Dara Torres, mother of 6-year old, Tessa, and author of Age is Just A Number, took time from her busy schedule to talk with Cureus about her experiences as a 5-time Olympic swimmer and her perspectives as a vast consumer of medical services.
Many people have asked Dara questions about her swimming career, but Cureus wanted to better understand her experiences with the healthcare system resulting from the stress and strain of training and competing intensely for over 3 decades.
Torres laughed, “this will take a year to answer…I’m serious, I’ve had about 25 surgeries!”
Medicine evolves quickly, and just as an Olympic athlete must stay at the “top of his/her game,” Torres is a quintessential example of how important it is for doctors and surgeons to stay at the “top of their games.”
How? By training! The same way an Olympian trains. And Olympians don’t train on rusty outdated equipment.
• An Olympian trains (and competes) with state of the art tools and methods and equipment. Remember when Olympic swimmers wore just plain bathing suits? Now, no racer hits the water without super-slick highly absorptive, muscle compression/supportive skin suits! These suits are designed to give swimmers the best position in the water and added speed above all.
• Physicians train by learning and practicing, and learning and practicing some more. But for this type of skill mastery, a system needs to be in place that gives doctors that “competitive edge”…by giving them quick access to knowledge that allows them to employ the most up-to-date procedures and innovative techniques. This gives doctors the best position!
That’s where Cureus comes into play. Cureus is that system supporting the physicians racing to touch the wall for a medal finish. Doctors no longer have to read papers that were written 5 years ago from data that were collected 5 years before that. Doctors now have Cureus’ super-slick way of publishing information and getting it out there effectively and efficiently and to everyone!
Torres has dealt with the following surgeries:
• Tommy John surgery
• 2 repairs to a deviated septum – which Torres attributes to diving into the water so frequently and with such force. She joked: “Obviously I haven’t done anything to change the shape of my nose.”
• 4 laparoscopies
• a torn ligament repair of the thumb (for hitting the timer on the pool wall so hard to ensure proper recording)
• 3 hand surgeries (nerve repair)
• 5 shoulder surgeries
• 8 bilateral knee surgeries
“As far as my knees go, the most recent surgery was the biggie. It was 2009, about a year after Beijing; I had just finished swimming at World Championships; I couldn’t even walk up and down the stairs. Torres describes her experience HERE.
According to Dara’s surgeon, at the Cartilage Repair Center (CRC) at Harvard Medical School, “Torres had patellar maltracking with cartilage loss on the patella and trochlea groove. Her patella was realigned with a tibial tubercle osteotomy (TTO) and resurfaced on both surfaces with her own laboratory grown cells” via autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI).” This was a complex reconstructive surgery that required extremely careful post-operative rehabilitation.
Without the cutting edge knee reconstruction detailed above, Torres would not have been able to consider a 6th Olympics, nonetheless come within 9/100ths of a second in the final heat of the US Olympic Trials.
The physical demands on the body for such a long duration of competitive athletics, and at that intensity, are truly incredible. But because of the quick up-to-date access to the latest and greatest medical tools, demanded by an Olympic Athlete, Torres is NOT limping up any more stairs and she IS running and working out as she so desires.
Few of us will compete in athletics at the level Dara has enjoyed, but when it comes to medical care, wants and needs, Torres is just like the rest of us, searching for a highly skilled physician who cares about his/her patients! And since medicine is changing constantly, Cureus is going to make sure the spread of medical knowledge is disseminated at Torres-like speed!