Punta Cana: When my dance floor moves led me to the hospital

Maybe I was too hard on it. Maybe I took it for granted? Maybe I just never took into account how much I hurt it in the past. What ever the reason was, something had to give. And when it did, all the pain and memories from the past came flooding back. I’m getting ahead of myself, let me take this back one month. It was January 2nd, and the libations and rhythms were flowing freely as Caro and I celebrated the wedding of her best friend, Renee. The reception was held in the discotheque of the resort (as Dominican law dictates) and the dance floor was crowded with wedding guests and lovers of frantic movement and alcohol consumption. Being a little bit of all three, I was in attendance as well.

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I shook and shimmied, I twisted and jumped. My hips didn’t lie and I asked myself,”Who really did let the dogs out?”.  All was right on the dance floor. That is until I tried to perform one simple freakin’ move. One little twist.

That’s all it took, and I was on the floor, staring down at my knee. It had betrayed me again, the knee cap bulging out at the side, and then slipping back into place.

I tried to pop back up quickly to not alert any one, I didn’t want to break the gross news (though the look of shock on my face probably didn’t help), it tends to be a downer. I alerted Caro and we whisked ourselves away before anyone could notice a.k.a I slowly limped away as Caro broke the news to everyone. We finally arrived back in our room after what seemed like hours of shuffling down long hallways, and I was finally able to rest on the bed. But it was while resting, all the worries and questions (that before had pooled together to help me walk) came rushing to mind. How did this happen so easily? How bad is it? Should I go to the hospital? Why did this happen again!? WHYYY?! In 2005, while in high school I hurt my knee in rugby practice. They told me that my knee would never be the same, I had read it too, but I don’t think I ever really believed it. I mean, it had been 8 years of running, sports, traveling the world! And it happens like this!? It was just one dance move away? Reality had sunk in pretty deep at this point. But rather than deal with depressing, old reality, I tried to lay back and go to sleep.


Sleep wasn’t much consolation. I woke the next morning from constant dreams of me re-injuring my knee over and over. Clearly my brain didn’t get the message that this wasn’t a cherished memory. That morning was strange. It almost felt like it didn’t even happen, possibly because of all the dreams. But when I moved, the stiffness and pain convinced me otherwise. It was quickly becoming apparent that we needed to seek some medical attention. So Caro flagged down one of the resort staff, as I shuffled about and tried to keep the pity to a minimum. They instructed that we head to the resort’s medical centre, and were even kind enough to bring a wheelchair for me. All attempts to avoid pity had now failed. While very kind and informative, the resort’s medical pros weren’t providing the quick fix I – unrealistically – was hoping for. I was left with the choices of taking a needle to the knee for $170 or taking my chances with a local hospital. And as enticing as an injection always is, we chose the latter. We were hoping that the doctors at the local hospital in Punta Cana could give me a little peace of mind. Because as much as I would try to take my mind off my knee, other people certainly had no problem telling me how bad they thought my injury was.

“Oh god, that sounds terrible! You know, your knee is never the same after an injury like that!” “Wow that must be really painful! At least you guys are leaving in a day. Jeez, that plane ride isn’t going to be any fun, eh?” Me - “Heh, yah. I know.”

The doctors poked, and prodded me, squeezed and pushed. X-rays came back negative, but there’s little they could do for me there. In fact, there was little they wanted to do! The doctor seemed completely content with letting me leave with just a handful of pills and a brace. He nearly scoffed at the idea that I might need crutches. He even got me to get up off the hospital bed, and hobble back and forth (possibly a medical test, I think it might have been for his amusement), before he sighed, and brought me over some crutches.


We left the next day, thankfully without much time to lament on how this would affect our trip. I could immediately move on to thinking: what the hell am I going to do when we get back?! Winter in Ottawa isn’t quite crutch-friendly. And in just over a month we were off to Iceland! Glacier hiking and a guy with polio crutches aren’t exactly a perfect match. It was very easy to get down and over analyze all of this, but I know that wouldn’t help me. I’ve come back from this before! I will not let my knee stop me from living my life how I want to live it!

Eight years ago they told me I’d never play sports again, I’d always have to be wear a knee brace, and live a slower life. But my knee has brought me across the world! Through the streets of Paris, to the desert of Jordan. It conquered Poon Hill in Nepal, and swam the bays of Thailand. I had proven those doctors wrong and I would again. I will not slow down. There are plenty of miles left in this banged and bruised knee.

It is now one month later, and my knee is coming along slowly but surely! I’ve started to climb stairs normally again, which is a big deal for me – and for 2 year olds – so that’s cool. Plus, I barely use the crutches anymore, unless I’m really trying to milk some sympathy from someone. We leave for Iceland in 4 days, and while I might not be scaling glaciers this time around, I won’t let my knee hold me back from experiencing all the flippin’ amazing things the world has to offer.

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The road to recovery may be long, but if it leads to adventure it’s well worth the miles.

Have you ever been injured abroad? What’s your story?

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  • Vanessa

    I’m sure this wasn’t meant to be a hilarious post but I can’t help but laugh at Matt’s misfortune. Sorry Matt! But congratulations on reaching levels of movement on par with a 2 year old! Seriously, I have never had a serious injury overseas, although I have been sick, and I give you my absolute sympathy on a vacation turned upside down. Clearly, those dogs never should have been let out at all :-)

    • Matt_PassportandaToothbrush

      IT WAS THE DOGS ALL ALONG! And it’s okay, I have to laugh sometimes…to keep from sobbing.
      I totally make 2 yr olds jealous now though.

  • http://sparrowinspace.com/ Angela

    No injuries here but can we please see some more pictures of you guys dancing? Also, good to hear your knee is getting better!

    • Matt_PassportandaToothbrush

      Thank you! And there are more…we keep them in a safe place lol. Might have to let em loose!

  • Federica di Vito

    Hi, I am a new reader of your blog, I really enjoy reading your stories, they’re so funny and real! I wanted to tell you both how I was moved by this very article, because the same thing happened to my boyfriend and I can see the pain and difficulties! Now, it’s been 2 months and it all happened from nothing like you, we were home, cooking and he turned around probably with a strange movement of the knee and then he was on the floor crying in pain. First we went to the hospital but they didn’t do anything, really. Then, after the first x-ray and visit to the trauma specialist we found out he didn’t need surgery (lucky him!) but, as they told you, the knee won’t be the same again, bla bla bla. It’s true it can happen anytime to anyone for no big reason at all. But the truth is also that healing comes from you, the more you move, the sooner you will get better. He just started physioterapy and it will take until September so it’s a bit of a bummer, but I am thinking positive! :) sorry for the large comment, I just needed to share this. It’s an old post but I wish you the best (for knees and all! LOL) Greetings from Spain!