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An Interview: Wreck It Andrew

So, for those of you who don't know the story of Wreck It Ralph. Let me tell you a bit about his character in relationship to Andrew. Wreck It Ralph is the villain in a cartoon set in an arcade where there is a hero. Ralph is not the hero in the story, but he has the heart, guts and dreams of wanting to be a hero.

And in comes Andrew Nerney. Let me give you a proper intro to Andrew's story. He has probably ran more miles in a month than I have in my entire life which is okay as I hate running! Andrew loves it. Between October 2019 and January 2020, he has competed in the Louisville Ironman and the Cloudland Canyon 50k trail. He also completed the Disney World's Dopey Challenge in January 2020. Do you know what the hell that is? Wow. From my understanding, Andrew ran a "5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon on consecutive days." He also proceeded to run the Red Top Rumble which is also a trail run. All of this within 4 months!

Mid- February was when he realized that something was not quite right with his hip. So, Andrew also then became a patient with hip problems and was diagnosed with tight hip flexors and FAI. The standard protocol of PT, MRI and referrals began. He also went down the rabbit hold of diagnoses compliments of Dr. Google (much like I had initially done). Andrew "worked [him]self up pretty terribly and managed to convince [him]self that [he] had end stage arthritis and [his] hip was going to fall off, or maybe that [he] had bone cancer, or Lou Gehrig's Disease." With all this research though, Andrew was prepared to be the hero in his fight for mobility. He began seeing doctors for their expertise and opinions. He ultimately settled on a doctor who was skilled and fellowship trained, but more importantly was his partner in the struggles associated with this diagnosis.

Andrew expected one of the biggest challenges he would face would be his own internal timeline to start "pounding the pavement". This has really not been an issue though as he relates that he had done so much research that he knew the failure of this surgery could be caused by return to sport too soon. So he has followed the "advice of [his] surgeon and [his] physical therapist to the letter."

Although he is still in the recovery process, he has two wins that he is proud of and they relate to being an informed patient. He does feel that they were 'obvious, logical decisions", but he has seen too often that many patients do not educate themselves or even educate themselves with misinformation. The education of your hip disorder, treatment and prognosis should ultimately come from your surgeon. There is plenty of respected research that is open access for patients and you should attempt to understand the anatomy and the physiology of your issue so you can ask informed questions. Getting medical advice from Facebook about your images, your surgery and your recovery is not advisable. If you trust your surgeon to fix your hip, then you should be leaning into the idea of getting medical advice from your surgeon.

Andrew's first success was his "effort to learn as much about FAI and hip arthroscopy as possible before making a decision about whether or not to have surgery. To [him], that was the natural course of action. Apparently, this isn't natural to others. [He has] found in the various support groups many people who are just a few days away from the surgery, or even who recently had the surgery, who don't have even a basic understanding of it. This leaves [him] scratching [his]head and raising [his] eyebrows like Mr. Spock."

When asked to give his thoughts on this matter, he stated, "I would say to anyone who is facing the prospect of surgery: learn as much about the procedure as much as possible. Get second opinions, read studies about the prospects of success of the surgery, and more. Come up with a list of questions to ask your doctor about what to expect." In fact, his surgeon, Dr. Whitfield said to him, "you are one of the most informed patients I've ever had." To Andrew, 'this was just common sense, but apparently this is not so common. Do your research, learn about the surgery, and educate yourself."

When asked about his second success, he commented that "I have followed the doctor's post-surgery protocols and done the physical therapy as prescribed. Again, this is something that was obvious to me. Apparently, it is not uncommon for patients to deviate from the surgeon's post surgery protocol, or to not follow the PT orders to the letter. My physical therapist has told me that she has numerous patients who don't follow her orders. In my triathlon club we have other physical therapists who have told me the same thing. The end result of this is that the patient doesn't heal correctly and [are] left complaining that the surgery didn't work. If one digs a little deeper into a handful of the online stories about failed hip arthroscopies, one will find confessions from people who went horseback riding too soon, or who chased their kids around Disney World too soon, or who just couldn't resist a game of pick-up basketball, or who had no plan for post-surgery recovery. These things boggle my mind. Why would anyone disregard the advice of their doctor or physical therapist?"

While Andrew does miss running, he has set goals for recovery including keeping his sense of humor throughout this process. He has "found it helpful to set medium-term, reasonably achievable goals and then focus on them, and to not look past them to the next goal. The goal might be either something physical to achieve, or a point in time." Currently, Andrew is biking 15 miles at a time and is looking forward to being able to do weighted squats and enjoy a slow return to running.

Two additional recommendations that he has in addition to being an extremely informed patient is to read. He recommends "read[ing] the book "Being Mortal" by Dr. Atwul Garande. Any athlete who is facing a surgery decision should read the book "Zen and the Art of Running" by Dr. Larry Shapiro. The former book focuses on life decisions in the face of health problems. The latter book obviously focuses primarily on running, but also dives into how to mentally handle athletic performance in the face of health issues."

Andrew's costume at the Disney World's Dopey Challenge was Wreck It Ralph. Andrew shares that "Wreck-It Ralph would never give you up, or let you down, or run around, or desert you. So my mantra is Wreck-It Ralph Rickrolling everybody." Andrew wants you to understand that your team is there to help you, but the best way to help yourself is to begin this process fully educated. Be an advocate for yourself. Remain hopeful. Be your body's hero like Andrew!

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