My Threshold Space

Pritpal S Tamber

March 18, 2017

How my current uncertainty is corrosive, especially when it comes to whether I'll play football again

Everything feels a little desolate right now.  

At CHC2016, one of the innovators described the “threshold space”, the place of uncertainty that resides between the current way of doing things and the newly-forming way that will – with luck – soon become the norm. The transition is what every innovator strives for but there is a moment when you’re between the two – the current and the new – and everything feels uncertain. 

That’s where I am right now. 

And I’m not enjoying it.  


My left medial meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament are torn. My general practitioner knew something was wrong when I showed up two weeks after the initial injury with a swollen knee but no visible bruising. I’ve had an MRI, which confirmed that both are torn. And now I’m waiting to see an orthopaedic surgeon.  

What’s material in this threshold space is whether I’ll play football again, and at what level. The very idea of not playing is hard for me to bear. Football has been my life. I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember. It is – if I’m being honest – the only thing I understand. Certainly more than health care, women, and people, in general. 


The appointment with the surgeon is Tuesday. What will the news be? If there is hope, how much? And how long will the recovery be? I’m finding the uncertainty difficult to handle.  

I’m going private. I was referred within the NHS but the waiting time for an initial consultation was over three months. Three. Months. I asked some of my friends if they could recommend a surgeon and they all said go private. It was less the standard of care in the NHS they didn’t believe in, than the wait – and the sheer lottery of which surgeon you’ll get. 

So I’m seeing the NHS surgeon they recommended privately. Once I made that decision I got an appointment in three days. Days. Not months. That’s a threshold space I can handle.  

Not Alone

But no threshold exists in isolation. We’re all always between decisions. The other decisions this impacts relates to dating and attire (and those two inter-relate too).  

When I got back from the US I decided it was time to fix up and look sharp. We want to raise money for BH&C, like millions of dollars. I think I need to find a clean shirt and a pair of shoes. I can’t see any investor wanting to put too much money behind a chap seemingly living in his two pairs of Uniqlo jeans. But collars and heels cost money. And I may need the money for an operation or two, assuming I decide to stay private. 

On dating, well, as I mentioned last time, I’m told there are plenty more fish in the sea so I need to find a rod. They’re not cheap. They’re not expensive but they’re not free either. And they look better well-dressed.  


So, I’m in this threshold space, a place of corrosive uncertainty. Of the three things I’ve listed – football, clothes and a woman – the one thing that matters most is football. I just want to be on that pitch again, watching the ebb and flow of the players, reading the game, timing my moves, and playing my part. It’s the one thing I understand, the one thing that gives me certainty.  

Without it – or with the thought of not having it – I’m lost. That’s where I am.


In my threshold space.  


Pritpal S Tamber

I’m a doctor who trained as a medical editor and publisher and now researches and consults on the link between community power and health equity. My interest in community power started when I was the Physician Editor of TEDMED and is explained in My Perspective. I also work as a freelance medical editor and publisher for organisations that want to write high-quality articles and a strategy for their publishing and promotion. Find out more on my About page.

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