My Injury Women’s MMA

I wake up one Sunday morning, like any other Sunday morning, stretch and head to the kitchen to grind my coffee that I cannot live without. Hmmmm, that’s weird – my left arm feels numb and tingly from the shoulder to my fingertips. I surmise I must have slept on it funny. I move it around working the range of motion, opening and closing my fist, and decide to move along through my day. I need that cup of coffee. Run a few errands, clean a little, and then, it is dinner at a friend’s house. I clear the dishes and clean the kitchen for being fed so well. It is approximately 9 P.M. I decide I will take in a little of the massage chair, as by now my arm is aching moderately, mostly in the shoulder region. Hmmm, highest heat setting, most active mode, and deepest motion it will offer. Not too bad. I recline. I sit back up within a minute or two. Okay, that isn’t helping…I think it may have made it worse? I turn it off and sit and relax for a few minutes. It is not getting any better. My friend comes to check on me, and doesn’t like the look on my face apparently, “Do you need to go to the emergency room?” he offers. After I get over the fact that I can’t just grin and bear it anymore, I let him know I need to go to the emergency room. Off we go.

“What happened?” they ask. “Nothing”, I say, “I woke up this way.” Four hours, three x-rays, mountain of paperwork (what did you eat for breakfast 26 days ago?) in between tears of pain, and one Phenergan/Morphine shot that took them three hours to give me…and they tell me, “You need to see a neurosurgeon. Do not move your arm till you do.” Potential paralysis has not entered my mind at this point. Here is a sling and the prescription orders. Treat ‘em and Street ‘em. Okay, I’ve had better evenings.

On Monday, after I woke from my drug-induced sleep and have had my IV of…I mean cup of…coffee, I call my PCP (Primary Care Physician) for a referral to a neurosurgeon. He has to see you before he will refer. Of course he does! He wants his piece of the managed care pie! I work in the managed care health system, excuse the sarcasm. He needs to make sure the ER doctor knows his way around a stethoscope. First available is tomorrow. Okay. Tuesday morning at 6 A.M., I receive a call. My appointment has been cancelled due to bad weather that has come in (the sidewalks of Austin, Texas roll up for two days because we have not a single clue how to drive in a little ice and snow). I keep leaving messages trying to reschedule. I finally receive a return call on Friday and they can see me on Monday afternoon. I can hear my mother in my head, “Your eyes will get stuck like that!” as I roll my eyes at how helpful and understanding my doctor’s office is being. It’s a good thing my southern manners and the medication I was taking slowed my usual quick verbal wit.

On Monday, and after another mountain of paperwork, my PCP’s assistant decides I need to see a neurosurgeon. (Surprise!) Refer back to the third paragraph to see where a week of my life went. Hey, at this point, I’m doing the best I can to cope. The nurse gives me the referral and calls to get me in ASAP. First available is Friday morning. Obviously, my ASAP is different from their ASAP. Arrrgggghhhhh! I do not make a very good patient and I haven’t been training! Tracey is not a happy girl. Before Friday, I have to go by Austin Radiological Association and have a MRI done. I spend most of Wednesday doing that because they handle requests like this on a walk-in basis only. The MRI itself wasn’t too bad. However, my decision to be cremated is absolutely unquestionable now. There is no way my soul would be at peace in a coffin. Of course, as soon as I got home, I had the films out, holding them up to the dining room light, twisting and turning trying to understand them. I wasn’t quite prepared to see what I looked like without skin. Weird, but interesting.

Friday has come, I am in the waiting area alone trying to think positively and working on yet another mountain of paperwork. Would it kill these people to communicate with one another! Geez. I’m already driving a standard with one hand! Where’s Big Brother when you need them? Focus, focus, positive energy only! A little physical therapy and I’m good as new. Ways to train around this injury have been going through my head for days now. Guard work, I’ll work on my bottom game – my guard is horrible anyway and needs the work!

Dr. Hansen and I begin to talk. “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, anything like the Japanese form?” he asks. Okay, that’s what I’m talking about! I’m immediately at ease, and have completely forgotten how irritated I was in the waiting room, as I spend several minutes explaining everything I know about the similarities and differences between the two forms. BJJ has become one of my favorite conversation pieces over the last year. Realizing we have gotten side tracked, he looks at my MRI’s. I can tell by his face I’m not going to like what he says. “What happened?” he asks. Again, I tell “the I woke up this way” story. He points to C2/C3 on my MRI showing normal disc separation, location of spinal fluid, and my spine. Cool. We then move to C4-C7. Not so cool. At C3/C4, about one-third of my spine is visible. At C4/C5, C5/C6, and C6/C7, it is not visible at all. Now, paralysis crosses my mind. “This has been degenerating for a while,” he states, “Has there been any jarring trauma, a fall, a car accident?” Light bulbs go off in my head and my memory was jogged: rear-ended, “whiplash”, over a year ago, my neck and shoulders have hurt ever since. Grappling or Yoga may have aggravated it or I could have just moved and hit the right place while I was sleeping. No way to really know the exact sequence of events that caused the actual herniation that hit several nerve roots in my cervical spine and rendered my left arm useless and painful. To make it worse, my right arm was already exhibiting the same symptoms of nerve damage. Bottom line. Surgery. Fusion. The next few minutes are a blur, Dr. Hansen is explaining the procedure and showing me the titanium plate and eight screws that will be surgically fused into my spine along with using bone chipped from my hip to replace the discs being removed. Do not go to this kind of appointment alone. Take someone that can think of all the questions you want to ask, when you suddenly are not able to think straight at all. I was doing relatively okay till I asked about resuming my normal physical activities. A lot depends on your recovery. I pushed for a timeframe. At least 6 months, maybe a year. It hits me. I won’t be able to compete in May. My heart sinks. I swallow hard around the lump in my throat. I have no idea when or if I will even be able to start training again. That devastated me. I sat in the parking lot for 10 – 15 minutes alone and crying, trying to let it all sink in. More than one person had told me that BJJ is a lifestyle, not till I was faced with never being able to do it again did I realize how much a part of my life BJJ has become.

I then drove to the hospital to get my blood work and other surgery preparation done. Yes, and work on another mountain of paperwork. However, this paperwork was different. Do you have a living will? Are you an organ donor? Will anyone be with you on the day of surgery? How can we contact your next of kin? How are you going to pay? Then it moved to instruction time: no eating past midnight, wash your body and hair with this microbial surgical scrub, check in by this time, do not bring any valuables, etc. I made a mental note of the location of the Chapel before I left.

I went to class that evening to take notes on technique. It was our Women’s class. As usual, class was great. Only I wasn’t in a gi. As I watched mat time, I was hit unexpectedly with a surge of anger I could barely suppress. I had to step outside to calm down. It passes. I have a conscious thought that I do not want to hold on to any negativity. I have worked hard for peace and balance in my life and I will keep it! I have a friend in the class I’ve known for about six years, Stephanie. She’s also my training partner. She could sense I was “off ”. She gives me a gift after class that was intended for my birthday, which now happened to also be my surgery date. She says, with a warm smile, it’s a “get well” gift now. It is a pewter figurine representative of the nickname given to me by my instructor. It is a Valkyrie. There she stands all of six inches tall with her sword drawn, shield ready, and wings spread looking so triumphant. The irony is not lost on me. Everyone else has left class now. Stephanie reaches out and gives me a hug and I cry on her shoulder, it is hitting me, I’m feeling everything but triumphant. I am disappointed, hurt, and angry. My life is being interrupted and I am scared of going under anesthesia. I got it out of my system and refused to cry again. Thank God for wonderful friends to lean on.

Wednesday, March 5, 2003. Surgery day. Birthday. Ash Wednesday. The stars are lining up, but for what? I have showered and washed my hair in the cleanser given to me by the hospital. “This definitely rules out being able to make a pass at any good-looking available male I might come across during my adventure in the hospital,” I think as I shower. Not that the flattering backless “gown” they provide gives you much to work with anyway, but I digress. My parents and I check in and are sent to a waiting area before being taken to the surgical floor. My mother and I cannot just sit and wait. We are both anxious. My parents head to the gift shop to look around and I head to the Chapel. I had been thinking a lot since Friday. It’s my birthday, surgery is scheduled almost to the minute I was born, and it’s Ash Wednesday. Today, the meditation time I would have with God would be different than my usual conversation and prayer. On my knees at the altar, I prayed.

The patient advocate locates my parents and I in the gift shop and we are escorted to the surgical floor. My parents are asked to wait as I am taken to my pre-surgery room to change into my “gown”. Visions of a crown on my head, my arms full of roses, and my right hand performing a parade queen wave, this movement is where only the elbow and wrist are moved slowly back and forth as the tricep stays parallel with the ground. This wave has always been a tongue-in-cheek joke with my girlfriends. My runway is the hospital corridor. I reprimand myself immediately for having such a lame hallucination and I can’t even blame it on the drugs because I haven’t been given any yet. I’m blessed with a vivid imagination and an odd sense of humor that assists me well in coping with stress. That is the best explanation I can offer for what just happened. Reality sets in as I sign the last of the hospital consent forms and the nurse puts in my IV. After I speak to my anesthesiologist, my parents are allowed to join me while I wait.

A member of the Operating Room team comes to retrieve me. Here we go. I am staged outside the OR while they finish sterilizing a few instruments that will be used to clamp and dissect my neck and hip. A male OR assistant asks, “Are you the Jiu-Jitsu girl?” Nervously confident, I say, “Yes!” “I guess we better get it right, then.” He quips. “I recommend it!” I respond scornfully followed by a wink. The anesthesiologist starts my medications. As I was told later, everyone sang me Happy Birthday as I went under. Awww! I don’t remember this at all, but I was apparently awake and being my normal quirky self. Hours later, I wake up in the recovery room. “How are you feeling? Is there anything I can do for you?” the nurse asks. “I’m starving!” I respond. “I know” she chuckles. My facial expression obviously communicates my bewilderment. She explains further, “this is about the fifth time you’ve told me that.” I laugh. It is truly surreal to not be aware when you are conscious and talking to other people. It’s just not natural! Right there is why I could never get into drugs. After we discuss the liquid diet I’m supposed to be on, I tell her, “I need real food – protein!” She tells me, “Honey, the cafeteria is already closed.” “My daddy is out there…he loves me…he’ll go get me a turkey sandwich”, I retort emphatically as any good 32-year-old woman would who feels like she is 6-years-old again. Off she goes to inform my father of the humanitarian mission his daughter dutifully expects him to accept and fulfill. Take heart fathers, there is your proof that women are always their Daddy’s little girls.

My parents and I are taken from recovery to my assigned room. They are wheeling my bed in and I look to see my fellow students and friends waiting for me to arrive. My heart is touched and the lump that has been in my throat since my first visit with Dr. Hansen has disappeared. They proceed to tell me who had stopped by, called, and emailed. My school has not only given me great training partners over the last nine months, I am proud to have them as my friends. They are truly wonderful people. I have discovered great people and friends in BJJ. My voicemail and email had been receiving messages wishing me well and offering encouragement from fellow BJJ junkies and friends. Stephanie passed on to me that a thread was started in the “Women’s Locker Room” at www.jiu-jitsu.net by a friend I haven’t even had the pleasure to actually meet yet, Amanda. Laura, who is from the same forum, overwhelmed me with her email. The response from the female BJJ community there, and even a few males that popped in, was just awesome. My friends, who don’t quite understand my fascination with this sport I’ve discovered, but who love me anyway, were just as supportive. Moments like these have a way of reminding you of what is truly important in life, being surrounded by family and friends that care for you. I check with the nurse to make sure it would not be a problem if they stayed awhile, as it was already past visiting hours. She says, “It’s fine, as long as you can keep it down.” I immediately think, “How does she know I’m not exactly known for being quiet?” Then I remember we are in a hospital and she says that all day. We all agree to be quiet. As I ravage my turkey sandwich, (my Dad is the greatest Dad in the world!) Dr. Hansen comes in. “Oh, you’re eating!” he sounds surprised. “How’s your arm?” he asks. As I chew and hold my sandwich with the right hand, I flail my left arm around like a monkey looking for a tree limb. “I guess you’re feeling better,” he states. Everyone laughs. I nod as I was concentrating on chewing and digesting. My parents leave and head back to my house to get some much-needed rest. They had driven in from Oklahoma to be with me during surgery and it had been a long day for them. The guys stay till about midnight when I tell them I am falling asleep on them and I don’t want to be rude, but I need to say goodbye while I still can. I don’t remember what we talked about for two hours, but I do remember Rob ate my candy! I guess anesthesia gives you selective memory and that chocolate must have been important to me.

My recovery is going well. My surgeon used a plastic surgeon’s technique on the incisions and therefore they are not expected to scar. The incisions on my neck and hip are about three inches. After surgery, the bandages needed to be changed daily for ten days. My hip was uncomfortable to walk on for the first week, and for the next couple of weeks I waddled like a pregnant woman. I have almost completed my physical therapy for my left arm and right leg (hip). I am still experiencing weakness in my left arm (it’s about 80 % of my right) and slight numbness in my thumb and forearm. Full recovery is expected with both in the next couple of months. The lingering annoyance of surgery is the effect on my voice. Moving my vocal chords out of the way during the surgery to get to my cervical spine stretched them. The stretch causes the nerves in the voice box harm that only time can heal. I sound like Minnie Mouse when my tone is high and Jessica Rabbit when my tone is low, and have no voice at all if volume is needed. Translation: I cannot yell. This too has a humorous twist. My friends and co-workers are accustomed to hearing me before they see me. Let’s just say my normal voice has a tendency to carry. I’ve been having lots of fun sneaking up on people. Ha Ha! And now when I look at my Valkyrie figurine that Stephanie gave me I feel every bit as triumphant as she appears! Well, I am just past the two month mark from surgery and focused on getting back on the mat.

This is just my injury story. However, there is nothing unique at all about my story. I have come across many injury stories just in my academy alone. I even found a kindred spirit of sorts discovering a fellow student that has had exactly the same surgery I did. We have matching incision marks! His surgery was in 1999 and he started BJJ in 2001, and is now a blue belt. He will be my measuring stick. Besides him, we have one student who has had both knees replaced, one who experienced a broken neck (complete with traction), another with a broken foot, and still others with bulging discs, multiple muscle strains, torn ligaments, cracked ribs, and bruises. “Bruises are battle scars”, my instructor tells me. I am every bit a feminine woman, but new bruises are like my proof of progress, a physical sign of my effort. Therefore, I wear my bruises proudly and usually boast about them. The interesting thing about most of the injuries listed above, including mine, is that they were not sustained as a result of the practice of BJJ. The fact is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu truly is a “gentle art”. Injuries may interfere with our training but they do not keep us off the mat. This martial art is full of dedicated students training around injuries because they love BJJ. I intend to stay one of them.

I wake up one Sunday morning, like any other Sunday morning, stretch and head to the kitchen to grind my coffee that I cannot live without. Hmmmm, that’s weird – my left arm feels numb and tingly from the shoulder to my fingertips. I surmise I must have slept on it funny. I move it around working the range of motion, opening and closing my fist, and decide to move along through my day. I need that cup of coffee. Run a few errands, clean a little, and then, it is dinner at a friend’s house. I clear the dishes and clean the kitchen for being fed so well. It is approximately 9 P.M. I decide I will take in a little of the massage chair, as by now my arm is aching moderately, mostly in the shoulder region. Hmmm, highest heat setting, most active mode, and deepest motion it will offer. Not too bad. I recline. I sit back up within a minute or two. Okay, that isn’t helping…I think it may have made it worse? I turn it off and sit and relax for a few minutes. It is not getting any better. My friend comes to check on me, and doesn’t like the look on my face apparently, “Do you need to go to the emergency room?” he offers. After I get over the fact that I can’t just grin and bear it anymore, I let him know I need to go to the emergency room. Off we go.

“What happened?” they ask. “Nothing”, I say, “I woke up this way.” Four hours, three x-rays, mountain of paperwork (what did you eat for breakfast 26 days ago?) in between tears of pain, and one Phenergan/Morphine shot that took them three hours to give me…and they tell me, “You need to see a neurosurgeon. Do not move your arm till you do.” Potential paralysis has not entered my mind at this point. Here is a sling and the prescription orders. Treat ‘em and Street ‘em. Okay, I’ve had better evenings.

On Monday, after I woke from my drug-induced sleep and have had my IV of…I mean cup of…coffee, I call my PCP (Primary Care Physician) for a referral to a neurosurgeon. He has to see you before he will refer. Of course he does! He wants his piece of the managed care pie! I work in the managed care health system, excuse the sarcasm. He needs to make sure the ER doctor knows his way around a stethoscope. First available is tomorrow. Okay. Tuesday morning at 6 A.M., I receive a call. My appointment has been cancelled due to bad weather that has come in (the sidewalks of Austin, Texas roll up for two days because we have not a single clue how to drive in a little ice and snow). I keep leaving messages trying to reschedule. I finally receive a return call on Friday and they can see me on Monday afternoon. I can hear my mother in my head, “Your eyes will get stuck like that!” as I roll my eyes at how helpful and understanding my doctor’s office is being. It’s a good thing my southern manners and the medication I was taking slowed my usual quick verbal wit.

On Monday, and after another mountain of paperwork, my PCP’s assistant decides I need to see a neurosurgeon. (Surprise!) Refer back to the third paragraph to see where a week of my life went. Hey, at this point, I’m doing the best I can to cope. The nurse gives me the referral and calls to get me in ASAP. First available is Friday morning. Obviously, my ASAP is different from their ASAP. Arrrgggghhhhh! I do not make a very good patient and I haven’t been training! Tracey is not a happy girl. Before Friday, I have to go by Austin Radiological Association and have a MRI done. I spend most of Wednesday doing that because they handle requests like this on a walk-in basis only. The MRI itself wasn’t too bad. However, my decision to be cremated is absolutely unquestionable now. There is no way my soul would be at peace in a coffin. Of course, as soon as I got home, I had the films out, holding them up to the dining room light, twisting and turning trying to understand them. I wasn’t quite prepared to see what I looked like without skin. Weird, but interesting.

Friday has come, I am in the waiting area alone trying to think positively and working on yet another mountain of paperwork. Would it kill these people to communicate with one another! Geez. I’m already driving a standard with one hand! Where’s Big Brother when you need them? Focus, focus, positive energy only! A little physical therapy and I’m good as new. Ways to train around this injury have been going through my head for days now. Guard work, I’ll work on my bottom game – my guard is horrible anyway and needs the work!

Dr. Hansen and I begin to talk. “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, anything like the Japanese form?” he asks. Okay, that’s what I’m talking about! I’m immediately at ease, and have completely forgotten how irritated I was in the waiting room, as I spend several minutes explaining everything I know about the similarities and differences between the two forms. BJJ has become one of my favorite conversation pieces over the last year. Realizing we have gotten side tracked, he looks at my MRI’s. I can tell by his face I’m not going to like what he says. “What happened?” he asks. Again, I tell “the I woke up this way” story. He points to C2/C3 on my MRI showing normal disc separation, location of spinal fluid, and my spine. Cool. We then move to C4-C7. Not so cool. At C3/C4, about one-third of my spine is visible. At C4/C5, C5/C6, and C6/C7, it is not visible at all. Now, paralysis crosses my mind. “This has been degenerating for a while,” he states, “Has there been any jarring trauma, a fall, a car accident?” Light bulbs go off in my head and my memory was jogged: rear-ended, “whiplash”, over a year ago, my neck and shoulders have hurt ever since. Grappling or Yoga may have aggravated it or I could have just moved and hit the right place while I was sleeping. No way to really know the exact sequence of events that caused the actual herniation that hit several nerve roots in my cervical spine and rendered my left arm useless and painful. To make it worse, my right arm was already exhibiting the same symptoms of nerve damage. Bottom line. Surgery. Fusion. The next few minutes are a blur, Dr. Hansen is explaining the procedure and showing me the titanium plate and eight screws that will be surgically fused into my spine along with using bone chipped from my hip to replace the discs being removed. Do not go to this kind of appointment alone. Take someone that can think of all the questions you want to ask, when you suddenly are not able to think straight at all. I was doing relatively okay till I asked about resuming my normal physical activities. A lot depends on your recovery. I pushed for a timeframe. At least 6 months, maybe a year. It hits me. I won’t be able to compete in May. My heart sinks. I swallow hard around the lump in my throat. I have no idea when or if I will even be able to start training again. That devastated me. I sat in the parking lot for 10 – 15 minutes alone and crying, trying to let it all sink in. More than one person had told me that BJJ is a lifestyle, not till I was faced with never being able to do it again did I realize how much a part of my life BJJ has become.

I then drove to the hospital to get my blood work and other surgery preparation done. Yes, and work on another mountain of paperwork. However, this paperwork was different. Do you have a living will? Are you an organ donor? Will anyone be with you on the day of surgery? How can we contact your next of kin? How are you going to pay? Then it moved to instruction time: no eating past midnight, wash your body and hair with this microbial surgical scrub, check in by this time, do not bring any valuables, etc. I made a mental note of the location of the Chapel before I left.

I went to class that evening to take notes on technique. It was our Women’s class. As usual, class was great. Only I wasn’t in a gi. As I watched mat time, I was hit unexpectedly with a surge of anger I could barely suppress. I had to step outside to calm down. It passes. I have a conscious thought that I do not want to hold on to any negativity. I have worked hard for peace and balance in my life and I will keep it! I have a friend in the class I’ve known for about six years, Stephanie. She’s also my training partner. She could sense I was “off ”. She gives me a gift after class that was intended for my birthday, which now happened to also be my surgery date. She says, with a warm smile, it’s a “get well” gift now. It is a pewter figurine representative of the nickname given to me by my instructor. It is a Valkyrie. There she stands all of six inches tall with her sword drawn, shield ready, and wings spread looking so triumphant. The irony is not lost on me. Everyone else has left class now. Stephanie reaches out and gives me a hug and I cry on her shoulder, it is hitting me, I’m feeling everything but triumphant. I am disappointed, hurt, and angry. My life is being interrupted and I am scared of going under anesthesia. I got it out of my system and refused to cry again. Thank God for wonderful friends to lean on.

Wednesday, March 5, 2003. Surgery day. Birthday. Ash Wednesday. The stars are lining up, but for what? I have showered and washed my hair in the cleanser given to me by the hospital. “This definitely rules out being able to make a pass at any good-looking available male I might come across during my adventure in the hospital,” I think as I shower. Not that the flattering backless “gown” they provide gives you much to work with anyway, but I digress. My parents and I check in and are sent to a waiting area before being taken to the surgical floor. My mother and I cannot just sit and wait. We are both anxious. My parents head to the gift shop to look around and I head to the Chapel. I had been thinking a lot since Friday. It’s my birthday, surgery is scheduled almost to the minute I was born, and it’s Ash Wednesday. Today, the meditation time I would have with God would be different than my usual conversation and prayer. On my knees at the altar, I prayed.

The patient advocate locates my parents and I in the gift shop and we are escorted to the surgical floor. My parents are asked to wait as I am taken to my pre-surgery room to change into my “gown”. Visions of a crown on my head, my arms full of roses, and my right hand performing a parade queen wave, this movement is where only the elbow and wrist are moved slowly back and forth as the tricep stays parallel with the ground. This wave has always been a tongue-in-cheek joke with my girlfriends. My runway is the hospital corridor. I reprimand myself immediately for having such a lame hallucination and I can’t even blame it on the drugs because I haven’t been given any yet. I’m blessed with a vivid imagination and an odd sense of humor that assists me well in coping with stress. That is the best explanation I can offer for what just happened. Reality sets in as I sign the last of the hospital consent forms and the nurse puts in my IV. After I speak to my anesthesiologist, my parents are allowed to join me while I wait.

A member of the Operating Room team comes to retrieve me. Here we go. I am staged outside the OR while they finish sterilizing a few instruments that will be used to clamp and dissect my neck and hip. A male OR assistant asks, “Are you the Jiu-Jitsu girl?” Nervously confident, I say, “Yes!” “I guess we better get it right, then.” He quips. “I recommend it!” I respond scornfully followed by a wink. The anesthesiologist starts my medications. As I was told later, everyone sang me Happy Birthday as I went under. Awww! I don’t remember this at all, but I was apparently awake and being my normal quirky self. Hours later, I wake up in the recovery room. “How are you feeling? Is there anything I can do for you?” the nurse asks. “I’m starving!” I respond. “I know” she chuckles. My facial expression obviously communicates my bewilderment. She explains further, “this is about the fifth time you’ve told me that.” I laugh. It is truly surreal to not be aware when you are conscious and talking to other people. It’s just not natural! Right there is why I could never get into drugs. After we discuss the liquid diet I’m supposed to be on, I tell her, “I need real food – protein!” She tells me, “Honey, the cafeteria is already closed.” “My daddy is out there…he loves me…he’ll go get me a turkey sandwich”, I retort emphatically as any good 32-year-old woman would who feels like she is 6-years-old again. Off she goes to inform my father of the humanitarian mission his daughter dutifully expects him to accept and fulfill. Take heart fathers, there is your proof that women are always their Daddy’s little girls.

My parents and I are taken from recovery to my assigned room. They are wheeling my bed in and I look to see my fellow students and friends waiting for me to arrive. My heart is touched and the lump that has been in my throat since my first visit with Dr. Hansen has disappeared. They proceed to tell me who had stopped by, called, and emailed. My school has not only given me great training partners over the last nine months, I am proud to have them as my friends. They are truly wonderful people. I have discovered great people and friends in BJJ. My voicemail and email had been receiving messages wishing me well and offering encouragement from fellow BJJ junkies and friends. Stephanie passed on to me that a thread was started in the “Women’s Locker Room” at www.jiu-jitsu.net by a friend I haven’t even had the pleasure to actually meet yet, Amanda. Laura, who is from the same forum, overwhelmed me with her email. The response from the female BJJ community there, and even a few males that popped in, was just awesome. My friends, who don’t quite understand my fascination with this sport I’ve discovered, but who love me anyway, were just as supportive. Moments like these have a way of reminding you of what is truly important in life, being surrounded by family and friends that care for you. I check with the nurse to make sure it would not be a problem if they stayed awhile, as it was already past visiting hours. She says, “It’s fine, as long as you can keep it down.” I immediately think, “How does she know I’m not exactly known for being quiet?” Then I remember we are in a hospital and she says that all day. We all agree to be quiet. As I ravage my turkey sandwich, (my Dad is the greatest Dad in the world!) Dr. Hansen comes in. “Oh, you’re eating!” he sounds surprised. “How’s your arm?” he asks. As I chew and hold my sandwich with the right hand, I flail my left arm around like a monkey looking for a tree limb. “I guess you’re feeling better,” he states. Everyone laughs. I nod as I was concentrating on chewing and digesting. My parents leave and head back to my house to get some much-needed rest. They had driven in from Oklahoma to be with me during surgery and it had been a long day for them. The guys stay till about midnight when I tell them I am falling asleep on them and I don’t want to be rude, but I need to say goodbye while I still can. I don’t remember what we talked about for two hours, but I do remember Rob ate my candy! I guess anesthesia gives you selective memory and that chocolate must have been important to me.

My recovery is going well. My surgeon used a plastic surgeon’s technique on the incisions and therefore they are not expected to scar. The incisions on my neck and hip are about three inches. After surgery, the bandages needed to be changed daily for ten days. My hip was uncomfortable to walk on for the first week, and for the next couple of weeks I waddled like a pregnant woman. I have almost completed my physical therapy for my left arm and right leg (hip). I am still experiencing weakness in my left arm (it’s about 80 % of my right) and slight numbness in my thumb and forearm. Full recovery is expected with both in the next couple of months. The lingering annoyance of surgery is the effect on my voice. Moving my vocal chords out of the way during the surgery to get to my cervical spine stretched them. The stretch causes the nerves in the voice box harm that only time can heal. I sound like Minnie Mouse when my tone is high and Jessica Rabbit when my tone is low, and have no voice at all if volume is needed. Translation: I cannot yell. This too has a humorous twist. My friends and co-workers are accustomed to hearing me before they see me. Let’s just say my normal voice has a tendency to carry. I’ve been having lots of fun sneaking up on people. Ha Ha! And now when I look at my Valkyrie figurine that Stephanie gave me I feel every bit as triumphant as she appears! Well, I am just past the two month mark from surgery and focused on getting back on the mat.

This is just my injury story. However, there is nothing unique at all about my story. I have come across many injury stories just in my academy alone. I even found a kindred spirit of sorts discovering a fellow student that has had exactly the same surgery I did. We have matching incision marks! His surgery was in 1999 and he started BJJ in 2001, and is now a blue belt. He will be my measuring stick. Besides him, we have one student who has had both knees replaced, one who experienced a broken neck (complete with traction), another with a broken foot, and still others with bulging discs, multiple muscle strains, torn ligaments, cracked ribs, and bruises. “Bruises are battle scars”, my instructor tells me. I am every bit a feminine woman, but new bruises are like my proof of progress, a physical sign of my effort. Therefore, I wear my bruises proudly and usually boast about them. The interesting thing about most of the injuries listed above, including mine, is that they were not sustained as a result of the practice of BJJ. The fact is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu truly is a “gentle art”. Injuries may interfere with our training but they do not keep us off the mat. This martial art is full of dedicated students training around injuries because they love BJJ. I intend to stay one of them.

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