My Running Ban, Or A Run-In With An Unfriendly German Doctor

After six months of being an on-again off-again runner, it looks like I won’t be accomplishing any of my running goals for this year after all. Because although I was actually feeling better after all the psoas massages and osteopath visits, I still wasn’t 100% and running still hurt afterward so I went back to the orthopedist I visited last year, just to confirm that there was nothing wrong with me physically. Turns out there is something wrong with me physically, something with my third metatarsal and the circulation in my foot, something that can only be alleviated through surgery; something that the orthopedist completely missed during my first visit, when she told me I was a runner and runners sometimes have pain and I should just take a few days rest and maybe get fitted for insoles.

She’s a gem, this doctor, I tell you. Her bedside manner was incredible, from the moment she walked in the door and said, “So I suppose you’re pretty upset that you’ll need to be operated on, huh?” before I even knew the diagnosis.

Of course I was upset. Mainly, though, I was confused. After all, it’s my hip and upper thigh on my right leg that’s been nagging me. It could be that this nagging may or may not be connected to the fact that my left foot is broken in some inexplicable way and I have adjusted my gait to alleviate the pain (which would go against previously theories about how my hip popped out of place) but I can’t say anything for sure because my orthopedist, in truly ueber-annoying form, refuses to say anything more than I need an operation and I need it immediately. To her credit, she gave me a copy of the MRI and a sheet of paper with the MRI’s findings listed on it and the phone numbers to the local hospitals that may be able to perform the operation and a transfer to said hospitals.

But because I am not privately insured and also something of an incompetent when it comes to figuring my way around the German healthcare system, I couldn’t get an appointment for another month at the hospital to have someone explain to me just what this doctor’s talking about. Also because I am a normal human being and not a well-studied doctor versed in human anatomy, I have no clue what to make of the MRI CD or the pig latin with my diagnosis on it. And this doctor literally refused to answer any more questions, especially after I said that I was pissed that an injury I’d seen her for over a year ago had gone unnoticed. After that, she was busy saving her bottom from malpractice (“How could I have known the insoles weren’t working?”) and telling me that I was an idiot for having run on it for so long and that I needed to stop running immediately.

Wait, I’m the idiot? And oh wait, stop running?!? That was just the final nudge over the cliff of a nervous breakdown.

Because here’s the thing: I have an unbelievably, incredibly high tolerance for pain. When I was in labor with the Diva, I walked in the door of the labor and delivery ward at 9 cm dilated and the midwife on duty literally flipped out on my baby daddy for waiting too long to bring me there (to which he replied, she didn’t say she was in pain — because I wasn’t, until I suddenly couldn’t move from all the pain). Also, after the birth, my left foot was numb and I saw doctor after doctor for it and all of them said I was just a new mom with a lot of stress and I needed to get used to the changes in my body and maybe rebuild my pelvic floor muscles and I believed them because I’ve never broken a bone in my body so how could I know what true pain was like. Maybe it *was* just a weak pelvic floor making me walk like an elderly person who’d forgotten her cane.

What I don’t have a high tolerance for, however, is this — and I’ll say it despite my despisal for bad stereotypes of Germans — ueber-German refusal to assist strangers who may be experiencing mental anguish. The whole “It’s not my problem, it’s your problem,” attitude that drives me insane. The whole culture of “You figure it out, sweets, *I* certainly don’t have time to explain it to you.” Is that not what doctors are there for? To listen to a person’s complaints and explain shit that the average commoner would not know about his or her body? Because although I know the average German has no issue with going to the doctor when he or she feels a scratchy throat coming on, my high tolerance for pain means that if my ass is sitting in your office, there is a problem to be looked at and that problem is not that I am a new mom who forgot to do her Kegels.

Thankfully, I have a very good friend who talked me down from the ledge twice on Thursday (though not before I flipped out on every single person who crossed my path, including some poor delivery guy who I know makes shite wages and just wanted me to sign for an Amazon package for a neighbor who pretends I don’t exist whenever I pass him in the hallway). A friend who convinced me to call my sports doctor who referred me to a foot specialist who actually, literally, laughed at the fact that I had to make an appointment for surgery for “I don’t know what” and wondered at my ortho’s competence aloud.

So I’ve got that appointment tomorrow. Until then, it’s been a banner emotional weekend, with lots of depressing thoughts about gaining weight (even though I don’t run to stay slim), getting old (if aging means having surgery, then I want none of it), wondering how I’m going to stay sane if I can’t run (therapist has already been engaged), and the need to replace my entire shoe collection because I can no longer wear heels or sandals with straps near my toes. As if it hasn’t been depressing enough living in Germany during the spring and summer that never was…. Can’t wait to be unable to do *anything* once the sun finally begins to shine again.

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8 thoughts on “My Running Ban, Or A Run-In With An Unfriendly German Doctor

  1. kindikat May 26, 2013 / 1:16 pm

    Hmm thats shitty. Maybe yoga would be a good replacement?

    • Milly May 26, 2013 / 4:06 pm

      Unfortunately, the nature of my injury means that I can’t do yoga. I’ve been able to row, bike, lift heavy and run with it while dealing with the pain but yoga sends me into spasms so I think until the surgery’s done, I’m only going to be able to lie around and lift cookies.

      • Roving Altruist (@rovingaltruist) May 26, 2013 / 4:40 pm

        Oh my, I sympathize with the whole German rhetoric of “that’s your problem so get on and deal with it.” My German ex played a whole whack of mind-games with me using such tactics, as did all the Deutsch docs and admin people I had to deal with.

        Regarding the inability to do yoga…can I ask why? I’m very much into yoga (yes, I’m the type of yogi who will gush “it changed my life”) and managed to nurse my way through a couple of injuries by practicing mindfully and gently. It not only helped my injury, but it made me stronger and more flexible in the process (bad knee + tight hips/IT band pain).

      • Milly May 26, 2013 / 4:57 pm

        That rhetoric has pushed me over the edge every.single.time. but I’ve come to blow it off in most cases (see my nonchalant attitude on the post about AOK billing me 70,000 Euros and you’ll see what I mean). When it’s about my health, though, it makes my blood boil. Not your problem? Isn’t it supposed to be, if you’re the doctor?

        Anyway, yes, yoga and I have a love-hate relationship and when I thought I had hip issues, I went back to it for a heartbeat because nothing’s better for tight hip flexors than pigeon pose. But my middle toe is broken (that’s what requires surgery) and limping around on it for a year has now given me a mixture of pulled ligaments and a fallen arch so I can’t plank in bare feet (with shoes on, I can) and I can’t do downward dog and so it’s not a lot of fun.

        I could probably do it and deal with it but since I exercise to clear my mind and feel better about myself, doing all the modifications would likely give me more stress than I want out of a workout (not to mention piss me off tremendously).

  2. Janis Felidae May 26, 2013 / 4:19 pm

    oh dear, looks as if you´ve met “old school” doctors who still think they´re “Gods In White” – this is how the Germans used to call them in the old days and unfortunately there are still many who behave like this. Especially hierarchies in hospitals are very dictatorial organised with a professor as God of Gods on top. It´s almost an insult if a “normal” person even dares to talk to them without being called to. Sad but true, though the times are changing but very slow 😦

    Well, bad news to you, I´m sorry to hear but paws & fingers are crossed it´ll turn to a happy ending! (And the weather, let´s don´t mention it, sighs)

    • Milly May 26, 2013 / 4:50 pm

      Funny enough, the brother of a friend is an Oberarzt here and he was *much* nicer than my ortho. Go figure.

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