Dealing with injury -- One personal story
by Julie Tebbs
I'm one of those people who takes their health for granted. This includes the health of my hands and the ability to practice and play my violin. The next thing I know I'm typing one-handed and having to get help washing my hair.
Recently, in order to get a handle on my "middle age spread," I've tried to find a form of exercise that I can really enjoy. Not so easy when you grow up going to rehearsals and studiously avoiding anything related to gym class. After trying many things I finally stumbled into the sport of triathlon. It is exactly what I needed because it is challenging, variable, and competitive, yet at the same time I am able to compete against only myself.
So in the last two years I've completed about five sprint distance triathlons as a "back of the pack age grouper." I've come to love the swim, bike, and run training, and am gradually getting stronger. In July, only 6 miles into a bike workout, I took a corner too wide and nearly ran over another biker on the trail. Luckily she was an experienced biker and stayed on her bike. I, however, went down pretty hard. Naturally I put my hand out to catch myself, and naturally, supporting that much weight was too much to expect from a hand. I ended up with a broken wrist (right hand).
I had of course considered injury as a possibility, but I'm such a cautious rider (to the point of driving people nuts), that I really thought I could prevent it. I guess it's just the "it couldn’t happen to me" mentality. I also never really considered what would happen if I hurt my hands and couldn't play the violin anymore. Since I am not a professional player who depends on violin income to support the family, I didn't think seriously about the problem. Talk about denial. Now I'm realizing what I knew all along – it's not about the money, I love my students and I love to play!
After seeing my x-ray, the doctor said it was a bad break and definitely needed surgery to put in a titanium plate. I'm now the proud owner of what I lovingly call my biker tattoo -- a 3 inch scar down the inside of my wrist. My kids now call me the bionic woman.
About 4 weeks after surgery I finally decided to see what the hand would do and l got out my violin and tried to play. Five minutes later I was in tears. I couldn't draw a full bow. I could start at the frog and pull, but since my hand still wouldn't bend backward, by the time I got close to the tip, the bow was over the fingerboard and there was nothing I could do about it. I put my violin away and didn't get it out again for another month.
It has now been about three months and with physical therapy my range of motion is coming back. I'm now working on building up strength in both hands, since I gave them both such a long rest. I even have to work up new calluses on my fingertips! I'm working almost exclusively out of the Carl Flesch scales and the easier Kreutzer etudes. I've been trying to apply the things I tell my adult students -- start slow, you can do it with consistent practice!
So in the end, as with many unpleasant experiences, this will end up being really good for me. It has rekindled the love of playing and the need to do the hard practicing. It has also given me a new appreciation for the many people out there who have more serious injuries or challenges and continue to play, teach, and otherwise inspire new string players along they way. My hat is off to you!