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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tips of The Day: Grooming

Here are a few tricks I have been using the last few days for keeping myself from stinking while looking presentable:
1. Bagging your arm:  I have used two Target bags. I cut small holes in the bottom of each bag so my arm can just barely fit through them. One bag gets pulled up to my shoulder and tied.  Next one goes barely past the bottom of the first bag and is tied around your elbow joint. Then simply rubber band the second bag around your wrist. These seem to be easier to manage than a giant garbage sack.  

2.  Soap and shampoo:  Buy smaller sizes of each product. You definitely don't want Costco sizes with the technique I am about to suggest.  Secondly, make sure that both of these products are upside down so that the contents will come out easier.  Pick up your shampoo making sure it's still upside down. Flick open the top with your thumb.  If you have to, give the bottle a little squeeze.  The shampoo should go right into your hand.  Apply as normal.

You will want to do the same thing with the soap.  I firmly believe this is easier with one of those little scrubby thingies.  Just set that thing down on a ledge, squeeze the soap onto it, set the soap down, and  pick up the scrubby.  Easy.

3. Towel:  Be sure your towel is in a place where you don't have to stretch for it. I throw mine over the shower curtain railing so it's easily reachable. Drying off is a little tougher. Katy tends to help me with this so it's easier for me. Just do the best you can but be sure that your bandages are bone dry.

4.  Hair:  Wear a cap if your job allows.  That's the easiest thing to do.  Don't worry too much about styling it.  People kind of get it if your hair looks funny.

5.  Shaving:  This is surprisingly easy.  I shaved last night and had no problem doing it.  Just go slow.

6.  Brushing your teeth:  Set your tooth brush on the counter.  Pull out the toothpaste and get the top of the toothpaste off by turning with your thumb and forefinger.  Squeeze toothpaste onto toothbrush and replace the top.  The rest is easy.

Other quick notes:
- Before surgery, make sure your tub is not slippery at all.  
- I didn't try a bath but the same principles apply.  
- Lay out your clothes before hand. The towel is tough to tie around your waist.
- Just be careful and take your time.  The last thing you want to do is stretch out your arm. 
- Remember that it's hard to use two hands so get used to setting things down, wedging things against corners and walls, or any other improvisational technique that keeps you from hurting your new ligament. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I earned it

Dos Equis Amber at Matador Redmond

It was one of the best beers ever.  It's weird how much you miss it when you can't have it.  Another upside of not taking the Oxy's.

My brace has been getting a lot of interesting comments from "When does the rest of the Iron Man suit get in" to "Does it come with sound effects?"  Here's a picture of it.

The hinge at the elbow restricts my arm from moving too much.  It keeps it from straightening itself out and making my life miserable. It also keeps you from curling your elbow up too much but just enough to keep your new ligament from being terribly static.  Part of my exercise is to curl the joint up and down as much as I can multiple times a day.  So, you add that to the hand movements I mentioned yesterday and it makes for a lot of movement.

I will say that you should expect this to hurt sometimes.  It will be sore.  Your muscles and forearm stuff is all still in a recovery stage. Just keep going. It's all about building those muscles and joints back to where they were.  I feel better every day and I'm definitely seeing progress.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Long night and a half empty day

Last night was pretty tough.  I absolutely could not get to sleep.  The outer part of my arm felt like it had a vein of fire running through it.  The physical therapist said it was probably an irritated nerve and that mucking with it as we did yesterday set it off with a vengeance. 

My arm was propped as always but nothing could put out the fire. After an hour, I finally relented and took a pain pill.  That helped me enough to go to sleep.  It was better this morning when I woke up.  There hasn't been any pain today like there was last night.  

It was a frustrating thing.  I went from feeling like I was ahead in the game to being reminded that I am still only a few days out from surgery.  I viewed it as a setback for sure.  Seeing my hand so swollen up this morning hasn't helped either.  We must have really hit a nerve yesterday.  I'll let that pun sink in for a second. 

I have been doing my hand exercises religiously. They are called the hand six pack. They include things like making a fist, bending at the knuckles, etc.  It feels great just to be able to move my hand a little bit. It makes last night's setback seem less of a setback and more of a sign to just calm down a bit.  

I returned to work today too.  It's oddly tiring. You would think that this doesn't take much fuel, but it feels like I am starting with the tank half empty.  I have no idea why. My idea is that getting back to work quicker will help me build my stamina back up quicker.  That means a faster recovery.  I am being driven by that full recovery as quickly as possible. It's pretty motivating. 

Katy washed my hand yesterday and got all of the betadine scrub off of it. That's the sanitizer that they use in surgery and turns your skin yellow.  So, thanks to her, my arm won't be mistaken for curry.  Feels good.  

As promised, here are a few wayward pictures.
This is my curry arm from yesterday.

My rad nurses Carol and Claudia

And finally the assortment of pills that I refuse to take. They goes as follows: Long acting (take daily), Fast acting (when needed), Faster acting (when fast isn't fast enough), Anti Nausea (if the first 3 make you sick), and Stool softening (because the first 3 make you constipated).  See why Aleve is easier?

Monday, March 26, 2012


I'm lying, but it's exciting to start it.  It really is.What's that I smell?  Progress!

This is going to be really short because it still sucks to type.  Two-handed hurts and one-handed is slow so...

I got the main cast off today. Katy nearly fainted.  It's very hard to describe why that was so painful, but I guess it's like opening a new jar of pasta sauce.  That little metal top "pops" when the air first gets to it's releasing right?  Well, that's how my arm felt. It's a strange feeling but it's actually feeling better now that I've had a few hours to flex my hand and test the range of the elbow.

Anyway, it feels better.  Just know that a few days after surgery and things are really feeling pretty good.

Oh, the new brace is insane.  You can set the degrees of movement so that you don't move past your comfort zone in either direction.  It is really something else.  It makes it really safe to move around.

I will post pictures tomorrow.  I still haven't seen them myself, but judging by Katy's expression when she took the one, it isn't pretty.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Nuts and bolts.

Welcome to a really nice Sunday. I am excited to say that my pain meds have thus far been a complete waste of money. I really have been feeling pretty good. We took the dogs on a walk yesterday in the sun. Today we are going to try to see the Hunger Games.

Hard to watch Madson and Soria go down with torn UCLs.  They are both getting this surgery. For Soria, it's his second. While this hasn't been bad, I am not doing it twice.

So here is the nitty gritty. You wanted it, you got it.

The first picture was what I went In with. See that giant slacked line in there?  That was my ligament. It was stretched and torn like an old rubber band. The tear will be at the base there in the left corner but you probably won't see it.  You can certainly see how stretched it is though.  You can also see how big the incision is as well.

This would not have been an option to keep playing and lifting with. Sounds like it would have snapped quickly.

Now this is the new ligament. You can barely see it in there which is because it's tight and taut like it should be. Ever replaced a belt in a vacuum cleaner?  When you get that new one on, it's just so tight that you can immediately see the difference.  Well, there isn't much difference here.  My elbow just has a new belt in it.

Tomorrow starts physical therapy.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

So far so good for a Saturday

It's Saturday now and I am actually feeling pretty good. The dressing or cast or whatever this is is very heavy. So prop it up when you can. You also need to keep ice on it and keep it elevated. It actually feels a lot better when it is up and away from you. 

I haven't taken any pain pills yet today.  That's great news for me because I truly hate the idea of dealing with OxyContin.  I don't like putting that stuff in my body if I can help it. I know that is a huge disappointment for some of you who were hoping for some drug hazed posts, but I am here to disappoint. 

The worst problem is the muscle spasms going on up and down my forearm.  Those are annoying. My hand is pretty numb too but it's not the end of the world. 

I did manage a shower today. We ended up cutting holes into old Target bags and slipped them up over the dressing. They were adamant about keeping that area dry.  That method seemed to work. 

Oh, you don't want to squeeze at all with your surgery hand. It hurts. You also don't want to leverage anything against it. I did that this morning trying to open my jug of protein powder. 

Otherwise I am mostly tired and a little sore. If this is the worst of it, then getting a root canal is worse. We will see though. Maybe all of that pre-training paid off. 

Wrapping up the day of surgery

Well, let me first say how grateful I am to everyone for being so supportive in this process. I really am very lucky.  Every note on facebook, every text, and every phone call meant a ton. Thank you so much. 

The surgery went very well. Apparently well enough that Dr. Trumble took pictures. As soon as I have the stomach to look at them, I will post them here. I also understood that the damage was more significant than they first thought. I guess I am lucky I got it done now. Details are fuzzy as I am getting them all second hand. 

By the way, surgery stuff is gross. I had a small drainage tube that had crud in it. The OR looked like a super weird factory.  I think just seeing all of the tools that they are going to use on you is pretty unsettling. I will say that anesthesia has improved.  I was out really quickly and comfortably. 

So let's get on to some surgery day tips:
1.  Seriously wear comfortable clothes. You aren't going to do much anyway and it's a great excuse to wear your sweats.  You don't even have to wear your nice sweats. It's okay  
2.  Don't bring stuff to do. Once the nurse takes you back, it's game on. I did manage to buy a ticket to see Mötley Crüe and KISS though.  
3. Wear a jersey.  It's the only thing that your arm will fit through after the procedure. Make it Bucky Jacobsen size if you can. Hoodies are tough to get your arm through.  
4. Stock up on post surgery powerade. You will need to hydrate. This day after dryness is rough 
5. Lay out your meds. Katy did a great job of this. Every medicine has its place and description. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Surgery Day!

And I'm already thirsty.

I'm actually really ready to get this over with.  I think poor Katy is too.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's scheduled

I head into Overlake tomorrow morning at 11:15.  I have 90 minutes of prep, 2 hours of surgery, and then 90 minutes of recovery.

The good news is that I can sleep in a bit.  The bad news is that I can't have coffee which Katy is going to HATE by about 10am.

Support & Inspiration

You know, it's always great to know that people are out there waiting to support you in any way that they can. My dear fiance' Katy, despite being ridiculously busy, is on hand for the next few days to make sure I don't do anything stupid to injure myself further.

My dear friends Teri and Jenn also let me know that someone else was cheering for me.  They were awesome enough to think of me and get me a little gift. 

Jake Peavy, 2007 NL Cy Young winner has had a tough go of it the last few years.  He recently had surgery to reattach the latissimus muscle in his back and ended up missing that entire season.  But he didn't give up.  He's back at Spring Training with the White Sox and recently pitched 5 innings of shutout ball against the Mariners.

He's a guy that plays hard whether he's pitching or hitting; whether he's hurt or healthy; and whether he's succeeding or failing.  He never gives up on himself.

I'm lucky enough that I have people around me to not give up on me either.  If they're not going to give up on me, no way am I giving up on myself.  Katy is standing by me ready to do whatever is necessary to help me get through this recovery.  Friends at work have offered to open doors or carry bags. Friends and family in other states are being supportive.

It's a good day to be thankful for people in your life.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The last ones

I'm drinking my last beer for a while.  I'm playing the last of Modern Warfare for a while.  My beer is a Men's Room Red.

It's pretty cool actually.  I feel like I'm getting ready for something big even though it's nothing really that big at all.


I got the pre-op call today.  It sounds like everything is fairly standard. Here's the story if you ever need to do this:
1. Don't bring anything valuable, just your ID + Insurance card
2. Show up 90 minutes early
3. Hydrate well the day before. I stocked up on Sobe and Power-ade (all zero calorie of course)
4. Much like a Gremlin, no food or drink after midnight.
5.  The procedure here was booked for 2 hours.
6.  Expect a 90 minute recovery.

If you're wondering, Overlake does indeed validate parking. SUCH A DEAL!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


One of the things that my sports medicine guy (Dr. Michael Li at Mobility Plus in Seattle) has been drilling into my head the last few weeks is the concept of "Prehab".  Instead of relying solely on rehab, you can actually move your body into a state to help it be strong during the time that you're healing.

So he has me doing a few routines to help with the idea that my arm is going to be immobilized for a few weeks.

One exercise is to strengthen the deltoids and some of your upper latissimus.  The idea here is to help keep your arm and should back instead of letting the pectorals pull your shoulder forward and weakening some of the muscles around there.  Simply go to a cable tower and attach an ab hanger or anything with a larger webbing.  Move the cable pulley up to the top.  Get your arm into the sling and stand directly in front of the pulley.  Utilizing solely your back muscles, pull directly back as if you were doing a row. You really have to have your mind/body connection handy with this move as it's really easy to pull back with your elbow or your core.  If you do about 15 of these, you'll feel it the next day.

The other one strengthens your core and opens up your back and it's very very simple.  Grab a foam roller and place it under the arch of your back.  Do 10 crunches. Move the foam roller up about 6 inches to just below your armpits.  Do 10 more crunches.  Move the roller up to about your shoulder blades and do 10 more crunches.

The idea with both of these exercises is to do them every day so you can keep your shoulders back and your chest open to counterract the idea that the sling will pull you forward.

I'm also really working hard this week to get ready for the surgery.  Monday through Wednesday are a combo of extremely heavy weights, low reps, and 4 or 5 sets with a counterbalance of lower weight sets with higher reps and 45 seconds of rest between sets.

During lunch I've been doing a bootcamp class here at PopCap that focuses mostly on cardio and plyometrics.  I feel like this is a great balance to the strength training I've been doing in the mornings.  It has also helped strip some of the weight off that I gained from Spring Training.

Thursday, will be all cardio and bootcamp.  This should let all of my muscles finish healing from the earlier workouts while still giving me a good heart rate boost and letting the good endorphins run around in my system.

I've also been eating lots of lean protein and vegetables as usual and drinking tons of water.  After surgery, I'm planning on sticking to that as well as adding some Omega 3/6 fatty acid supplements to help with the healing process.

I think preparation here is key and will help in the short term healing process.  It's given me something really positive and fun to focus on and it'll be interesting to see if it works. I have no idea if it will or not, but I don't see any harm in it anyway.  It's always fun to see what you're capable of and this is just another example of that.

Monday, March 19, 2012

If you're in the dark about the Tommy John procedure....

I regret to acknowledge that I have forgotten to describe what this procedure is.  The procedure is Ulnar Collateral Ligament reconstruction or replacement surgery commonly called "Tommy John" surgery.  The Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) is the ligament at the true elbow joint.  The replacement is needed because the tear is usually at the base or hinge of the joint.

Tommy John was a pitcher in the 70's and was the first one ever to have this procedure done. He then was able to pitch another 12 years after the surgery.  He credits it with saving his career.

Here are a few resources for you to take a look at that I've found to be helpful:

A good article about it:
Here's a video from the DMC in Detroit:

By the way, if you're at all squeamish, don't watch the video.  It's a bit....meaty.

Enjoy kids!

And it's a Monday: 5 Days until surgery

It's never easy for me to wait for things and this is no exception. I would have rather had it just done and over with to be honest with you.

I started driving to the gym this morning with my usual coffee in one hand and steering with the other routine in full effect.  In a week I won't be able to do that. I won't be able to have that coffee in my right hand. Of course, I won't be driving to the gym either. That's going to be a rough change to my routine.  The gym is my little hour or so to myself every morning that I get to listen to podcasts and feel good about myself. It's the way I start my day...every day.

It's going to be really hard for me to give up control of my routine for a few weeks.  That's for sure. It's going to be hard to not go to the gym; going to be hard not to have a beer; going to be hard not to play Xbox.

It's hard to tell yourself that it's only for a few weeks, but it is only for a few weeks.  I wish I knew what to more of what to expect so I can plan for it better. I know I'll figure it out, but that's not really comforting right now.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How Did I Get Here Part 2:

I felt pretty good heading into the offseason.  I was thinner than usual and had increased my strength despite having yet another injury-riddled season.

I was pretty optimistic though. My last few outings were really good and I was looking to build on that for the 2012 season.  I still can't hit though. One of these days maybe....

I was at the gym as usual on Saturday morning.  I was returning to the heavier lifting that I do in the off-season.  Usually, right before the season it's a lot of plyometrics, movement, core work and interval training.  During the season, it's all really light weights with lots of reps and is pretty dependant on my pitching schedule.  Immediately after the season, I like to work through a lot of heavier compound movements and then couple that with a week of isolated routines the next week.  It seems to work well and get everything challenged correctly.

I'm super wordy you guys. I'm really sorry.

Anyway, I'm getting the incline press up and down for a couple of reps when something immediately hurt in the elbow.  It wasn't the pop that people describe, but it was definitely a noticeable "oh shit" moment. I racked the weight immediately and pulled off one of the 45lb plates.  I thought it was just a strain for a minute and I'd be able to complete with some lighter weight.  I got about 4 reps into that theory when it was promptly disproved.

That was what I remember.  I know I finished the workout but it felt really wrong in there.  This wasn't tendinitis or "golfer's elbow" or any of the other things I had been told. This was an injury.

I finally went to go see an elbow specialist.  Folks, go to a specialist when you can. As much as I dig my general doctor and as much as I trust him, these specialists really know what they are doing.  If you're interested, it's Dr. Trumble at Bellevue Bone and Joint.  Any time you see a textbook that the physician you are seeing has written, you know that he knows a little something about this.

He did a fluoroscope on the elbow and some other basic tests.  He ordered a dye-based MRI right away and figured that the UCL was torn and that the tear had gotten worse.  Thank God he did.

MRIs suck by the way.  You get this terrible dye injected right on the spot and your arm feels like it weighs a ton.  It's's definitely a strange foreign substance in there.  When I went, some of the dye had leaked out and was on the was SUPER gross to think that was in my arm. After that, you get to go into a giant tube where you must hold perfectly still.  For you claustrophobic folks out there, just keep your eyes closed.  Don't open them.  You won't like it.  The top of the tube is about two inches above your face.  I did get to listen to Coldplay though so I was okay with that.

At any rate, the results were pretty clear. There was a tear and the Dr. immediately recommended surgery even though his assistant thought otherwise.  He basically said it's just not going to heal on its own.  Beyond the tear, my elbow apparently went out like 15 degrees whereas my other one went out like 5.  So, that's not good.  Combine that with having pain in everything I do he recommended this.

One thing I should tell you...if you have pain every time you pronate, go get checked.  I really wish I had done this a long time ago.

Anyway, here we are.   Surgery is Friday and I'm really stressed out and wishing I could just be okay with everything.  I'm struggling...I don't like the idea of having to rely on other people for very mundane things.

I think that's a different blog post.  Seeing as how I'm not going to be able to drink for a while, I think I need a Dos Equis Amber at Matador.  Something about Mexican food and beer that seems to cure everything, but cause heartburn.

Eh, what's a little heartburn.

Friday, March 16, 2012

How did I get here?

The easy answer is stupidity.

My mom told me 5 years ago that she worried about me pitching.  "Ty, I just wish you would stop the pitching," she'd say.  It's very hard not to listen to your 70+ year old mom who's a bigger baseball fan than you are especially when you know she's right.  She's also short and very sweet.  She's the kind of person that you just have to listen to because you know it's rude if you don't.

But that's not what you folks reading this care about.  You want to know what it felt like.  You want to know if I had that moment where I knew that it was trouble and if it's anything like your moment.

Yes, I definitely did and I actually had 2 of them.

Before all of that all I knew was that my elbow hurt.  I'd go into the doctor once a year and he'd always ask how it felt.  I'd tell him it was sore and he'd feel around and do a few small exercises and then prescribe a big time anti-inflammatory a Super Aleve.  Then I'd start up playing ball in the spring and it would start to hurt.  I'd take Aleve every day to ease the pain. I'd work the muscles around it at the gym. I'd come home and get the ice and heat on it every night.  That got me through a lot of years...except for the last one.

Last year was by far the worst. My elbow was almost intolerable.  The Aleve stopped working; the Super Aleve stopped working; ice only worked for a little bit.  My fiance' said I grew to be a gigantic pain in the ass because it was always hurting.  So I finally had had it.  I went in for a cortisone shot to set things right.

If you've never had a cortisone shot, it's really a miracle drug. Later that night I felt like a million bucks.  I actually had zero pain in my elbow for the first time in years. It was an awesome short term solution that may have had long term consequences.

That weekend I was ready to throw.  My manager in the Sierra league (that's my 35+ PSSBL league....aka the old man league) called on me to pitch the next two innings.  As I was warming up, my teammate could barely catch the slider. My fastball was cranked up to the hilt.  The changeup was moving down and taking off speed.  I felt zero pain.  Bring on the top team in the league.

I brought it. Everything was working like crazy.  The first two batters went down via a groundout and a strikeout.  The third batter was on his way when something went terribly wrong.  Something in my elbow simply stopped working and ran all the way up into my forearm.  I could barely grip the ball.  I was in the stretch and my catcher called for a changeup on the outside corner on a left.  I'm still not sure how, but I managed to get that thing on the outside corner for strike three.

I went into the dugout and knew that was it.  I told the manager to warm up someone else but I would try to go next inning.  I got to the mound and threw two warmup pitches and was done.  That was July.

I would try to throw in my backyard with a tennis ball.  It hurt. I couldn't get any velocity on the ball.  I couldn't do anything.  It was awful. I felt awful. I couldn't contribute to my team. I couldn't even warm up.  I would wrap my elbow and douse it in Ben Gay which helped very little.  I could swing a bat, but I'm still a pitcher and trust me, I'm not breaking any stereotypes about pitchers not being able to hit.

I finally went to a doctor.  He brought in an ultrasound machine and  discovered a small tear in the UCL.  I thought I'd be able to lay off of it and finish out the season.  It was quite a struggle for sure....but I managed to  make small strides from game to game. I ended up changing my arm angle quite a bit as you can see in my profile picture.  I went much more out and over instead of "Jake Peavy Style" which was more to the side.  My old delivery and angle was much more violent and got me a lot more movement, but this new one was able to do it without any pain.

I managed to throw a few innings in our last few games and threw 2 at Safeco Field. The Safeco outing was insane. The high you have warming up in the same bullpen that you've seen Mike Adams, Mat Latos, and Trevor Cahill warm up in is insanity. I mean, what an honor. I warmed up in front of a Cal Ripken Jr. know, the spot where he hit the home run in the 2001 All Star Game? Yeah, right there.

To trot in from the bullpen as they play U2's "Beautiful Day" is one of the best experiences of my life. And then, with my fiance' and future sister-in-law in attendance I threw 2 scoreless innings with 4 K's....all without my slider.

What I didn't tell anyone is that I kept the ball because I thought it was the last time I'd ever pitch.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Introduction: T Minus 9 days to surgery

I'm pretty sure it's going to be mostly friends and family reading this out of pity and perhaps curiosity, but I thought I should write an introductory blog just in case there are some strangers reading this.

Let me start off by saying I'm not a professional blogger.  I'm a video game producer. I've been lucky enough to do plenty of writing the past for video game manuals which may or may not be more interesting than this.  I've also done some spot blogging for my company, but those are few and far between.  However, PopCap Games is a forgiving company and they seem to take pity on me occasionally.

What I'm trying to say is don't expect much here. I'll promise to be honest but probably not coherent at all times and possibly even less interesting.  I'm not very funny either. Maybe on a blog I'll be funnier.  My tweets are often pretty good.

So, what do you need to know? Hell if I know really.  I'm 36 and in  great shape.  I love baseball, snowboarding and spending time with my fiance' and my dogs. I love being at the gym and desperately miss my home city of San Diego.

What you're reading this for is to see what it's like to get Tommy John surgery.  Yeah, I had no idea either which is why I'm writing this. It turns out, there are no resources for us crazy people who still play ball to really investigate what it's like to get TJ surgery. Well, here we are.  I'll tell you how it feels; how the rehab goes; what it cost; everything.

My first piece of advice is to not "Google Image" search this.

Ah, but back to me and baseball.

I've pitched for 20 something years.  I've been gifted with mediocre velocity, but generally pretty good accuracy and a ton of movement on every pitch I throw. It's good enough to get people out in my 35 + Puget Sound Senior (cringe) Baseball League at any rate.  Plus, I love it. I love pitching.  I love having that control in my hand.  I love striking people out and breaking bats. I'm good.  Not good enough to warrant a second look  from anyone, but I don't care.  I'm happy where I'm at.  Hell, I've gotten to pitch at Safeco Field....twice.  That's an amazing experience by itself.

Anyway, tomorrow I'll talk about the elbow. I'll discuss the feeling I got, the steps we went through to diagnose, and the day the slider died.