If you have met me in the past three years,
or maybe reconnected with me in that time,
you may not know that I have a metal plate in my head.
For this night,
I am typing this on September 22,
is my three year anniversary.
The following story begins on the night of September 22, 2005.
In 2004 and 2005 I spent most of my Thursday nights playing basketball.
I was in a local park district league with some friends.
Our team name was "Loose Balls."
I usually played center.
Most often, I was the taller guys on the court.
Playing down by the basket didn't bother me.
Even though as a youth I loved playing around the arc.
I was accused of "flopping" too often.
That is, trying to draw charging fouls from the opposition.
When there wasn't much contact.
On this Thursday night in 2005,
There was too much contact.
Facts are still in question.
Exactly who hit who
What hit what
This is what we know.
A guy I was not guarding made a hard drive to the hoop.
I slid over to take a charge.
There was a collision involving the driver,
my teammate guarding him,
The whistle blew.
I did not get the charging call I was hoping for.
But that didn't matter to me at the time.
The collision was intense.
It knocked me straight to the floor.
I was unable to get up.
Instead, I said in an oddly calm voice, "Sub"
(calling for a substitution from the bench)
I pushed myself out of bounds across the baseline.
Literally sliding my ass across the court with my arms.
As if I was paddling a boat without oars.
There, on the baseline, back up against the gym wall, I stayed for a while.
I didn't know it then, but I suffered a concussion.
The gym wasn't exactly "spinning" in my mind.
But the feeling wasn't too far from that.
Finally, I got myself up and walked back to the bench.
I didn't go back into the game.
I drove home.
I went to sleep.
I woke up.
When I tried to brush my teeth
I realized something was wrong
Something seriously out of whack
I was unable to get my toothbrush to my back teeth.
That next day,
I arrived to work on time.
With a dented face.
I was able to talk
although my teeth couldn't separate enough to slide in a toothpick.
I was in no pain.
Just a slight feeling of uncomfortable
Not unlike when you wear a button down shirt with the buttons one-off
The shirt is still wearable, just doesn't fit right on your body.
That was how my face felt.
People had a tough time looking at me that morning.
My right eye was also bloodshot.
You may be asking why I didn't go to an ER?
The answer is unique for our times.
I'm a member of an HMO.
I've had a lot of battles with HMOs over my short life.
Basically, unless I need someone to stop bleeding.
Like, from a GSW...
I'm going to my "Primary Care Physician" first.
After securing an early afternoon appointment
I told my boss that I was taking a half day
After seeing my Primary Care Physican.
I was sent off to the hospital for an X-Ray.
After my P.C.P. saw the X-Ray,
I spoke to him on the phone from the hospital's waiting room
He said, "Well, the X-Rays came back negative, but I saw your face... It's broken... I'm sending you to a specialist."
The doctor I met next, instantly recognized what happened to my face.
He was a surgeon, and informed me that I had an orbital bone fracture
(that's my eye socket)
and a zygomatic bone fracture (that's one of the bones that form my cheek)
He explained the surgery that I needed very clearly.
It was not needed to be repeated.
It would reqiure two incisions.
One under my right eyelid, to slide a titanium plate to reset my cheek bone.
The second cut would be on the inside of my cheek.
The second cut was because my zygomatic bone had slid down and was blocking my jaw muscle.
(This is why I was unable to open my mouth)
Which was great news to me, I was fearing a broken jaw bone, with a wired solution.
But this second cut was needed to allow the surgeons (plural) to insert the medical equivalent to a crowbar into my face...
To pry my bone back into place...
In order to have the titanium plate - oh and four titanium screws - set it back into it's original location.
And although I understood how it was going to be done, I still had a few questions.
Just before I was sent off to get a CAT SCAN, I had the following dialogue.
I remember it today, three years later, word for word.
TQ: Does this plate come out after the bone's healed?
TQ: (after a slight pause) Are you saying that I will literally have a metal plate in my head the rest of my life?
Dr. Yeah, but it's small.
TQ: (after a slightly longer pause) Will it set off metal detectors?
Dr.: (after a short pause) I don't know.
To hear this surgeon say, "I don't know" was gravely unsettling to yours truly.
Fast forward about ten days.
The morning of my operation.
I'm lying down.
Wearing a glorified tablecloth.
Already pierced with the IV needle into my left hand.
My Father next to me, acting stoic.
The surgeon enters the room.
This is the first time I've spoken to him since our last unsettling conversation.
He informs us that he has brought in his boss to help him with the procedure.
(That makes me feel more comfortable)
He then offers this gem of a comment.
Again, I remember it verbatim.
"I've seen the CATSCAN... And on a scale of one to ten, it's severe."
He walks away, and I couldn't help but laugh.
I ask my dad, "Does severe mean a ten? or an eleven?"
My dad also laughed, but it was a different sort of a laugh.
I was laughing more out of disgust.
My dad's laugh was more out of uncertainty - not wanting to respond with silence.
Obviously, I came out all right.
The doctors did excellent work.
Nobody can tell that I've had, what I call, major facial reconstructive surgery.
For a solid year after this, people would ask me what's new...
You know, not really wanting to know what was new...
But I would tell them, in a blank and matter-of-factly as possible...
"What's new? Probably the titanium plate in my head, what's new with you?"