Wednesday, September 16, 2009

And now for my next amazing trick!

I will have brain surgery standing on only one foot!

I was in surgery today but at the other end of my body. My ruptured achilles tendon was (finally) repaired today!

I ruptured the achilles tendon on my right leg the same week as my first neurological exams in August. I went to hurling practice with the DC Gaels and joined a scrimmage game. I was not expecting to play that night so I did not properly stretch and warm-up. I sprinted after a ball and felt a pop in my right calf. I knew immediately that it was a ruptured achilles. The emergency room was able to confirm this SIX hours later at 2 AM.

I went to an ortho the next day. He scheduled a surgery to repair it the next week. Usually this type of surgery needs to be done within a few weeks of the injury. Before that surgery could take place my golf ball was discovered. The ortho cancelled the surgery and wanted to wait until after my craniotomy. He also considered just casting my leg and letting scar tissue mesh the ruptured ends together. (Longer recovery and greater chance of reinjury but no surgery).

Long story short, we went with a different Ortho. The new Doc was recommended by the neurosurgeon. We met the new ortho who conferred with the neurosurgeon and we got the go ahead for leg surgery today! It was the neurosurgeon who recommended getting the leg done first.

Marcie and I were at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda at 5:30 AM this morning. We were very impressed with the facilities. More importantly, we met with the anesthesiologist who had spoken face to face with the neurosurgeon. He was able to reassure us that all information was shared and they had a plan that satisfied all three doctors. Special precautions were made to ensure no rise in cranial pressure during the surgery. I was in surgery for about an hour and came through with no ill effects. I recovered for a couple of hours and was home by 11:30.

I am in a splint and using crutches. The splint and stitches will stay on for two weeks. At that point I will get a walking cast. I have some mild discomfort but the pain pills are a welcome addition.

Note to "weekend warriors": An achilles rupture is common among people in my age range (35+) who do not work out as often as they should. Most often, someone joins a basketball, soccer, tennis, etc. game without stretching and warming up properly. That tendon is not as flexible as when they were younger. A quick push-off to make a move, lunge for a ball, or burst to begin a sprint can cause that tendon to tear. It makes a loud pop and feels like you have been hit in the back of the leg. Moral of the story: Take the time to warm up and stretch!


  1. Jim, Ron Wagner here (if you don't remember me: anesthesiologist who played ultimate with you in SB before you moved). Heard about your "golf ball" from Werbs and came to this site. After reading, I think that I want to go have an MRI - I just blew out my left achilles (playing ultimate) and had surgery two weeks ago. And, when I lived in DC for a year in the early 90s, I worked at NIH and could see Suburban Hospital out my lab window - I also ended up working at Suburban as a blood-draw tech. Too many coincidences! I'll be thinking/praying/sending good vibes your way on Monday. I hope that you are able to get some rest and calm time over the weekend. I'm far away in Denver, but if any of the medicalese needs decoding (esp. the anesthesia), please call 303-906-9553. Cheers, Ron

  2. Hi Jim:

    This is your lovely cousin Sue Kaminski-Croft. Wow the things some people will do for attention! Can't you just get a really bad hangnail? Seriously though, we all love you and are praying for you. It sounds like you are in good hands and everyhting will be just fine. I guess you need to take my dad's constant advice and that was..."You gotta learn to relax". We love you and we'll check the blog for any updates until you can write your own. Take Care!

  3. Dear Jim:

    This is your neighbor Pat (Larry and Maiya) Batie across the street. I agree with your cousin Sue. Way to get attention!!! This is also an innovative way to take time off from your job!

    You are blessed to be a part of a loving community. Know that all of your Jason Street neighbors will be a part of your journey. We will send up a collective prayer for you tomorrow and always, and will otherwise make nuisances of ourselves.

    A co-worker of mine, Jeff Schanz, is a brain tumor survivor. I asked that he send you a note regarding his journey and he was kind enough to prepare the message that appears below. I will deliver the referenced supplemental materials to Marcie.

    With warm regards,


    P.S. - We will see you when you return from your play date tomorrow with the surgeon.

    Message from Jeff Schanz

    From: Jeffrey Schanz []
    Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2009 5:55 PM
    Subject: FW: Surviving and Thriving
    Importance: High


    This is information that I’ve distributed in the recent past. Hopefully, this will be of assistance and Pat should be able to provide you with supplemental materials that I provided to her.

    Best wishes and prayers,

    Jeff Schanz

    I too was given a dire diagnosis 12 years ago i.e:
    · If you have the surgery, you will be dead or paralyzed, (I found a different, more experienced surgeon),
    · If you live, best case with radiation and chemo will be 12-18 months.
    While doctors may know the statistics (“statistics lie and liars use statistics”) they cannot measure the human spirit and the will to survive. That is why, 12 years later, I facilitate a Washington DC-based Brain Tumor Support Group and have been held up as a “gold standard” by the National Institutes of Health, but even with every 3 month MRIs, the docs (Dr. Howard Fine) still do not know “why me” as such a robust survivor. I have an idea as to “Why Me:”
    · I went on living, without trying to figure out why I was diagnosed with an Anaplastic Astrocytoma, grade 3-4 in 1997, with surgery, 34 bouts of radiation, and my first Phase II chemo protocol,
    · Recurrent GBM with another round of Phase II chemo protocol (Carboplatin and Thalomide) and now tumor and chemo free since May 2001,
    · Every 3 month MRIs @ NIH where I try to encourage all patients there that a brain tumor is a treatable illness AND NOT A FATAL DISEASE regardless of what the docs say,
    · Continued positive attitude, humor, good nutrition, music, reading, nutrition, and research all play(ed) a role in my survivorship journey,
    · Prayer for my Strength, Attitude, and Patience to continue down to path of survivorship,
    · Using all the energy I can draw from the Universe, God, friends and family, and many others.
    Not only have I (and hopefully you) survived this nasty disease, BUT upon retiring from the Department of (In)Justice, I was selected for the below position, with seemingly full cognition (or at least I convinced those that hired me!).
    What follows is a list of survivors that are invited to our local BTSG on the first Thursday of every month (if you live in the area, but even if not, we just refuse to lose)!
    As requested and welcome to a serious list (below) of BT survivors, friends, and family, and assorted others that meet to listen, care, and share. Hoping we can help each other starting Thursday.
    Note: I started my survivorship journey 12 years ago (almost to the surgery date of February 13, 1997) with an AA, Grade 3-4). Beware, you are now on the list!
    Jeffrey E. Schanz
    Inspector General
    Legal Services Corporation
    3333 K St NW
    Washington DC 20007-3558
    Tel: 202 295 1677 Fax: 202 337 6616

  4. More from Jason Street

    Jim, I’m sorry to hear about that rough spot you’ve run into just like everyone else I’m pulling for you. By the way I want you to know that I entered this year’s block party video in the Ukrainian film festival. The video placed 159th out of 159 entries, not too bad. It’s like running a distance race, being lapped and crossing the finish line with the winner. Beyond my twisted logic the Ukrainian judges wanted to know the name of the chiseled guy with the Brad Pitt/Paul Newman looks. So after you clear this rough spot there just might be film career for you in the Ukraine. Pack your bags, just don’t let Ukrainian fame and fortune spoil you.