Greg Rusedski, the former world No. 4 tennis star, once said, “The downside isn’t really injury, fear of injury, or the process of fighting injury. The downside, the very worst thing in the world, is surgery.”
True. False. I had surgery last Wednesday. Yes, I tried to avoid being cut open by a knife, but no, it wasn’t “the very worst thing in the world.”
Sports breeds injuries. This we know. If you swim, run, kick, spike, and rebound for hours and hours each month, chances are—apart from sporting a slimmer waistline—some type of injury will befall you. I’ve had my share. Knee soreness. Plantar fasciitis. The Iliotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome. I’ve experienced those. So, I’m sure, have you—if you’ve pushed your body to run faster, jump higher, smash harder.
I smashed too hard. After playing tennis for 24 years, my shoulder cried foul. “TIME OUT!” it screamed. Overuse, lack-of-stretching, little-rest-after-serving—whatever you call it, my shoulder got injured. I rested. Put ice. Paid for therapy sessions. Swung a lightweight racket. Nothing worked. The pain persisted.
I couldn’t undress tight-fit shirts without Jasmin’s help. Scratching my back? My daughter Jana would have to relieve the itch for me. Sleeping on my right side? No, no. That elicited midnight pain. As to my wristwatch, I’ve always worn it on my right—now it’s on my left.
And so, after several do-it-myself remedies that failed, I visited Cebu’s sports medicine guru, Dr. Jose Antonio “Tony” San Juan. Three years ago and hobbled with a knee injury, it was Doc Tony who fixed the problem. An ITB injury from running? It was Dr. San Juan who came to the rescue. So, once again, I visited his Chong Hua Medical Arts (Cebu Orthopedic Institute) clinic two months ago.
Dr. Tony San Juan, though still youthful at 41 years of age (and who sports an 8-handicap in golf), has vast medical training: He studied at the UP College of Medicine then continued his education (Fellowship Training) in Joint Replacement Surgery and Arthroscopic Surgery/Sports Medicine at the Flinders Medical Center/Repatriation General Hospital in Adelaide, South Australia and at the Univ. of Cincinnati Medical Center in Ohio, U.S.A.
Within minutes of inspecting my shoulder, he spotted the problem: subacromial impingement (the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles became irritated and inflamed—no thanks to serving and overhead-smashing from tennis). Dr. San Juan advised that I get an MRI but speculated that the best solution might be surgery. As he rightly predicted, the MRI results confirmed his assessment and so surgery (subacromial decompression) was scheduled.
I arrived at Chong Hua at 6 a.m. last Wednesday. After a series of tests, by 10:15 a.m., I was wheeled inside the Operating Room. Dr. Teodulo “Totoy” San Juan, the father of Doc Tony, met me first. He was the anesthesiologist. The father-and-son tandem made the perfect team. Within seconds after being injected anesthesia, my eyes shut and my system slept.
I woke up at 2:30 p.m. Thanks to the anesthesia that was attached together with the IV, I felt no pain. The cut on my shoulder was two inches long and the surgery lasted no more than 70 minutes. I left the hospital the following noon—on Thursday—with the lump that had protruded on my shoulder now gone.
The next day, Friday, I was in Perpetual Succour Hospital with Dr. Jorgen Lim for the therapy. Thanks to Rhoda, the physical therapist who assisted me, I had both Cryo- and TENS therapy plus several static exercises. I was able to lift my arm above my head—amazing the quick recovery of our body! Said Dr. Tony: it’s important to get the muscles moving as soon as possible to hasten the healing.
In a month or so, said the doctor, I’d be able to start running/biking and, in three months’ time, can begin swinging that Babolat racket—all thanks to doctors San Juan and San Juan and a procedure called surgery that, so far and contrary to Rusedski, has become “the best cure for pain in the world.”