by Bob Sparrow
The leg was bad from the start. Literally, from the start, when I was born, my right leg was broken. Not sure how it happened as I was busy trying to get through the birth canal at the time. My best guess is that when the doctor slapped my butt to start me breathing, I slapped him back and he dropped me.
It was fine through high school athletics, but in my first year of college football, I was playing cornerback (back in days when they let white guys play cornerback), and I was coming up to make a tackle, when I was not only faked out of my jock strap, but with cleats stuck firmly in the turf, my right knee went in a completely different direction than the rest of my body. I missed the tackle, and subsequently missed the rest of that football season. Miraculously, I went on to play 5 seasons of college football (counting my red shirt season) and two season of service football with the Navy in Japan and never missed another game because of injury. It got banged up pretty good sometimes, but never too bad that I couldn’t play. Playing quarterback instead of cornerback helped significantly. Later in life, it did keep me from running a marathon, when I was on an 18-mile training run, just three weeks before the LA Marathon, and it decided that it had had enough.
In 2010, I had finally decided to have knee replacement surgery and the doctor agreed it was time, but then wife, Linda won a sales contest which was a trip to Wales to see the Ryder Cup. I didn’t want to miss that or be hobbling around on one leg through the Welsh bog, so I cancelled the surgery. Upon returning from Wales, the knee felt fine, so I kicked knee-surgery down the road.
After 60 years from the initial injury (not counting the break at birth), surgery was finally confirmed for June 21st with Dr. Jay Patel of the Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine, CA. A word about Dr. Patel; he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Biochemical Sciences from Harvard University where he graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He then went on to earn both a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and his Medical Doctorate from Stanford University. He speaks three languages, English, Spanish and Chinese. Intellectually, I thought we were a good match, as I had earned a BS degree (How appropriate!) from Westminster College and spoke one of the three languages that Dr. Patel knows.
Dr. Patel did my hip replacement surgery four years ago and not surprisingly, I haven’t heard a word from that hip since. Dr. Patel continuously reminded me that “Knees are harder”. I wouldn’t know, I slept through both surgeries, but I can attest to the real professionalism, competence, friendliness and overall caring attitude of the Hoag staff. They are truly the best. My surgery was on Monday afternoon and by Monday night they had me walking the halls of the hospital and on my way home on Tuesday before noon. Those who have had this surgery know that the rehab is the tough part, and I’m told if you don’t do the rehab, you shouldn’t have done the surgery. But I’m confident in my willingness to work hard to do what’s necessary and I have confidence in Dr. Patel’s ability – for some reason he just doesn’t seem to be a slacker to me.
It’s now been two weeks since the surgery and I’m telling my physical therapist that I don’t feel like I’m progressing like I should. He looks at me, shakes his head, and says that I am ahead of schedule and that I should go to YouTube and watch a knee-replacement surgery and I’d see why it takes more than two weeks to heal. I watched the video. YIKES!!! Glad I didn’t watch it before as I might not have gone through with it. Saws, hammers, drills – it looked like a major construction project – I guess it was. Watch it at your own risk!
The leg, broken at birth and woefully abused ever since, has now been fully repaired, or rather replaced, thanks to Dr. Jay Patel – and they said he’d never amount to anything.