Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some things never change

For the second time in a week, last night I went to the gym. Although I've never been a huge fan of the gym, I've always enjoyed people watching. When I was training for half marathons last winter I spent many hours chugging along on the treadmill and got to see some pretty interesting things. I wondered if my limited activity would change my perspective of the other gym patrons, so I entered the gym last night with two goals: 1. exercise, 2. intense people observation. The results: 45 minutes on the elliptical and the realization that most things never change.

For example:
  • No matter how out of shape you are, someone will always be in worse shape
  • People still read magazines while walking on the treadmill
  • Tattooed men still spend a lot of time motionless, looking at themselves in the mirror in the free weights section
  • Someone will always move to a different treadmill when they realize the television doesn't work on theirs
  • If you scan the room and see one person that you really don't want to come near you, that person will inevitably hop on the machine right next to you. They are usually dipped in a strong cologne.
  • If there's only one machine you want to use, and only one other person in the room, that person will most definitely be on that machine
Other random observations

  • People on ellipticals are madmen. Although almost an entire row of treadmills was empty, the ellipticals were roaring with activity. Nearly every machine was taken and most people seemed very focused on their performance. Naturally I had to put myself in silent competition with my strongly scented neighbor.
  • People that walk on treadmills uphill look funny. The steeper they have the incline set, the funnier they look. Especially when it's hiked up so steep that the walker is holding onto the handrails for dear life.
  • If you are "running" on the treadmill while holding onto the front handles with a death grip, you probably shouldn't be running. But keep at it, because I want to see what happens when you lose your grip.
  • Everyone in general seemed a little more focused than I remember from months ago when I was running on the treadmill. Maybe it's just because I'm slower so everyone looks faster, or maybe it's because everyone's trying to outrun the holiday hams they had over the weekend.

Next year marks the New Year, which is good and bad. Bad because a whole new crop of people will be invading the gym, making it nearly impossible to get the machines I want. Good because it's a whole new batch of people to observe!

Monday, December 26, 2011

I hereby declare myself "lightly active"

Today is the day, I decided.  Today is the day that I transition from “rehab/recovery” to “lightly active”.  This is a big milestone for me, and one thing I’m not going to do is take it for granted.  A couple weeks ago I was feeling almost as optimistic, until I made a failed attempt at hanging out a truck window and thought I might be facing a second surgery.  That was a wakeup call, and I vowed that if I came out of that okay, I wouldn’t take my healing for granted again.  I promised myself that I wouldn’t push anything too far too fast, and I would quit asking when I could ride my horse.
                After that poorly executed move a couple weeks ago, my hip was very very tender.  I had tickets to the Patriots game this past Saturday, and I really started to stress over how well I was going to handle that.  I knew there would be a lot of walking, some stair climbing, an uncomfortable seat, and probably lots of standing up.  Since I promised not to be a hero and to ignore what anyone thought of me, I brought my crutch with me.  It ended up being a great idea and I really feel that it helped save me.  As a result, instead of being sore and virtually immobile on Christmas morning, I felt surprisingly good!

Tailgating at the Pats game! Brrrrr....

                There was only one thing I asked Santa for this year, and that was a new hip.  Now, my mother thought this was a little unnecessary because my hip was fine; it just needed to heal.  So, I revised my one and only request and said I just wanted my hip to heal faster.  Now I can’t exactly prove that he had anything to do with this, but I will say I was feeling pretty springy.  And since “healing faster” isn’t something tangible that I can unwrap, Santa also brought me Zensah compression sleeves for my arms and legs!  I am so excited about this.  I remember the first time Jaimee showed up at our lunch run wearing compression socks and I nearly broke a rib laughing at her.  Wait til I show up in these…

Hot. Stuff.

The only thing that would have made Christmas better was if I could have gone for my annual Christmas morning ride on my horse.  That didn’t happen, but we did get to go for a post-dinner walk with the family!  (Confession…I wore my compression sleeves under my jeans!)
                I woke up this morning feeling really good again.  The really really bad pain I felt from the window-dangling was gone.  The normal hip pain wasn’t bad.  I did a few things around the house, waiting for the pain to show up.  It didn’t.  And that’s when I knew: Today is the first day of good things.  I don’t know how else to explain it.  I know I could face other setbacks and I’m sure I will have a lot more days of pain.  But, today was the first time I didn’t have pain every second of every minute.  Today is the day I knew I could be more active, and I wasn’t going to waste a minute of it.  Today, for the first time in probably six months, I went to the gym.
                Is there any better workout sound in the world than Florence And The Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over”?  No, there’s not.  Not only is it energizing, but the words seemed to be speaking to me.  I sprinted on the elliptical as I inhaled every word:
Happiness, hit her like a train on a track

The dog days are over
The dog days are done
The horses are coming
So you better run

Run fast for your mother run fast for your father
Run for your children for your sisters and brothers
Leave all your love and your longing behind you
Can't carry it with you if you want to survive

The dog days are over
The dog days are done
Can you hear the horses
'Cause here they come
 (Florence And The Machine Dog Days Are Over lyrics, 2011)

            I had such a good time grooving to my iPod playlist that before I knew it I had done 45 minutes on the elliptical and worked up a great sweat.  (Which caught me off guard… I was thinking, what is that weird prickly feeling on my face?  Oh…sweat!)  I took advantage of having all the machines handy and got in a full workout, including all the exercises I do at PT.  Today I didn’t feel like someone recovering from hip surgery.  Today I felt like any other gym-goer getting a good workout on the machines.  I walked out of the gym feeling really confident and immediately started planning my next activity.  And now I’m going to go home and do all the barn chores.  And then I’m going to go for a walk.  And then I’m going to brush my horse Rocco.  And then I’m going to take HIM for a walk.  And then I’m going to take the dog for a walk.  And then I’m going to ride my bike.  And then I’m going to …<<STOP!!>>  

                After mentally dope-slapping myself, I toned down my list of afternoon activities.  Well…yes, I did all the barn chores.  And I brushed Rocco, but I didn’t walk him.  I did go for a walk.  I didn’t take the dog.  And I’m not riding my bike.  (Maybe tomorrow).
                The dog days are over, people.  Today is day 1 of going in the right direction.  Now that I’ve healed enough to make the gym worth going to, I’m going to go as often as I can.  In the pursuit of health, and just as importantly: in the pursuit of happiness.
This post is dedicated to the big guy upstairs for helping my hip heal faster.  Yes, Santa, that means you!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Wake Up Call

Here describes the rise and fall…and hopeful rise again of the long long long long road to recovery.
I’ve been steadily improving over the last couple of weeks.  Each time at PT, I’m treated with tougher challenges, more weights, and new machines.  I had finally graduated to the arc trainer, which was a nice change of pace from the bike.  The leg presses are up to 70 lbs, which is a giant improvement from the 0 lb presses I started with just a few weeks ago.  (Seriously, zero pounds!)  I was driving a little more comfortably, and even started walking more confidently in the woods.  Early last week I walked over 2 miles by myself in the woods.  Just me and my handy ski pole.  I started feeling – dare I say – athletic again.  By last Tuesday I was feeling pretty confident at PT.  In fact, I was feeling so confident that I got in a little horse race with the lady on the arc trainer next to me.  I can’t help it, what was I supposed to do?  This trim, athletic looking lady hopped on the arc trainer next to me and ran her little legs off at a sprint.  My competitive juices boiled, and I couldn’t let her outrun me.  I pushed the pace up so I was stride for stride with her.  The best part was when she dismounted (she was doing 5 minutes, I was doing 10) and she was completely and totally out of breath.  I smirked in quiet satisfaction as I breathed steadily for the remaining 5 minutes.
                Since I was feeling all confident and athletic again, I decided to push my therapist a little harder about riding my horse again.  She wasn’t ready to budge, and said I still had a ways to go before I could ride.  Instead, she told me, I could take my horse for walks.  Walks!  Clearly she doesn’t know how fast my horse walks.  I said I’d think about it, but I was a little disappointed.  I felt certain I could sit in a saddle even if for just a short ride. 
                On Wednesday I had my six week evaluation with the surgeon (the surgeon with the movie star looks and charisma to match).  He seemed genuinely pleased with my progress and had me moving my leg certain ways to see my range of motion.  He gave me the okay to start doing some additional exercises and more walking.  When talk turned to running, he stuck with his start date of March.  He said it was going to take until then for enough healing to take place, and for my hip to be able to sustain the impact of running.  I nodded in agreement, saying I wasn’t going to push anything too soon and risk undoing all the work we’ve put into it.  As much as I hate this long sentence of non-running, I know it’s necessary and I’ve made peace with it.  I think part of the reason for this is that I’m still in a lot of pain.  Even though I brag about all the progress I’ve made, there’s never a time when I think, “hey maybe I’ll just jog a few steps”.  Even though I’m almost two months out from surgery, it still feels new and raw. 
                Kevin Costner – I mean – my surgeon and I then discussed my race calendar for 2012.  I had mentally committed to running the Chicago Marathon in October but he said absolutely not.  I would not be in any sort of condition to start training for a marathon, and he reminded me that when I finally do start running, it’s going to have to be very lightly for the first couple of months.  Instead, he said he highly recommended – of all things – the Disney marathon in January, 2013!  This was very ironic, since I was thinking of running this one as well.  While I was initially bummed about missing Chicago, his recommendation of Disney really brightened my mood.  Finally, I asked about riding my horse.  Again, he said absolutely not.  He emphasized that this was still too new, I didn’t have the right range of motion, and I couldn’t risk any heavy impact or unexpected movements.  He said he didn’t want me riding until March.  I protested, saying I really didn’t want to let it go that long.  His solution: take my horse for walks.  What is it with these people?  He then reminded me that when he fixed my hip, he fixed it for life.  This is just a hiccup, and I needed to keep the bigger picture in mind.  Okay…but…ugh.
                On Thursday, back at PT, I told my therapist all about my meeting with the surgeon, including my disappointment about riding my horse.  My therapist explained that the surgeon is right, but he is being very careful.  I might not need to wait until March, but I need to be realistic about my healing, and that ultimately I will know best when it’s time to get back in the saddle.  I liked his explanation better, since I was feeling pretty confident at this point and thought I would be ready to sit in that saddle in no time.  I chirped on and on about how good I was feeling, and that I was ready to start going to my gym again.  Now that I have a number of exercises I can do at the gym, it seems worth going to.  I think mentally it will make me feel just a bit more athletic and focused to be doing my exercises at the gym.  Yes, things were finally all starting to come together.  Slowly.
                And now that you’ve heard the rise, rise, rise… I bet you know what’s coming.
                On Friday afternoon I needed to pick up some horse supplies with the pickup truck.  I stopped at the ATM, and if you’ve ever driven a pickup truck to an ATM you realize that ATM’s weren’t designed for pickup trucks.  In hindsight I should have parked the truck and walked in, but of course I didn’t realize I was going to run into this problem.  At the ATM I strained and stretched out the window, trying to reach the money.  With one final super-stretch I simultaneously reached the money and felt a sharp and nauseating pain in my hip.  Immediately I knew something was wrong.  The pain was familiar.  It was the unmistaken pain I had when I first injured myself on that ill-fated day in April.  I tried to deny it, shake it off, convince myself nothing was wrong.  But throughout the day the pain continued to get worse.  On Saturday I was in so much discomfort I could barely walk, and had to skip two parties I had been looking forward to.  Finally I took a Vicodin, sat in the recliner, and contemplated my fate in a slowly increasing fog.
                By Sunday the pain was just about as bad, despite keeping my hip as still as possible.  I was sore, terribly worried, and between the pain and the anxiety I could barely sleep at night.  So many thoughts were going through my head.  I cannot possibly be back at square one.  There’s no way I can start over.  How am I going to explain this to my surgeon that in one stupid move I unraveled everything we had done.  Mentally I don’t think I can handle going through this again.  I will never forgive myself.  I felt myself going through the five stages of grief.  1. It’s not really that bad.  See?  If I don’t move it’s not that bad.  If I don’t tell my surgeon then it won’t be real. 2. How can this be happening to me? AGAIN?! 3. I swear, God, if you’re listening, I will never never ever ever ever hang out a truck window again.  I won’t even stretch.  I’ll be a better person.  I’ll do volunteer work and go to church.  I take back all those jokes I made about Tim Tebow.  Just please please don’t let this be happening. 4. I want to fall asleep and never wake up.  5. Okay, I actually never made it to this stage.
                On Monday I was still in a lot of pain, but I will say I don’t think it was quite as bad as it had been on Friday or over the weekend.  All day I tried to decide if I should call the surgeon, but I didn’t want to seem like I was overreacting.  Finally I decided to wait until my PT appointment.  That night, I spoke to my therapist.  I explained precisely what happened (despite the risk of him dope-slapping me for hanging out a truck window).  He watched me walk, then put me on the bike with no resistance.  (Yes, I got demoted from the arc trainer).  Several of my strengthening exercises were removed, and others had the weights reduced.  I was back at where I had been weeks ago.  After careful observation, my therapist assured me that I hadn’t done any permanent damage.  He said that the motion I made of hanging out the window was simply not severe enough to tear my joint apart.  It’s not like I fell out of the truck, slipped on ice, or did any other sort of damaging movement.  He said I’m extremely sore because I strained the joint by stretching it way past its maximum motion.  That’s all.  He said it would take more time for it to calm down, but within a few days I should start feeling better.  Being the dismal skeptic that I am, naturally I’m not 100% convinced at his answer but still very relieved. 
                Today, sure enough I’m starting to feel better.  My hip is so tender and sore, but I did manage to go for a walk for the first time since Friday.  On Friday when this first happened I felt like I was back at the beginning.  Now I feel like I’m about 4 weeks post surgery instead of 7.  Hopefully in just a couple more days I’ll be feeling like I’m back on track.  If nothing else, this setback comes to me as a huge wake up call. Although I had been vigilant in doing all my exercises and had vowed to do everything by the book, it made me realize just how fragile my hip still is.  All it took to set me back weeks of progress was to reach out the window at the ATM.  If I can’t do basic everyday tasks, then I have no business sitting in a saddle or pushing the doctor to let me run sooner.  Not only is this a wakeup call, it has really made me think about all the instinctual, automatic movements we make every day that are taken for granted.  This recovery isn’t just about healing my hip.  It’s about keeping awareness of the most basic movements and instincts and being able to control them in order to protect my hip.  It’s a work in progress, but after the scare I’ve had over the last few days, it’s definitely work worth doing. 
                My goal will continue to be adhering to all doctor’s orders, sticking to my exercise plan, and protecting my hip from any sudden, instinctual movements.  And of course, I will start scoping out Disney hotels.  After all, doctor’s orders!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

"Enhanced" physical therapy

It was just over five weeks ago that I had my hip surgery, and I'm finally starting to feel like I'm making solid progress on the road to recovery.  I had my doubts for the first couple weeks.  Patience has never been my strong suit, so I was floored when, after a full two weeks, I was still in pain.  I knew that the recovery time was 3-5 months.  We went over that in my consultations.  Somehow when the doctor emphasized 3-5 months, in my mind I thought that just meant I would be perfectly fine except I couldn't run for 3-5 months.  I guess I didn't realize that it also meant I would be in pain (sometimes lots of it), I wouldn't be able to move my leg properly, I would have to re-learn the simplest movements, and I would be dependant on others for so many things.

To recap the last five weeks:
Week 1: Lots of pain.  Couldn't move my leg at all without assistance. Spent most of every day sitting in a recliner with pillows under my knee to keep my hip at a more comfortable angle.  Days passed by in a Percoset-induced fog.  Nights were uncomfortable, and I was forced to sleep on my back with pillows under my leg. Strange nerve pain near the incision made it nearly impossible to wear pants.

Week 2: Still lots of pain, but moved around a little better.  Got better skilled at climbing the stairs in the house, and figured out a way to move my coffee cup from the kitchen to the living room (gaining whatever crumb of independence I could muster). Refused to take more painkillers. Started Physical Therapy, which included some very gentle exercises to move my leg, and I was given some "homework" to start strengthening my leg.

Week 3: Progress still seemed very slow and I started running out of patience.  Since I was unable to drive and was stuck at home all day, my attitude got pretty sour. (Thus, the absence of blogging).  I hated being stuck inside all day. I hated reading. I hated watching TV. I pretty much hated everything.  I finally got up the strength to crutch my way outside, and started incorporating a little bit of outdoor crutching into my rehabilitation.  The physical therapist was skeptical and mildly amused.

Week 4: Progress seemed to accelerate this week, and every time I went to PT I had better and better news to report.  My outdoor crutching increased to a half mile, then 3/4 mile.  Eventually I was able to do part of that routine with only one crutch, and I only used one crutch in the house.  My leg had atrophed so quickly that it was astonishing.  When I flexed my quad and then felt it with my hand, my leg was just squishy.  I literally couldn't even feel a muscle in there no matter now hard I flexed.  I was shocked and depressed at this revelation, but I realized I had to measure my success by comparing it to where I was three weeks ago, not three months ago.  I knew I was making quick progress.  PT had me start riding the stationary bike for 3 minutes one day, then 5 minutes the next. By the end of week 4 I was down to 1 crutch and walking a mile a day.

Week 5: Progress continued to speed right along.  I went back to work, from home, since I was finally able to sit relatively comfortably at my desk. I attempted to drive early in the week but it was still pretty sore.  I felt pretty liberated showing up to PT with only one crutch.  I again shocked my therapist when I proudly announced I had done a 1 mile walk through the woods on my one crutch. PT added more exercises and doubled the existing ones.  I started walking short distances in the house without crutches, and by the end of the week I was able to drive a short distance comfortably.

And now...the start of week 6!
The physical therapist gave me the green light to start riding a stationary bike, lightly, for 20 minutes at a time.  I contemplated going to the gym but I just couldn't drum up the courage to show up at the gym with a crutch. Yesterday I carefully climbed up on my mountain bike and rode it around my driveway.  It was fun to get on it, but probably not too wise because of all the bumps, and the likelihood of me losing my balance and not being able to get my leg under me to stop a fall.  I stopped after a few minutes, but then went for a very successful 1+ mile walk in the woods with just a ski pole!  I also decided to give myself a bit of a workout with some kettlebell exercises, which I modified as needed to avoid too much hip strain.  As usual I probably overdid it a little (just like before surgery) and I spent some of the afternoon packed in ice. 

Late in the afternoon, my mother presented me with the most amazing birthday gift... a cycle trainer! 

This was the perfect solution to being able to safely enjoy my bike and get some good workouts in, both during rehabilitation and beyond.  In just a few minutes, the bike was locked into place, and I was itching to use it!  Since I had already worked so hard I knew I should wait, but I just couldn't resist taking it for a spin.  I did a 20 minute ride on the bike, and it was the first time in literally a couple months that I worked up a sweat.  I've really missed that!

Today I'm taking it easy, since my body is telling me I overdid it a bit yesterday.  I might do a short ride on the bike later, but I've pledged to avoid anything too strenuous.  I can't wait to see my therapist's reaction tomorrow when I tell him I incorporated hiking, biking, and kettlebells into my rehab program!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The dawn of running

As expected, despite the best of intentions and planning, there’s pretty much nothing that can combat the feelings of frustration and immobility I’m feeling post surgery.  I’m not a person that was meant to sit still, so this business of sitting in a recliner, no matter what is attempting to entertain me at the time, is pretty much a mental death sentence.  I have come to resent the fancy HDTV (Sorry guys, Scott already called dibs on it), as well as the laptop, the magazines, and even my Nook.  I know what you’re thinking.  This is going to be one of those annoying blogs where the writer throws a pity party and I click “Next blog” to save myself from being sucked into her narcissistic depression.  Not so fast, Jose!
Granted, I’ve grown a little bored with the Nook.  That’s only because I’m reading it not because I want to, but because it’s a lack of options.  I already read through Dean Karnazes’ Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss, in which I was half inspired, half grossed out, by the level of commitment that crazy fool has demonstrated for the love of running and the love of humanity.  He is amazing, and completely insane, and I am scared of love him.  My goal isn’t to be anything like him.  My goal is to be about 1/50th of him.  It would be hard for any running story to follow Dean’s words of inspiration, so in all due respect I should have switched gears to a different genre.  Instead, I followed it with Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners.  Also a good book, also with many inspirational stories.  I think it would have been a fantastic book for me to read when I first started out running.  It would have provided me with a lot of inspiration as well as education about running, gear, and grit.  Reading it now sounds familiar, as if many of these stories took tiny bits of my life and stretched them across many different tales.  After reading about the 20th story of another underdog/out of shape/middle aged/overcoming tragedy/bittersweet tale describing the entrance to running, I lost interest.  That might be too strong.  It’s not that I lost interest, but in reading so many stories with such familiarity, it made me reflect on my own personal journey into running.  That, I feel, is a tale worth telling.
I started running in 2009.  Similar to reading Chicken Soup, it wasn’t so much done out of desire as out of a lack of options.  I was one of those people that was occasionally very committed to going to the gym.  I would get a gym membership, and go religiously for a couple weeks testing out each of the different ellipticals before becoming “too busy with personal obligations” to continue fine tuning my elliptical skills.  When my job was relocated 60 miles north, getting to the gym before or after work became a real challenge.  It was about this time that I coincidentally had started taking my health a little more seriously, was eating better, losing weight, and was determined not to let this latest challenge unravel all of my hard work.
This is where my friend Kerri comes in.  Kerri was an established runner and cyclist, completing grueling long distance races such as the Pan Mass Challenge and the Boston Marathon.  Doing this required Kerri to overcome some personal challenges, and she was a great role model.  She taught a spin class, which I attended with consistent irregularity, so when we were relocated it was natural that I would turn to her again.  Kerri is the original lunch-runner.  Her solution to longer hours and longer commutes was to squeeze workouts into her lunch hour.  With a little cajoling, Kerri suckered me into coming along.
Kerri promised to start slow, and we would do a walk/jog routine along the perimeter of the company property.  She showed me the locker room, which at the time was used by no one but us.  Back then, running at lunch was a very foreign concept and we were met with some strange looks by co-workers as we walked through the building in our sweatpants.  Our first couple of outings were a little rough, with me gasping to catch my breath while she effortlessly glided along.  She doesn’t know this, but she was a mentor, an educator, and an inspiration.  When I told her about my blisters, she told me about proper fitting socks and running shoes.  When I confided in her about the unsightly, bloody chafe marks I endured under my shirt, she enlightened me to the wonderful world of sports bras. 
When I first started running I wasn’t confident enough to go out and run a few miles on the streets.  This walk/jog routine may have been acceptable on a lunch break in the confines of a parking lot, but I didn’t want to look like a loser in front of passersby every time I stopped for a walk break.  Stupid when I look back on it, but it was a true concern at the time.  Instead, I decided to take my walk/jog routine to a local track.  It was summer and school was out, so I didn’t have to worry about the track being used by student athletes.  I will never forget the first time I went to the track.  I was determined to look like a real runner, so as not to look bad in front of the absolutely no one that was looking at me.  I grabbed my iPod, did a number of impressive stretches in the parking lot, using my car door for balance, and headed up to the track.  My first obstacle was entering the track itself.  I remember scouring the chain link fence, with sheer panic, unable to find the break in the fence.  Foolishly I wondered if each of the runners on the track had actually climbed the fence to get in.  I made eye contact with a runner, and although I was mortified with embarrassment, I hoped he would at least give a nod to point out the entrance to the track.  He didn’t.  Eventually I found my own way onto the track, and looked for a place to set down my belongings.  I placed my water bottle down on the ground, but couldn’t bring myself to set my car keys down.  I was convinced that one of the other 3 or 4 runners on the track would swipe my keys and take off in my SUV, so I decided to stash them in my jacket pocket.  This was a time long before I realized that I only needed to take that single car key with me.  On this track debut, I brought the whole jingle-jangle keychain.  I started off in my warm up jog, feeling the weight of the keys, the bottle opener, and the palm tree key chain bouncing in my pocket.  The “I won’t tell you where the break in the fence is” runner passed me, glancing over in irritation at my jingling metronome, and I responded by turning up the volume on my iPod and staring straight ahead.  I’m proud to say I’ve come a long way since then!
A lot has happened since those initial runs in the parking lot and on the track.  I have logged thousands of miles on the roads and trails.  My very first race was a 10k, and I’ve entered in at least one race a month ever since.  I still avoid the gym as much as possible but instead of dodging stationary bikes, I embraced mountain biking as a form of cross training.  I joined a running club and recently received an annual award for their Grand Prix race series.  Our lunch run has grown into a group of five, and we constantly support and motivate each other to keep running.  My confidence has improved, and I’ve realized that whether I’m running or walking down the street, I’m still doing a lot more than the person driving past me.  I hope that someday I can be a role model for others as Kerri was for me.  In the meantime, I’m proud to report that I have finally convinced Kerri to join my running club.  Now that is an accomplishment!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hip Surgery - 1 week later

Today is Friday, so it was one week ago today that I underwent my long awaited hip surgery.  I had anticipated this surgery for so long and had prepared for everything I could think of ahead of time.  For instance, I knew I would have lots of downtime so I had bought the comfy recliner, the amazing HDTV, the Nook, and prepared to settle in for lots and lots of blog updates.  What I didn’t take into consideration was how absolutely crappy I was going to feel during the first week.  Today is the first day that I feel good enough to write.  Even still, I’m sure it will take a few fits and starts to muddle through this.  Here we go…
Last Friday I arrived at the hospital promptly at 8:00am as instructed, despite a bit of a late start.  You see, Mother Nature had thrown up ice and snow all over the yard the night before, so I spent a good while chiseling the car before we could leave.  We headed straight to surgical admissions where I was promptly escorted to my room.  They explained that this would be my pre and post surgical room for the day.  I changed into my glamorous Johnny (this one actually reached the floor) and waited for a nurse.  The nurse came and explained that I would be there for at least an hour after the surgery was completed, so my mother was welcome to leave and come back later.  I answered a zillion questions from the nurse and then waited for transport to bring me to the surgical ward.  Finally my ride came, and I was rolled up to the next floor.

Waiting for my ride up to surgery

This floor was where all the action took place.  There was a lot of commotion, tons of medical staff, and an overwhelming amount of equipment.  I thought it looked just like they do on television, complete with all the surgeries posted on the board – just like Grey’s Anatomy!  I tried to absorb every detail but things were moving too fast, and finally I was parked to wait for another nurse, and another round of questions.  Most of the questions were the same as the questions I had just answered.  When she left, the anesthesiologist stopped by.  He asked another round of questions, again, similar to the ones I had answered a few times now already.  I was starting to think they were trying to catch me in a lie!  I mentioned to him that the last time I had surgery (oral surgery in July) the anesthesiologist never warned me when he was starting the sedation.  He promised me he would let me know.  After several more interviews, the rock star surgeon came in to say a few words.  We both marked the correct hip with a sharpie to make sure we got the right one, and I told him I had high expectations of him, since I have big plans of running next year.  He said he planned to fix everything up that he could, but it was all going to depend on what kind of arthritis he saw once he got in there. 
Finally I was instructed to put cap over my hair, and the anesthesia started.  This was just a pre-dose, enough to make me groggy but not knocked out.  They wheeled me into another room with lots of equipment and informed me that this was the room where it would all take place.  In a little while I’d be waking up downstairs in the room I started in.  The anesthesiologist then gave me the final nod and began injecting the sedative, and I abruptly drifted off.
“The surgery went very well, and there were no signs of arthritis” said the surgeon.  He waved a picture in front of me, but I couldn’t focus my eyes.
“Wake up, Jill” said a nurse.
“How you doing, Jill? Time to get up!” said another nurse, or maybe the same one.  “We just can’t seem to get her to wake up” she mumbled to someone.
Eventually I pried my eyes open enough to recognize the room I was lying in as the admissions room where my morning began.  I peeked at the clock and saw it was mid afternoon.  I started to panic, realizing my mother was probably already there waiting for me to leave, and I couldn’t even lift my head.  I was locked in a battle of conscious versus unconscious, and the unconscious won out. For the next couple of hours I was repeatedly pried out of the haze, only to be rendered unconscious once again.  Occasionally I would wake enough to overhear the nurse talking, sometimes to other nurses and sometimes to my mother, who was on the phone asking when she should come back.  Eventually when the nurse came in, I willed myself to stay awake long enough to tell her that I was in tremendous pain.  One of the most common interrogation questions they ask at the hospital is, “On a scale of one to ten, how much pain would you say you are in?” and I always struggle.  I don’t know…five?  Six?  I can’t really tell the difference between a five and a six.  But at this moment I knew the answer.  The answer was ten.  I had never been so sure of anything in my life.  The pain was a ten.  In fact, if there were bonus numbers on that one-to-ten scale, I’d claim those too.
The nurse was thrilled to see my eyes open when she entered the room.  Using a buddy system, two nurses attempted to sit me up in bed.  I was going to need to be able to sit up, balance on the crutches, and hit the bathroom before I could leave.  As soon as they sat me up in bed, I immediately vomited.  The nurses lowered my head back down, administered some anti-nausea medication, and dimmed the lights.  An hour later they tried again.  Again I vomited.  They were starting to worry that they weren’t going to be able to release me, which apparently was going to be a problem because the surgical admissions ward isn’t an overnight area.  Finally they got me up and fitted for crutches.  With two nurses guiding me, I headed across the hall to the restroom.  I made it a couple of feet into the hallway and then vomited.  Let me tell you something about vomiting.  As unpleasant as it is, trust me when I tell you it’s even less pleasant when you are in a hallway, wearing a Johnny where your entire naked self is hanging out the back, trying to balance on crutches, and someone’s holding a bucket right up to your chin so you don’t look down and pass out. 
The nurses brought me back to bed, gave me Benadryl, and told me to go back to sleep.  Another hour later the nurses checked on me, and I felt much more coherent.  I could keep my eyes open, and I didn’t have the waves of nausea immediately after sitting up in bed.  Feeling more optimistic, we tried again to get out of bed.  With the utmost caution we made it to the restroom and back, and then the nurse helped me get dressed.  This is when I realized how utterly helpless I was going to be for a while.
Finally at 6:30, five hours later than expected, I was released from the hospital.  The nurse said it was a real blessing that my surgery was first thing in the morning or I never would have been able to leave.  The 45 minute ride home was a real test of will, trying to avoid any motion sickness.  Mom brought me to the back door so I could avoid any stairs.  When we entered the house I realized quickly it was going to be a whole new challenge of navigating through hallways on crutches.  The cats looked at me with curiosity, and the dog scattered when he saw my “extra legs”.  Andrew was a huge help in getting me into bed, and helping me to the bathroom throughout the night (all those IV fluids finally caught up).  It was frustrating going anywhere.  The process of trying to maneuver my legs out of the bed, onto the floor, and crutching my way to the bathroom was excruciatingly slow.  Oh, and just for fun, a rogue October nor’easter was scheduled to hit on Saturday.  As if crutching around wasn’t bad enough, the thought of having to do this in the dark and cold (if the power went out) made me positively panic.  Well, relatively speaking.  Panicking is hard to do when one is sleeping 15 hours a day, zonked out on Percocets. 
This last week has been just about the most inactive week of my life.  I have been too groggy to read, so that new Nook hasn’t gotten much attention.  That nice fancy HDTV…well, it turns out it gives me motion sickness when I’m taking my medicine, so I haven’t even been able to watch much television.  I’ve spent a lot of time lying in bed, and a lot of time sitting in my recliner.  All of the medicine makes me very groggy and very nauseous, so I’ve had very little appetite.  Still, every morning I get breakfast in bed. 

A couple days ago I made it up the stairs to the rest of the house, and today I even ventured out to the barn for the first time to say hi to the horses.  Rocco wasn’t nearly as scared off by my extra legs as the dog was, and was just happy to have someone to scratch him. 

My follow up appointment at the hospital is Tuesday.  I’m eager to hear the details on how the surgery went, when I can start PT, and what my running future looks like!

Monday, October 24, 2011

An unwelcome distraction

It’s going to be hard not to be incredibly jealous of me for all that I have experienced in the last week.  Today is Monday, and it’s hard to believe my surgery is at the end of this week!  This is my last chance to get a few things done before surgery, and as usual I had things planned pretty carefully.  I had a certain amount of people I had to catch up with, shopping to do, errands to run, things to clean up around the house while I could still walk.  It’s amazing how much preparation is required to go into surgery!  Unfortunately I got sidelined by some ridiculous cold and I’ve spent the last nine days doing everything possible to get well.  I tackled this cold in the same manner I tackle a race or any other significant event.  Lots of planning, execution, and strong follow through.  At the first sign of the sore throat I loaded up on cold medicines and stocked the cabinet full of tea bags.  Mom made a giant batch of chicken soup, which I had for lunch and dinner pretty much every day all week. 

My anti-monster cold war chest

My plan seemed foolproof, and things were looking promising by Friday when I started feeling a little better.  Timing was good too, since I had to go for my pre-op screening.  I did mention to the doctor that I had a “little head cold” and she didn’t seem too concerned.  It was a thorough test, complete with an EKG (which I nailed, thank you very much) and lab work.  Everything went smoothly until she told me I wasn’t going to be able to take any aspirin or Motrin for one week prior to the surgery because it thins blood.  This was the first I had heard of this, and I wasn’t too excited about it.  I’ve been living on Motrin for the hip pain, so I knew that going without an anti-inflammatory for a week was going to make me one cranky individual.  I hadn’t planned for this!
Somehow the best of preparation couldn’t compete with this monster cold though, and I got even sicker over the weekend.  At this point I got really nervous because if I can’t shake this cold, or it goes into my chest, there’s a chance my surgery will get postponed.  By Sunday morning my eyes were sealed shut, and my throat and ears were killing me.  I dug through my bag of random old prescriptions, and found two amoxicillin pills.  I took them both.  This morning I woke up and my eyes were still gross but not sealed shut, and my throat wasn’t quite as sore, so I think it’s getting better!  I managed to get a bootleg prescription for antibiotics so I’m on the mend and fully expecting to be good as new by Friday.  And if I’m not, I’ll pretend I am.  I must not let the surgeon see any sign of weakness.  I must not get this surgery postponed!
On Saturday I was feeling pretty down on myself and needed to buy myself a pre-op present.  Although I felt like crap and didn’t want to get out of bed, I took a trip over to Best Buy and bought myself a Nook.  Now that I can download and read any book I want, I’m hoping time will fly during my recovery!  I’ve already downloaded four running books, so they are sure to keep me motivated during the downtime.  And on the way home I couldn’t resist a medicinal cup of ice cream from Dairy Queen to soothe my sore throat!

"Alternative Medicine"

Here are the stats on the cold:
9 days
1 ginormous batch of chicken soup
3 bottles of Theraflu
1 bag of oranges
2 bags of cough drops
1 box of really strong cough drops
2 cases of water
1 zillion green tea bags
On a positive note, my cats are thoroughly enjoying all of this downtime and have staked claim to my recliner.

Slowly losing the battle of the recliner

I’m sure this is all going to be funny someday, and I will reminisce about the time that I was so busy taking care of some hideous cold that I didn’t even have time to stress out about my upcoming hip surgery.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Working (not crossing) the finish line

Yesterday was a brisk, blustery day and I spent it doing volunteer work at a local 5k.  I really enjoy volunteering for races (when I’m not running them) so I was looking forward to this event.  Runners are such a fun bunch of people to chat with, and we always have something in common, so the time passes quickly while we catch up on the goings-on of the local race scene and discuss training techniques, injuries, and the inevitable topic of “who’s running Boston”.  Every year a handful of runners from my club get into the Boston Marathon, and I was hoping that in 2012 I would be among the group.  Unfortunately that will have to wait one more year until I recover from my surgery.  Everyone asked about the status of my hip, which always leads to the question of recovery time.  When I tell most people it’s going to be four months I get the sympathetic nod.  When I tell runners it’s going to be four months, the look is something closer to hearing I just received a death sentence.  It’s unimaginable.  So… I try not to dwell on that and just focus on how good I’m going to feel when I start back up running in March!
Any runner who has never volunteered in a race needs to add that to their bucket list in the near future.  It’s amazing to see how much goes into putting on a smooth race!  That finish line you take for granted, for example, requires half a dozen people, careful coordination, and sometimes a little creativity.  Luckily we have Gary, a seasoned timing veteran, showing us the ropes.  (Literally, he had to show us how to string up the ropes).  Gary was reluctant to have his picture taken in the timing area because he doesn’t want to get inundated with race organizers asking him to time events.  How cute that Gary thinks race organizers read my blog! 

Gary "Not For Hire"

Gary-Not-For-Hire is a great teacher and has a very structured method for setting everything up, and we had that finish line set up in no time, despite some gusty winds!

Jackie setting up the cones

Me putting the final touches on the chute

Once the race started we set the clock (I’m getting pretty good at this!) and waited to see a glimpse of the runners.  Luckily the course went right past us so we got a chance to cheer them on at the beginning of the race!
Like father, like son! TVFR members Peter and Richard Berdos

In just 15 or so minutes we saw the lead police car making its way towards us with the first runner.  We all geared up and waited his arrival, which happened in 17:06.  From there it was a constant flurry of runners coming in, with some breaks in between.  The real challenge was trying to track all the cross country runners that came in all at once!  After the last of the walkers came through we got a request to time the kid’s one mile fun run.  It gave me more experience working the clock so I didn’t mind.  And boy some of those kids can fly! 
When the last of the kids crossed the finish line, it was a scramble to break everything down and lug it all back to Gary’s truck while Gary computed the race results.  It was surprisingly easy work (since Gary was such a good teacher).  The most amazing part was watching Gary load everything so precisely into his truck.  It took some serious technique!

The Gary Sandwich

Gary-Not-For-Hire and Sherry

It was a great day for a race, and since I couldn’t run it I was happy to at least be there.  Once our work was done, I headed out to enjoy some of the day. 
And finally, what running blog post would be complete without a picture of my horse?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hustle and bustle!

Two weeks from today I will be in a post-surgery painkiller fog, waking up from what’s sure to be an uncomfortable night’s sleep.  It’s been nearly 6 months that I’ve been dealing with my hip injury so needless to say I’m ready for the surgery!  Even still, the last couple weeks I’ve spent trying to squeeze in every last thing I need to do ahead of time to make my recovery less stressful.
                In an unusual demonstration of “nesting” behavior, I decided to remodel the downstairs family room.  This room had been underused to say the least.  (Actually, it was pretty much just a dumping ground for random junk and lousy furniture).  Since this room is on the bottom floor, I thought it would be a good room to spend time in post-surgery so I could avoid a lot of stair climbing with the crutches.  The problem with the room was that it was so aesthetically nauseating that I couldn’t bear to spend five minutes in it.  So as usual, what started off to be a simple project turned into a major overhaul.  For starters, the room had yellow walls (it’s well documented that I detest the color yellow) and pink carpet.  It also had some hand-me-down couches that sink almost to the ground when sat on.  There was also a hole cut out in the wall to insert a television, because my father was ahead of his time with the idea of “flat screens”.  It was a great idea 20 years ago, but now it’s just an odd hole in the wall. 

The "before"

So, with the help of Mom and Andrew, we managed to turn all this into a very comfortable and aesthetically pleasing space!  Once the hole in the wall was filled in (thanks Mom!) and the ceiling, walls, and heater were painted, it was time for carpet.  I went with a low profile gray berber from Lowe’s, and they did a great job installing it.  A trip to Best Buy on my lunch break (thanks, New Hampshire for saving me the sales tax!) resulted in a 42” HD TV.  Finally, after checking the internet for deals on furniture, I made a trip to Bob’s Furniture.  Less than an hour later I had picked out a sofa, recliner, and TV console.  Andrew was a little disappointed in my furniture selection because he was hoping for some giant oversized poofy recliner that rocks and swirls.  I tried out a few of them and they literally gave me motion sickness.  Finally I explained that this is my recliner, all mine, so I get to pick out what I want, and it wasn’t going to be something so big I could get lost in it.  I went with something on the smaller side and very comfortable.  The furniture was delivered last weekend, and the room is just about done!
My cat Joey is really enjoying "his" new recliner and sometimes shares it with me
  I need a couple final touches (a few wall decorations and baseboard) but it’s looking great and I’m thrilled we were able to get this done in such short time!


                Another pre-surgical task was to get my camper squared away for winter.  I made my appointment for next week to get it winterized, and all I had left to do was find the ideal place to park it over the winter.  Last winter it was stored offsite (part of the deal when I purchased it in December) but this year it’s staying on property.  We needed to find a spot where it would be out of the way for snow banks, so I decided on a whim to see if my neighbor might be able to smooth out a little area for me.  They own a construction company and have lots of machines, and the 18 year old son had told me once to give him a call if I ever needed anything.  He stopped by to take a look, and within 10 minutes was back with the backhoe.  A couple hours later (and multiple trips back and forth with the backhoe, bobcat, and loader) I had a perfect new parking spot for the camper!  Big thanks to Gabriel and TJ Enterprises!

                Once I have surgery, it’s going to be a few months before I get to ride my horse again, so I’m trying to squeeze in as many rides as I can over the next couple weeks.  We had an impromptu camping trip a couple weekends ago at a friend’s house in Rhode Island and had a blast with some great rides, amazing food, and stomach-busting laughs.  This week I took a couple days off work and we did some day trips.  Wednesday we went to Dover, MA and had a blast over some of the best groomed trails in the area.  The foliage is just starting to turn so it was a pretty ride.

                On the health front, it’s come clear to me that if I’m not training for a marathon, I can’t keep eating like I am.  Over the last six months, even though I was still running, I had scaled back considerably on my mileage and had gained six pounds.  Even six months ago I was a few pounds over my ideal weight, so I have to really start to monitor this.  For the last few weeks I’ve been much more careful about food intake, tracking my food and weight, and I’ve lost 3 pounds – yay!  I have been experimenting with some new crock pot recipes.  So far I’ve had mushroom smothered pork (fabulous), lamb stew (pretty good), and a chicken, bean, and swiss chard soup (yummy!)  They all came from a Weight Watchers cookbook so I’ve got the whole family eating healthy.  Even Andrew has lost 8 pounds since June!  Maybe with any luck I can get him to join me on my rehab walk/runs in a few months.  We managed a little walk earlier this week to check out the foliage.

 Finally, the gossip column.  Well, there’s not a lot to report because I’ve been a little out of touch with my lunch run buddies.  Todd made a successful triathlon debut despite his lack of preparation.  I tried to warn him about the importance of incorporating brick sessions into his workouts (I know this because of Scotty Tri’s endless – and I mean endless – blogging and tweeting about it).  Jaimee is training for the Hyannis Marathon in February!!  I’m so excited for her, because it’s an awesome course.  I have run the 10k and the half marathon there, and I think she’s really going to enjoy it.  I’m so disappointed that I won’t be able to run it, but I’m planning to go and cheer her on.  I usually have a few pals that run that race so it will be a great time.  Kerri finally met the new guy (the Ken Doll) and chastised me for under-emphasizing his good looks.  She seemed a little deflated about being the slow one in the group, so I reminded her that in a few months I will be back to reclaim my position as the slow runner in the club.  Speaking of clubs, I’ve been a little out of touch with my running club.  But that changes tomorrow, when I will be volunteering at the finish line of a 5k race in Douglas.  It’s always fun working the finish line so I’m really looking forward to that.  I’m planning to volunteer as much as I can (once I’m off crutches) because it will be a great way for me to stay plugged into running and will help keep me motivated.
                Over the next two weeks, I will continue to get my last few (dozen) things in order so I can be prepared for a smooth and restful recovery in my recliner, which apparently I will be sharing with my cat.
One last thing:
Example of how I’m successfully exploiting the injury for personal gain:  I just called my mother and asked her to bring me her camera, and she did.  (She’s upstairs).
The end!

Next up: The running bucket list!