How ‘Relationships in Healthcare’ Saved Me

I couldn’t believe it.

For two months within 2021, I spent thousands of dollars of mine and my health insurance’s money on Doctors, X-Rays, and prescription products to treat my achilles tendon that had me, literally, unable to walk some days – having to travel around my own house on the ground, unable to stand on it. I even gave up my favorite form of exercise of all time for a short period, my biggest calorie burner and my daily mental health therapy – running.

When former college athletes are unable to perform, it causes a whole additional mental health stress on top of your regular day-to-day life stresses. It was not a good two months and I became baffled that I was not finding any real solutions that would allow me to run again.

In June of 2021, after a hiking trip to Colorado with only one day of breath-taking pain out of the nine total, I came home and saw my favorite Massage Therapist, Maria, for a stress visit. At no point in time did I know or believe that I needed to tell my massage therapist about my achilles tendon – I thought that this was entirely a medical issue, the kind that you hear horror stories about like, “If it tears and snaps, half of it rolls up the back of your calf and it takes surgery and more than six months to heal!” Thus, never would I normally bring this fearful and perceived only [western] medical issue to my massage therapist. I also could never find pain in the area to the touch; it was only painful to bear weight all of this time. I tried to find pain to the touch in and around the area with foam rollers, small balls, my own hands, Orthopedics had tried, there was nothing.

Maria Bojorques (Wilmington, NC) is by far the most talented massage therapist I have ever met. She is also skilled, but she truly has some kind of gift from a higher power to find and solve physical problems that is almost hard to explain. I learned this quickly, she knows it about herself, she just knows exactly where an issue is even if the surface area is so little that it would take a ball-point pen to to find it. I, not jokingly, consider my visits with her “medicinal” and I attend for personally-considerable medicinal reasons.

I do not go to massage therapy appointments because it’s fun or because I have lots of free time, and especially not because I have the disposable income to spend. While it is great to see a massage therapist, I do not have free time, nor do I have the disposable income. I treat my wellness visits the same way I treat my Doctor visits – like they are important and I have a narrow goal worth my dollars and time to attend. This characteristic is also what makes me culturally equipped to manage the companies that I do.

So, Maria touched my calf and she froze, “Sara what is this?” as she continued down my leg to my ankle, perfectly following the linear pain, where I was suddenly shot from behind on my achilles, raising my upper body from the table and turning to look at her with a face of confusion and distress, “How did you just figure that out?”

Maria replied, “Sara, this is not good! What did you do to this achilles? It is very mad at you and tightening up and under the bones from not taking care of it.” I began to tell her about my ‘end’ to running, Orthopedic visits, crutches, X-Rays, Doctors believing the heel was fractured, and the little rubber cups to put in your sneakers that ‘shorten’ the tendon. She explained that from her judgment it was horrific knots and tightness in the area, worsening daily, stopped performing on the other focus areas and went to work on the ankle, heel, and calf.

Initially, her discovery of the painful area had my face purple from not breathing, and a few minutes later we were smooth-sailing with little to no pain to the touch at all. I was amazed at (1) my inability to realize that all along my tendon was a wellness issue and (2) I’ve opened three companies that centralize alternative medicine and (again) failed to identify that my tendon was a wellness issue. I laid on the table wondering, “What kind of wellness administrator am I? I am our biggest advocate and STILL even I am underestimating the importance of our industry’s work.”

My mistake was not seeing a wellness professional on the subject earlier, especially one who already knows me, my lifestyle, my body, and might have the capacity to analyze my athletic or wellness history more closely than a brand new professional. Maria knows me and really knows my body, and her ability to identify something so quickly goes to show how important that relationship in healthcare was and will continue to be. Who knows, maybe if I switched massage therapists 10 times, no one would have already been familiar enough with my body to find it. Maria is a veteran with me though, Maria knows what’s normal and what is strange now. Our relationship will bring me back to running.

The moral of the story is that while we are initially consulting our Doctors or considering spending big money on X-Rays, it certainly does not hurt to let our most bonded professionals know about what is going on; ESPECIALLY when you do not have the big bucks to spare. Anyone could be completely misinterpreting their body and fail to acknowledge the breadth of others profession, intuitive familiarity with you, their skillset, and their ability to solve a problem.

My trust in my own wellness team was already high, but has suddenly gone through the roof. I will continue consulting with new professionals when I need to, but will be more willing to share issues with someone who (1) knows me well and (2) could save me a lot of money in the long haul.

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