When it comes to the injured, best to remain reserved

I used to wonder why some baseball players show up at spring training with injuries, or arrived fresh off the operating table, delaying their start to the exhibition season and sometimes the season itself. Why not get the repairs done as soon as the season ends? They have three months, minimum, to recover.

Now I get it. What was a thumb that would need surgery “down the road” in March became a thumb that needed surgery on my next visit to the doctor in August. That was the first surprise. The second was the difficulty in trying to schedule the procedure.

After more than half a century of uninterrupted Christmases in Kansas, I am hosting the family here for the first time. That change of venue came about because we were expecting a little addition to the family in October and it would be easier for everyone to come here, including her (and her parents, who will have to get used to life as an afterthought now that she’s arrived). After all, as we learned from Seinfeld and friends, “You gotta see the baby!”

In addition, the baby’s parents wanted me to come to New York to help with the baby. My experience with newborns is somewhat akin to Prissy’s with childbirth, but they didn’t need to know that. So I had to leave the calendar open for that trip as well.

Because the recovery time from the surgery is six to eight weeks, roughly, depending on how it goes, and because I didn’t want to ask my dad to miss his beloved KU football games to take care of me, 2013 was effectively off the table. (Although in retrospect, it would have been a kindness to tear him away.)

So now we were looking at January, meaning I’d be out of work for the playoffs and the Olympics. (And even an orthopedic surgeon will blink when you explain that you have to schedule your life around sporting events.) I got a big ol’ shot of cortisone in the right thumb and tried to hold on for dear life, hoping it would last long enough to get me to my (operating) table for one.

While waiting for the schedule to clear, the left thumb went to the devil, so we’ve started shooting it with cortisone. I can have one more shot in the right thumb, then no more, so I was out of time. I will have surgery on the right thumb as soon as the cauldron in Sochi is extinguished.

Now I better understand what athletes go through in trying to schedule their lives around sports. Sure, a pitcher can get his shoulder done in the offseason, but he probably wants to put up the Christmas tree or play with his kids or a million other things.

So I’ll be the one late to spring training, not to mention March Madness. (Although if you’re going to be stuck at home in a cast, March isn’t a bad month for it. You can work a remote with one hand, after all.) And I will no longer cast a jaundiced eye on the medical decisions of others. With age comes wisdom, but with injury comes empathy.

For more by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.com/hamilton.

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