Part 2: A lesson in patience and perseverance
I wish I could start part 2 of this blog with “I’m all healed and ready to go.” I’m not there yet. Hopefully I will be soon though.
I was very nervous for my first meeting with Dr. Ibrahim, what if he couldn’t help me either? But the minute I met him, he said “I think I know what’s going on, and I can help.” Even if he didn’t really, the confidence in what he said was exactly what I needed to hear. He did a quick exam, and wheeled over the ultrasound cart. I pointed to the area that caused the most pain, and he put the sound head (the part that goes on your body) on my hamstring/glute. In about 3 seconds he said, “I see it, you have a torn hamstring that’s pressing on the sciatic nerve.” I couldn’t believe it. In the past year, not one person could give me a definitive diagnosis, and he saw my problem in 3 seconds. I cried with relief. It turns out, MRI’s can miss 30% of all tears. And my tear was in such a position, that it wasn’t visible.
Dr. Ibrahim told me that with his ultra sound, he wanted to do a series of PRP injections. And these injections would re-start my healing process, and heal the torn hamstring. Let me explain what PRP is, as it’s still mostly unknown. PRP stands for platelet rich plasma. The process goes like this. You have your own blood drawn (I believe it was a 50cc syringe), then the blood is centrifuged for 15min. The centrifuge separates the plasma and red blood cells. The platelet rich plasma is then injected (using an ultrasound to guide, or unguided) into the injury. The injection lasts for only a matter of seconds. It is incredibly painful, almost like bee sting magnified. One other thing about PRP injections. They are not covered by insurance and can range from $300-1500 dollars each. Most people receive 1-3 injections, so it’s not a cheap procedure.
After the injection, you are good to go home and resume normal activities of daily living, not exercise just yet. I have received two PRP injections from Dr. Ibrahim, the second one this past Tuesday the 7th. I am approximately 48 hours post injection, and they pain is moderate. After my first injection, I felt fairly good for the first 24 hours. By 48 hours I would barely walk. And for the first two weeks post injection, I had trouble walking, sitting, driving and sleeping. In fact, after my first injection in December, I was supposed to do an event in Fredericksburg, VA. With traffic, it’s approximately a 3 hour drive. About one hour in, the pain was so intense that I was having trouble driving as I couldn’t see clearly! I had to pull over, stand for a bit, then drive home. If you decide to get a PRP injection, make sure the first week post injection, you don’t have to drive for an extended period of time, or have to sit for a lengthy time without standing. Remember, they will inject a large amount of fluid back into an injured area, causing more swelling and initial pain to the injury. This was my case at least. I did read another athlete’s blog that said after the first week they started exercising again. That is definitely not the same for me.
So here I am approximately two days post 2nd injection. I’m not sure if I will need a third injection, but if I do, I will get it. I have spent thousands of dollars on medical bills this past year, but if the PRP injections work, then it is worth it. If you have an injury, but maybe it’s not as severe, or maybe you just can’t swing the cost of PRP, there is another procedure called prolotherapy. Prolotherapy is also used to regenerate and heal tissues, tendons and ligaments. Typically, a dextrose, or sugar solution is injected into the body, rather than your own blood. These procedures are much less expensive, and I have heard good things about them too. Dr. Ibrahim also does prolotherapy, and other non surgical procedures. I have met many sports doctors in the past 15 years, and by far, Dr. Ibrahim tops them all. Not only does he sit at your level (not standing over you or across the room), he listens with compassion. He didn’t have to, but he heard the desperation in my voice and got me an appointment much sooner than his secretary had said. And because he is so good, his schedule is crazy. He also asks his secretary to fit me in, no matter what. I am not a Washington Redskins player, or DC United soccer player, I am just a triathlete who wants to race again. If you are injured and find yourself in the DC area, he is the first person I would see.
If after the 2nd injection, my hamstring is healed, I will be able to start exercising in February. I am trying to not get anxious about this, but I am so ready to begin again. This year, when I can begin again, I will focus on my overall strength. And by strength, I mean small stabilizer muscles and core, then what you would think of traditional strength. Then, once I know I am strong enough, I will begin training again. I hope to be able to do some 5ks and 10ks, and sprint and olympic tri’s. It will be a long cry from IM or Leadman 250, but at least I will be training and racing again. I might be much slower than I was, and it might take the next year to rebuild my endurance and speed, but that’s ok, I can and will do it.