OPTM pt Saratoga February 2019

Monthly Painful Lessons It all started with a game of tag. I knew playing in the dark wasn’t a great idea, but my buddy’s 5-year-old son was pretty insistent that we play. And I couldn’t let him down. As geographically scattered as we are, my lifelong friends and our families don’t see each other that often. This year’s annual trip to see our Cal Bears play an away game versus a PAC-12 team gave us a unique opportunity to bond with our families. On the Friday of this autumn trip, our nighttime game of tag had ventured onto the driveway. I tagged the 5-year-old, and bolted just when the family’s 6-month- old German shepherd puppy dashed at my legs — a hobby this dog apparently enjoys — causing me to flop over and land on my wrist. The thwack was audible to my friends standing far away on the deck. I was shocked. The pain was excruciating, and as I processed what had just happened, I knew something was really wrong. Flashes of realization came hard at me: I might be unable to work, I might have a long list of medical woes. I took a few pills to help the pain subside, thinking that I really needed a professional opinion. “What am I going to do if I can’t work?” I remember thinking as I laid down on the floor of the guest bedroom — my makeshift bed for the evening. When I returned to California, I went in to see an orthopedic specialist. The X-rays didn’t show any signs of real damage or a fracture, but the doctor ordered an MRI because of the substantial visible bruising. After multiple reschedules and delays, I finally got an answer to my arm woes: I had a hairline fracture on my elbow. Despite the pain, limited mobility, and loss of strength, the good news was that it wasn’t knocked out of its socket or anything catastrophic. The whole experience reminded me of what it’s like to be a patient. I adjusted the way I moved, dressed, drove, and even worked. A Reminder From a Fall and Elbow Fracture

Fabrice’s bruised and stiff elbow

I’m happy to say that, through my pain and healing process, I didn’t miss one day of work. I was able to give quality — albeit slightly adapted — care for my patients. When I wrote this, I was seven weeks into my recovery. I was functioning at about 80 percent of normal. When I was first injured, gripping five pounds was a struggle, and through laser therapy, my own exercises, and nursing it back to health, I’ve gained most of my strength back. I still have a ways to go and, like I tell my patients, healing from an injury is about so much more than rehab. You have to work hard to gain your strength back. I’ve been doing this job for 20 years, and I know what it takes to coach and encourage a patient through their healing timeline. But I’ve learned that no matter how experienced and educated you are, it is still scary the moment you sustain an injury. A small hairline fracture knocked me out and left me drained. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that we take our bodies for granted. The ability to comb your hair, walk through your office, or even go on a weekend hike is all part of a beautiful design authored by nature. Our bodies are so simple yet so specific — a complex machine. This experience has given me more empathy for my patients, and while I always tried to be caring and understanding, dealing with my own vulnerability gave me a refreshed perspective on what I do every day. Granted, I could’ve done without the pain — but how can you say no when a 5-year-old asks you to play a game of tag? Dr. Fabrice Rockich

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