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The Home Team / V.I.P. at all the wrong places

Published 6:36 am, Friday, May 17, 2013
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Way back when, while our two oldest sons were middle-schoolers and our youngest was not much more than a rugrat, I wrote a column about being able to walk into the local Subway, or McDonald's, or the Westport Burger King -- may it rest in peace -- and just say, "The usual." I called the piece "VIP Treatment," and of course, was poking fun at our habit of being such regular denizens of all these high-end establishments around town.

In more recent years we've become Very Important People at two other establishments -- one in Manhattan and the other in Greenwich -- and I'm not sure this is such a good thing. The first is New York's Hospital for Special Surgery; the second is the Greenwich Physical Therapy Center.

Some years back I was at HSS for a year-long bout with frozen shoulder, for which I was treated with cortison shots. I'm currently a herniated-disk customer, have had two epidural steroid injections and seem to be a candidate for a third. My wife's balky left knee has made her even more of a Frequent Flyer at HSS Suites: She's had PRP (platelet-rich plasma) treatment, a blast of cortisone and two separate three-shot series of Synvisc injections. Our oldest son, Matt, has had two shoulder surgeries there, and while our middle son, Greg, has so far "missed out" (knock wood), our youngest, Robby, has more than made up for him: He hasn't turned 20 yet, and he's already had three shoulder surgeries and one knee operation there.

Last December, when we brought Robby in for his left shoulder (second time around on that joint), Dr. W. greeted him with a "There's The Man!" L., his assistant, said, facetiously, "Long time no see." The nurse who always sets him up on the examining table gave him a big smile. "You know the drill," she added.

Everyone -- from the reception staff to the parking lot attendants to the guy who hands out the ice machine for rehab (we now have four of these and are planning to sell our excess inventory on eBay) -- knows Robby on sight. We've heard talk of a renaming ceremony: The Robby Herman Wing. When he leaves the building, they all but say, "We'll leave the light on for you."

Now if you live in this neck of the woods and you have a procedure done at Hospital for Special Surgery, it's pretty much a slam-dunk that you'll do your rehab at Greenwich Physical Therapy. I'd done mine there years ago for my frozen shoulder, but that's not what they remembered me for when I walked into the facility in March with my herniated disk. Dr. S., who runs an amazingly effective operation and prides himself on keeping up a cheerful camaraderie among the patients in the big treatment room, introduced me around as "Robby's dad. You know Robby, the football player from Staples who's had four surgeries, and pretty much lives here?" That's all he needed to say. I was immediately granted celebrity status, and treated like royalty.

As I approach the final turn on my current rehab stint, Dr. S., knowing I'm a hat wearer, gave me what he called a "special edition" Greenwich Physical Therapy ballcap. "Here's one for Robby, too," he said, aware that Robby was wrapping up his sophomore year at USC and would be home in a few days. What I don't think he realized is that he'd actually be seeing Robby soon. Robby's been winding down his rehab on surgery No. 4 in Los Angeles and, though he was given a clean bill of health by his physical therapist out there, he texted us that he'd like two or three more weeks at GPTC, "just to make sure the shoulder is 100 percent."

A physical therapy addict, ya think?

I will say this. There's a downside to being a V.I.P. Eventually you get taken for granted. All the "graduates" of Greenwich Physical Therapy Center get a GPTC T-shirt, in either white or green. Dr. S. saw me eyeing a green one earlier this week. "None for you," he said. "You guys already have a closet full of them."

"The Home Team" appears every other Friday. You can also keep up with Hank's adventures with his dog, Ricky, on his blog, "Beagle Man," on the Westport News website at http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/. To reach Hank, email him at DoubleH50@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @BeagleManHank.