By Cassidy Dover: "Cassidy Dover, MD"
I am so thankful to my friend for suggesting I write on this topic! I wouldn't have come up with this and it's so true of the life of a ballplayer's wife!
Earlier I discussed how I've learned so much about baseball and the life I now lead on the fly. I didn't know much about baseball in general at first, and needed to learn the game. Then I learned about the business side of baseball and the ways those affect my family.
As time moved on I learned about trades, getting ready for a season, making friends, keeping friends, and my real relationship with my husband both as a man and as a man who plays a child's game for a living. The year that Ray was injured indoctrinated me into the group of wives we all pray never to be a part of - those who know about the world of injury, doctors, rehabilitation, and recovery.
Before Ray threw the pitch that left his arm hanging by his side, I had never heard of an "exit physical." I guess I never thought of it. I just figured that when the season was over the guys all said their good-byes and went home. The year that Ray was injured, he came home and said, "I failed the exit physical today. I need to go and see the team doctor."
"OK, well remember we have a wedding to go to in two days and then we're going to visit your family for a week," I told him.
"I understand that, but depending on what the doctor finds, I may need surgery."
Just like that., my body went sort of numb. I didn't know exactly what that meant, but I had met my share of wives who had a husband who had surgery and rehabbed. I knew that usually it entailed some time at the spring training facility followed by some time at different minor league teams and an ultimate return to the big leagues."What time is your appointment? When will you get the results?" I asked him.
"Well, I go in at 9 am and we're guessing I'll need an MRI at least, maybe a dye scan. Not sure. We could know something tomorrow or the next day."
We went to the team doctor. They did some tests and found that indeed, Ray needed surgery. I called my friend and she said, "Well is it labrum, rotator cuff, his elbow? What exactly is the surgery? Will it be arthroscopic or will they need to cut him open? Who will do it - Dr. Andrews, Dr. Yocum, Dr. Ellatroche? Do you know?"
"Um, not sure," was all I could say feeling totally overwhelmed. How did she know all this?!
I asked Ray exactly what was going on and he said, "Well as of now they want to do a rotator cuff surgery and a labrum repair. There is some fraying that needs to be cleaned up and then we'll see how my body responds. I'm going to ask for a second opinion with Dr.Ellatroche and depending on what he finds, could have surgery next week I think."
So I called my girlfriend back. I relayed the information. "OK, so that's great. It sounds like it's relatively minor. If the tear is greater than 30% then you need to worry about scar tissue and getting your range of motion back in a timely manner. Below that you're concern is really just like Ray said, how quickly his body will heal. Where will he do his rehab does he think? I know a few places in Phoenix that guys have gone to and some in Florida, too."
"I figured we'd stay home and rehab before spring training," I told her.
"Oh, I doubt that my friend. The team will tell you where you can go. Have Ray ask the team for their expectation so you can get a place to stay."
Wow, again, how does she know this stuff? How come I know nothing?!
I told Ray what my friend had said to me."Let's take this one step at a time. We could find that I only need to rehab the injury without surgery. Let's not get ahead of ourselves."
Again, another phone call to my new expert. "Well at his age Ray shouldn't try to rehab if surgery is recommended by both doctors. Surgery and rehab will fix the problem and he will be good as new! Support that. Guys hate the knife but in the end, better to do it now and be ready for Spring or soon after then to find that rehab alone isn't enough."
So, we flew out to see the doctor that Ray had asked to see for a second opinion. I tried to listen and understand what was being told to us. We took notes and called his agent. They had a long discussion and both agreed that yes, he should have the surgery done as soon as possible so he could start on the road to recovery. Ray called the team trainer and told him he would like to have the surgery done and the trainer said he'd call right back. Within the hour Ray's surgery was set up for the next morning at 8:30 a.m.
The hours of his surgery were just awful. On top of my concern and stress I had Sheridan with me. At the time she was not even a year old and learning to pull herself up and try to coast on the furniture. It was distracting, but not in a good way.
The hours seemed like days until the doctor came out to show me a photo of the inside of Ray's shoulder and what he had done. "Great news, he has a brand new shoulder! Bad news, he has a brand new shoulder. With what I found in there it's a wonder he could lift his
arm above his head let alone throw a baseball. He will recover 100%. Now he needs to learn how to make that shoulder work for him like the last one did," the doctor told me.
We left the office and went to our hotel. The next day saw us boarding a flight to Ray's parents' home for our vacation. Then less than a week later we were back at our house.
Within ten days rehab had begun. That year I learned so much about what exactly had happened to Ray, his surgery, his rehab, his setbacks and his success. I still remember the day I packed Sheridan up and drove down to his rehab facility to watch him step on a mound and throw ten pitches. They were errant and not very fast, but they made it to the catcher and that was a success.
Through it all I learned terms, I learned exercises for muscles, and I learned more about my husband than I knew before.
Just the other day a friend called to say her husband needed surgery and she thought he he would retire from the game. "Who's doing his surgery? Will they do it arthroscopically? What's the prognosis?" I asked. Then I thought back to my good friend and realized how in such a short time I had become an expert of sorts myself. I know more about the workings of a pitching arm than I ever thought I would. And so now I am on the list of people to call for explanations and support and encouragement. I'm happy to step up and to be there for my friends when they are feeling lost and overwhelmed. I hope I have as good of a bedside manner as the other wives who stood in this place before me.
Thanks for reading,
Cassidy Dover has been a baseball wife for more than 10 years. Her husband Ray, currently in the minor leagues, has spent part of 7 seaons in The Show. To read more of her columns, just click HERE. Cassidy lives somewhere in America with her daughter Sheridan. Right now, they're probably waiting for Ray to come home.