age, is a broken hip! Match that if you can ;)

Well, I’m afraid that due to my history with doctors and what my own father, may he rest in peace, went through with them, I don’t take their word as gospel and as much as possible, question them and get a second opinion. That I did, and the second well know orthopaedic surgeon concurred with the first and said that I have to have surgery immediately.

Now that the prognosis was similar, and the remedy very close, what remained now was choosing where to get the operation done and who should perform it. This gave me the opportunity to get a third opinion, because that would also give me the opportunity to check out the German Orthopaedic Hospital and Prof. Dr Heinz Roettinger.

I arranged to see him asap though a good EO friend – his schedule was pretty much overflowing. I’ve been in this hospital before, in fact we produced two films here, one specially for the German Hospital through a production for Venture Capital Bank many years ago.

Frances and I waited in Prof. Heinz’s office. When he walked in, he saw the x-ray on the light-box and without pre-amble said: “we have to operate immediately.” He did take the time to explain the options and recommended implants as a remedy like the first two did. I need now to make a decision as to where I would rather have the operation performed, and which surgeon should have the honour to undertake it.

I wasn’t comfortable to go to the first surgeon as he neglected to take an evidently needed x-ray/MRI to start with which could have saved me weeks of agony. Going to the second hospital wasn’t an option either as it’s not covered by my insurance, and they’re having staff problems; they were on strike for back pay. That left me with the German Orthopaedic as the choice. Unfortunatley they too aren’t covered by my insurance, but at least they agreed to part cover the bills, leaving me to pay fo the major portion. As I’m writing this in my hospital bed, sans pain for the first time in weeks, I don’t mind that. At least the leg is fixed, and I’ll be on a good aod to recover from this episode.

The moral of the story is this: listen to your body. Don’t just go for the goal, but maintain a sustained process. It’ll take time, but you’ll reach there in better health. Don’t rush things and seek medical and experienced advice.

My goal was to run a half marathon and train for it in the shortest time possible, this while going on a strict regime to lose a heap-load of weight just as fast. Those two goals trumped the journey I should have concentrated on, which is to gain a happiness through health. That was my strategic objective. But, enthusiasm took the better of me. It took me just three months to lose more than 25 kilograms, 33kgs when I was at the half-marathon’s starting line. That was eleven months since I started the weight loss regime.

As to the running, I just started running at the gym and then outside without much of a plan. I did realise that I have to follow a proper program to attain the necessary experience and stamina to run a marathon, so I downloaded an app to help me with that. But, the app I downloaded unwittingly was for a full marathon training, rather than a half marathon. By the time I discovered that error, I thought I might as well train for the full marathon anyway. That was stupid. So I went from 0km to 21km in about four months, all the while training for a fulll 42km.

Athens Half Marathon, Mahmood Al-Yousif running with Marsha Ralls

I did finish the half-marathon though and got a decent finish time for a first timer; however, I did feel something “give” while climbing that final hill to the finish line – the hill of death. I didn’t stop and never thought of doing so. I crossed the line, to one of the proudest moments of my life.

The down-side was that I didn’t recognise the signal my body was giving. I thought that after running 21 kilometers, that was just muscle strain. The way that I dealt with it was thinking that them muscles needed loosening up, so a couple of days after the marathon I went for a 5km run, followed by various gym sessions over the proceeding days and weeks. My legs were screaming for help. I offered them the help not based on professional advice, which I should have immediately sought, but on what I thought was helpful. As I did not have any experience in the field, I should not have depended on that alone.

With this experience I’ve learnt more valuable life lessons: Quick is not always better; attune to your body’s signals and seek professional advice and finally, join a special interest group and seek their experience and expertise. Much like joining the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation to help with my entrepreneurial development from my peers, I need to join a running club to gain from their expeience and safely develop as a runner.

Hindsight is always a marvelous thing of course. What I want to do with mine is get this leg fixed up and carry on with my quest to gain a happy and healthy life, but attain those goals through good methods and consideration, rather than assume I’m doing the right thing.

Maybe also it would be helpful to just have to remember that I’m 52 and not 25!

2 thoughts on “Body signals, and why I should have listened to them”

  1. Ah, Mahmoud, the benefit of hindsight! Sorry for your pain and I wish you a speedy recovery. I, at 66, run too – but a bit more gently. I walk the dog down the hill and then we both run up back to the house! So far so good. Get well soon. Best wishes, Peter.

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