Garth Libre: Ballet Dancer (Undercover Officer)
I am Garth Libre and I currently live in Miami Florida. During the 70's I was working as a dancer in various ballet companies on the east coast. I worked in Maryland Ballet when Caherine Crofton was still in charge. After that I was hired by Andre Eglevsky for his Eglevsky Ballet in Long Island, New York. I had many various short term commitments but finished my career working one year in Princeton Ballet. I remember fondly dancing the lead in Flower Festival of Genzano which I still believe is one of the most beautiful pas de deux. I worked for the shortest time for Dennis Wayne in New York's Dancers Company too, and even though it was laughably brief, it marked the highest level of my recognition as a dancer, as there was an extraordinary audition process that many of New York's best male dancers attended. My career ended all too soon and it was a severe injury to my spine that spelled that end. I fractured my fifth lumbar vertebrae and blew out one of the disks, and broke the spinal process to boot. It took five years before I felt normal again but not after suffering more from the loss of my great love, ballet, than the physical injury itself.
About five years ago, I started feeling a nauseating grind in my left hip socket. The accompanying pain in the rear and front musculature was the worst part. Gradually my side and front splits disappeared and in the last two years my enjoyment of a simple walk in the park was gone too. At first I thought this was tendonitis, piraformis syndrome or a strained muscle, but a year ago I had an x-ray and I saw that the cartilage at the top of the socket was badly worn and there was a tear at the side. I experienced occasional and frightening lock-ups of the hip socket which required that I forcibly knock my left leg with my hand to get it to move at all. Gradually I became fearful of getting out of my car and reticent to walk even a block. I could still ride a bicycle strangely enough but even sleeping became an ordeal. I had good days and bad and I still continued my morning routine of yoga, chin-ups and push-ups but I still was really a limping mess.
I went to one doctor in my area. He is the well-known orthopedist, Dr. Mark Umlas, the head of surgery at Mount Sinai on Miami Beach. He insisted that no such operation as the anterior approach existed and that I was crazy to think that I could continue my yoga, sit cross-legged, or squat down till my butt touches my ankles. This doctor, not only is not trained to do the newer anterior approach, but has had to undergo anger management and regularly makes his staff cry. I left crying too, and vowed I would never let such a crude, insensitive clod like Umlas touch my body.
A few months later I located Dr. Burke in Broward County Florida who only does the anterior approach. He is just the opposite kind of doctor, gentle, kind, patient and respectful. I scheduled an operation one month away, but secretly hoped that a miracle would occur letting me off the hook. Stem cells seem just out of reach, a miracle did not occur in the form of health food, prayer, or yoga. On July 13, 2010 I entered the hospital with my wife, and I wasliterally overcome with fear. I imagined that I might die on the operating table or that I would become a wheelchair bound cripple, or that the doctor would accidentally cut a nerve, or I would have a major hospital caused infection. I had never had surgery before this year, and I have lived 56 years with minimal interference from doctors in general.
I woke up after the operation with all manner of disturbances. I hated the drug after effects. I could neither urinate, nor defecate nor think straight. That night the nurse threatened to catherterize me if I didn't urinate soon, so I managed to get out about an ounce of urine which I quickly amplified with some iced tea and water. The next morning, I began to refuse pain killers by mouth or by drip. The nurse got me to take one tab of something but that was the last painkiller I took save for one tylenol the third day. I do remember doing a set of chin ups on the bar above my bed and one very painful trip around the hospital floor using a walker that day. I was in a lot of pain but therapy class made me feel well enough to walk up and down a half of flight of stairs with a cane. On tuesday I had my operation and on wednesday night I was home with my wife and seven year old son sleeping in my own bed with my new ceramic on cross-linked plastic hip socket underneath a four inch incision in my groin.
On friday of that week, I began physical therapy three times a week. The therapist there had never seen a patient with an anterior operation. He gets a lot of Umlas' patients who take a month to get to where I was in just four days. During the three weeks I spent in therapy I progressed quickly enough so that I became the miracle for the therapists and the other patients. The last week I was driving myself to therapy in my own shift car and by the end of week one I never used the cane again. So ... I took therapy three times a week and also went to the gym to work my upper body three times a week. At the end of week three I began yoga classes and rode my own bicycle to and from the gym. I kept working on range of motion because with the anterior approach the hip flexors become remarkably tight preventing a normal gait. It was only at week three that I could do a real straight legged leg raise and this was something I had developed strongly up until the day of my operation. The flexors are coming back nicely now at seven weeks and there are very few limitations that I follow. I don't cross over the mid line, nor do I run or do squats with more than bodyweight, but yoga by itself is a fantastic leg developer so that no other work is really necessary. I am doing leg extensions which do help. I also use myrrh rubs and my wife has massaged my leg for about twenty minutes each evening. I believe in ball squats against the wall and just laying on a ball face up for long periods to get the stretch back in those front flexors. Remember, with the anterior approach, there is very little chance of dislocation but the individual always must decide for themselves.
I am now much more active at seven weeks. Today, I rode my bike to the gym, a mile or so with my young son. I worked out my upper body and then took a one hour yoga class and then we rode back. My life is really quite normal now and I am grateful I had the operation. I'll never be the same because now I am not as originally conceived ... not pristine - I have in a very real sense been medically violated, but I guess that when one approaches 60, medical intervention is to be expected if not welcomed when needed.
I'm taking another two weeks off from my work as an undercover transportation officer in Dade County. Eight weeks should be more than enough even for this line of work where one is often on their feet. When I'm not working out or homeschooling my son, I'm lying in bed watching old movies on Turner Classic Movie Network. The one thing I would warn anyone about when spending so much time resting is to cut down their calorie intake. I eat eggs, nuts, beans, fish and poultry as my protein sources. I eat large salads and some steamed veggies too but I try to minimize the heavy carbs, sticking mainly to brown rice, a sweet potato or two and minimal fruit intake. My desserts will be a half an apple or a piece of raw pineapple which is good to combat inflammation. Swimming is good, especially a leg kick done from the buttocks or running sprints up and down the lanes. I also like doing developes while holding on to the side of pool but I've so far limited my ballet on land to plies in second and one legged plies to releve. I can already to a decent side split and I'm three quarters of the way to a full front and back split. I never push range of motion but I do push the strength side of things. It will take a while for the stabiization muscles to fully recover before certain movements on a single standing leg are comfortable. My theory is to work out a little every few hours and not to let the adhesions take their toll from lack of movement.
I'll keep the web site posted on my future progress, but so far I am very optimistic. I'm enclosing a photo my wife took of me the day before my operation. Believe it or not I'm in considerably better shape now, seven weeks later. Modern medicine seems quite good for some things. Life goes on despite our ailments, our fears and the risks we take when we enter the medical arena.