Saturday, February 22, 2020
Feb. 22, 2020

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Jayne: ‘POP’ goes the Achilles tendon

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I was dominating the court.

Grabbing rebounds. Throwing crisp outlet passes. Gliding down the floor to hit a 15-foot jump shot that would make Kevin Durant envious.

Who cares if the opponents were the fifth-graders my wife and I are coaching? You seize glory where you can find it.

At least until you hear a “pop” and feel something run into the back of your leg, as if a 10-year-old had crashed to the floor. The “pop,” however, was more like a “POP” straight out of a Fourth of July celebration. And when I looked behind me, nobody was there.

Uh-oh.

Because after years of following sports, I had seen and read enough about Achilles tendon ruptures to know what happened. This self-diagnosis was soon confirmed, giving me something in common with Durant other than a silky smooth jumper.

So now, instead of dominating the court, I am limited to limping around on crutches or tooling around on a knee scooter. At least I have returned to work after a couple weeks, embracing the opportunity to regale you with my travails.

Among the lessons from this experience is that crutches are primitive contraptions that likely can be traced directly to Marquis de Sade. Actually, according to Wikipedia (so you know it’s true!) they date to ancient Egypt; it is unlikely the design has changed much since then.

Having never before been subjected to crutches, I quickly developed a hate-hate relationship with them. Among the questions: Can somebody create a sturdier base for crutches before I fall off a curb and rupture my other Achilles?

The other notable takeaway from all this is that I am extremely grateful to have adequate health insurance. Doctors’ appointments have been efficient and helpful and have come with manageable out-of-pocket expenses; it is impossible to imagine getting through this relatively minor setback without adequate insurance. Of course, this is what I have been paying for all these years; that’s why they call it insurance.

Meanwhile, about 44 million Americans do not have health insurance. That number is increasing as Republicans continue the death-by-1,000-paper cuts approach to killing Obamacare. The Trump administration has persistently argued against every provision of Obamacare in court and has slashed funding for marketing of the program. The philosophy: If you are not wealthy, you don’t deserve health care. It is shameful.

On the opposite end are some Democrats promoting Medicare For All, which would amount to a government takeover of a health care system that accounts for about one-sixth of the U.S. economy. Considering that nearly half of Americans receive health insurance through employer-provided plans and that most people are happy with their coverage, calls for a single-payer system seem likely to be met with resistance. Like Avengers vs. Thanos levels of resistance.

Improvement is necessary in U.S. health care; this nation spends by far the most money per capita of any country and has far from the best outcomes. But a push for a complete government takeover of the system is like me hoping to dunk a basketball tomorrow — it’s just not going to happen.

By the way, Republicans undoubtedly will remind us this election season of a report that says Medicare For All would cost $32 trillion over the next decade. They likely won’t mention that the same report estimates Americans will spend $34 trillion under the current system.

Health care is one of those things you don’t think about much until you need it. Which means that I just recently have become more appreciative of insurance.

So, as I spend the next couple months in a Star Wars-inspired boot to immobilize my left foot, and as I give thanks that surgery typically is not required for Achilles ruptures, I look forward to the day when I can walk on my own feet. Or ride a bike. Or chase after my kids.

But the basketball? We’ll leave that to the fifth-graders.

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